Brining pork chops before cooking them not only helps to ensure your chops don’t dry out, but it will also flavor and tenderize them. Who knew a simple step like tossing your chops into a bowl of liquid could do so many good things? Healthy pork chop recipes don’t have to be boring or bland, at least not when you’ve got brined pork chops.
I’m a big fan of easy dinner ideas, especially when it comes to pork recipes. I don’t have kids, but Craig and I have days (lots of days) where our schedules are nothing short of ridiculous. I am overcome with that same feeling of sheer panic at 4 o’clock when I realize we have to eat dinner and I’ve got nothing out or started. This is generally the moment when one of us grabs the takeout menu’s (Craig doesn’t even have to think about what he wants when I haven’t cooked – the local Mexican hole in the wall joint). But since we’re both card carrying members of the McFatty Pants Club, eating out is being kept to a minimum.
One of my favorite easy dinner ideas usually involves pork tenderloin. They’re so great because it’s a small piece of meat, usually only a pound, it’s lean, it cooks up quick and you can add just about any flavors to it you like. Versatility is a HUGE plus when you’re in that HOLY CRAP WHAT AM I GOING TO MAKE FOR DINNER TONIGHT mode.
But since they changed the temperature of ‘properly cooked pork’ to 145 degrees Farenheit, I’ve been trying to work with other cuts of pork. Growing up, the one we saw gracing our plates most often (aside from the ethnic sausages) was the pork chop. Definitely not my favorite. Mom had a way of pan frying those thin little things into what looked and tasted like a mud flap. Now my friend’s mom, a fantastic Italian cook, would serve up these gigantic pork chops that had pockets cut into them and were filled with all kinds of deliciousness. I loved it when she would ask me to stay for dinner. Of course it didn’t hurt that we got to drink Pepsi with dinner. At our house it was milk with dinner (ick).
One of the challenges we face with today’s pork, versus the heritage breeds you read so much about, is the fact that they are bred to be much leaner than the pigs of old. That means you need to be a little more careful when you cook pork so that it doesn’t dry out. A lot of times that means the idea of healthy pork chop recipes also means tasteless pork chop recipes. That’s where brined pork chops come to the rescue.
A basic brine includes water, salt and sugar. But why just go the plain Jane route when you can add lots of flavor to that pork chop while you’re doing this step? I like adding a dark beer to get those rich flavors into the meat and a bit of orange juice for some sweetness. But you could go a little crazier by adding some of your favorite spices to the mixture too (cinnamon, all spice, clove…you get the idea).
One reason this belongs in the pantheon of healthy pork chop recipes is because you add so much flavor to the meat before you cook it that it doesn’t need some gloppy fat laden sauce to give it great taste. And I’m pretty sure that it’s obvious to you why this belongs in your easy dinner ideas recipe folder. The hardest part of this whole recipe is getting it together to sit in the brine for 2 hours before cooking it. But even then, how you cook it is up to you…pan fried, roasted or grilled. Any way you cook this it’s going to be delicious.
Both could give you 15-20.
Recipe: Healthy Pork Chop Recipes: Beer Brined Pork Chops
Summary: Makes 2 – 4 Chops
For the Brine
- 2 Cups Water
- 1/2 Cup Orange Juice
- 1 12 Ounce Bottle Dark Beer
- 1/2 Cup Kosher Salt
- 1/4 Cup Sugar
For the Pork
- 2-4 1 Inch Center Cut Pork Chops
For the Brine
- Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan.
- Heat, and stir, over medium high heat until the salt and sugar have disappeared then remove from heat.
- Let mixture cool to room temperature. To speed this up, you could rest the hot pan in larger container of ice until the liquid has cooled.
- Lay pork chops in a single layer in a container big enough to hold them with a bit of space between each of the chops (but shallow enough so that the chops are covered by the brine).
- Pour the brine over the chops, cover and place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.
For the Pork
- Remove container with the chops and brine from the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes, to warm up a bit.
- Heat grill to 350-375 degrees Farenheit.
- Remove chops from brine and sear for 2-3 minutes per side. Place pork chops in an area of the grill where they will get indirect heat, to finish cooking. Cook them until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Farenheit on a meat thermometer. (about 15 minutes total)
To pan sear pork chops
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit.
- Add 1 teaspoon olive oil per chop to a large, oven proof, saute pan. Heat a pan over medium high heat. Once oil is shimmering, add the chops.
- Cook 4-5 minutes per side, they should be golden brown.
- Slide pan into oven and cook for another 5-7 minutes. (The internal temperature should read 145 degrees Farenheit on a meat thermometer).
The apple and onion topping in my picture is a great topper for these pork chops.
Chop up 2 small apples and slice up 1/2 small red onion. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium saute pan, over medium high heat, and add the apples and onions. Cook until everything begins to soften. Add a tablespoon of orange juice to the pan and cook until the sauce thickens. Spoon over pork chops before serving.
You can add a cinnamon stick, 1 or 2 cloves, a smashed all spice berry or some cracked peppercorns to the brine. Just brush off anything that may stick to the chops before you cook them.
Preparation time: 2 hour(s) 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 2
Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)
Recipe by Pamela Braun.