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pork chops--brine or not?

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Anyone brine their pork chops? What proportion of salt to water in the brine? Does it make a difference?

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  1. Definately brine. It makes a huge difference and not much time. For pork chops - 6 cups water, 3 tablespoons salt, 3 tablespoons sugar with 1 hour in the refrigerator.

    my blog http://www.dinnersforayear.blogspot.com

    6 Replies
    1. re: eatmyfood

      Thanks for the advice. I just made the brine and put the pork chops in it. I love your blog!

      1. re: eatmyfood

        I always brine. Makes a huge difference. I'm especially fond of the brine in the Dean & DeLuca book:

        For 4 chops:

        8 cups of water
        1/4 cup coarse salt
        3 tablespoons sugar
        3 bay leaves
        2 cloves
        1 cinnamon stick
        2 teaspoons peppercorns
        1 clove of garlic, smashed

        Recipe says at least 8 hours, up to 12 hours. Sometimes I do it overnight, but often I'll just do it in the morning, then cook them that night.

        1. re: JoanN

          Thanks for the brine recipe, I tried it and it really does make a difference. Nex time I'm going to try putting the chops on the grill - something I've never been able to do without brining - it will be a test!

          1. re: aej

            Glad you liked it. I've tried lots and lots of different brine formulas for pork chops, but this is the one I return to again and again.

            1. re: aej

              A good marinade and proper cooking and to me the brine doesn't really help much for me. Done both. a long cooking process if I have time, the brine can help, for just chops or a tenderloin I rarely unless just trying a recipe. No need to

            2. re: JoanN

              Fantastic brine. Used it yesterday-5 hours. Wonderful pork chops with mustard, sage, a little cream and a little marsala. Will brine pork chops from now on!

          2. One caveat: if you buy "enhanced" pork from Armour or other major supermarket brands, it's already been injected with salt and water, so there's no point to brining those. But if you buy better quality pork, you both aren't paying extra for salt and water, you're able to control the flavor of the brine better.

            Personally, I prefer a shorter time in a more concentrated brine (more like a half cup salt per quart of water, or four times more concentrated than the D&D brine): I think that makes it less likely that the meat will overabsorb and start to taste like corned beef. I only brine pork chops for about 90 minutes tops, and that's if they're thick bone-in chops.

            1. 6 cups of water, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a tea spoon of powered mustard.

              18 Replies
              1. re: currymouth

                Two questions from someone who's never brined:
                1, Why the sugar? (I am generally averse to sweet ingredients in main courses) ;
                2. If you're sauteing the chops, does brining make browning more difficult?

                1. re: sea97horse

                  the touch of sugar should actually help browning as it comes to the surface as you cook

                  1. re: sea97horse

                    The use of sugar in any brine is certainly optional, but it helps counterbalance the salt and maintain the flavor of the meat. The meat doesn't end up tasting at all sweet.

                    As foodperv says, the sugar in the brine comes to the surface and aids in the browning, but the meat itself is patted dry before being put in the pan.

                    1. re: JoanN

                      Thank you both! I'll certainly give it a whirl...

                      1. re: JoanN

                        The meat is patted dry and the sugar comes to the surface. I'm missing why I want to brine. Why can't you do just as well with a dry rub?

                        1. re: Scargod

                          Here's what Harold McGee says:

                          http://books.google.com/books?id=oWql...

                          1. re: JoanN

                            Thanks for the link. I've done some brining, but just marinades for pork. I would think a short brining might not gain you much unless it's thin chops. I've sure had some that could of benefited from it!

                          2. re: Scargod

                            It uses the principle of osmosis. It literally absorbs the salt and more water deep into the meat. I can't give a technical dissertation on hoe osmosis works but Alton Brown explains it and so does Cook's Illustrated so You should be able to Google it on the web. Oh heck...I'll do it.. Here are some links explaining how brining works.

                            http://www.cookingforengineers.com/ar...

                            http://www.cooksillustrated.com/image...

                            http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/fo...

                            http://www.edinformatics.com/math_sci...

                            There some very technical explanations on why bring works.

                            By the way, Cook's Illustrated has some articles on marinades and they only affect the very top surface of the meat. The better ones are actually brinerades. They have a lot of salt or soy sauce then they have vinegar that starts breaking down the meat surface.

