If you’re like me, it’s easy to get frazzled in the day to day hustle and bustle of every day life. Planning? Who has time to plan? Yet we know deep inside that the best things in life require at least a little bit of planning. Case in point—juicy, succulent, flavorful pork chops.
Pork easily gets dried out in cooking. The best way to ensure that it doesn’t, is to brine it ahead of time, plumping it up with moisture, so that when cooking releases moisture, some remains in the pork.
My friend Kathi Riley recently shared with me a favorite pork brine, which she learned cooking with Chef Judy Rodgers at San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe, and before then at Chez Panisse. The secret to this brine is its 2 to 1 ratio of sugar to salt. Yes, twice as much sugar as salt. It works! This brine produced the best pork chop I’ve ever eaten.
To the base brine I added strips of lemon peel, to complement the lemon in the gremolata garnish of the pork chop, as well as crushed coriander seeds and thyme. Feel free to experiment! Juniper berries would work well if serving the pork with sauerkraut.
Brined Pork Chops with Gremolata Recipe
- 2 to 4 thick-cut pork chops, preferably bone-in, about 10 ounces each
- Olive oil
- 5 cups water
- 6 Tbsp sugar
- 3 Tbsp Kosher salt
- 3 bay leaves, crumbled
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
- 1 sprig thyme
- 4 strips of lemon peel
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
- 1 Tbsp grated fresh lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 A day (or two) ahead, prepare the brine. Place one cup of water in a small saucepan and add the roughly crumbled bay leaves, coriander seeds, thyme, and lemon peel. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Let sit for a few minutes. Then add the remaining 4 cups of water. Stir in the sugar and salt until they are dissolved and the water is no longer cloudy. Place the chops in a freezer bag or marinade bag in a bowl and pour the brine into the bag. Seal and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days (1 day for thin chops, 1 to 2 days for thick).
2 A half hour (for thin chops) or an hour (for thick chops) before cooking, remove the pork chops from the brine and rinse off with cold water. Pat dry. To prevent the chops from buckling while they cook, score the outside rim of fat a couple of places, cutting just to the edge of the meat.
3 Coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil. Heat on medium to medium high. Pat dry the chops again and coat with a little oil. When the pan is hot, place the chops in the pan. Cook until browned on one side, then flip over and brown the other side. Once browned, flip over again and lower the heat, continue to cook until done (internal temperature reads 145°F, or use the finger test to check the doneness of meat if you don't have an instant read thermometer). Note that because of the sugar in the brine, the chops may brown more quickly than you expect. You may need to move them in the pan a bit to keep them from getting too dark.
4 When done, remove the chops from the pan, tent with foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the gremolata.
5 Make the gremolata by combining minced parsley, grated fresh lemon zest, and minced garlic in a small bowl. Sprinkle on the pork chops to serve.
Great with mashed parsnips and potatoes.
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