Excerpts from the Book

Brine: “Water” Curing

When the ingredients of a basic dry cure are dissolved in water, the diluted mixture has become a brine, and therefore the process is referred to as brining. The addition of water speeds the curing process and adds moisture and flavor to the finished product. Through osmosis effect, the salty brine enters the cell walls of the animal flesh while the liquids inside the cells walls are drawn out. The major difference between a brine and a cure is that in a brine water penetrates the cells along with the salt and remains there, resulting in the cells retaining two to three times their original volume.Early American brining and curing was done to meats primarily as a preservation method. After killing a whole hog, the butchers stored slabs of pork bellies and large portions of pork shoulder in pickling barrels. In the first stage of curing, which is referred to as salt pork, after the decomposition and fermentation has been completed, the pork develops a sour flavor and then is referred to pickled pork (e.g., pickled pig’s feet). Beef brisket also is preserved in this manner. Sea salt and the whole spices (corns) of mustard, white peppercorns, coriander, and crushed bay leaves are used to create what we refer to as modern corned beef.

Demanding consumers have revitalized the old-world brining techniques, creating a market for chefs to produce not only in-house corned beef but also brisket of pastrami, which is also brined but finished in the smoker.

There can be variations of weights in salt and also a wide ratio to water. From 6:1 in favor of water to salt to a preservation ratio of 2:1 depending upon thickness of the protein and the density and structure of the muscle to be brined.

The brines may be flavor enhanced using citrus juice or fruit juices, wines, and aromatics. For immediate use, dissolve the salt, sugars, aromatics and the seasonings in the recipe ratio of 1/3 the water required and bring to boil and then shock with the remaining 2/3 using straight ice.

Cook and Hold Insulated Electrical Smokers

These models are much the same as the previously described models. They are also offered with
stainless steel or cast iron but the difference is the control panel.

For a higher mass production application, the cook and hold smoker is the premium piece of equipment for the serious smoking production at an establishment.

Currently, I am producing from a cook shack smoker, which has the following features:

  • The setting options for a cook and hold include the setting for actual cooking, the temperatures ranging from 100 to 300°F.
  • Timing for the actual cooking time can be programmed and has a feature where after that cooking time expires the smoker will “kick down” to a preset hold temperature until the unit is turned off manually.
  • Included on the control panel is an option for brisket programming.
  • These smokers have the capacity of approximately 250 lb. of product.
  • Have a six-rack capacity, double burners with the ability of holding a half a bag of wet chips.
  • Other options available include an external thermal probe so the product can be monitored without opening the door and releasing the heat and the smoke.

Improvised Stove Top Smoking/Roaster Smoker

Peking duck will develop a very distinct flavor using this method of smoking. The duck has already been marinated and steamed (cooked) prior to the rice and tea smoking application.

  • Using two backstrap pans, place one on top of the other. If there is a gap, use a twisted foil “rope” to create an even seal all the way around to hold the smoke.
  • Line the bottom pan with foil; place 2–3 c. of dry wood chips on the foil.
  • Using two half-size pans for glazing, place the product to be smoked.
  • Cover and place on two burners and apply heat for 15 min. or until smoke appears.
  • At this time turn off the burners and allow the smoke to build.

This technique is very close to the heat source, and the smoke will be very intense so be aware of a
shorter smoking time is needed and the application of heat that will start the cooking process.