Brining vs. Injecting Pork

Lee asks:

Here in the UK we don’t tend to inject our meats so can you tell me if using a brine solution makes the pork taste salty.What are the benefits of using the brine? – Thanks again, Lee

Lee, you bet!

As far as injections, it’s all a matter of what you consider “salty”. You certainly don’t need to salt the cooked meat, but it is in no way off-putting, as long as you follow a tested recipe.

Brine, because of the salt content, will give greater flavor than a marinade, the salts open the proteins in the meat and they absorb more moisture, so brined meat will be juicier after cooking. (And more forgiving to over-cooking!)

Personally, I think that pork benefits best from both marinating AND brining. Think of it as two separate techniques, the injection moistens and flavors the deep muscle tissue, while the marinade adds flavor to the exterior of the meat, and to the skin. For a whole pig, I’ll typically do a “dry marinade” ie: a thick spice paste, or a dry rub.

Meats that improve with a good brine:

Chicken & turkey (whole or cut)
Rabbit (or any non-red game meat)
Pork (especially boneless picnic ribs)
Smoked Salmon/Fish

Fatty meats like beef and lamb are generally not improved by brining.

My basic brine = 1 cup coarse Kosher or sea salt + 1 cup sugar (white or brown) + 1 gallon purified water.

Bring water to a high simmer, add salt and sugar to dissolve, and allow to cool to room temp before adding the meat. You can increase or decrease the amount of brine, as long as you have enough to completely submerse the meat, by modifying the brine ingredients in these proportions.

For more on brining, check out this post: 4 Tips for Better BBQ

My favorite injection is Cuban Mojo (moe-hoe), that I learned from my friend Roberto over at La Caja China (recipe below), for a more traditional brine, check out My Family’s Favorite Brined Turkey, here!

Traditional Cuban Mojo

Recipe by Roberto Guerra

(or you can buy it here)

This classic Cuban seasoning sauce makes a flavorful marinade for meats and poultry. Traditionally this is made with sour oranges, cumin, lots of garlic. With larger cuts (pork shoulder, or whole pig & lamb) it can be injected into the meat 12-24 hours before cooking.

1 C sour orange juice
1 Tbs oregano
1 Tbs bay leaves
1 garlic bulb
1 tsp cumin
3 tsp salt
4 oz of water

Peel and mash the garlic cloves. Mix all the ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour.

Blend all ingredients and let it sit for a minimum of one hour, strain and inject, or place meat in a cooler and pour marinade to cover overnight.

You can replace the sour orange juice with the following mix: 6 oz. orange juice, 2 oz. lemon juice.

I use this recipe for my all-time favorite appetizer as well, Mojo Shrimp Skewers.  Mojo is also a traditional dipping sauce for Cuban Tostones (twice-fried plantain round) – which are freakin’ awesome. That recipe is included in my upcoming cookbook, La Caja China World!

To make this mojo into a marinade, add the above recipe to 1 ½ gallons of water, and 13 oz. of table salt.

How to inject:

Put your pork shoulder in a pan or baking dish, fill your syringe, and inject in 4-6 spots. Pick a spot, stick the needle deep into the meat, and slowly depress the plunger while pulling the needle out, this allows the meat to close behind the needle.

Refill and repeat 4 times in various spots, until you’ve used 1/2 of the injection. The pork won’t hold all of the solution, so it’s okay for some of it to run out.

Flip the shoulder and repeat, then set the butt aside. Repeat the process with the second pork butt. Here’s the injector I use, and here’s the one I WANT, lol.

After injecting, sprinkle the rub generously on all sides, and “rub” it in to help it stick to the meat.  Cover meat and refrigerate 24 hours, allowing to come to room temp before cooking.

Okay, pit-masters…got any tips to add?




Filed under Q & A, Technique

7 responses to “Brining vs. Injecting Pork

  1. Perry, thanks for the information. My hubby and I have been going round and round about this so I’m happy to have an answer for him. ~Patty~

  2. Again, the professional in you looks like you covered it all. I’ve scoped out that injector before myself, I think thats the one created by the Godfather of BBQing, Myron Mixon.

  3. Great advice Perry. I have used this mojito before and it is a good one. I guess out of luck, the method you described is exactly how I do my injections. Solid!!!!
    -Rueben from Guam

  4. If your pork butt comes wrapped in cyrowrap, sometimes it is less messy to inject while it is still in the wrap. You get less of the streams of marinade shooting out 11.75 feet across the room as you are pulling the needle out :) (I might be exaggerating the distance a little)

  5. Chris, I’ve never thought of that…that’s brilliant!

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