Looking at the science of brining
In celebration of young children, teens, and adults returning to school, let’s talk science – the science of brining food. I promise not to go all Thomas Dolby on you, and blind you with science.
What is the science behind brining meat?
Osmosis is the diffusion of water through a semi-permeable membrane – in this case the meat cells. Through diffusion, the salt and water within the meat cells balance with the salt and water in the surrounding brine which results in a higher concentration of salt and water in the meat.” (https://www.kqed.org/quest/4441/the-science-behind-brining)
The typical “meat” products that benefit from brining are pork, poultry (mainly chicken and turkey), and some types of fish (cod, salmon, swordfish).
Why brine? The process is not simply an exchange of salt and water. It also causes a breakdown of muscle fibers, and a loosening of protein, which is essentially the process for tenderization. Afterwards, when seasoning is added, the “meat” absorbs more, and distributes throughout.
The process of brining, aka pickling, can be traced back to 2400 BCE, in ancient Mesopotamia. This was a main method of food preservation, since refrigeration was basically slim to none.
Yes, clay pots could be coated on the inside, buried deep into the ground, or within tombs; but again, not widely available to the masses.
Brining was not always a “wet method” either, as “dry brining” is the application of thick layers of salt.
Take, for example, baccalà – dried and salted cod often referred to as salt cod, saltfish, or salt dolly. This fish is usually served, in Italian culture, on Christmas Eve during the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
The precooking prep is lengthy: “At least two days prior to cooking (we recommend three days), you should begin soaking your salted baccalà in fresh water (at least 36-48 hours).
“First wash the pieces thoroughly, eliminating all the salt on the surface, then completely submerge in any container that will hold a lot of water. Change the water at least three times a day (every eight hours or even more frequently).”
When it comes to pork, it benefits from brining as it can be very bland in taste, and very tough if overcooked. Once the meat is brined, don’t be turned off by the whitish and pruney texture of the meat. Remember, after sitting in water too long, we humans tend to look exactly like that. After pigs, to cannibals, we are “the other white meat”.
Anyway, pork ribs are the number one section, of the pig, that is usually seen on a grill. However, pork chops and tenderloins can be a delicious addition to your grilling repertoire.
The average pork tenderloin is one to 1.5 pounds, looks like a footlong cylinder, and has very little fat, if trimmed correctly by the butcher.
Packages of two to three pounds typically contain two tenderloins of close to equal weight. Brining, marinating in a dry rub, and slow roasting on the grill will create a tender, juicy meat packed with flavor.
As with ribs, adding a barbecue sauce is an option. We usually do as it enhances the flavor of any side dish inhabiting the fork, at the same time as the meat.
The flavors and textures blend in the mouth, and boom! a full culinary explosion!
Dry Rub BBQ Pork Tenderloin
Ingredients: 3 lb. package (2-1 and ½ lbs. sections) pork tenderloin
For the Brine: Water, 2 Tbsp. salt, ¼ cup white wine vinegar
For the Dry Rub: 1 cup brown sugar, ½ tsp. ground black pepper, 2 tsp. paprika, 2 tsp. New Mexico chile powder, BBQ Sauce - Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue or Sweet and Spicy
Preparation: Place the pork in a large, sealable plastic container; add enough water to cover. Sprinkle salt over the water, and pour in vinegar; cover, place in refrigerator for 12 hours, or overnight.
Mix together all ingredients for dry rub. Lay out two pieces of plastic wrap, at least 4 inches longer than each tenderloin. Spoon a line of dry rub over center of each piece of wrap; place tenderloin over rub; sprinkle remaining rub over top of each tenderloin. Wrap tightly, place in refrigerator for 12 hours, or overnight.
Preheat outdoor grill to 300F. Place aluminum foil on grill; place tenderloin on foil, and pour any juices, from plastic wrap, over the pork. Close grill and let cook for 15 minutes. Open grill lid, turn pork over, close lid and cook another 15 minutes. Open lid, turn over pork, and baste with barbeque sauce; close lid, cook for 5 minutes. Repeat with other side of tenderloins.
Remove pork to cutting board, let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Depending on thickness of slices, each tenderloin will make 4-6 servings.
“She blinded me with science
And hit me with technology”
I just could not resist!