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For pork, does it matter if you marinade first, then sear + braise vs sear + braise first then marinade?

More details: I'm trying to cook pork chashu using pork butt. The marinade is mostly soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar. So far, I sear it then I either:

  • Braise for 3 hours, then marinade for 12. Or...
  • Sous Vide in marinade for 12 hours at 170ºF (not vacuum sealed)

It turns out dry :( So I am gonna try with lower temp next. But I am also curious if the marinade could be the cause (because of the curing effect), and if doing it before or after matters.

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It is not usually called a marinade if it is used after cooking.... but is there some particular recipe or technique you are trying to ask about here? Why pork and not chicken or beef or lamb or.... –  SAJ14SAJ Mar 5 '13 at 21:25
    
@SAJ14SAJ I've included more details. Thanks! –  pixelfreak Mar 5 '13 at 21:43
    
Char siu? As described in the wikipedia article? –  SAJ14SAJ Mar 5 '13 at 21:48
    
Yes, sir. Japanese style, not Chinese –  pixelfreak Mar 5 '13 at 21:52
    
Are you sure it's dry, and not undercooked? Many people equate toughness in pork butt, from being undercooked, with dryness. If it was not falling apart, then it was also probably not dry. –  Sean Hart Mar 5 '13 at 22:30

3 Answers 3

If your issue is with the meat being too tough and dry, then your best bet is to marinate beforehand. Marination is the process of soaking food in seasoning before hand to flavor meat and also to cause the marinade to break down some of the tissues in the meat. This will cause more moisture to be absorbed into the end result. This will likely solve your too dry issues rather than cure your meat and dry it out.

If you "marinate" it afterwards, it will likely only flavor the meat but not have the secondary effect of making the meat more moist. The proteins in the meat have already denatured so the marinade will not be able to break down the tissues that it would in a raw product.

If you want to sous vide the meat, I would suggest a lower temperature. 170 degree F is beyond the well done temperature. If you are cooking your pork sous vide at 170 degree F, then the pork will reach a internal temperature of 170 which will result in dry tough meat. Try between 150-160 degree F.

Also traditionally it is marinated before hand rather than afterward.

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And in the US, marinate as a verb, marinade as a noun :-) –  SAJ14SAJ Mar 5 '13 at 22:03
    
@SAJ14SAJ noted, corrected. TY –  Jay Mar 5 '13 at 22:04
    
Thanks, that was a finger on chalkboard one for me... don't know why it gets me. In Britain, I am told they use marinade as both the noun and the verb, but who knows what is up with European orthography :-) –  SAJ14SAJ Mar 5 '13 at 22:08
    
What is the effect of cooking and marinating at the same time? Because I always thought marinating is a function of time, it doesn't matter if it's before or after, or whether it's sitting in a fridge or slow-cooking. –  pixelfreak Mar 5 '13 at 22:12
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@pixelfreak It wouldn't be called marinating anymore. It'd just be braising. At that point, the marination process probably won't have much effect since you are already denaturing the meat through the braising process. –  Jay Mar 5 '13 at 22:15

Marination can only happen before cooking, after cooking it is simply adding a sauce. A marinade is generally used to help flavor meat and make it more tender by chemically breaking down the meat. Marinades tend to be strongly flavored and acidic, so adding them after may overpower the flavor of the meat.

If doesn't sound like marination is your problem though, if your meat is tender but not juicy then you've cooked it too long, marination isn't going to solve that.

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Here is Kenji Alt's version of Japanese style chashu (his spelling). He says:

Cook your meat at, say, 155°F, and you'll get extraordinarily moist meat, but it'll take up to 36 hours to tenderize. If you happen to have a sous-vide water cooker, this is, indeed, the best way to cook pork belly (see my post on Deep-Fried Sous-Vide 36-Hour All-Belly Porchetta for a discussion of the process)

He cooks the pork belly (in his version) with the seasoning mixture when doing it stove top--I believe you could do the same thing sous-vide.

You would then crisp it afterwards.

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The OP is using pork butt which is quite different from pork belly. Actually on the completely other end of the spectrum: pork belly being one of the fattest part of the pork and pork butt being one of the leanest. –  Jay Mar 5 '13 at 22:02
    
Pork butt is far, far, far from lean. I take the references where I could find them, though. There are not a lot of credible sous-vis versions of char siu or charshu on the web. Most recipes assume traditional oven or grill (barbeque) cooking methods. It is obviously intended to work as a low and slow technique converting collagen to gelatin, so the technique will still work with pork butt, although it will never be fully as tender as pork belly. –  SAJ14SAJ Mar 5 '13 at 22:06

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