When I was just a little Bald Food Dude, my mom used to make some amazing pork chops. I remember the incredible aroma in the kitchen as the pan of chops, carrots, potatoes, and sauerkraut bubbled and browned in the oven. Patience was the major challenge our family faced on pork chop nights.
Patience is also a virtue when it comes to this recipe. May I introduce you to the wonders of brining? The extra step of soaking your pork chops in a savory brine adds some time to the process of making dinner (anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on your level of self-control), but it adds even more in the flavor department. These brined, oven-cooked pork chops are tender, juicy, and packed with more delicious zip than a jumbo bag of Funyuns.
Part of the joy of this recipe is having a chance to use your cast iron skillet as a range-top searing and oven-cooking tool. When you lay those brine-soaked chops in the hot iron skillet the combination of sizzle, smoke, and scent is worth the price of admission alone…and you haven’t even TASTED anything yet! It does take some care, however, so you don’t burn the skin off of your hands as you transfer the skillet from oven to range top and back to oven. Great things often have an element of danger, though, right?
Whether you’ve known about brining for years, or you just heard about it a minute or so ago, these incredible pork chops just might be the perfect foundation for some family traditions of your own.
Just be sure to wear an oven mitt.
- FOR THE BRINE:
- 3 cups cold water, divided
- 3 Tablespoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Fresh rosemary, chopped
- FOR THE PORK CHOPS:
- 2 pork chops — center cut, bone-in, 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick
- Olive oil
- To brine the pork chops bring 1 cup of water to a boil, add the salt, peppercorns, and rosemary, and stir to dissolve the salt. Add 2 more cups of cold water to bring the brine temperature down to room temperature. Put the pork chops in a shallow dish and pour the brine over top. The brine should cover the chops — if not, add additional water and salt (1 cup water to 1 tablespoon salt) until the chops are covered. Cover the dish and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.
- When you’re about done brining and ready to start cooking, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F. Place a cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat.
- Remove the chops from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Rub both sides with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Remove the fiery hot (be careful!) cast iron skillet from the oven and set it over medium-high heat on the stovetop. It’s gonna get a bit smoky, so turn on a vent fan or open a window.
- Lay the pork chops in the hot skillet. You should hear them immediately begin to sizzle. Sear until the undersides of the chops are seared golden, 3 minutes. The chops may start to smoke a little — that’s ok. Turn down the heat if it becomes excessive.
- Flip the chops and transfer to the oven: Use tongs to flip the pork chops to the other side. Immediately transfer the skillet to the oven using oven mitts.
- Roast the chops until cooked through: Roast until the pork chops are cooked through and register 140°F to 145°F in the thickest part of the meat with an instant-read thermometer. Cooking time will be 6 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the chops, how cool they were at the start of cooking, and whether they were brined. Start checking the chops at 6 minutes and continue checking every minute or two until the chops are cooked through.
- Rest the chops: Transfer the cooked pork chops to a plate and pour any pan juices over the top (or reserve for making a pan sauce or gravy). Tent loosely with foil and let the chops rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.