How to Brine Meat for Smoking

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Brines are used to soften and season a variety of smoked meats.
Brines are used to soften and season a variety of smoked meats. (Image: arenques image by RAMON CAMI from Fotolia.com)

Brining meats before they are smoked protects the meat from moisture loss during the long smoking process. Salt absorbed into the meat during the brining stage denatures the protein, causing it to soften and absorb more moisture. Skipping the brine with meat headed to the smoker will leave you with dried and tough meat. You can make a simple or spiced brine for foods you plan to smoke to achieve moist and delicious results every time.

Things You'll Need

  • 10 oz. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated white or brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • Dried herbs and seasonings (optional)
  • 2-quart saucepan
  • Stove
  • 12 cups crushed ice
  • Tall plastic tub
  • 4 lb. meat
  • Kitchen towel or paper towels

Add the Kosher salt, sugar, and filtered water to a saucepan and bring them to a slow boil over medium high heat on the stove. Sprinkle in a few favorite dried herbs and seasonings to add extra flavor to the brine. A couple bay leaves or a tablespoon of black peppercorns will infuse the meat with subtle flavor. The Kosher salt must be added by weight since each brand has a different granular size, resulting in more or less salt per cup.

Pour the crushed ice into a large plastic tub before pouring the hot concentrated brine from the saucepan onto the ice. Keep your face back as you pour to avoid the large steam cloud this procedure generates.

Lower the meat into the brine until it is completely submerged and slide the tub into a refrigerator that maintains temperatures between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours. This brine can be doubled for eight pounds of meat and eight hours in the refrigerator.

Remove the brined meat from the tub and rinse it under cold running water to wash away salt and any dry seasonings. Pat the surface of the meat completely dry with a kitchen towel or paper towels before moving the meat to the smoker.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid adding salts to any dry seasoning rub you choose to apply to the brined meat prior to smoking. Salts that have been absorbed will concentrate as the moisture content goes down.

References

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