After reading our article on brining in a plastic bag, several of you chimed in with a suggestion: Why not brine in a metal pot? Many of you said that since brining meat in plastic can hold bacteria, and may even lead to foodborne illness, why not use a metal pot instead? We’re always game for trying something new—and we’re happy to report that it works! You just need the right type of container. Here’s how to salt pork using a metal pot:
What does brining meat do?
Brining is the process of soaking meat in a salty solution. It’s one of the oldest food preservation methods around, and is still used today to make salty, flavorful jerky and sausages. This method of salting meat draws out the salt crystals inside the meat, which makes the meat more tender and juicy.
It also intensifies the flavors of any herbs and spices that you’re using, because salt pulls out the liquids inside herbs and spices, concentrating their flavors. You can also use brining to add a salty flavor to vegetables, by soaking them in a brine solution for a few hours. We’ve even heard of people brining potatoes and onions to make them taste like sausages!
How to brine in a metal pot
Brining pork in a pot is just like brining in a plastic bag. All you need is a pot and some salt. Place a layer of kosher salt inside the pot, and then place pork on top of the salt layer. Add enough water to cover the pork by an inch or two, then place the pot somewhere cool and dry—like the pantry or a cabinet.
Leave the pork in the pot for at- least 12 to 24 hours, longer if you can spare the time. Make sure the pot has enough room around the pork so that the water doesn’t evaporate, but doesn’t have so much room that the pork gets dry. Remove the pork from the brine, rinse, pat dry, and then refrigerate right away. Pork that’s been brined too long will get mushy and tasteless.
The benefits of brining
We commonly hear that brining is the best way to make pork taste good, but what exactly does brining do to meat? We spoke with Dr. Carole Antin, an assistant professor at the Department of Food Science at the University of Minnesota, to get the science behind brining. She said that brining involves two key processes.
First, salt draws out the moisture inside the meat, so the outside gets drier and the inside gets juicier.
Second, salt draws flavor compounds out of the herbs and spices that are usually mixed into the pork, so the pork tastes even richer. Brining pork also makes the meat more tender by breaking down collagen, the tough protein in meat that makes meat tough and chewy. Collagen is almost exclusively found in the muscles of animals—so by breaking down the collagen in pork, you’re breaking down the tough, muscle-specific proteins that make meat tough and making the meat much softer.
How long does the brine need to stay?
The general rule of thumb is that the longer you brine meat, the more tender the meat will be. You can even brine meat for up to 24 hours—but the longer you brine meat, the more likely the meat will become mushy and tasteless. The best way to know when your brine is done is to taste the brine—if it tastes salty, then you’ve brined long enough. If you’d like to brine for a longer time, you can always add some salt or water to the brine.
Final step: Brining finished pork
After you’ve salted the pork in a pot, it’s done! Now, let it sit at room temperature for one or two days, then refrigerate and enjoy. Due to the intense salty flavor of the pork, you’ll probably want to add some type of sauce or seasoning to it after brining before you eat it.
There are so many great recipes for pork that you might want to add some extra flavor to the pork you’ve salted. You can choose from barbecue sauce, brown sugar and mustard, maple syrup, or even Vietnamese fish sauce. You might also want to try making your own sausages or jerky from the pork you’ve salted. You’ll want to let the meat cool before you grind it into a fine paste.
Brining pork in a pot isn’t just a good idea because it’s easy—it’s also an easy way to ensure that your pork is safe to eat. Not only can you use a metal pot to brine pork safely, but you can also salt pork for longer than you can brine meat in a plastic bag.
That means you can brine 4 or 5 pounds of pork in a pot, with room to spare, and then use that leftover brine to salt another 4 pounds of pork or beef. Brining pork in a pot also works well when you’re making a large batch of sausages or jerky. You can easily salt 2 or 3 pounds of pork, and then brine that batch of meat in a pot and use that leftover brine to salt the next batch of meat or vegetables.