1st Brined Enhanced Thin-Cut CSR's...an experiment with brine: Q-view

  • Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.
SMF is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.


Smoking Guru
Original poster
OTBS Member
Aug 27, 2008
Hi again, everyone!

I had this strange idea last night while I looked at a pack of thawing CSR's I had in the fridge from a couple days ago. My wife purchased these a few weeks back, and as I examined them, I realized they were not the typical thick cut CSR. These are about the same thickness as a standard chop cut...about an inch, with some being a bit thicker. Hmm, with a tougher cut of meat being a thin cut is not very conducive to achieving the benefits of low and slow cooking, but I had a couple of ideas to pull this off.  I wondered how much a brine would effect their flavor and moisture over a longer smoke at lower temps, even though this meat was likely from enhanced pork, as it had a Hormel label on the package. So I tossed together a quick, down and dirty brine and let them soak for 16 hours until firing up the gourmet charcoaler for a pecan/apple smoke. Hmm, this will only be my second smoke with pecan also...loved it as a combo with apple on skinless chicken thighs the first time around on my last smoke.

I did at least measure everything I put into the brine, but...jeez, I didn't write it down last night...I usually have a note pad on hand to jot it all down for these spur of the moment recipes...good thing I slept well, or else my CRS (can't remember ****) would be kicking in right about now...LOL!!!

Well, if my memory serves me, here's what I threw into the pot of brine:

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

3 Tbls salt

2 bay leaf

1.5 Tbls (very small handful) dried rosemary leaves

2 tsp oregano

2 tsp ground black peppercorn

2 Tbls 3/8" diced dried red bell pepper

2 tsp dried minced garlic

2 tsp dried sweet basil

After starting at med/low, I had a slight simmer going here for about 5 minutes...this is approx 180-185* at my elevation of just under 5,000 feet...you can see some of the garlic and other more dense spices rolling (down the outside, up in the center) in the rising water column here...anyway, about 30 minutes total time on the heat:


Cool-down time...all of the denser solids have dropped out of the water:


I used 1.5 quarts water to bring this together, strained it, added another 1.25 quarts cold water and about 2lb of ice cubes to bring the temp down. As it turned out, it was just enough liquids to submerge the CSR's in a round 6qt covered food grade poly container, with most laying horizontally and a few others vertically to fill the gaps loosely.

These CSR's are thin cut, making a true low & slow cooking abit more difficult, unfortunately. However, for the purposes of low and slow, getting them tender can be accomplished with a lower temp smoke chamber. I'll be shooting for an average temp of ~190-195* with a moderate-high humidity smoke chamber so I can stretch the internal 155-165* temp range over a longer period (approx melting point of connective tissues). The higher humidity and the brine should help to keep them moist during their longer than usual ride in the smoker. For thick cut CSR's, I generally run about 210-215*, but with a thinner cross-section as I have here, the lower temps will be beneficial for tenderizing the meat, allowing it to cook through slower.

Anyway, shrinkage and texture (bend test and tenderness probing) will be my main indicators for doneness, as probing for temps in a cut of meat this thin would be futile. On top of that, being bone-in complicates probing small cuts. Getting accurate temp readings is nearly impossible in this case.

I'm just about to drip dry and get some dry rub action going on the CSR's when I thought I'd leave one or two of them naked, just to get a taste of what the brine brings along for flavor. I think that 16 hours with small/thin cut pieces such as these should be sufficient time for allowing the brine's flavors to penetrate into the meat. One question remains in my mind, though...did I use enough salt to allow for osmosis, or was the salt content in the meat already near or above what I used in the brine? I didn't want a high-salt brine. Being I don't know what concentration they may have used, and short of trying to research for that data online, it's a shot in the dark.

The aroma of the CSR's after being removed from the brine should tell the story, though. 16 hours is up, and I'm about ready for today's smoke:


The aromas of spices from the brine was strong once the CSR's were roved and drip-dried, so I'm definitely going to leave one naked for a sampler of what the brine did for me today.

