Easy & Juicy Pork Chops!
The key word here is JUICY!
We’ve all had them…the leathery, pan cooked or grilled chops. We start with such good intentions and then no matter what we do, how carefully we watch them, how quick we are with the meat thermometer…we get dried out, boring chops.
I love pork chops but I got so tired of trying to cook a decent, basic pork chop that I almost always braise my chops now either with tomatoes & sage (our first, and still probably my favorite recipe here) or porcini mushrooms.
But the other day I had beautiful bone in chops and no tomatoes and no porcini mushrooms and I definitely was NOT going out to the store again. So, google to the rescue!
I googled “juicy pork chops” and this awesome and EASY technique popped up.
There are 2 key steps to this process: brining the pork and cooking in a pre-heated pan. Very important – more on both of these later.
And I’ll tell you right now that even though I almost skipped the brining step, I’m so glad I did it. These chops were the best, juiciest pan cooked chops we’ve ever had.
Here’s what you need:
Bone-in Pork Chops, Salt (Sea Salt or Kosher Salt preferred), Whole Peppercorns, Bayleaf, Garlic (not pictured) Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper
Essential to juicy chop success is an instant read meat thermometer. They’re available at the grocery store and pretty cheap. If you don’t have a thermometer, you really can’t know the internal temp of your meat so you might be doing everything right and still overcook your lovely pork chops.
A bit more about the brining process…
Brining is all the rage for turkeys and pork chops these days. I haven’t jumped on the turkey band wagon but the few times I’ve brined pork chops, it has definitely been worth the extra effort.
What I didn’t know before is that even a LITTE amount of brining – as little as 30 minutes – works wonders!
So if you make a quick brine and get the chops in it right away, you can let them brine away while the oven preheats, you check your email, feed the cats, cut up the broccoli, or pour yourself a nice glass of wine and take a load off.
Heat 1 cup of water in the microwave or in a small sauce pan until it’s quite hot. It doesn’t have to be boiling but should be hot enough to dissolve the salt.
For 2 pork chops I added 2 Tablespoons of sea salt and stirred to dissolve. If you have 4 chops, add a 1 Tablespoon more salt.
NOTE: If you only have iodized table salt (regular old salt shaker salt), you should use less as it has a much harsher, saltier flavor than sea salt or kosher salt.
Once the salt has dissolved pour the cup of hot salty water into a baking dish and add 2 more cups of cool water. This will lower the temperature of the brine to room temperature.
Place the pork chops in the pan and add 1 bay leaf, 1 big clove of peeled garlic, and a few whole peppercorns.
Be sure your pan allows the brine to cover the chops completely. You can also use a bowl or ziplock bag.
For a quick brine, let this hang out on the counter for 30 minutes. If you are able to plan ahead, you can brine this for up to 4 hours covered in the refrigerator.
If you do brine your chops in the fridge, be sure to set them out about 15 minutes before you are ready to cook them to allow them to come up to room temperature.
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven AND a heavy, oven-safe pan (such as cast iron) to 400 degrees.
It’s VERY IMPORTANT that you pre-heat the pan in the oven so it gets extremely hot.
Take the pork chops out and discard the brining liquid.
Thoroughly dry the chops on both sides. I’m blotting here but prior to that I drained these chops on a few layers of paper towels and then blotted both sides like crazy.
A dry chop will be a nicely browned chop.
Drizzle olive oil on both sides of the chops (we are oiling the meat rather than the pan since the pan is already in the oven) and season with salt & pepper.
Since these were brining in salt water, I chose to only season mine with pepper. However, they were not at all salty so a little extra salt will probably be okay.
These chops cook very quickly – only about 10 minutes + 5 minutes to rest, so be sure you have any other sides ready to go before you start cooking the chops.
CAREFULLY remove the hot pan from the oven and place it on the stove top with a burner on high.
Add the chops and brown them quickly on one side only.
Yes, I needed to use a bit bigger pan. Live and learn.
By the way, I love this little pan handle cozy thingy. This pan is 400° and believe it or not, even though you know that pan is hot, it’s sometimes hard not to just grab a handle when you see one.
So if you don’t have one of these, please put a towel or oven mitt or something over the handle so you don’t accidentally burn your hand.
Once the chops are browned on ONE SIDE, turn them over and put the pan back in the oven immediately.
Cook the chops in the 400° oven for 6-10 more minutes depending on the thickness of your chops.
Set a timer and start checking at 6 minutes. The chops are done when they are 140-145°.
141° is perfect! Remove the meat from the pan to a warm plate, cover with foil, and let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes.
If you want to make a little bit of gravy from those pan drippings, go for it!
I don’t have photos but I added about 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of flour (I used gluten free) to the pan to make a quick roux. Then stir in about ¾ cup of chicken broth. For really good flavor, and because I can, I added about 2 Tablespoons of Marsala wine. Salt & pepper to taste and you have gravy!
I ate at least half of my pork chop with no gravy and if you know me at all, that is a big recommendation for these chops.
I served mine with some red skinned mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.
For me, the takeaway from this recipe is that brining and cooking pork chops doesn’t have to be a big production. These Easy & Juicy Pork Chops happened in about 45 minutes, start to finish.
Certainly easy enough for a weeknight but who wouldn’t want to finally be able to serve guests a really good, perfectly cooked pork chop this easily? You can amaze and delight them…and then give them the secret!
Here’s the recipe – Adapted from The Kitchn