What You Didn’t Know About Marinades & Brining

Flipping chicken on the grill for the Marinades & Brining tutorial

Marinades are a great way to flavor your meat, however, they will NOT tenderize more than the outer layer. Brining will penetrate the meat on a cellular level effectively tenderizing your whole piece of meat. This can be done in less time than a marinade and is useful for so many more things than your Thanksgiving turkey. Want the best of both worlds? You can brine and then marinate for a short time to get tenderness and flavor.

So what is brining? Why is it not actually hard or scary and what’s so amazing about it? Brining is meat soaked in a solution of salt water. The salt penetrates the cells all the way through the meat and breaks down some of those muscle fibers, effectively tenderizing the meat. This process makes it a lot harder for moisture to escape when you’re cooking which means your meat retains a lot more moisture.

How do you make a brine? The ratio is 1 tablespoon of salt to 1 cup of water. P.S 4 Tablespoons = ¼ cup so if you need 4 cups of water, you need ¼ cup of salt! So figure out how much water you need to cover your meat, and then dissolve ALL your salt in a little bit of the water on the stove.

 Once the salt is dissolved, add some ice to chill it so it won’t cook the outside of your meat, then add the rest of your water and plop in the meat! Small cuts can benefit from even a 15-minute soak and can go up to 24 hours. Always rinse the brine off your meat before cooking, pat dry and either marinate or season. Want to add some flavor to the brine? Go for it! Garlic, herbs, and spices are all great ideas, just add them when you add the salt. However, you won’t get much flavor out of it so consider only doing this for cuts that will brine for a long time like a big ole pork loin, and soak smaller pieces in a marinade for 10-20 minutes after brining.

Marinades are fantastic for adding flavor. Use your favorite recipe, a bottle of Italian dressing or any basic combo of oil, spices, and acid. Soy sauce is always a fun thing to add too.

I grilled two pieces of chicken, one soaked in a marinade and one in a brine. Side by side there was no question if I have to pick between brining and marinating, brining will win every time. I’d rather have a lightly seasoned tender piece of meat than a flavorful and dry piece. If you do nothing else, give this brine a try on a chicken breast or pork chop just for 15 minutes. You’ll be amazed at the difference.

How to Cut a Pineapple

Chunks of pineapple to show you how to cut a pineapple

It might be tempting to snag that container of pre-cut pineapple from the store, but you’re spending double the money. Not to mention that cut pineapple goes bad a lot faster so you’re either looking at a short shelf life or preservatives. So let’s get started!

Off with his head! Get rid of the awkward, yet lovely leaves sticking out like my hair in the morning.

Cut off the other end. This is gonna give you a nice, stable surface to use so the pineapple doesn’t roll away.

Set that sucker on the nice flat surface and cut one, smooth strip of peel off from the top to the bottom.

Repeat this all the way around the pineapple and DON’T worry about the little brown prickles left behind!

Once you’ve circled the pineapple, go back in and remove any leftover peel and cut out the bigger brown bits. You can also use a small measuring spoon to scoop out the hard little brown parts, but don’t go crazy, just go for the giant ones.

Next, you want to clear your board, throw away the peel. You should be able to see a ring in the middle of the pineapple that is the core. Go a little further out than the ring and cut straight down through the pineapple.

Rotate the pineapple and repeat until all you have left is the core. Then throw the core away.

Now lay all the pineapple pieces flat side down. Cut them into strips.

Then cut the strips in half or keep cutting them until you have a dice!

How to Make Ricotta Cheese

ricotta cheese crumbled up

There’s a lot of things I prefer to buy pre-made. Pasta for example – it takes a lot of failure, time and mess to create a product at home that’s better than the dried stuff that comes in a box. Ricotta Cheese, however, takes one pot, 20 minutes, almost no effort and it costs a fraction of what you would pay at the store. So let me give you the skinny on the process and then you too can have fresh ricotta cheese at your beck and call.

Start with a medium-sized sauce pot and a half gallon of Whole Milk (2% will work but Whole is best).

Bring the milk to a boil (watch closely so the milk won’t boil over or burn to the bottom) then turn off the heat and add ¼ Cup distilled, white vinegar, or the juice of one lemon, then stir it around for a second.

Bring the milk to a boil (watch closely so the milk won’t boil over or burn to the bottom) then turn off the heat and add ¼ Cup distilled, white vinegar, or the juice of one lemon, then stir it around for a second.

Once your milk has been separating for about 10 minutes, place a strainer over a bowl with a cheesecloth (recommended) or a kitchen towel if you’re in a pinch, preferably threadbare.

Pour the milk mixture through the strainer slowly so as not to overflow the strainer.

Allow the Mixture to drain, (if using a towel you might have to encourage it by stirring it with a spoon) then pull up the sides of the towel or cheesecloth, twist the top and squeeze the dickens out of the cheese ball (Be careful, it might still be hot). Without untwisting the towel, set the ball of cheese back onto the strainer and leave it for 5-10 minutes so any excess liquid can drain off.

Untwist the towel and dump your neatly pressed ball o’ cheese into a serving bowl. Or the strainer, or whatever you feel like.

Crumble up the cheese into bite-sized pieces and try a bite! Use in lasagna, fajitas, tacos, breakfast hash, or anything you want! This may be subbed for queso fresco as well.