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Brining pork chops

I bought a big package of center cut boneless pork chops (something I wont' do again). The first two I cooked very carefully, but they still came out dry as a bone -- almost inedible. They were not overcooked. So this time I plan to brine them.

Any tips, tricks or suggestions for me in making these edible by brining? I'm doing two 1" thick chops. Any recipe suggestions for them would be welcome too.

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  1. I like to do an apple cider brine. I googled and came up with this one from the NYT. I would not salt them after the brine as this recipe calls for though.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/23/mag...

    1. we use the zuni brine.
      water, salt, sugar, bay leaves, dried chiles and juniper berries.
      we brine seriously thick chops (two inch) for three-four days, then scrub the heck out of them and cook them like a prime steak.
      judy rodgers, author of the zuni cookbook, knows her stuff. the result is moist and tender. so moist and tender that you'll wonder why you haven't been doing this all along. leftovers, even cold, are memorable.

      2 Replies
      1. re: steve h.

        3-4 days !!?!! It doesn't taste totally salty? What is the ratio of salt :: water?

        My brine's salt::water ratio is 1 cup Kosher salt :: 1 gallon water

        How does Zuni's compare?

        1. re: sweet100s

          yup, 3-4 days. not salty at all.

          the recipe goes like this:
          for 4 pork chops, 10-11 ounces each and 1-1/4 inches thick.

          aromatics (a few bay leaves, dried chiles, crushed juniper berries) crushed and simmered for maybe 10 minutes in a cup of water.

          4 additional cups of water

          6 tablespoons sugar

          3 tablespoons salt.

          use a total of 7-1/4 cups of water (same amount of salt) if you have two-inch thick, one pound pork chops like i do. larger cuts need to cure more slowly, 4-5 days.

          a couple hours before cooking, remove the chops from the brine. rub and massage the meat thoroughly while rinsing under cold water (i spend three-four minutes minimum). press dry between towels. refrigerate until 15 minutes before cooking.

          the result is outstanding.

      2. I brined my last package of center cut boneless pork chops in a kosher salt and brown sugar brine for several hours before baking them in the oven. I cannot tell you how much of a difference the brine made. The pork chops were juicy and moist, not dry at all. That was the first time I ever tried brining, and I'm sorry I did not know about it before now.
        After I washed them off, I made simple paste of garlic, evoo, black pepper, rosemary, and some lemon rind. Just rubbed this all over and baked them in the oven. So tasty!

        1 Reply
        1. re: mschow

          I realize that you made this post 4 years ago, but I just used your "paste" (although I used a rosemary infused salt as part of the paste) and then put the chops in with a seasoned Japanese (panko) bread crumb mixture that I had added sweet and regular paprika to and then lightly fried them in a bit of olive oil before putting them in my Dutch oven.

          I take the chops back out after about 15 minutes and then lay down my asparagus, putting the chops back in on top of fresh carrots and onions which went in with the chops right from the start, along with a little chicken stock and then bake them for about another 35 minutes (total of 50 minutes) at 350 degrees. If you put the asparagus in from the start they get too mushy. You might be okay with broccoli or better yet, green beans, without the staggered timing.

          The one thing I think I've finally discovered about pork chops is to simply buy a little middle pork loin with rib bones and then slice them into chops. These are (without being brined or soaked in anything like milk) always tender and juicy.

        2. I'm especially fond of the brine in "The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook." For 4 chops, combine 8 cups of water, 1/4 cup coarse salt, and 3 tablespoons sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 3 bay leaves, 2 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns, and 1 clove of smashed garlic and simmer for 5 minutes. When brine is at room temp (I often add a baggie full of ice cubes or--sometimes--make the brine with half the amount of water and add cold water after simmering), strain over the chops and marinate 8 to 12 hours.

          1. Brining makes a world of difference, IMO. But I would not suggest brining them for more than 4-6 hours or so.

            1. I've used a molasses brine from the Food Network site. I think it was a Bobby Flay recipe. I agree with others, it made a big difference.

              1. I like the brine from "Sunday Supper at Lucques" - a shortened version is sugar, salt, ground fennel seeds, cloves. I wouldn't brine for more than 6-12 hours, though, even if the chops are 2" thick. I dry them and rub w/ olive oil before grilling and smoking them, and they're divine.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Claudette

                  May I ask why you wouldn't brine for more than 6-1/2 hours? The recipe recommends 48 hours. I realize she calls that a confit, but have you tried bringing the chops for that long and been dissatisfied?

                  1. re: JoanN

                    When you overbrine pork or chicken the texture suffers. I have found that out myself. The meat takes on a softer, mushier character.

                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      I think it must depend on the thickness of the chops and the amount of salt in the brine. I've certainly brined pork chops for longer than 6 hours with no deterioration in texture. In fact, in my experience, 6 hours is about the bare minimum.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        You're right. Mine were maybe 1 1/2 inches thick and I always use a cup of kosher salt for every gallon of liquid.

                        Cooks Illustrated claims that brining is less effective if you cut down on the salt, but I hardly ever do.

