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Unread 10-08-2011, 07:31 AM   #12
Wampus
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GREAT post. It's kind of hard to argue whether brining helps or not, when you've had a blind taste test and 100% of the testers voted for the brined ribs! Not that I intended to argue the point. I think it's just plain science, brining that is. It's osmosis at work.

There have been a couple of comments about marinades, even that what you've used in your experiment was a marinade. I wholly disagree with this. Just to make sure I'm not crazy, I looked up both brine and marinade.

According to Webster's:

MARINADE: Mixtures of vinegar or wine and oil with various spices and seasonings; used for soaking foods before cooking.
BRINE: Water containing salts.

This reinforced what I thought I already knew about marinades....that they contain oil and vinegar. Now, I'm not sure about the science or reasoning for this, but what you have used was definitely NOT a marinade, but a brine since it contained no vinegar or oil.

IN MY OPINION marinades only really work for small cuts (steak, chops, chicken parts, etc). A marinade typically has very strong, intense flavors that only require a relatively short time to work, typically less than an hour. In fact, there are many 10 minute maridades out there. A brine, however, requires much more time to do it's magic. As I understand it, the salt literally does extract the moisture from the meat and THEN, by the basic law of equilibrium (sp?), since there is an absence of liquid in the meat, but it is completely surrounded by the brine, the liquid (containing salt and whatever other flavors are in it) is then forced back into the fibers of the meat, not only replacing the amount of liquid in the meat, but putting MORE moisture into it than was originally present. THEN, when cooked, the moisture remains in the meat.

Now, the only thing (IN MY OPINION) that is really up for debate, is whether the salt flavor is too intense. I propose that it has to do with not only personal taste and preference, but also the amount of salt in the brine. Most everyone will agree that the reason salt has been used for centuries in cooking is that it enhances the already present flavor of whatever it is added to. TOO MUCH salt, in any circumstance, just makes the food taste salty, so to me, it's about balance. Let's face it....many brine recipes even offer a sort of disclaimer. They say, "Don't brine for too long or the meat will be too salty or hammy."

There have been many comments made in past threads about brining that it makes a red meat taste "hammy". Personal preference aside, of course, I would propose that there was too much salt in the brine used or the meat was brined for too long. The perfect balance, then, can only really come from lots of practice and trial/error, which kind of sucks.

Others will argue that there's no need to brine meats with a lot of marbled fat, such as ribs or pork shoulder. They'll say that brining, while working well with lean meats such as chicken and pork loin, is just a waste on a pork shoulder roast that uses rendered fat as a flavor and moisture enhancer. While I personally think that brining can only help, I also understand this argument. The benefit may be negligible. To me, I like brining chickens and turkeys because it's really easy to overcook and dry out the birds. It's pretty tough to dry out and ruin a pork butt. Most every butt I've done turn out real juicy and flavorful.

Bottom line? For me.....given time and planning, I will ALWAYS brine poultry. Period. I have yet to try a pork shoulder or other red meat, but I cannot see why it wouldn't enhance the flavor if done properly.

Still, I appreciate your efforts here and posting the results. Again....a blind side-by-side taste test is pretty much the definitive contest on an issue like this.

That's my 2 cents.

......OK....I guess that was more like 3 or 4 cents...
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