What Is The Key To Moist Meat?

Jul 26, 2011 4:16 pm

The Food Scientist talks about brining

Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/luckymikerocks/">Lucky Mike Rocks</a> on Flickr
Photo: Lucky Mike Rocks on Flickr
Pork chops soaking in brine, with a little garlic added
 

When it comes to pork chops and chicken legs on the dinner table, bone-dry meat is never acceptable. If ever moisture-deprived meat has been a problem in your kitchen, then you may benefit from a lesson in one of the easiest methods to preventing it: brining.

What is brine?
Simple. Salt water.

How does brining work?
Let’s start with a little vocabulary lesson, shall we? Today’s words: molarity, diffusion and osmosis. Molarity is the measure of how much solute (salt) is dissolved in a solvent (water). Diffusion is the process by which those salt molecules evenly spread themselves in the brine solution. Think of it another way. When you add sugar to your coffee, the sugar dissolves. Once dissolved, the sugar evenly distributes within your coffee cup — with a little help from your spoon. As a result you taste the sweetness of the sugar in every sip of coffee you take. Last but not least, we have osmosis, used to describe the movement of water.

When raw meat is placed in a brining solution, the salt acts exactly like the sugar in your coffee — it naturally moves from an area of high concentration (the salt water) to an area of low concentration inside the meat. By way of osmosis, water now diffuses into the meat and causes the cells to hold more water than normal. Just how much water are we talking? On average, a piece of meat will increase anywhere from 8 to 10% in overall weight after a good soak — good news, considering all that excess water will make for a deliciously moist end product once it’s grilled or baked.

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