Why do I need to brine?

As a college student without a steady income I make it a priority to shop the sales at the grocery store (although it doesn’t stop me from paying extra for foods that I love – oftentimes peanut butter and yogurt). Over the years, I have found myself becoming more and more of a vegetarian and not because of ethical issues or a distaste for meat, but more so as a response to price. Meat can be expensive. Most weeks I buy tofu, beans and eggs, which when paired with other foods can be complete proteins (meaning you get all of the essential amino acids).

This week I saw that pork chops were on sale. Have I ever cooked pork chops? No. Have I ever bought pork chops? No. However, when I got to the store and saw that I could get four pork chops for just shy of $4 I decided to give it a whirl. A quick Google search later and I had somewhat of an idea of how to cook pork. Apparently it’s very easy to overcook (gulp…) and with a gas oven I tend to overcook everything…

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Upon my doing research, I read that when cooking leaner meats, which includes pork, you should brine the meat ahead of time to make it more tender (Corriher). Originally I was confused by how soaking meat in a water solution would make meat juicier because of the theory of osmosis…water goes from a lower concentration to a higher concentration so hypothetically I thought that the salt solution would pull the water out of the pork making it drier. However, the salt is the main player here according to the brining article as it denatures the protein thus making the meat less tough (Corriher). How cool is that?! It’s definitely a more complicated process and the cited article does a great job of breaking it down. Click the hyperlink to learn more. Now to get cooking or should I say brining…

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While I had my pork chops brining I got to work on cutting the sweet potatoes into wedges (more like rectangles). These would eventually be mixed with some oil (I used olive but it’s up to you!) and pepper (I skipped on salt because the pork was sitting in a salt bath for a few hours) and roasted in the oven until done. I also mixed some brussels sprouts in oil for roasting as well. I just went grocery shopping yesterday so I enjoyed the bounty in my refrigerator. It never lasts as long as I imagine it will.

I drained the brine and patted the pork chops dry before adding some oil to a pan and searing on both sides. Then I threw it in the oven with the potatoes and brussels sprouts. One of the things I love about cooking is taking a recipe and adapting it to the ingredients that I have on hand, the space that I cook in (tiny), or the patience that I have (oftentimes not much). When cooking the pork chops I followed The Kitchn‘s recipe and adapted it somewhat. Follow the link for inspiration on how to cook your own pork chops!

Before I knew it every component of dinner was done and I was ready to eat.

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It doesn’t look that pretty, but boy was it delicious. I went back for a few more wedges and sprouts because they were just too good. Winter vegetables are my favorite!

When it comes to cooking don’t be afraid to try new recipes or cooking new meats. I was nervous about cooking the pork, but it came out pretty well (I’m biased though). Of course there is room for improvement, but until next time I’m satisfied.

Have a delicious day.

 

References:

Brining article: Corriher S. Why brining keeps turkey and other meats so moist. Fine Cooking. http://www.finecooking.com/articles/why-brining-keeps-meat-moist.aspx. Accessed January 2017.

Christensen E. How to cook tender & juicy pork chops in the oven. Kitchn. http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-perfect-pork-chops-in-the-oven-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-194257. Published December 19, 2016. Accessed January 2017.

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