If the thought of pork chops brings up visions of dry forkfuls slathered in store-bought applesauce, it’s time to give them another try. These thick cider-brined chops are tender, juicy, and practically foolproof. Capped in a deep golden crust, the chops finish nestled atop thick wedges of apples and onion.
A Trifecta of Pork Problems
The chops of our youth suffered a trifecta of pork problems. First was the assumption that boneless is better. Yes, boneless pork chops are lean and quick-cooking, but without the fat, connective tissue, and bone, there’s little room for error between done and overdone. To that end, if you cooked pork prior to 2011, it was most certainly overcooked, because until that year the USDA recommended pork be cooked to160°F. Today, the recommended temperature is a more reasonable 145°F, so yes, a little pink is OK for pork. Brining was also not as commonplace as it is today.
Quick Brine for Juicy Pork Chops
If the only time you brine meat is for your holiday table, it’s time to add quick brines to your weeknight skillset. Brines, a solution of salt and water, are your best defense against dry, tasteless pork chops. Brining a pair of pork chops for just 30 minutes will make them taste juicier and well-seasoned (not salty). The pork absorbs some salt and liquid, which helps the meat stay moist even after it hits the hot pan. In this recipe, to add apple flavor inside and out, you’ll replace some of the brine’s water with apple cider. Once the apples and onions are sliced, the garlic cloves are smashed, and your sides are prepped, pull the pork from the brine and pat dry. The sugar in the apple cider also helps caramelize the chops as they sear in a hot skillet.
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Easy Skillet Pork Chops with Apples
(about 1-inch thick) bone-in pork loin rib chops (8 to 10 ounces each)
- 2 1/2 cups
apple cider or unfiltered apple juice, divided
- 1 cup
- 1/2 cup
Diamond Crystal kosher salt (2 1/2 ounces)
large sweet-tart apple, such as Honeycrisp or Pink Lady
small yellow onion
- 4 cloves
- 1 teaspoon
canola or other neutral oil
- 4 sprigs
Prick 2 pork chops all over with a fork about 1/8-inch deep. Flip the pork chops and repeat pricking the other side.
Place 2 cups of the apple cider, 1 cup water, and 1/2 cup kosher salt in a gallon-size zip-top bag, seal the bag, and massage to dissolve the salt. Add the pork chops and seal the bag. Place the bag on a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the pork chops so they sit in a single layer. Let brine at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
When ready to cook, core and cut 1 large apple into 1/4-inch thick slices, cut 1 small yellow onion into 1/2-inch wedges, and peel and smash 4 cloves garlic. Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add the pork chops and cook until they begin to brown, about 1 minute on each side.
Reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook, flipping the chops every minute,until they register 140 to 145°F in the thickest part, 6 to 8 minutes more. Transfer the pork chops to a clean plate.
Add 1 teaspoon canola or other neutral oil to the pan. Add the onion, garlic, and 4 sprigs fresh thyme, and cook until onion begins to soften and brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apples and remaining 1/2 cup apple cider and nestle the chops on top. Cook until the apples are warm and tender but not falling apart, 3 to 4 minutes.
Make ahead: The pork can be brined up to 8 hours and refrigerated before cooking.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
To double the recipe: Increase the number of pork chops to 4, but no need to increase the amounts of the other ingredients. Sear the chops in two batches. Once the apples, cider, and seasonings are added to the pan, nestle all 4 chops on top to finish cooking.
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