                      2. re: currymouth

                        You cannot brine without using salt. It's the salt that makes it work.

                        Sugar is added to enhance the savory flavor

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          I have a question- Are we talking thick bone in chops or the thin cutlet style ones- or does it make no difference which cut? Also what is the best cooking method after brining?
                          Thanks!

                          1. re: gastronomy

                            I don't know about others, but I'm talking about thick, bone-in chops. And I think the best method for cooking chops is braising. It keeps them moist and flavorful. I brown them first in a cast iron skillet in a small amount of fat. (Actually, I usually hold the chops on edge and let the hot skillet render the fat that's on the outside of the chop.) I brown them for a couple of minutes on each side, add chopped garlic and rosemary and about half a cup of white wine, cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning once. I then uncover the pan, turn heat to high, and cook until nearly all the liquid is gone and the chops brown even more in the fat remaining in the pan. I've tried dozens and dozens of recipes for pork chops, but this is the one I always return to.

                            1. re: gastronomy

                              for "pork chop" pork chops, i prefer a thick-cut, bone-in rib chop--brined, browned and finished in the oven to medium, seasoned to preference. i use the thin cut chops--not the paper thin breakfast chops--if we're making a sauce. i don't brine these but cook them out more slowly in the oven with mushrooms, reduced wine and cream, seasoned to preference. if you cook these fellows slowly, they get fork tender.

                              for company, we brine, brown, rub, and roast a whole rack (or two) of pork and cut it into pinkish chops at the table.

                              1. re: silverhawk

                                silverhawk, how long and at what temp should i cook the thin cut chops in the oven (and your sauce)? sounds good!

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  this is a dish my wife and i call "double reducto chops." surely, one needs to cook out the mushrooms in the browning pan, then deglaze with white wine and reduce on the way to a sauce with the mushrooms and cream. we always season this with fresh thyme and some garlic, sometimes adding chopped fresh sage--but there's more than one way to skin a cat.

                                  the oven time--something like 45-60 minutes at 330 or so--depending on the chops. the sauce is stable so you can satisfy yourself on the desired level of chop gumminess. it is awfully nice to make enough sauce to serve with a side of garlic mashed potatoes.

                                  please don't tell my doctor that i still enjoy the double reducto chops every once in a while.

                                  1. re: silverhawk

                                    thanks silverhawk....and...i won't tell on you!
                                    "love" the name of the dish, too. ;-).

                              2. re: gastronomy

                                the type of pork chop you buy has more impact on the tenderness and flavor than whether you brine or not. having said that, brining does make any pork chop juicier.

                                center cut pork chops (or top loin chops), and center-cut rib chops are the most tender. i would cook them over dry heat (sear and bake, or grill). blade or shoulder chops are better with slow cooking like braising.

                                i think the only downside to brining is that it can potentially change the flavor. the more sugar you add to the brine (and the longer you leave it), the more it can end up tasting like ham. i would brine a regular commercial pork chop but i'd cook a center-cut kurobuta chop without brining.

                                1. re: cornflower55

                                  a brine is a salt water solution. sugar need not apply. there is no "downside to brining," at least with respect to making food taste like ham (which is cured and oftentimes smoked).

                            2. re: currymouth

                              No salt ? how is this so ?

                            3. Sunday Supper at Lucques has my favorite pork brine recipe, which has fennel seeds, bay leaves, along with the usual suspects. She says to brine for 24 hours (ideally) but I've gotten away with only 8hrs.

                              1. Speaking as one who never brines, we love grilled thick bone-in pork chops. Sometimes it's just a quik sprinkle of Kosher salt and FGBPepper then a squeeze or lemon juice at the finish, or that plus chopped or dried rosemary, or a maple syrup pepper blend, or a home made Creole seasoning rub. The chops are either pan grilled or cooked outside on the Weber. Either way they are always succulent, medium rare and delicious!!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Gio

                                  I rarely brine and my pork is always tender juicy and perfect. As you, a little s/p, seasoning and fresh herbs, sometimes a brown sugar and spicy rub, sometimes a herb rub, sometimes a simple marinade. Nothing more. Grilled on my weber or pan seared and finished in the oven they are tender and medium and juicy.

