Brining everythingBrining everything

After enjoying a modicum of success with my first turkey, I got to thinking about brining. It seemed to make all the difference with that big bird, and to take away the uncertainty and suspense of cooking expensive meat. I decided to try again with some fat, gorgeous pork chops I got at Fairway the other night.

The only hard thing about brining is timing. Between boiling it and cooling it, you have to be alert for a good hour or two when you might otherwise be reading or watching television. Having an electric kettle helps, since I can get water to a boil in a flash. The chops were small compared to a turkey, so I used 1/2 gallon of water. In it, I dissolved 1/2 cup of salt and 1/4 cup sugar. I added a quartered onion, a squeezed half lemon, and various spices such as star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon, and whole cloves. I chopped a bulb of garlic in half and added that, and I let it all boil for about a minute before cooling it aggressively in an ice bath. The chops spent the night in the cold brine, and luckily I remembered to drain them in the morning, leaving them to dry on a cooling rack in the fridge during the day.

That night, I felt free to cook the hell out of them in my cast-iron skillet. They were thick chops, so I gave them about five minutes per side.


They came out cooked through but tender, pleasantly chewy, and full of salty, spicy flavor. Immediately after dinner I prepared a similar brine for a pork tenderloin, which was eaten and thoroughly enjoyed the following night. Tenderloins probably don’t benefit much from brining, since they’re so easy to cook, but having the flavors of the salt and spices deep inside the roasted meat makes a big difference.

What other meats might enjoy a night in the salt bath?


I’ve been itching to brine lean meats more often… Chicken breasts, I think, would really benefit. Turkey breast. Whole roasting chickens, too. The best roast chicken I’ve ever had was a free-range, never-frozen, brined chicken. Delish.

I think Cook’s Illustrated suggests brining smaller pieces of meat, like chops and even pork roasts for a much shorter period of time; a whole night in the brine is a long time, although I guess you can’t argue with your results.

Not sure about what other meats, but I like to add apple cider instead of water to my brine. It adds an extra layer of flavor and I find I don’t need as much sugar.

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