Overcooking lean meats on the backyard barbecue is the most common mistake made, as people want to ensure that meat is fully cooked before serving. Although it is imperative for poultry and ground meats to be fully cooked, this does not give you the right to transform them into dry charred remains.
Brining can help protect light-meat poultry and lean pork. This is a technique that involves soaking in a salt-water solution for a period of time prior to cooking. Not only does this add moisture to the centre of the meat, but also seasoning, as the salt saturated water is drawn in. A simple brining formula is one quarter cup table salt dissolved in four cups of water for pieces of poultry or lean pork. Let the meat sit in the brine for at least one hour in the refrigerator. Remove from the brine, pat them dry, and cook as you normally would. This brining process will provide a moisture protection shield to help keep fully cooked meats juicy. However, this is only a safeguard; overcooking is still possible, but this lessens the chance. The only other consideration you may need to give your recipe is the amount of seasoning. The meat will already be seasoned somewhat from the salt in the brine, so back off on the saltshaker.
Try this technique the next time you are barbecuing chicken breasts, pork chops, pork tenderloins or pork loins. You will be impressed with the results.
The salt used can be any salt – kosher, sea or other – but make sure the granules are the same size as table salt. A coarser grind will result in less salt per equal measure as more air trapped between the larger particles.
It is important to mention that this is the simplest form of brine: water and salt. There are many more complex recipes available on the internet that will bring flavour and moisture, but this easy brine is a straightforward starting point. Another essential pointer to bring up is that red meats are typically not brined; marinating is better for red meats, but that’s slated for another column topic.