Another method worth trying is brining: soaking the meat beforehand in a mixture of water, salt and aromatics (if desired).
The salt concentration in the brine is also particularly helpful for trying to get salt into a large joint of meat, which would otherwise be difficult to season properly or only possible to sprinkle on the surface.
It’s also an effective method for getting flavours to really penetrate the meat. Adding herbs and aromatics such as thyme, rosemary, bay, star anise, coriander, juniper to the brine for a pork belly, is an example of this.
The salt concentration and the type of meat will determine the length of the brine, with most recipes calling for brines between 6-12 hours.
The flesh has to be cooked long enough so that it’s soft and tender while remaining moist:
- At 40ºC proteins start to contract and squeeze out the moisture
- By 70ºC, most of the juices have gone. During this process, as moisture evaporates from the meat, it loses its plump shape and shrinks dramatically.