I’ve led you here with such lofty promises about these pork chops that I feel we must review a few essential contingencies before moving on. You know, for quality assurance and such.
Firstly, this recipe calls for bone-in pork chops. This is non-negotiable. Having the bone on the meat ensures that the flavour and moisture are retained – plus who doesn’t love to gnaw on a meaty bone? Okay, I mean not me, or anyone else with mild sensory issues, but surely someone at your dinner table would take up that cause. Second, please please please remember when cooking meat in such simple applications as this one that quality COUNTS. Those limp, greyish-pink little cutlets at Safeway pretending to be chops? They are not of the caliber needed for this recipe. Move on to the big leagues and join us all at a real butcher shop, won’t you? Third, this recipe asks one teensy favour of you and that is to plan ever-so-slightly ahead of time, just to allow for some brining to occur. Although all of the steps of this recipe are important, the brining is really what makes this pork chop as succulent and (ugh, forgive me) moist as it is.
BA’s Best: Pan-Roasted Pork Chops
Taken from BA’s Best arsenal, with the most minor of tweaks here and there
**Please note that the cooking instructions vary based on the pork chops you have bought (see Ingredients for options)
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup white sugar
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise + 2 cloves of garlic (all unpeeled)
3 large thyme sprigs, divided
1 tsp juniper berries (optional)
1 2-inch thick bone-in pork chop or 2 1-inch thick bone-in pork chops (either way about 1 ¼ lb of meat – some butcher shops do not carry such thick-cut chops as required for the first option)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp unsalted butter
Flaky salt, to serve
The night before serving (or morning of), bring 2 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the kosher salt, sugar, peppercorns, head of garlic, 2 thyme sprigs, and juniper berries (if using). Mix until the sugar has dissolved completely. Transfer to a large bowl and add 5 cups ice cubes. Stir until cool to touch. Add the pork chop(s), cover, and chill for 8-12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (only if using a thicker, single chop). Set a wire rack inside a large baking sheet. Remove the pork chop(s) from the brine and pat dry with paper towels until you have removed as much moisture as possible. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large cast-iron skillet. Place the chop(s) in the hot oil and cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes if using single, larger pork chop and 2-3 minutes if using smaller pork chops (golden spots should be appearing on the seared side). Turn the chop(s) and cook for 2-3 more minutes on the second side. Give the meat a very gentle press while cooking to ensure full contact with the hot pan. Keep turning the chop every 2 minutes until both sides are a deep golden brown, about 6 more minutes for the thicker chop and 4 more minutes for the thinner ones. If using a thicker chop, transfer the whole skillet into the oven and cook until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 135 degrees, flipping the meat every 2 minutes to avoid burning. This could take up to 10 minutes, depending on your oven and the exact thickness of your chop. Keep close watch – undercooking is usually a better call than overcooking since you can always stick the meat back in the oven a bit longer in the former case. If using thinner chops, skip the oven step.
Regardless of which size chop(s) you used, go ahead and drain the fat from the skillet (but leave the pork in the pan). Place the skillet over medium heat and add the butter, the 2 unpeeled garlic cloves, and the remaining thyme sprig, then cook until the butter is foamy and fragrant. Carefully tip the skillet and use a large spoon to lap up the butter and spoon it over the pork chop(s) repeatedly. Baste the chop until the butter begins to brown and smell nutty. This should all happen fairly quickly since the pan will still be very hot. Transfer the chop(s) to the prepared wire rack and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Cut the rib bones out, running your knife as close to the bone as possible, and slice the chop(s) thickly. Sprinkle with flaky salt and serve immediately. Are you ready for it? Nothing will ever be the same again.