Friday, July 1, 2011
Brined Pork Loin
I really thought I knew how to cook a pork loin. I wrote this recipe a few years ago and I was so excited to share it on my blog. While that original recipe is really good, I will admit that when you know better, you do better, so I'm proud to say that I'm a brining convert.
It all started when Pioneer Woman posted this recipe for brined turkey last Thanksgiving. I forwarded it to my mom and asked if she'd consider brining the Thanksgiving turkey. Long story short: mom brined the turkey, it was beyond delicious and now mom and I are both big fans of PW.
My new mantra on pork loin is if you have the time, then brine. You can absolutely get moist, flavorful pork (or turkey) without brining, but with a little advance planning you can pretty much guarantee that your meat will come out perfectly.
So, what is brining? It's soaking raw meet in a sweet salty solution for a day (or a few days) prior to cooking. The meat doesn't end up salty, but it does get flavorful throughout and stays moist after cooking. Brining gives you a lot more leeway when cooking foods like turkey breast or pork chops, which tend to dry out if you cook them a few minutes too long.
My first reaction to brining was that it must be really difficult. First of all, who in the world would use all that salt and sugar on meat? Also, how am I going to cool this hot brine down in time to pour it on my food? It's just too much.
I was wrong, it was easy. Trust me.
First you dump your salt, sugar and other flavorings in a pot. For this brine I used whole coriander seed (picked it up at the farmers market for a few dollars - you can find it at any well-stocked grocery store), whole black peppercorns, garlic cloves and an orange. Yes, I know, that's quite a combination!
Then I poured in a quart of water and brought the whole mixture to a boil.
Once the salt and sugar dissolved, I removed it from the heat and cooled the whole mixture down with about four cups of ice. Then I put a big zip-top bag in a bowl (just in case it decided to rupture and cause a salty waterfall in my fridge), put the pork in the zip-top bag and poured the brine into the bag.
I put the whole bowl in the fridge and went on with my life. I worked a few days. I ate at Chick-fil-a. Bought some cds at Target. I almost forgot that I had dinner marinating in my fridge.
After a day or two, I pulled the pork out of the brine. I grabbed some fresh rosemary from my garden, chopped it up and rubbed it on the pork.
I drizzled a little olive oil on the pork, then roasted it (fat side up, so all the goodness could saturate the meat) for about 45 minutes...
Let it rest a few minutes before you slice it, or the juices may run all over the place.
But, when it's ready to slice...
Slice it thinly. Or thick. I like thin slices for sandwiches and thicker slices for eating straight up. We enjoyed our pork loin with Yukon gold mashed potatoes, then put the leftovers on jalapeno cheddar bread for sandwiches for lunch. Yeah... it was good.
Now, a few words of warning. You should probably give the meat a quick rinse after brining, just to make sure it doesn't come out too salty. Also, if you're using previously frozen meat (boneless skinless chicken comes to mine) please, please double check to make sure it wasn't already brined before it was frozen (read the package). 'Cause you may end up brining some already brined chicken. And that would be salty... not that I did that or anything.
So, if you're short on time and you want to serve pork loin, go for Roasted Pork Loin with Herbs and Garlic because you don't have to marinade it in advance. If you are planning ahead (maybe you are using a menu plan for the week), then try the brine!
Oh, and I know some people don't like to use their ovens in the heat of July, so try this one on the grill, too! Just sear it over high heat first, then move it to the medium heat on your grill. Cook it covered until the internal temperature is around 160 degrees. The recipe below is for the traditional roasted version that you can cook any day.
Brined Pork Loin
a Keeley original
One, 3-pound pork loin
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt (I use Diamond brand - It's like $1 a box, buy it.)
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 orange, sliced
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds (optional)
2 Tablespoons black peppercorns
4 cups water
4 cups ice
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat a medium pot to medium-high heat.
Toast coriander seeds (if using) in the dry pot for about 30-90 seconds, or until fragrant. Add brown sugar, salt, garlic cloves, orange peppercorns and water. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved, then cut off the heat. Pour ice into the brine and stir until dissolved. Brine should be lukewarm or cool.
Place the pork loin in a large zip-top bag and place the bag in a bowl. Pour the brine over the pork. Put the pork in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, up to 36 hours.
Day two (or three, or four)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove pork from brine. Discard brine and quickly rinse pork.
Place pork on a roasting pan (preferably on a roasting rack), fat side up. Rub olive oil and rosemary on all sides of the pork.
Roast pork (fat side up) for 40-50 minutes, or until golden brown and internal temperature reads about 160 degrees.
Let pork rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing and seving.