A/C/RBP Experimental Brined Smoked Chops: Recipe & Q-view

Discussion in 'Pork' started by forluvofsmoke, Mar 13, 2011.

  1. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi again, All! Ready for another ride? This one won't be long like my last smoke, but I wanted to share the adventure.

    I dug out a 6+ lb family pack of chops from the freezer last night to start thawing. Knowing how slow this can be, I decided to leave them on the counter top overnight, covered with a kitchen towel for insulation on top. It was the typical styrofoam tray, so the bottom was already insulated. I decided I'd use a brine to finish the thawing process and impart some flavor and moisture along the way.

    I started the brine solution lastnight, and after slowly heating for over 40 minutes to a slow simmer, I chilled it overnight after cooling to room temp, with everything still in the pot. At 9:45 this morning, I strained the brine and added more water and some ice, stirred, and piled in the chops. The chops were out of the freezer for 12 hours, but were just thawed enough to be able to slowly pry them apart with my fingers. BTW, yes, my fingers were ready for a hot soapy wash after that...darn cold stuff. I brined the chops for about 6 hours before they hit the smoke this after noon, leaving the container on the counter resting on a folded towel for insulation for the first 30 minutes, as it was 33-34* when I started, and most of the ice had melted after a half-hour, so, I popped it into the fridge for the remainder of the brining.

    My selection of savories was based mainly upon previous experience with their uses in dry rubs and brines, with one exception being ginger, which I've not used yet, but decide a sparing dose would be a good start. I wanted the brine to have the slightly fruity and sweet flavors, but also wanted to add more depth. The red bell pepper, cherry, and (most recently) apple have been great bases for the start of my flavor profiles, and the thought all three combined? Well, I just couldn't resist the urge to find out where this ride would take me!


    ***for 5-7 lbs pork chops***

    2 Tbls dried tart cherry

    3 Tbls crushed/broken dried apple chips

    2 Tbls dried diced red bell pepper

    3 Tbls kosher salt

    1/2 Tbls ground black peppercorn

    1 Tbls dried minced garlic

    1 Tbls dried rosemary

    1/2 Tbls oregano

    1/2 tsp cumin

    2 bay leaf

    1/4 tsp cinnamon

    1/4 tsp ground ginger

    3.5 qts water (1.5 qts for brine concentrate, remainder added after chilling)

    The brine, just after I turned the heat off...the aromas were already very intense, but enticing. I decided to let this brine soak longer and cool more slowly, as I had quite a few larger pieces in it, including whole dired cherries which I simply mashed a bit with a plastic spoon when I turned the heat off, after they had begun to reconstitute. The cherries were easy to find, as they're dense, and stayed on the bottom. The apple chips, minced garlic and red bells were swelling with water retention as well, so this should have tons of flavors...the color of the brine concentration as you'll see, will transform and get much darker overnight:


    And, after 10 hours...straining it into one of my smaller (6qt) brining containers...the cherries, garlic, red bells and apples have plumped up alot now, so the aromas and flavors should be drawn out of all the ingredients to the point of equalization...this stuff smells good enough to pour over rice or noodles as a sauce, but I won't...not this time anyway, as I have chops to brine...it would make a good sauce base-however, with much less salt:


    The brine concentrate:


    Chops are in and it's time for a lid and chilling:


    Now, for a dry rub and smoke. Hmm, should I use one of my tried-and-true favorite rubs? Or,  do I just add something very simple, like CBP with a touch of salt so I can taste the combined depth of the brine flavors and the pork chop in all it's glory? Decisions, decisions...I do like the thought of keeping the exterior very simple, allowing the brine and pork chop's milder flavors to remain light, so, I'm leaning hard towards that route.

    The smoke I'm thinking of should be sweeter, lighter, fruity and not sharp...hickory is out...too sharp...mesquite is too heavy and earthy for the flavor profile I'm building...apple is a no brainer, being lighter, sweeter...cherry, is a close call, being slightly stronger than apple, but we really like the flaovr. My recent experiences with pecan have all been good, and I love the stronger aroma and milder flavor it imparts. Anyway, that lists my current smoke woods arsenal, with three probable candidates.

    OK, apple and pecan won the coin toss...just kidding, I don't leave things like this to chance.

    Ah, but what about the fuel type? I have a propane rig, which is easy, but this is a shorter smoke, which I can handle with my gourmet charcoal smoker instead, so I will. Call it primal instinct, or whatever you want...I call it the best combination of flavors and smoke reaction I can get from a smoker, with a bit of care in wood selection, of course.

    Smoke is on @ 3:30 pm for a planned 6:00 pm dinner. It's an absalutely beautiful mid-March Sunday afternoon for my location, with currently 61* ambient, no wind and clear blue skies, so I'm gonna enjoy it while it lasts.