The color of the pork turned to a grey tint from the brine, which is party due to the salt, and this in itself tells me that the brine did penetrate the meat, and also, the coloring of the brine's spices were aborbed into the meat:


There was slight pink coloring to the juices in the pan a few minutes after laying the CSR's into it and moving them to a dry pan for dry rubbing, so much of the natural meat juices are still there...cool.

A heavy dusting on both sides with my simple and tasty go-to Red Bell Pepper rub...except for that one on the lower left, for my naked sampler of the brine. Iopted for this rub because it's one we've basically fallen in love with the most, and out all of my dry rubs, it's simplicity allows for more prominence to come through with the flavors of brines and smoke, as well as the meat. So, it should work out well for today's pecan/apple smoke and the brine:



The heaviest of the CSR's went onto my modded Gourmet charcoal smoker's lower grate @ 4" below the upper grate position, and the smaller ones will go on top. This should alleviate the need for grate rotations from top to bottom (lower grate runs a bit hotter):



I started the smoke with a somewhat cold chamber by placing the barrel over 1 full chimney of freshly placed hot charcoal, then, loading the grates while the water pan was still dry and putting the lid on. I added about 1/2qt of water within a minute or two, and as temps reached about 225-230 on my probe, closed my intake draft control to about 5% from about 40% and continued adding water every few minutes until temps stablized just under 200*. I did need to remove the lid a couple times to vent out excess heat. I hadn't taken into account the fact that I was firing up the smoker with ambient temps of over 40*F instead of near zero as the last few smokes have been...lesson learned, check ambient temps before firing the chimney up. I could have started on 1/2 a chimney in good shape for these lower chamber temps and just added a pound or so of preheated/partially burning coals at a time later on.

Anyway, smoke is on, and all I need is to keep temps where I want, a nice thin pecan/apple smoke and a bit of water in the pan. The initially higher than planned smoke chamber temp will be fine as this will bring the internal temps over 140 a bit sooner. The main focus I have is to let them ride longer in the melting point of the connective tissue at slightly lower chamber temps than for larger cuts of meat in order to reach their finish temps in a tender state.

3 hours in, and I decided to have my first peek...small puddles of meat juices are forming on the top surfaces, so they coming along nice and slow, just the way I wanted, and I have tons of humidity in the smoke chamber:



A bit better look at the lower grate's occupant in the bottom of the pic...juices forming nicely here, as well...you can see the temp probe between the grates on the right:


5.5 hours total smoke time, and they're showing a drier surface now. Texture is firmer to the touch with tongs and no bending when lifted, so.................:



....................I'm calling this DINNER...:


...along with one of my wife's simple and very tasty pasta dishes with mushroom, fresh tomatoe, fresh garlic, sweet basil, mozarella:


Very, very tender and moist pork here (without foiling to finish)...that's what it's all about, my friends...yes, that's a butter knife I used to cut apart the naked CSR:


Even with a brine and chamber humidity running moderately high for the first three hours, then getting to the point of dripping water from the bottom of the smoker onto my wood patio from the forth hour right up until I yanked 'em out...it has a nice, light but deep smoke ring for you smoke buffs...HA-HA-HA!!!


I ate the naked CSR first so my taste buds wouldn't be tainted by the dry rub just so I could find out what the brined only tasted like. The pecan/apple smoke alone, was really nice. The brine flavors were there too, but rather faint. Some of the sweeter flavors didn't seem to come through at all, but I did taste the rosemary, cumin, garlic, and just a touch of black pepper. Oh, and saltiness was relatively low. I could taste it, but very faintly, so the use of low-salt rubs would be fine, and no-salt rubs would still be tasty. So, I guess, knowing what I know now about the other brine ingredients, I would probably leave them out next time, or possibly use about 1/3 to 1/2 more salt in the brine to help drive more solution into the meat, which may bring out more of the other flavors which seemed to be lacking.

Anyway, being able to at least taste some of the brine told me that the brine did penetrate the enhanced pork even with the lower salt concentration I used, so some flavors and additional bulking up of the meat with liquids took place to help keep the internal moisture up for this lower temp, longer time smoke. That said, I may be brining alot more enhanced pork in the future. I used to brine fresh pork, but never any that was already enhanced. Now I know there is still some benefit to be reaped here. Heck, I may even start brining pork ribs, chops and shoulders (pulled pork), time permitting.

