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Pork loin chops- the dry brine vs wet brine test

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    Pork loin chops- the dry brine vs wet brine test

    I picked up a whole 10.5lb pork loin on sale and sliced it up into chops. I thought since I was making some on the grill for dinner I would perform a dry brine vs wet brine test, since I normally prefer to wet brine pork chops and chicken pieces.

    I decided to do 6 chops, 3 in each method. 3 got ~1/2tsp coarse Kosher salt/lb treatment on both sides, and 3 got my usual wet brine of 1 C table salt to 1 Gal water for 1 hour. In this case I halved the brine since I was only doing 3 chops, 1/2C table salt, 1/2Gal water, 1 hr.

    The dry brined chops were wrapped in plastic wrap and placed back in the fridge for approx 3 hrs, the wet brined ones were brined in cold water for ~one hour prior to cooking.

    Here is how they looked after being patted dry and coarse fresh-cracked pepper was added, immediately before going on the grill. The left ones were the dry brined ones. Notice how they appear slightly more pink. This was noticeable in person too, perhaps more so.

    Click image for larger version

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    For my grill setup I used the 2-zone with bricks method, roughly 1/3-1/2 chimney of kingsford on the 22" kettle. One chunk of ash wood for smoke. I used two Maverick 732s so I had one probe for the central grate temp and 3 chops had probes in them.

    My temp spiked too high the first 15 min of the cook (345ish) and the chops were nearing 120* already. I wanted a slower cook to get more smoke, so I removed about 20 coals and stifled them in the baby Web. This got my temp to 245 which I was very happy with. I figured this left me with somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of a chimney of lit coals going. (Pictured are the coals before removing some)

    Click image for larger version

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    The cook took maybe 45-50 min to reach 142-144 on the probed pieces (140-145 was my target "Chef temp"). This was with the first 15 min being 100* over my ideal cooker temp.

    Here is one of the dry brined pieces

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    And here is one of the wet brined pieces

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    You can see there is virtually no visual difference on the outside of them, as you'd probably expect.

    Now to cut into them...

    Here is the dry brined one cut open

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    Slightly pink through out, juicy. Perfect.

    Now here are the up close "bite shots"

    Dry brined:

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    And wet brined:

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    Well, that's it for pictures. There you have the objective, as far as digital pictures and a computer monitor can relay them. How about the subjective? Was there a noticeable difference?


    In salt flavor, there was no difference, they were identical as far as I could tell and I like to think I have a pretty picky tongue. My conclusion here is that the recommended dry brine of 1/2tsp coarse Kosher salt is very comparable to 1/2 C table salt in 1/2 Gal water for one hour (or 1C in 1 gal.). Without figuring out the painful details of concentrations here, I can tell you the taste was identical in terms of saltiness. Both were perfect for my tastes.

    The texture/juiciness? Wet brine wins! I noticed a nominal difference in the juiciness of the wet brined chops. I gave my wife a blind test as well and she too picked the wet brined chop as being slightly juicier.

    This is not to say the dry brined chops were inferior, hardly! The difference was only slight, but still noticeable. If you like dry brining pork chops, by all means keep doing it. you save a tone of salt and hassle that way. But if you're interested in trying the wet brine method I describe, it does lead to a juicier chop! Keep in mind, this is at a medium, 145* temp. Well done will ruin any pork chop!

    Now, there are surely flaws to this non-scientific test. It could be argued the chops I randomly selected to wet brine were more tender chops, and therefore were guaranteed to be a tad better regardless of their treatment, right? Perhaps. However, I hand-sliced them from next to each other on a whole loin, so this is possible but not very likely. Also, I could've used a panel of 50 judges with 150 different chops, blah blah blah, you get the idea.

    Not scientific, but good enough to prove it to me!

    Thanks for sharing! I, too, buy the whole pork loins at Sam's Club and make steaks with most of it and cube the remaining for stews.

    I happened to make one last night, by the way, to test some Rufus Teague rub I received for xmas. I dry-brined it. On Sunday. And then life got in the way. So, it had been dry-brined for over 3 days! I rubbed a bit of olive oil on it, coated it liberally with the Rufus Teague rub, and sprinkled a light cover of Einkorn flour over it to cut down spattering. I then fried it in a bit of bacon grease in my C.I. chicken fryer. The grease temp was between 350°F and 375°F. I was going for a certain doneness on the outside vs. a specific IT and wound up with a finished IT of 165°F, well-done by usual standards.

    But when I plated it and started cutting into it, I wound up with plenty of juice on the plate for dipping. I wouldn't want to do that to a tenderloin, but the loin held up nicely.

    So, I'm a big fan of dry-brined pork.

    However, I will wet-brine occasionally. I use Mad Hunky's Pork Brine when I do (5 tablespoons per pint of water). Great combination of flavors (slightly different from his Poultry Brine) that infuse really well (via a food-grade surfactant that's part of the brine).

