Juicy Pork Chops

If there's one way to ensure juicy meat from lean, high-protein pork chops, it's to soak the chops in a flavorful liquid brine before cooking. This is my favorite brine for pork chops, adding moisture and flavor to pork that's bred for leanness. If you want juicy pork chops, brining is the answer!

Weeknight Easy. Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly.
Juicy Pork Chops ♥ KitchenParade.com, my favorite brine for pork chops, adding moisture and flavor to pork that's bred, these days, for leanness. Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly.

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ISO a Really Really Good Pork Chop

It's like a personal ad. "Woman ISO (in seek of) a decent pork chop, even a great pork chop."

These days, pork is bred for leanness. With so little fat, however, cooked chops can turn into shoe leather all too quickly.

A favorite summer-time response is to soak thick chops in a brine before grilling. The result is tender, succulent meat that will have your family and friends begging for more. It's super easy, just needs a little time up front.

Exactly What Is a Brine for Pork Chops?


Juicy Pork Chops ready for brining ♥ KitchenParade.com, my favorite brine for pork chops, adding moisture and flavor to pork that's bred, these days, for leanness. Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free. Weight Watchers Friendly.

First, what, exactly, is a brine?

"Brine" is both a verb and a noun. Here's what I'll tell my husband as I gather salt, and flavorings. "I'm going to brine [verb] these pork chops. I'm going to use mostly salt, sugar, chili powder in the brine [noun]."

Brines are used to soak lean proteins such as chicken (breasts especially as well as whole chickens), turkey (ditto) and pork (especially pork chops and some times tenderloins) to enhance moistness and flavor.

A brine has two essential ingredients: salt and water.

After that, some brines (including mine below) also call for some form of sugar and/or other seasonings.

Why Use a Brine with Pork Chops?

Pure eating pleasure!

Because you want a juicy pork chop! Because you want a pork chop that tastes good! It works like this:


  • The salt flavors the meat.
  • The combination of salt and water introduces moisture to the chops but also helps the chops retain their own meaty juices during cooking.
  • The sugary ingredients flavor the meat and also promotes browning.
  • The flavorings add flavor (duh) and some times add color to the meat.

How to Choose the Right Salt for a Pork Chop Brine

  • ANY SALT IS BETTER THAN NO SALT. A brine just isn't a brine unless it includes salt. But which salt to choose? These are the salts that a well-stocked kitchen will keep on hand. Chemically, they're all the same, just sodium chloride, but they do work differently in a brine.

  • KOSHER SALT IS PREFERRED Why use kosher salt? Kosher salt dissolves easily, that means the brine will be clear not cloudy. It's just ... prettier, not necessarily better. My recipe has been written for Morton's Kosher Salt, that's the house kosher. If you happen to have Diamond Chrystal Kosher Salt, increase the salt by 50% since it's less salty (by volume) than Morton's.

  • TABLE SALT If you only have table salt, use about half what's specified in my recipe. Table salt has the tiniest crystals that pack most tightly. That's what makes table salt "saltier," you simply get more when you measure by volume, that is, with a measuring cup. Table salt often includes an anti-caking agent that makes the "Morton girl" on the salt package needs an umbrella. Table salt actually pours! Fun, eh?

  • SEA SALT Sea salt is often the least useful salt for brining because, unless you have experience with the specific salt (or measure by weight), it's hard to know how much to use since some sea salts are fine like table salt, others are coarse like kosher salt.

  • FANCY FINISHING SALTS Salts like fleur de sel, Maldon's, pink salt, Himalayan salt, Martian salt (okay, so far there's no salt from Mars but you get the picture ...) are best used in tiny amounts to sprinkle on top of foods to give them a bright burst of saltiness, just before serving. And frankly, the fancy salts just too pricey to use in large volumes as needed for a brine.

All these details, just about salt!

But the good news is, once you start brining pork chops and other lean meats, the same guidelines apply each and every time. You won't need a "recipe" at all!

How Long to Brine a Pork Chop

What about the timing? Meat soaked in a brine for a short time will gain some but not all the benefits of brining. Meat soaked in a brine for too long will become watery and possibly over-salted. It's all a balance!



QUICK SUPPER: JUICY GRILLED CHOPS

Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Refrigerator time: 6 – 24 hours
Grill time: about 20 minutes
    BRINE
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt, preferably Morton's
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 cups additional water
  • 4 thick-cut bone-in pork chops
  • Oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Additional chili powder

BRINE FOR SIX TO TWENTY-FOUR HOURS Combine the first cup of water with the salt, sugar and chili powder in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the remaining water and cool completely. Transfer the brine to a non-reactive pan (such as glass or ceramic, no metal) and add the chops, submerging them completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least six hours and up to twenty-four hours. (Don't keep the chops in the brine any longer. If need be, pull them out of the brine, dry well and then re-refrigerate until ready to cook.)

GRILL Prepare the grill. Drain the chops and discard brine. Pat the chops dry with paper towels (pay attention here, the chops should be dry on the outside) and brush lightly on both sides with a little oil. Season with black pepper and a little chili powder. Grill about 10 minutes per side or until an instant-read thermometer reads 145F - 160F. Watch carefully for pork chops cook more quickly than you might think.

RESOURCES Why 145F - 160F? Should Cooked Pork Be Pink?

POURING RAIN? NO GRILL? Brine the chops first, then start the chops on the stove and finish in the oven. The technique is here, Perfect Thick Pork Chops.

ALANNA's TIPS Ask your butcher to cut thick “Iowa chops” one to one-and-a-half inches thick. In the photos, you can see that our butcher went a little crazy and left the bones on, these are called "tomahawk chops"! Very dramatic! To save on dishes, use the same container to warm the brine and chill the brining chops. Choose a non-reactive (stainless steel, glass or enamel; I use Corningware) covered container that can be used on the stovetop and is also large enough to hold the thick chops and the brine. Don’t skimp on the chili powder for it adds flavor without burn. You will get better results with a coarse salt such as kosher salt. This recipe has been written for Morton's Kosher Salt. Use about half the specified amount if using table salt or Diamond Chrystal Kosher Salt.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Chop (assumes starting with a 6-ounce bone-in chop, fat removed before eating): 244 Calories; 6g Tot Fat; 2g Sat Fat; 11mg Cholesterol; 1884mg Sodium; 5g Carb; 1g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 37g Protein. Weight Watchers Old Points 5 & PointsPlus 5 & SmartPoints 5 & Freestyle 5

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~ Juicy Pork Chops ~
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More Great Ways to Cook Pork Chops

(hover with a mouse for a description; otherwise click a photo to view the recipe)

Pork Chops & Rice Oven Dinner Perfect Thick Pork Chops Thick Chops with Mustard Crust
~ more pork recipes ~
~ more Quick Supper recipes ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.

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