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I don’t know about you buy I am loving this June weather in March we are having. And with this great weather comes a jump into grilling season. I know some of you diehards grill all through the winter, but I hate being cold.
As everyone fires up their grills I thought I would share some of my favorite tips for making your grilling season successful. And my favorite tip – use brines!
Let’s face the facts, meat loses 20% of it’s weight in water when we cook it. Brining, the sister to marinade, adds 10% of more moisture to the meat before cooking. Which hopefully will lead to only a loss of 10% of the moisture from cooking.
So, you are already thinking, this sounds tough. But no fear, you need three base ingredients for a brine: Salt, sugar and water.
Now if all you do is dissolve salt and sugar in hot water, ice it down and add the meat, you will still have tons of moisture in your meat. But you can also add so many flavors in the brine with herbs, spices, and garlic.
Sometimes I even add a little vinegar for extra tenderizing.
Heating water up with vinegar helps dissolve the salt and sugar. I also like throwing in some smashed garlic in the boiling mixture too.
Cooling the hot water back down with some ice water is also key to making sure you don’t heat the meat up too much when you combine the meat and brine. Then let it soak for at least 45 minutes per pound of meat. I have let a brine work for 2 days but cut the salt down by half when I do let it sit that long.
Let’s talk about meat. I would say the most typical purchased pork piece of meat for grilling are pork chops which come from the loin of the pig. It is a great piece of meat. Easy to prepare, lean meat.
But many times you can get pork roast, boston butts which is really the front shoulder, picnic, shoulders and other cuts of meat at a lower price per pound. These cuts of meat usually come from the front end of a pig. They aren’t quite as lean, but that’s what gives these cuts tons of flavor. The cuts of meat also may be a little more tough in texture so then brines with vinegar help tenderize these cuts.
The same is true for beef. Many people make steaks and burgers on the grill and that is it. But so many parts of the beef are great in a brine and then grilled over a low, slow heat. In the summer you can get so many of the unpopular grill cuts on sale. These cuts tend to freeze well and are great in the crock pot in the winter too.
Chicken seems to be dried out and overcooked a lot of the times too. One tip to not having dried out tough chicken is by not going straight for the boneless, skinless chicken breast. No offense to the breast, but the dark meat, legs and thighs with skin are so much more moist. Again to the higher fat content. Once the chicken is cooked feel free to peel the skin away if you are trying to save on calories. You will also notice that the dark meat runs cheaper than the white meat and also comes in boneless options.
Once the meat is picked, brined is made and you are ready to grill, you want to rinse your meat off. Then put it on the grill. Most of the time you want to avoid direct placement over the heat. This will cause it to cook faster and dry it out as well. The key is letting your meat cook and flipping once.
The other key to cooking meat is knowing what your goal is for internal temperature as well as remembering to let your meat rest once it is taken off the grill. I always take my meat off when it is five degrees away from the goal temperature and let it rest on the plate for 5 minutes before cutting into it. For quick reference on goal temps, here is a quick chart.
Ready to grill yet? I sure am ready to fire it up! Can’t wait to see what you all grill up this spring.
Chicken or Pork Brine
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 cup sea salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 5-6 shakes Tabasco
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 pounds meat of choice
- Heat 4 cups of water up till boiling.
- Add salt, sugar, Tabasco, paprika, and cayenne to water. Dissolve.
- Add other 4 cups of water and ice to mixture to cool down to room temperature.
- Place meat into ziploc bag and pour solution over meat.
- Refrigerate for 45 minutes to 2 hours. If you want to set longer, decrease your salt to keep meat from getting too salty.
- Remove meat from brine and rinse meat. Cook meat as planned.