    I'll try to run the gourmet in the lower 200's for these chops, with a target temp of 215-220*. The lower grate is loaded and hanging 4" below the upper grate for less steam/more smoke, and I opted for a simple table grind pepper & salt:


    Upper grate loaded and we're ready for some apple/pecan smoke:


    That was a bit crowded for the gourmet. More so than I wanted, by far, as I have chops touching each other every place where I couldn't bulk them up enough when I positioned them. I did want to stay away from the outer edges of the grates, as that's hot spots with every vertical smoker I've ever used, and the gourmet is no different. It took me a couple minutes to load both grates and get everything to fit as is. Ah, it'll be allright, they just won't have quite the same look, and won't cook quite as evenly, so I'll have to be careful about checking them over pretty close. The appearance of meat juices on the surface and how evenly it forms is a good indication about mid-way through the smoke. I'll likely need to rotate the grate positions as the lower one runs a bit hotter, and I can give 'em all a quick once-over with the eyeball before setting the grates back in for the finish.

    The gourmet is chuggin along nicely with a full chimney of hot reclaimed briquettes from previous smoke and grilling jobs which I snuffed out in my weber kettle. That thing is great for more than just great chargrilled meats and indirect cooking. It's so air tight when you close the top and bottom that any coals inside will die out in just a few minutes.

    Anyway, I just wanted to get this started and out before it gets too late in the evening so everyone interested would have a heads-up and not miss out.

    Finished pics and brine/smoke review to follow ASAP!

    Thanks for checking out my latest brine experiment!

  2. thebarbequeen

    thebarbequeen Smoking Fanatic

    Yum! I almost always brine my pork.  I like the idea of nurturing it overnight, and I've never thought to strain it.   I usually use a couple Tbsp. of fresh, sliced smashed ginger in my brine. A trick I like for seasoning is using garam masala or ras al hanout from the Indian grocery. My current garam masala has coriander, cumin, ginger, red chile, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves.  The ras al hanout has allspice, black pepper, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, dried rosebuds(!), and clove. They come in real handy when I'm feeling indecisive or not wanting to go overboard with too much spice but still wanting a lot of flavor. Those chops sound and look great so far, I can't wait to see how they come out!
  3. tyotrain

    tyotrain Master of the Pit

    Man O Man them chops look good can't wait to see them done.. Nice job so far [​IMG]
  4. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    1.5 hour progress report...

    Thanks, tyro and Barbe. I was in the moddle of dropping in these pics, so I can't quote you at the moment, but here's some more teasing pics, and a description of what's going on thus far.

    Here we are @ 1.5 hours into the smoke and time for grate rotations and a visual check.

    The top grate has fairly evenly dispersed moisture from one chop to the next...I like to see that...it means my smoke chamber humidity is going to help keep them moist, and they appear to cooking quite evenly as well:


    Another angle of the same...you can see some peaks and valleys forming on the surface of the chops as the meat is cooking and beginning to shink up a bit, with the juices pooling in the valleys, and the bone-marrow darkening-up alot already...yep, they're cooking up nice and slow:


    The lower garte, after I rotated grate positions...the gourmet is doing a fine job...I modded it to move the lower up off the water pan just for days like this with smaller cuts and it's been one of the simpler and most productive mods I've used so far:


    I was saving this to combine with the finish at the end, but uploads are dicey sometimes, so I'll take what I can get...LOL!!!

    Finish to come soon!

    Thanks again, all!

  5. They look Fantastic so far ...Can't wait for the finished chops...[​IMG]
  6. tyotrain

    tyotrain Master of the Pit

  7. beer-b-q

    beer-b-q Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Great Looking Chops...
  8. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Ah, man...to brine, or not to brine...that is the question I've seen come up time after time. Heck, just do it, and take the ride and see where it goes...these were GREAT!

    I have never brined chops before (at least that I can remember, but it's abd when you do so many different things in such short time that you don't know what you did last week...LOL!!!), but I did some CSR's recently, and loved them as well.

    I went for 3 hours smoke on the bulk of these, with a couple that didn't quite look done, so they went back in for another 20 minutes.

    Just coming out to join us for Sunday dinner:



    The two that looked to be not quite done yet...:


    Served with two of my wife's stove-top dishes...yukon gold potatoes with mushrooms and cheese sauce, and zucchini with crinkle cut carrots and tomatoe/cheese sauce...:



    OK, onto the brine and smoke...

    The brine flavor was soft and subtle, though, very deep, as I expected. Slightly sweet and fruity. Nothing seemed to be right up front and dominent of the overall profile, which I was hoping for from the start when I began putting this together last night. The savories seemed to come through without being pushy about it...just hanging around and playing nicely. I couldn't taste many single flavors, other than a touch of peppercorn and garlic. The ginger wasn't a flavor I could single out either, because it only vaguely reminded me of a chinese dish I had, probably years ago, and I couldn't even say what it may have been. I may double the ginger on the next round with this just to see where it gets closer to a dominating flavor, just to satisfy my curiosity.