    Regarding juiciness of the finished steak? I'll second your finding that the wet-brined steaks are juicier. Obviously so.

    To me, the real question is: Is dry-brined pork juicy enough?

    And the answer is: Yes!

    What I plan on doing now with future whole pork loins is to dry-brine the steaks BEFORE I freeze the extras. Currently, I get a steak out of the freezer, toss it in the fridge to thaw, take it out of the vac seal bag, brine it, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap (for outdoor or stove top cooks) or re-vacuum seal it (for sous vide). Waste of time and bags.

    Edit: By the way, I cut my steaks 1.5" thick. I'm going to try some 2" think ones and retest.
    Last edited by Ozric; January 15, 2015, 09:17 AM.


      I did the same Ozric, cubed the rest of the odds & ends for stir fry like I do when trimming ribs. Great minds eh?

      And I agree 100% on your findings regarding dry brine being moist enough.

      I was tempted to dry brine mine as I was bagging them to freeze, but I decided not to since sometimes I like to put Southern Flavor seasoning on them or my rib rub, both of which contain salt, or wet brine them again. Otherwise that would be the smartest for sure.
      Last edited by Huskee; January 15, 2015, 09:34 AM.


        GREAT write up Huskee!


        • Huskee
          Huskee commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks Jon!

        @Huskee - So these were cooked indirect only? No sear? Like baked on the grill?


          Originally posted by Dewesq55 View Post
          @Huskee - So these were cooked indirect only? No sear? Like baked on the grill?
          That's correct, smoke-baked.


          • Dewesq55
            Dewesq55 commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks. Do you get a decent color/Maillard reaction on the exterior when you don't have a longish temp spike into the 300's?

          Another question: Was this a boneless loin when you bought it? Or did you take the bones off to make as baby backs?


            Very nice post Huskee... A dry brine seems so much easier and like you say it requires less salt. Good cook and nice pictures. I love my Mongolian Pork Chop marinade so much that it is the only way I do pork chops anymore.


            • Huskee
              Huskee commented
              Editing a comment
              Thank you sir! It's hard once you find a great recipe to venture out, I think we're all guilty of that.

            Originally posted by Dewesq55 View Post
            Another question: Was this a boneless loin when you bought it? Or did you take the bones off to make as baby backs?
            Yes, boneless. And I always get some sort of browning but not usually this much w/o searing. I attribute this good Maillard to the hot start. No sugar on it though, just salt & pepper, no oil either.


              Originally posted by Huskee View Post
              ...I was tempted to dry brine mine as I was bagging them to freeze, but I decided not to since sometimes I like to put Southern Flavor seasoning on them or my rib rub, both of which contain salt, or wet brine them again. Otherwise that would be the smartest for sure.
              There is that to consider. Since I mark everything anyway (what it is and when frozen), I'll just add a brined/not-brined line!


                Originally posted by Ozric View Post
                There is that to consider. Since I mark everything anyway (what it is and when frozen), I'll just add a brined/not-brined line!
                To quote Ernest: 'I can't be bothered with that'. Lol. In hind sight I could have dry brined half then just froze half untouched. Next time...


                  Good job Huskee! The pics are great. For some odd reason, I never think to wet brine my pork chops. I think its high time to start. I wet brine my baby backs all the time, and they are great. We buy whole pork loins a lot in our household. You have just given me a cool idea for the next time. I'll take the loin, cut it thick, so the pork resembles a "baseball" cut, brine, then bacon wrap. Cook with smoke till 130ish, then sear the rest of the way. Anyway, enough of my ramblings. Good job and thanks for the inspiration!


                  • Dewesq55
                    Dewesq55 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Baseball cut?

                  • Huskee
                    Huskee commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Sounds good to me, I think it'll be a home run.

                  • Strat50
                    Strat50 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    A baseball cut is where a steak is cut to be as thick as it is wide.

                  Those look awesome, perfectly done on the inside for my taste! I have found the same result, wet brine creates a juicier chop.

                  My question for you: It looks like you did not put them over the direct heat for a sear at the end (from the darkness, or lack thereof on the surface in your pics). Is there a reason you did not finish over high heat or did you and the pics not the sear justice?


                  • Dewesq55
                    Dewesq55 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I asked a similar question bbqoaf. He doesn't sear.

                  • bbqoaf
                    bbqoaf commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Missed that, thanks, I think this calls for another experiment, smoked and seared vs smoked and not seared.

                  Thanks, they were amazing, probably the best I've done yet. Nope, no sear on these. I decided I wasn't going to so I peppered them before cooking and didn't oil them. As described above my temps rose to well over 300 the first 15-20 mins of the cook (unintentionally), so this was all the blast they needed. They turned out so good I just might not sear chops anymore.


                    I don't like to sear poke chops. I like them just the way you did those. Again yo da man...nice job



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