A Cure for what ‘ales’ you
By Tim O’Connor
Cure and brine might sound like an Irish comedy duo, but they’re no joke in your kitchen. They’re the secret to moist, flavourful meat, especially during barbecue season.
Cures and brines go really well with a barbecue’s intense flavours, with the flames, the char and everything that makes barbecue so special. My rule of thumb is that you cure fattier meats and brine less fattier meats.
A cure or brine is firstly a balance of salt and sugar, with added flavours that suit your moment or appetite. When I brine turkey, I use a bit of honey and mustard. It works so well that I use it year-round, including my Christmas and Thanksgiving turkeys.
You can experiment with ingredients, but it’s important to understand that you’re adding nuances of flavour, not adding punches in the mouth of flavour. More salt doesn’t make a brine work faster, and brine can ruin poultry as easily as it can improve it. Remember that the ratios of salt and sugar to meat are essential.
An overnight cure or morning-to-evening brine will change your brisket’s flavour from simple to amazing or add flavour and moisture to your poultry. Whether you’re grilling or putting in even more effort and barbecuing low and slow, why settle for a simple sprinkling of salt a few minutes before you cook?
It’s not complicated. For brine, all you need is a bucket or large pot and space in your fridge. Pro tip: I make room in the bottom of my fridge where normally forgotten stuff goes to die.
For a brisket or pork shoulder, a cure goes a long way to making sure the meat is flavourful. Don’t be too gentle when you’re rubbing that cure into the meat, as you want the meat covered with a good layer of spices and seasonings.
I generally cure pork for 24 hours before cooking. Brine permeates poultry with moisture in less time, so a morning brining is good for cooking that evening. Eight or nine hours should do, and I never go more than 12. Some ambitious people use a meat injector, which can cut brine time to three or four hours.
Finally, always pat the meat dry before cooking, so you get a caramelized, crispy exterior with nice sear lines.
Tim O’Connor grew up in the Glebe and is head chef at Flora Hall Brewing.
Turkey/ poultry brine
For each pound of meat:
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp pickling spice, crushed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
2 litres water
Bring water to boil, add other ingredients and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool in fridge. Add poultry to brine, and top with a plate or bag filled with water to ensure the meat is submerged.
Cure for red meats
2 cups of salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1tbsp pickling spice crushed
1 tsp black pepper crushed
Rub generously over meat to ensure all areas are covered.
Curing this eye of round will add moisture and flavour through a fine balance of salt and sugar.
Photo: Tim O’Connor