Leave dry, unflavorful pork chops behind with these tips for a juicy brine.
Beloved by many, pork chops are a tender and often lean cut of pork that pairs well with a variety of sides. Many folks remember pork chops as a childhood favorite, accompanied by dishes such as applesauce or steamed vegetables.
However, if not done right, pork chops can instead be dry and flavorless, but they don’t have to be. A simple way to fix this pitfall is brining your pork chops. Similar to marinating a cut of meat, brining is a process that takes place before you begin cooking. Unlike marinating, which is meant to add flavor, brining makes a cut of meat juicier and more flavorful. While it’s often used for chicken or turkey, brining can also be used for pork with delicious results.
Pork quickly dries out while it’s cooking, which can create chewy, unflavorful pork chops, but the process of brining helps a cut of meat retain moisture as it's cooked. At its most basic, a brine consists of salt, water, and a bit of sugar. While your brine might also include spices, it’s really the salt in the brine that’s working the hardest. The salt also helps the meat absorb more liquid, creating additional flavor.How Does Brining Pork Chops Work?
There are multiple ways to brine pork chops. The two most common are dry brining and wet brining. Wet brining is the more traditional method where, similar to marinating a cut of meat, the pork chops sit in a liquid mixture for a period of time.
Dry brining has become popular in recent years and involves rubbing salt and spices on a cut of meat before cooking. Recipes should specify which method of brining is preferred. Although both are effective, here we’ll be discussing the wet brine method.
One benefit to brining pork chops is that it can be done using ingredients you likely already have on hand. To get started, you’ll just need salt and granulated sugar, pork chops, a shallow dish (like our 9x13 Baking Dish or Pie Dish) or large plastic bag, and a 4 QT Saucepan. For additional flavoring, feel free to add spices like peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic cloves, and herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and parsley.Step 1: Prepare the Brine
For a basic brine that will cover two pork chops, combine 2 cups of water, ¼ cup of kosher salt, ¼ cup of granulated sugar, and any herbs or spices in your Saucepan. Heat this mixture until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.
Next, remove the brine from heat and let it cool completely in the fridge. To speed up the cooling process, add ice cubes to the mixture.Step 3: Combine the Pork Chops With the Brine
Once the brine is completely cool, transfer it to the Baking Dish, Pie Dish, or plastic bag along with the pork chops. Let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours. Thin-cut or boneless pork chops will usually be ready in under two hours, while thick-cut pork chops need longer.
Once your pork chops have finished brining, remove them from the liquid and pat them dry. Nowyou’re ready to grill, bake, or fry your pork chops as usual. Be sure to not add additional salt to the pork chops after brining, or they may become oversalted.
It’s recommended to brine pork chops any time you use dry heat, such as over the grill. However, if you’re braising, stewing, or using another form of moist heat, there’s no reason to brine pork chops before cooking them.
Now that you know how to brine pork chops, check out this recipe from Chef Chelsea Fadda of Pecan Square Café in Austin.. Her simple yet flavorful Pork Chops with Apples and Radishes uses local cider to first brine the pork chops and then whip up a simple pan sauce. The apples help amp up the sweet fall flavors, while the radishes provide a slight bite. After the pork chops brine for an hour, everything comes together in about 20 minutes, making it a perfect weeknight meal.