My mom cooked pork chops all the time when I was growing up, and now I know why: they’re a great, quick weeknight dinner. If you have the time to make a brine and let the pork sit in it for a few hours before cooking, the meat will be more flavorful. But if you don’t, you can still make delicious pork chops with just salt and pepper, as long as you don’t overcook them.
How do you know when your pork chops are perfectly cooked? When you press on the meat right along the bone, it should feel ever-so-slightly springy and gently bounce back. If the meat feels firm, it’s overcooked. When you make an incision in the meat near the bone, the interior should be opaque but rosy, not pale and white.
Resting is the key to moist, flavorful meat, especially a cut with the bone still in, as it allows the muscle fibers to relax and the delicious interior juices to evenly redistribute throughout, instead of spilling out onto your cutting board.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons muscovado or maple sugar
- 1½ pounds ice, or 3 cups ice water (see weighing ice for wet brines)
- 4 bone-in center-cut pork chops (10 to 12 ounces
- each and 1 to 1½ inches thick)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add ¼ cup of the salt and the sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Add the ice to cool the brine to room temperature. Put the pork chops in a resealable plastic bag, pour the brine over them, and seal closed. Place the bag in a container that allows the meat to be fully submerged in the liquid, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Remove the chops from the bag, discard the brine, and dry the chops very well with paper towels. Allow the meat to come to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours. Season each chop on both sides with ½ teaspoon of the remaining salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper.
- Place a baking sheet on the center rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Heat a black steel pan over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until the surface is rippling but not smoking. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, immediately add 2 chops and sear, pressing down hard with tongs, until golden on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
- Don’t let too many dark spots form; you’re aiming for a nice golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and turn the chops onto the fat-cap side to let some of the fat render. Set the seared chops on a plate. Rinse and dry the pan and repeat with the remaining oil and the remaining pork chops.
- Carefully remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and place all 4 chops on it. Roast in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until the thickest part near the bone reaches 120°F. Remove the chops from the oven, transfer them to a platter, and allow to rest, loosely tented with aluminum foil (not tightly wrapped or they will continue to cook) for 5 minutes before serving.
- To serve with New Potato Salad with Fava Beans and Morels as shown (see photo), make the potato salad up to 1 day in advance or while the pork chops are brining (add the fava beans just before serving). Put a pork chop on each plate and spoon about 1 cup of the potato salad alongside.