I stopped by the Fish Hawk last Friday afternoon to visit and shoot the breeze for a little bit. At some point the conversation turned to Big Green Egg cooking. Hmmm, a conversation among fisher folk turning to food…imagine that. Anyway, I mentioned that we cook a lot of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pork chops and have become a bit bored with them. Sure, we can coat them with different rubs but we’ve been looking for some way to jazz them up a bit more.
Gary Merriman, the owner of the Fish Hawk and an Egger himself, asked if I had ever tried brining. I’ve read bits and pieces about brining on the various BBQ forums I read but had never given it much thought. Gary told me that brining, at its simplest, is just marinating a piece of meat for a period of time in a brine solution whose salt content is greater than the natural salt content of the meat itself (There’s a bit of chemistry involved that I’m not going to go into here). The brine solution, in addition to salt, often contains some sort of sugar and other flavorings that when dissolved can be absorbed into the meat.
After doing a bit more reading this weekend I decided to give brining a try. I made up a simple brine solution consisting of water, kosher salt and brown sugar. Connie picked up a package of six thick-cut pork chops last week at the store. I put three of the chops and the brine in a zip-lock freezer bag and put it in the meat drawer of the fridge for a couple of hours and put the rest in the freezer for another night. After a nice cool bath I gave each chop a light coat of Dizzy Dust and tossed ‘em on the Egg.
I let the chops cook for about 10 to 12 minutes at 375 degrees to an internal temp of 165 degrees before I pulled them off the Egg and headed inside.
The Results? More often than not our grilled pork chops turn out dry and tough, even when cooked on the Egg. Not this time. They turned out tender and juicy. Maybe not cut-with-a-fork tender but much tenderer (is that a word) than I’ve had before. How about flavor? Contrary to what one might think, the salt and brown sugar flavors weren’t overpowering. In fact, they were just noticeable. On the flip side, it did seem to enhance the flavor of the Dizzy Dust. Now to give it a try with some chicken and see how much of a difference it makes.