Brining is super easy and packs a punch in both tenderness and succulence.
I’ve realised that so many of us shudder at the thought of pork chops. Many remember them from growing up; over-cooked and under seasoned, tough as old boots.
So many great dishes have been butchered over time. Corned beef, pork chops, pot roasts etc. But in my mind none more so than pork chops.
When I say pork chops I mean both the mid lion and the rib eye or cutlets (cut from a rack of pork). These are the sirloin and the scotch muscles, and should be prized for their flavour and tender texture.
Pigs have become famous for their bacon, their leg ham, and in more recent times shoulder (think pulled pork). Meanwhile many of us often overlook the chop cuts. Here's a quick run through of how to do it right.
When brining I alway use the same ratio: 1 cup of water to 1 (level) tablespoon of salt.
Within this you can add almost any type of liquid for flavouring. The only thing to bare in mind when adding other liquids the more acidic your brine the faster it will tenderise.. so beware a cup of lemon juice overnight on your pork chop will yield a pile of mush by the next morning. Best to start simple, water, salt, herbs.
I picked up a couple of pork cutlets today from our Prahran Store. These are from our free range berkshire pigs. When it comes to pork cutlets I prefer the shoulder end with the skin on.
Before you make your brine, find an appropriate bowl or dish for brining your meat. Do this first because your dish should be as small as possible while still fitting the meat in 1 layer. That way you don’t need 3L of brine for just two pork chops.
I usually use this small oven dish, as it’s a handy shape for two tessellated cutlets to fit snug. 500ml of brine should be plenty for two cutlets in a dish this size.
To make the brine I’ll take just shy of 500ml of cold water in a jug. 2 tablespoons of sea salt. (don’t use Iodised salt here!). To this I’ll add a capful of apple cider vinegar, a teaspoon of palm sugar, a pinch of coriander leaves, and a smashed apple.
Other ideas for brines could include: herbs like thyme, sage, rosemary. Salts like soy sauce or smoked garlic salt. Fruit juices for sweetness and flavour. Have a play around!
Give the solution a good stir so the salt dissolves. Pour the brine over your chops or other meat. Now you can leave the cut to soak up the brine for anywhere from 30mins to overnight.
The magic of brining is due to the salinity being isotonic. The meat draws in the salt and the flavourings go along for the ride. When it comes time to cook the cutlet it will be heavier, fuller and juicier.
You can brine whole shoulders of pork, belly, fillets etc any cut. Same goes for chicken whether it’s just a breast or a whole chicken before roasting. It makes a big difference when you’re going to be grilling or BBQing your meat as these forms of heat that can otherwise dry out your dish.
Here are my two cutlets after a half day soak (in the fridge) you can see they take on a whiter colour and look more swollen. Drain the brine away and pat dry with a paper towel, score the fat and salt as we’re going to want the skin to get crispy.
I’ve also taken the additional (nerdy) step of temping the cutlets on my griddle. This will bring them up to room temperature before cooking. This way the centre of the cutlet only has to go from ~22 degrees to 71 rather than 2 degrees to 71… bottom line is much less likely to overcook them.
The other thing to consider is with mid-loin chops the meat next to the bone cooks the longest. This can be quite tricky to pick to I definitely recommend a meat thermometer. Place the probe in as if in the armpit of the t-shaped bone. Once this is at, or almost at 65 degrees you can take it off the heat to rest.
They turned out great!