BRINE YOUR MEAT!
Here is another tip we are throwing down with our friends at the Firefighter Throwdown! This tip is perfect for a firehouse meal because it involves little effort and is perfect for when cooking for a crowd.
It's simple, if you like juicy pork chops or moist turkey you need to use a brine! It is scientifically proven, but this isn't chemistry class so I will put it in terms that even the most novice cook can understand. A brine is basically two things, salt and water, anything you add after that is a little flavor enhancer. Not all cuts of meat need a brine, DO NOT go out and throw a ribeye in a salt and water bath. Leaner meats are what benefit from a brine solution.
There are a few reasons why this process works. When any type of meat gets cooked there is moisture loss, as much as 30% of its weight. Brining reduces this amount to about 15% because the muscle fibers absorb the solution, some of which still gets lost during cooking. Here is the kicker, you started out with more moisture before the cooking process so it's inevitable that you will end up with more after. A salt and water solution also dissolves some of the proteins, turning them from solids into liquids, which also makes for a juicier product. The main reason it works is that the brine actually gets "trapped" in between the protein fibers, and as long as you don't overcook the meat it will stay there.
Below you will find a chart that is a good guideline to go by as far as salt to water ratio and time goes. Besides salt, feel free to add any aromatics to the solution to enhance the flavor. Some ideas are brown sugar, which is great with poultry and pork. Black peppercorns, bay leafs, dried chiles, onion, garlic, ginger, pepper flakes are all commonly found in brines. Think about what kind of dish it will end up in and what flavors would compliment that. Be sure to rinse off the meat prior to cooking and throw away the used brine.
Bring the amount of water needed to a boil-Add your salt and any other ingredients you are using-Reduce to a simmer for a few minutes while stirring to dissolve salt and sugar-Remove from stove and let cool fully in the fridge (Tip: Reduce the water you start with and add ice cubes at this point to drop temperature quicker)-Add meat and fully submerge (See below for brining time)
Be sure to check back for Throwdown Thursday with the Firefighter Throwdown when we will feature a recipe for pork chops that we brined!