If there’s one thing every home-chef should know how to do, it’s brining. Brining is similar to marination, but what it does to meat is totally different. Brining adds moisture and flavor to meat (especially lean meat like pork or turkey), while a marinade flavors the exterior of meat and can soften meat fibers by breaking down connective tissue.
What is in a brine? Basically a brine is a combination of salt, sugar, herbs, and water. Very very simply.
How does brining work? Well, according to Wikipedia, the excess salt in a brine is infused into the cells of a meat, and via the process of osmosis, the cells then absorb water from the brine. The salt will also coagulate the proteins of the meat, forming a matrix that traps water molecules during the cooking process. In addition, the brine is flavored with sugar and herbs, causing the exterior of the meat to form a caramelized crust during cooking.
What’s next? So now that you know why to brine, what a brine is, and how a brine works, let’s get into some recipe action. I chose to brine a lean pork loin for this post. Try to give yourself as much time to brine a piece of protein, up to 12 hours and as little as 1 hour. But if you only have a half hour, you’ll still see a difference.
- 1 pork loin
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 handful of sage
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup kosher salt (regular salt is fine as well)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (you can substitute regular granulated sugar if you want, I just find brown sugar has more flavor)
- 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns (cracked is fine as well)
- 6 cups of room temperature water
- 1 large freezer storage bag or a container that won’t leak and destroy your fridge
- Throw all your ingredients into the bag, seal, and let sit for up to 12 hours, overnight, or for as little as 1 hour. If you’re brining for more than an hour, throw the brine into the fridge. If it’s less than an hour, don’t sweat.
- 1 hour before cooking, remove the brine from the fridge to bring to room temperature.
- Remove the pork tender loin from the brine, discard brine.
- With a dry paper towel, pat down the loin so it’s dry.
- Season all sides with salt and pepper.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Place an oven-proof pan on your stove at high heat.
- Once the pan is hot, pour in a few tablespoons of oil.
- After 10-15 seconds, add your tenderloin to the pan. Watch out, it will sizzle very intensely. Whatever you do, DON’T MOVE THE TENDERLOIN. LET IT SIT FOR 4-5 MINUTES. RESIST THE TEMPTATION!!!
- After 4-5 minutes, turn the tenderloin on it’s other side, and place the pan in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven, place your loin on a cutting board and let sit for a minimum of 5 minutes. If you cut immediately, you’ll lose all the moisture you worked so hard to contain.
- Cut into 1/4 -1/2 inch medallions and serve with Cumin Cauliflower and Israeli Couscous (although in my meal, I made an Indian chickpea recipe that will be coming soon!).
Want a pan sauce to mop up those delicious drippings in the pan? Here are the Ingredients and Directions
- 1 small pad of butter
- 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon of capers
- salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to season
- 1/4 cup white wine, chicken stock, vegetable stock, or even water if necessary
- Add your liquid to the pan while it’s hot
- Throw in everything else (sans the butter) and let cook for 2-5 minutes, while you whisk.
- Add the butter at the last minute.
- Once the butter is melted, and the sauce has thickened, throw it on the cut medallions for a sensational dinner.