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          This is true. The reason brining works is because it is the nature of salt water to travel through membranes from a place with a high concentration of salt to a place with a lower concentration of salt. You need your brine to contain enough salt that this effect will happen or the brining won't take place.

                2. The only place that I have found to buy pork chops that aren't dry are at Whole Foods. Ever since they decided to make Pork the other white meat, the chops are too lean and horrible. I haven't tried to brine them since I found the ones at Whole Foods.

                  1. Nancy Oakes, the chef at Boulevard in San Francisco, is known for her brined pork chops. Here's an article from the San Francisco Chronicle from about 10 years ago that has her recipe and the one from 42 Degrees for their brined pork chops.

                    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                    1. My favourite brine comes from Alton Brown's first book uhm, "I'm just here for the food" I don't have it here at work with me, but it has brown sugar, salt, orange juice (I use bitter orange), and some pepper corns I think. It's very simple, and center cut pork chops you only need to brine (with this recipe) for about half hour to an hour. So it's great for an after work meal, not FAST fast, but not slow slow either. :) Once I discovered brining, I actually looked forward to center cut pork chops being on special. :)

                      1. I've had good luck with Steve Raichlen's Bourbon Brined Pork Chops out of one of his grilling books.

                        http://recipe.aol.com/recipe/bourbon-...

                        1. I kept my initial brining very simple. I used the basic salt/sugar/water proportions in JoanN's post below, but no spices other than a couple of crushed garlic cloves. I boiled until the salt and sugar were dissolved, then refrigerated overnight. In the morning before leaving for work I put the pork chops and the brine in a 1 gallon zip-lock, squeezed most of the air out, sealed and stuck in the fridge.

                          When I got home from work I pulled the chops out, rinsed and patted dry and put them back in the fridge. I cooked them in a cast iron skillet with a little canola oil, and ground some pepper over the top. After they cooked to 125 F internal temp, I pulled them out, added a finely chopped shallot to the oil and quickly caramelized it. I divided the shallot over both chops.

                          The result was quite good -- while not completely tender, they weren't dry. I served them with boiled tiny red potatoes with butter and roasted asparagus with olive oil and crushed garlic. I think next time I'll try leaving them in the brine a bit longer, but I was still pleased with the result. If that goes well I'll try adding spices and subbing brown sugar or apple cider.

                          Thanks for all your help. Question: how should I change the technique if I wanted to try this on skinless boneless chicken breasts?

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: JonParker

                            Same except brine for less time. IMO 2-4 hours tops for boneless, skinless.

                            1. re: JonParker

                              Hey Jon, I bought a lot of cut pork loin from Costco (only one option right?) and getting the same dry results. I'm sure brining will work out but wonder what would happen if I patted dry and froze them afterwards. Have you ever done that?

                              1. re: buttdrunk

                                I buy pork loin fairly often. I slice them about 3/4 inch thick and freeze them in foodsaver bags (2 -3 at a time). When I am ready to cook, I take some out and defrost them in a sink of water then I brine them. I use a 1/4 cup of salt and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a quart of water. I only brine mine for 60 - 90 minutes. I rinse them off, pat them dry, season with pepper and garlic powder. I like to bread mine and pan fry them until the breading is brown. I then finish them off in the oven.

                                Anyway my pork chops are never dry.

                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                  Let me clarify: have you brined and then froze the meat?

                                  1. re: buttdrunk

                                    No. I brine them once I take them out of the freezer, just before cooking.

                            2. this may sound a bit odd but I've brined them in bourbon and been very pleased with the results

                                1. re: tim987

                                  For pork chops, you'll be fine up to about 24 hours.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    More pertinent, at least for me and my current scramble of a life, is how short is too short to have any effect when brining them?

                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      I don't think I'd bother if I had less than about three hours for chops. But something like a small piece of loin could probably benefit from even just two hours.

                                      1. re: JoanN

                                        Depends on how thick the chops are. You can get a decent brine into chops up to like an inch thick in about an hour and a half to two hours.

                                      2. re: Servorg

                                        I don't have this down to an exact science. Basically, it has seemed to me that pork chop sized cuts turn out better when brined either the night or morning before cooking than they do when brined a couple hours or a couple days before cooking.

                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                          Thanks to all 3 of you who were kind enough to reply. Many times I do my shopping at 4 AM at the all night Ralph's and I'll have time to brine the chops for that nights dinner. I was thinking over night was a necessity, but not true!

                                        2. re: Servorg

                                          This thread is several years old, but it looks like there's a part that's newer right here.

                                          Servorg, here's why I love brining over marinating meat. I tend to buy a lot of meat at once and then freeze almost all of it. In the morning before I go to work I'll put together a brine (basics: 1 qt water, 1/4 c salt, 1-2T sugar plus whatever else I have on hand for flavor). Then I essentially defrost the meat in the brine in the fridge.

                                          Before I started brining, things may or may not have been defrosted, then I'd have to marinate after I got home which often leads to rather late dinners.

                                          Also, I don't know how others feel about this, but I typically reuse my brines at least once. This will be in quick succession, with the brine sitting idle for only a day or two. I can't imagine keeping a brine for more than 4 days. But maybe that's safe too. I don't know.