Rate of "absorption" with wet brine vs. dry brine

I’m not a scientist, so the use of, “absorption” is simply because I’m not sure what word to use when referring to salt permeating meat. Once upon a time, I created a basic liquid brine for some pork chops (water, salt, herbs, peppercorn, a little sugar), but I ended up brining them for too long and the meat essentially tasted like ham. While not ruined, they certainly weren’t what we were hoping for. This weekend, I bought some gorgeous heritage pork porterhouse steaks and decided to salt them and put them on a rack in advance of grilling. In other words, like a dry brine. I was careful to not risk over-brining like I did with he wet brine, so I only salted them about eight hours before grilling. They were great, but they could’ve used even more time.

So, what has been your experience with regard to the rate of absorption for dry versus wet brines? Specific to big, thick pork chops, how long would you dry brine?

My general technique has been to dry brine thick chops (~1 1/2") with a generous amount of salt about 2.5 hours ahead of time, leave out at room temperature, and then I wipe off anything that hasn’t absorbed before seasoning and grilling (reverse sear). I haven’t really played with longer brine times, but I’ve generally found that, if you use a good amount of salt, even just a few hours allows some decent penetration.

I like 24 hours 48 hours max. Any more and you go to the ham like flavors/textures you describe.
My typical is brine at night, fridge to dry. If meat looks lean, then sous vide for 2 hours at 138, then hot grill. If meat has good fat, you can skip the sous vide, but I personally like the texture better. Take care in caramelizing the fat as it can overcook the lean.

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Not chops but I’ve taken salt out of my rib rub and instead dry brine the ribs about 24 hours prior to smoking them.

That’s a good point - I reduce salt amounts significantly when putting together seasoning blends for dry-brined chops/steaks/etc.

I’m not so sure about pork as I haven’t compared, but for poultry I don’t think there is any comparison. An appropriately timed wet brine results in much more uniform results throughout the bird while dry brine results are less uniform throughout.

worth a read (and the embedded article from kenji re: salt)

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For a turkey for thanksgiving if you can dry brine (just salt) for 5 days in the refrigerator I love how the salt permeates even the most inside meat and makes it salty to eat at dinner and it softens it up. I also recommend high heat (450 for something like 3 hours), breast side down to protect moisture, and legs in the deepest part of oven as they’re the toughest. Makes an awesome turkey.

Yes this should be required reading. As Kenji shows the results are very similar between wet and dry but dry is so much simpler.

It’s what led me to a similar approach as Milton’s. 24 hours never more than 48 with pork. Really with beef, and some chicken cuts as well. Never had an issue with the meat tasting “cured”.

I brine pork chops all the time (wet) about 24-32 hours in advance. But leave out sugar! It will indeed make chops taste like ham.

My brine is water, diamond kosher salt, several crushed garlic cloves, fennel seed, rosemary and peppercorns. Delicious. Especially if I have fennel pollen to dust on when I cook them (if thick chops, seared on cast iron grill and then finished in oven, medium pink).

That’s quite possible, Maureen, thank you. I hadn’t considered that it was the sugar and not the brine duration that made them taste like ham. Beyond that, I’ve stopped adding sugar to brines (mostly) because, especially when I want a nice sear, the sugar has a tendency to burn.

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