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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Banjo's Recipe: Brining Pork Spare Ribs

Why do we brine?

We brine meats in order to impart moisture, and sometimes flavors, into a meat.  This is particularly useful for meats such as turkey breast, which can be very dry after cooking.  In this case with pork spare ribs, I've cooked them many times but I have never tasted how one tastes after brining, so that's what I'm going to do!

Brining Vs Marinating
Brining adds moisture into a meat by osmosis, which is the cell's attempt to balance it's internal salt content with salt content outside of itself.  The meat is put into a liquid bath that contains a high percentage of salt.  As the cell attempts to balance the salt levels, moisture is drawn into the meat, swelling the cells with the additional moisture.

Marinating is similar to brining, but has a higher acid content, in an attempt to tenderize the meat.  Since my meat will be cooked via Sous Vide, which will tenderize the meat via time and temperature instead of acid, there is no need to marinate the meat.

I had wondered whether or not a brine would contain worcestershire sauce or soy sauce, as both are high in salt.  I have a lot of worcestershire sauce that is getting close to its age-off date, so I was interested in using it before having to chunk it.  However, in my research, I kept coming across worcestershire and soy being used in marinates, but not in brines.  Since I know both to be high in salt, I began to wonder, what is the difference between a brine and a marinate?

Research showed a marinate to be high in acid in an attempt to tenderize meat.  I checked a USDA source for the ph level of foods (ph is a measurement of acidity), and found that both worcestershire sauce and soy sauce are about as acidic as vinegar, so that explains why they don't show up in brines (salt, not acid) but do show up in marinates (acid and salt).

So, while either worcestershire or soy sauce can be added to a brine for flavor, I don't want to add so much that I've changed it into a marinate.  Dang - thought I was going to use up that worcestershire sauce!


Note: I prefer to use distilled water as our water has a lot of fluoride in it.
Note: I do not have a 6 qt lexan container, so instead I use a water cooler.  I use a water/ice mixture (just enough water to fill up to the ice) in the cooler instead of just water.  This also means I don't have to find room in the refrigerator!

I'm going to brine the pork spare ribs for 48 hours.

  1. Mix the brine ingredients into a container large enough to hold two (2) racks of pork spare ribs, about 9 lbs of ribs.
  2. place spare ribs into brine container
  3. Place container into refrigerator, which should be at a temperature of 40 dF or below.
  4. Leave in brine for 48 hours.
  5. At the end of 48 hours (or there about - not critical), remove ribs from brine.
  6. Blot ribs dry with paper towels (do not rinse off).
  7. Your meat is ready for use!
Brine Recipes
Alton Brown's (note: we are using his Boston Butt recipe):


  • 8 ounces or 3/4 cup molasses
  • 12 ounces pickling salt
  • 2 quarts bottled water
  • 6 to 8 pound Boston butt
  • Combine molasses, pickling salt, and water in 6 quart Lexan. Add Boston butt making sure it is completely submerged in brine, cover, and let sit in refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours. 12 hours is ideal.

Brine in a 7–10% salt, 0–3% sugar water solution (70–100 grams salt and 0–30 grams sugar per 1 liter) in the refrigerator for 12–24 hours.


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