We’ve all been excited for our summer barbecues. We get our chicken or pork chops on the grill, but when they’re done we are less than thrilled. While they have that wonderful smoky grilled flavor, they tend to be dry and tough. The solution is to soak the meat in a brine solution overnight before cooking.
There are other options. If you’re really rushed for time, you can use something like the Cajun Injector to inject the brine solution into the meat. It isn’t quite as effective as an overnight soak in the brine, but it’s better than nothing. With larger cuts of meat such as brisket or pork shoulder, the injection method is probably more effective than the soak; but with chicken, pork chops, tenderloin, etc., nothing beats a good soak in a brine.
This recipe makes about a gallon of brine. You’ll want to adjust it for your particular need. This isn’t something you make in bulk and store. If I’m cutting a full pork loin into 1 1/4″ thick chops (about 15 pork chops), it takes about a gallon to completely submerge them. If you’re only making a package of 5 or 6 chicken breasts or pork chops, you may only need a quart and a half, to a half-gallon.
You can also download a printable PDF of this recipe.
Doug's Basic Barbecue Brine
- 15 cups water (1 cup shy of a gallon)
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup granulated Splenda
- 3/4 tbsp. molasses
- 3 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. Chipotle powder
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 3 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve.
2. Put meat in a seal-able airtight plastic container or large Ziploc bags.
3. Pour brine solution until meat is completely covered.
4. Seal and refrigerate overnight.
5. After removing from the brine solution, thoroughly rinse the meat before cooking. (Hint: After rinsing the meat, this would be the time to apply your dry rub before taking to the smoker — you will use a dry rub, right?)
6. Use brine immediately after making.
- The vinegar in this recipe acts as a meat tenderizer. Don’t worry, the vinegar will cook out and will not leave any taste effect on the meat. If you prefer, you could use apple juice but it would eliminate the sugar-free “low carb” effect of this recipe.
- If you don’t care about the “low carb” aspect, you could use omit the Splenda and molasses and use 3/4 cup brown sugar instead.
- The salt is important. When meat soaks in this brine an osmosis take place and the sodium is absorbed into the meat. The effect of sodium is to retain water, so it’s this process that allows your meat to remain moist and juicy while cooking. Too little salt and this doesn’t happen. Too much salt and your meat tastes too salty. When/if you adjust this recipe try to maintain a ratio of 1/2 cup salt to 1 gallon of liquid.
- Feel free to experiment with the flavor profile. Add some red or white wine in place of the cider vinegar — or beer or bourbon or lemon juice. The essentials are: 1) an acidic liquid for tenderizing, and 2) the salt for moisture retention. Everything else is a marinade ingredient to add flavor to the meat.