Brine Before Grilling On Pizza Stones

I’m sure everyone has been to a barbecue, bitten into a grilled chicken breast only to have it crumble like sawdust in your mouth. Then on top of it, the grill-meister asks you at that exact moment, “How do you like the chicken?” With clenched teeth and a wry smile, you say, “Mmm, that’s good!” Well, let’s put an end to this farce. The way to avoid dried-out chicken, pork, and shrimp is to brine it before grilling.

Simply put, brining is soaking the meat in salty water for several hours to overnight. This will help protect the meat when you cook it in the very hot, dry environment of the grill. You’ll be left with chicken and pork that is plump and juicy, yet fully cooked. Shrimp, which becomes rubbery when overcooked, will remain tender and flavorful. Brining your shrimp first will allow you enough time to place them on the grill, flip them all and brush them with your favorite sauce.

Enhance the flavor of the protein by adding additional ingredients to the brine like brown sugar, bay leaves, thinly-sliced raw onions, fresh garlic cloves, whole black peppercorns, etc. Adding some alcohol like bourbon or tequila will leave a nice hint of flavor that will really accent a barbecue sauce made with the same ingredient. There is nothing like bourbon-brined pork chops with a bourbon/apple barbecue sauce. These additional notes of flavor will help your next barbecue go from ordinary to extraordinary!

Brining is also a great way to defrost your protein, while adding flavor. More times than not I will use frozen shrimp, pork chops and loins, or chicken breasts. Placing these frozen proteins in a bath of salt water to defrost in the refrigerator is a great way to bring them to a safe temperature before grilling.

Brining doesn’t have to be an exact science. Brine shrimp in the refrigerator for about an hour, pork chops or chicken breasts for 2 – 3 hours, and whole pork tenderloin for about 4 hours. For a whole turkey (smoked, brined turkey is unbelievable!) I recommend brining overnight.

When you take your brined meats out of the brining liquid, place them on a paper towel-lined plate and pat completely dry. Spend a little extra time on this crucial step. Dry meat on the grill will caramelize and create a crispy crust; however wet food will steam and be bland. Once you’ve completely dried the meat, add a little oil and your favorite spice rub (if the recipe calls for it). Just remember that you’ve already added salt to the food while it brined so use less salt than you normally would to season the food.

I hope you find brining to be a technique you use the next time you grill delicate meat.

Introducing the Grilled Pizza Stones and Grilling Accessories.

Dill-Pickled Green Tomatoes – Simple Recipe For Flavor-Controlled Hors D’oeuvres

Dill-pickled green tomatoes make great appetizers. Numerous recipes for making them can be found in cook books and on the Internet. We use the fairly simple recipe below. It emphasizes the proportion and type of vinegar used to control the strength of the pickling flavor combined with the dill flavor of the green-tomato-and-celery product.

Pickling brines give varying tastes to different people. For example, a product pickled in a strong vinegar brine can cause the taster to blow any choking acetic-acid fumes from his or her nose and throat after sampling it. Still other tasters might like that same flavor without feeling the effects of the vinegar or other additives.

Conversely, the brines having a weaker vinegar portion combined with flavoring spices or further added products will yield milder more articulate flavors to its pickled products. Some recipes will recommend adding a few spices to make the pickling flavor hot or tasty. Others call for the addition of plain or brown sugar to make the flavor sweet. Still others say the following items can be added to the pickled green tomatoes: garlic, celery, onion, hot or sweet peppers (red, yellow or green), Cayenne pepper, carrots, allspice, pickling spice, mixed-pickling spices, black peppercorns, celery seed, dill heads or seed, mustard seed, dry mustard, cherry leaves, slacked lime, cumin, turmeric, lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, or sugar. 

Still, the pickling flavor coming from a brine recipe is also controlled by the proportion and kind of vinegar used in it. A strong recipe will add no water to the vinegar:salt brine. A medium-strength recipe will use a 1:1 cider-or-white vinegar:water proportion for its brine, the white one being the mildest of the two. A weak or mild recipe will call for a 1:2 or 1:3 cider-or-white vinegar:water proportion. Also, in certain instances, a select wine vinegar might be used to give a preferred taste. In the following recipe, a 1:2 proportion together with a few additives gives a fairly mild, lingering and slightly hot, dill flavor to its green-tomato-and-celery product.

Dill-Pickled Green Tomatoes — (by City Sandy)

5-pounds small firm green tomatoes, (grape or cherry with any stems still attached, or larger ones, quartered), washed well
1-head of celery, washed

To make the brine, mix the following ingredients together in a pan, and bring to a boil for five minutes.

2-quarts water
1-quart vinegar (cider or white)
1-cup salt (plain or cannery)

Pack the tomatoes into standard sterilized pint jars together with the following items in each.

1-clove garlic
1-stalk diced celery (1/2-inch)
1-hot pepper of choice (green or red)
1/2-to-1-tablespoon dill seed, or to taste

Fill the jars to one-half-inch from the top with the hot brine. Seal with canning lids. And then, turn the packed jars over to cool. Store 30 days before serving. Makes 10-12 pints.

Acknowledgement.

Thanks to my thoughtful spouse for helpful cooking and pickling advice.

To learn more about the history of pickling brines, see the following website.