                                  FYI, I have brined and they are good, worth it. NO, for a whole pork loin or roast. Yes if I have time, but that rarely happens but on slower cooked meats yes I can see it. Time for me is an issue but I do the best I can. But for just chops. NO it is rare I would brine them.

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    For the folks that don't care for pork medium rare, brining works wonders.

                                    If you are only cooking your pork to medium rare, brining would pretty much be superfluous from a "succulance" standpoint. Brining does improve flavor, too, though.

                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      i am quite convinced that brining chicken and pork increases the probability of a successful outcome. i don't think it is impossible to succeed without brining--clearly some cooks do. however, by denaturing or unfurling the meat proteins, brining does cause the meat to take on additional water--and some flavor. the additional water widens the window for successfully preparing a moist piece of meat. brining, i think, gives the cook more leeway in managing time/temperature--a bit of an edge. brining is the culinary eqivalent of using an oversized tennis racket or a contemporary extra-large golf club. you get a bigger sweet spot.

                                  2. I used to brine chops and sometimes poultry, but no more. Maybe it does make the meat more moist, but an unbrined properly cooked chop with salt sprinkled on the surface tastes somehow more rich and complex. I just don't like that uniform salty throughout taste of a brined chop or chicken breast. Many brine recipes call for various spices but in my experience those flavors never penetrate the meat (probably because the active ingredients of many spices are soluble in oil, not water). Any taste the spices manage to add is on the surface only, so you might as well just use a dry rub, which is what I do.

                                    Some say pork these days is so lean you need to do something to keep it from tasting dry. That may be true, although with some experience and no paranoia about undercooking pork anyone can throw a chop in a skillet and produce a chop superior to a brined one.

                                    And my solution to lean pork -- cook using lard (home rendered or natural, not the hydrogenated stuff you find in supermarkets) instead of vegetable oil, and be generous.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Zeldog

                                      Get a meat thermometer and DONT OVER COOK!!! Remove from Heat @ 145 degrees, let rest for 10 min under foil for medium-(ish).... If you cook them through you've ruined any chance for moistness.... Don't be paranoid of pink in the middle pork.IT's the best!! Jeeezzzzzz!
                                      d.

                                    2. I always brine my pork chops. It only takes about 1/2 hour. 1/4 cup kosher salt and 1/4 cup brown sugar per quart of water. I have been cooking pork chops for years and never thought I needed to make them juicer. I WAS WRONG!!! Brining makes them juicy and seasons them on the inside.

                                      I always rinse them off and pat them dry before further processing. I usually don't season them with salt again for fear they would be too salty, although pork really loves salt. Hard to imagine them being too salty.

                                      If you are a closet engineer, this is a perfect opportunity to brine half a batch and cook the other half normally. You will always brine in the future.

                                      I always brine pork or poultry.

                                      1. By the way, pork is about as cheap a meat as you can get. I get pork tenderloins on sale for $1.99 per pound. I get whole pork loins on sale for as low as $1.00 per pound (about 8 pounds of meat). I then slice my own boneless pork chops about 3/4 inch thick and freeze them.

                                        Either pork loin or tenderloin is way cheaper than ground beef.

                                        1. I was once tempted to try to add other flavors to the brine. It usually doesn't work all that well because most herbs and spices are oil soluble not water soluble. Whatever flavor has to dissolve in water. For instance adding garlic powder didn't do a thing. Adding liquid smoke if you use enough would work.

                                          You could also brine in soy sauce. Use 6-7 tablespoons per quart of water. That would add flavor not just salt.

                                          I have never done so but I have been considering brining a tenderloin or thin strips of pork with soy sauce and maple syrup. i think that might be interesting.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: tonka11_99

                                            Came across this version...

                                            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

                                          2. When you brine you cause an exchange of fluids. Saline goes in, natural pork juices come out. You can add flavors and you can season well because of this, but you LOSE pork flavor. It is inevitable because you are leaving juices in the used, leftover brine.
                                            You also start to break down the proteins. This does make it more tender, but it makes the texture less natural. Many of us don't like that partially pre-digested texture.
                                            I am convinced most people like brine because most people don't know how to season properly, and because many people overcook pork. Brined is better than under seasoned and overcooked pork, but it is worse than properly seasoned and cooked pork.
                                            Brining is not the solution!

                                            1. 2 words:
                                              Italian dressing