Have you ever eaten a pork chop that’s oddly reminiscent of shoe rubber? Even if it's swimming in a sauce or covered with an exotic spice rub, chewing through something that feels like a pencil eraser is unforgettable. Almost as bad as eating an overcooked pork chop is the feeling of serving them to a table of innocent guests. But take heart, there’s a foolproof secret to preparing your pork chops that will give you the confidence to even let your spouse throw them on the grill.
WATCH: How to Make Grilled Potato Salad
More from Southern Living
As a pork chop cooks, two things happen that make it tough. First, it loses a lot of moisture (nearly 20% of its weight!) and the proteins in the meat clump together making a dense web of muscle fibers. Every chewy pork chop you’ve eaten has suffered at the hand of these two natural processes.
A brine is a solution of water and salt (and often several spices) that a piece of meat soaks in for a certain period of time. By putting meat into a brine for several hours, the brine partially dissolves the microscopic parts of the meat that clump together as it cooks, leaving the meat extra tender and allowing it to absorb 10% of its weight in the solution. This helps to counteract the moisture lost in the cooking process, and it also helps the flavor of the spices penetrate the meat. To put it simply, a brine is the answer to everyone’s pork chop problems.
(makes 1 quart of brine)
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add ¼ cup of kosher salt, 3 Tbsp. sugar or brown sugar, and the aromatics of your choice (juniper berries, whole cloves, fresh rosemary, fresh sage, fresh thyme, smashed cloves of garlic, etc.). Stir until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of very cold water. Allow the brine to sit until it comes back to room temperature. Place the meat in a dish and cover with cooled brine (make sure the meat is covered entirely in the brine). Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and no more than 22 hours. Remove meat from the brine and discard the solution. Rinse the meat thoroughly under running water, and pat them dry with paper towels. Season the outside of the meat before grilling.