All in all, not 100% success this first time around, but I have a very good baseline for where to go from here on previously enhanced thin cut CSR's. Well, considering that my main goal of the brine was to assist a humid smoke chamber in keeping them moist during a longer smoke, with adding flavor being a secondary objective, it worked out great.

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

Thanks for checking out my latest experiment!

Great smokes and good eats, all!

Great post Eric,I've been try'in to come up with a method to keep ribs juicy during a long smoke.

I know many have talked about it,but if you can taste the brine in your CSR's means there is still hope!

Thanks for sharing your experiment
Once again Great job Eric, I love to follow your experiments. Also, congrats to your wife on a fine looking bowl of pasta!
Love the thin cut's.  We seem to be able to get them both ways on a regular basis. 

Do you have a link about your mod'ed Gourmet charcoal smoker and how you mod'ed it?  Looks like to me it's a baby step towards a UDS and I'm not really ready to make that leap quite yet, but a Gourmet might be a good starting point.

Brining pork cuts, a new vista is launched. 

BTW, the berry project flopped.  Dehydrated them, set aside to process the next day, and dang if the Washington moisture index rehydrated them back to a slurry.  Ah well.  Back at it when we get out of the rainy season, which is projected to be 3 days in August, this year.

Thanks all!

Hey Dave, the Gourmet mods are found HERE...with a 15-1/2" diameter drum, they do have more restrictive limitations on size of cuts of meat, but for quartered chickens (which is my favorite way to smoke 'em), medium sized brisket flats/points, butts and 2/3 or 1/2 slabs of ribs, they work out fine. I actually enjoy smoking more in the gourmet than any other rig I have.

I do need to update that thread. I have 3 heavy gauge chrome plated wires on the upper grate supports which I hang the lower garte on. This gets it further above the water pan (4" below the upper grate instead of directly on the water pan) so less steam and more smoke can be had on that grate. It's a snug fit between the grates for a 7-8lb pork butt as I found, but everything else in the smaller size ranges fit quite nicely.

Oh, I also drilled a small hole to insert a temp probe between the grate positions for chamber temp monitoring.

I hear ya bout the UDS build...the gourmet is fair substitue for awhile I guess, not a huge smoker, but they do a pretty decent job once you find out what they need to run smooth.

I had heard of a few here on the forum brining spares or BB's, and I've brined a couple fresh pork shoulders before...that definitely makes for good pulled pork...mmm-mmm.

Oh, maaaaaaaaaaan, that's a bummer about the dehydrating project. I hadn't thought about your humidity issues over there. It's pretty common to see between 20 and 40% relative humidity here when there isn't a storm front pushing into the area. I did blow-off getting the dehrydrator I had my radar on...something told me that I wouldn't get as much use out of it as I would like. Fresh fruits, squashes, and some vegetables off a farmer's truck (they come up from Colorado in the fall) is about the only really good produce you can get here. Stores here have some pretty bruised up and picked over goods, and we've brought alot home that was spoiled a day or two later. I can get dried fruits for what seems pretty reasonable prices, considering what a person needs to do to process it. I may change my other mind and grab one sometime down the road...time will tell.

Keep your smokers warm & happy, all!

nicely done on the CSR's and very informative on the process....your wifes 'simple' pasta looks anything but....would definitely hit that for a second helping, has all my favorites in there
Eric, nice looking CSR's and nice qview.

Is your wife willing to give up the How-to's on the pasta salad?

Thanks, the pasta dish really is pretty simple and easy to make:

a couple cloves minced garlic with a dash of olive (or veg) oil in a large skillet over med/low heat, add a couple pats of butter and sliced mushrooms (if fresh) and sautee' until garlic is translucent;

if mushrooms are canned add with diced fresh tomatoe, simmer tomato with garlic and mushrooms while pasta is boiling;

season with a couple pinches of sweet basil leaves, a bit of cbp and a pinch or two of salt;

add drained pasta, folding it into the tomatoe and mushroom, add grated mozzarella, and finish heating through on med low heat until cheese is melted.