    The smoke was a nice and light flavor for the chops and brine, with the pecan carrying a great pungent aromatic characteristic which I've grown to love over the past couple of weeks since I first started using it. Just for the aromas of the smoker and the plated meat, it's well worth tossing a small chunk into the mix. I read that pecan is a very good all-around smoke wood, similar to hickory's wide range of uses, and, having a slightly sweeter flavor and milder aroma, instead of the sharpness of hickory. IMO, that is a very good description of pecan. I've been looking for different ways to incorporate pecan into my smokes since I've gotten it, and have been happy with the results everytime.

    The brine kind of fooled me on what the chops look like when they're done...had 'em just a tad dry, but not too bad. They really don't look the same as a dry-rubbed only chop when cooked. The puddles of greyish juices on the two I left in were probably right on the money. I would have never guessed it, myself. It does change things a bit when you brine.

    All in all, I'd say that if you wanted to try this, just remember to think about creating a light and mild smoke, as the chops themselves are not a strong flavor. The brine itself flows well with that light flavor, and so then, the smoke should follow as well, and not be back-bone of flavor. Keep it that in mind, even with the apple/pecan combination I used...I kept the smoke very thing after the initial start-up, and even with the smoke still going right up to the end, it wasn't strong. Oh, and don't forget a slit test for meat/juice color. Med/well chops should be slightly, and I do mean very slightly pink inside, with tons of juices...that's how I generally bring them out of the smoker or off the grill, and they are to-die-for.

    I am quite glad in the choice of meats I withdrew from the freezer last night, and the fact that I had another hurdle to overcome, being the chops would not be thawed and ready the next day. That's what gave me this challenge to begin my journey with another brine, and it worked out quite tastily!

    With that, I bring another journey to it's closure, unfortunately. However, it will not die here. I do plan on brining chops again, hopefully very soon. I've been brining alot of meats lately...so much so, that I can't remember from one month to the next (correction, week, not month) what I've done. I guess I've been a busy smoker!

    Thanks again, everyone! It's been fun, and now, I'm done!


  9. thebarbequeen

    thebarbequeen Smoking Fanatic

    looks good!  I'm with ya on brining.  I've had lots of brined pork chops, and in some pretty fancy restaurants. Don't know why people don't brine more, but Cheers to you!
  10. I agree:

    They look great, and brined chops are amazing, I usually brine my chops for grilling, it's just an easy way to impart flavor and guarantee juicyness.
  11. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Well Eric, Once again a great post & great looking dinner you put together. I have never brined pork chops, but this is something I will do in the future. Thanks for sharing.
  12. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Dang !!!

    They sure eat good out in Wyoming!!!

    Awesome looking Poke Chops there, Eric !

    Thanks for another great post!

  13. nwdave

    nwdave Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Just pulled out a pair of chops (small family, remember?) to grill on the Weber tonight.  Change 2.  Pork chops tomorrow night, brined that is and a chance to do an indirect smoke on the OTG.  Now what for dinner tonight????  See the problems you cause?

    [​IMG]   Now where did I put that Stufz recipe?  OR, YOU could airmail a pair of those fine looking chops........
  14. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Thanks Al, I think you'll really enjoy a brined chop. The flavors you can add are very much worth spending a bit of prep time in advance of your smoke. I like brined chix pieces as well, but this opened up a whole new avenue for me.

    Thanks Bear, we do eat pretty well, I guess. It's nice to have something different now and then, and these chops really worked out great.

    Ha-ha! Hey Dave, don't think of it as a problem, just another adventure! LOL! I will say, for the first time doing brined chops, I wasn't worried about how they would taste. I knew the flavor profile I was building would be good, just from my previous brines and brine/cures. What I found interesting was how the flavors seemed to combine so well, almost as if they had come from just a small number of ingredients. If I didn't know what was in this brine, I would have a very difficult time identifying or isolating very many of the flavors. It just seemed so natural, which made it taste even better.

    Enjoy the experience, and of course, the chops! 

    Thanks, it does seem kind of strange that more people don't brine, but then, they probably weren't exposed to that kind of prep in the past. I'm still fairly new to brining myself. Brine/cures aren't new to me, so this comes pretty natural after doing it a few times. The more brines I try, the more I want to try it again...it's such a versatile way to create great eats.

    Thanks, yes it does improve moisture content, and definitely adds flavor. These chops were a bit overdone due to my complacency, but they still had a moist and tender chew...a bit more forgiving, if nothing else. Chops aren't the easiest thing I've ever grilled or smoked, and trying not to overcook is the main challenge, and I've had a few times where 3 or 4 minutes less on the grill would have been perfect.

    Thanks again, everyone!

    I'm now wondering what my next brined vicims will be...hmm...ah, no worries, I'll know when it happens. That's where my best creations are born...just following my heart, and going with the flow.


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