Volumes are up to you, depending on how much you like of each ingredient...if garlic is one of your passions, load it up a bit more...same goes for everything else. This is a good dish for playing with the variables, and with only a handful of ingredients, it's really good eating. Serve hot. Prep to finish is about 20-25 minutes. I would imagine that if the dish were getting too dry from not having enough tomatoe, you could add a bit of water to keep the cheese and pasta happy until it's heat through.

The weird part about this dish is that it reminds me of a really good pizza...the kind made with whole tomatoe instead of sauce, because of the diced tomatoe base, mozzarella and mushrooms.


nicely done on the CSR's and very informative on the process....your wifes 'simple' pasta looks anything but....would definitely hit that for a second helping, has all my favorites in there
Thanks, I was kinda on another mission of sorts, and curiousity got the better of me, so I had to try the brine just for giggles...turns out that there was still some benefit to be had, even with previously enhanced pork. I'd have never guessed it myself, but now I know.

Great looking CSRs...
Thanks Paul, I don't smoke 'em often, and the thin cut CSR's were not something I'd tried yet. It did have me putting my thinking cap on for a couple minutes, anyway. Ah, I like a challenge now and then, so this was a welcomed brain-teaser for me.

Great smokes to all!

The mad scientist of smoke has struck again!!! LOL great job eric!
LMAO! Thanks Les! I guess I was looking for an edge on this one. I'm not a big fan of dried out pork (or any other dinner plate meat for that matter). The brine may have pushed the envelope just enough to bring it on home.


Those are some fine looking CSR's!  I live back in the boondocks and we only get the big fat thick CSR's.  I have been to both of the grocery stores here and a couple in an adjoining county and all of them cut them just about the same, nice and thick!  My family absolutely love those thick cut CSR's, do you have any ideas on smoking those CSR's?  If you do would you mind sharing them with this old country boy from Virginia?  Again, Eric, those thin sliced CSR's look fantastic.  Keep up the good work!

Your SMF Friend,


Those are some fine looking CSR's!  I live back in the boondocks and we only get the big fat thick CSR's.  I have been to both of the grocery stores here and a couple in an adjoining county and all of them cut them just about the same, nice and thick!  My family absolutely love those thick cut CSR's, do you have any ideas on smoking those CSR's?  If you do would you mind sharing them with this old country boy from Virginia?  Again, Eric, those thin sliced CSR's look fantastic.  Keep up the good work!

Your SMF Friend,

Thanks Barry,

I know what you mean about livin' in the boonies. Our local grocery store is pretty much off limits due to prices and a very small selection. The produce must be rejected crates from other stores...terrible vegetables/fruits.

We drive for 80 miles R/T just to go after sale priced meats and the usual weekly type stuff, and several times a year we drive almost 200 miles R/T to the nearest Sam's Club for bulk items and meats.

On the thick cut CSR's, the 3-2-1 (for spares) is a bit too much foil time for my liking (fall apart tender), but a 3-1-1 works pretty well (I can still get 'em back to the grates to firm 'em up).

I don't recall trying the 2-2-1 (for baby backs), but it might work OK...maybe cut back to 2-1.5-1. With only 2 hrs in the smoke they may not taste quite right to me though.

I think I tried no-foil CSR's once a year or two ago, maybe twice...it's touchy getting them off at the right time before they're overdone/drying out inside.

Now if you brined them like I did with these thin cut, that would give you a good edge for a no-foiled smoke...they'd be a bit more forgiving if overdone, anyway. Oh, and for no-foiled smokes, I try to run a more humid smoke chamber. With most any vertical smoker, it's easy 'cause they already have a water pan, but with a sfb/horizontal, I've put an old pot for water on the far end of the fire box elevated on the grill grate so I have a good amount of moisture.

Oh, for chamber temps, most will probably stay in the 225* range and some may even run up to 250*, but for smaller pieces I like to cut it back a little if it's the only thing I have in the smoker...around 215*, but a few times when I've had a brisket or butts smoking and tossed CSR's in along with it, 225* was fine...just a bit quicker than I'm used to.

Great smokes to ya, brother!

SmokingMeatForums.com is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.