Perhaps it's because it lacks the zing and flash of a marinade, but salt water is more effective at tenderizing pork than it's given credit for. Not just any salt water, though, but brine, a 5 percent concentration of salt in water that tenderizes protein by dissolving its structure.
Brines and Juiciness
The change in protein structure that tenderizes protein also causes it to absorb water -- resulting in a 10 to 15 percent weight increase -- which means a juicier cut of meat. Pork chops respond well to brining because of their surface area and relative thinness; it takes as little as 30 minutes for pork chops to benefit from soaking in a basic brine.
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Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are optional if you only want to tenderize the pork. Brine isn't as effective as an acid-oil marinade at imparting the flavors and aromas of herbs and spices, but the pork will certainly take on a mild essence of herbs and spices during brining. Classic spice combinations that work with pork chops include:
- thyme and rosemary
- chervil, chives, tarragon and parsley
- onion, garlic and chili flakes
- or sage, garlic, thyme and oregano.
How to Brine Pork Chops
Things You'll Need
4 cups of water
4 tablespoons of kosher salt
4 tablespoons of fresh herbs and spices or 2 tablespoons of dried (optional)
Food-grade storage container or heavy-duty plastic bag
Step 1: Simmer
Combine the water, salt, herbs and spices in a saucepan and bring them to a simmer on the stove. Stir the brine until the salt dissolves.
Step 2: Chill
Take the brine off the stove. Let the brine reach room temperature and place it in the refrigerator. Chill the brine until it's cold, about 30 to 45 minutes per quart.
Step 3: Soak
Place the pork chops in the container or bag. Stir the brine and pour it over the pork chops. Seal the container and set it aside in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Brine is an effective cooking liquid for green vegetables. Use the same ratio of salt to water (1 tablespoon of kosher salt per cup of water) and prepare the brine using the same method you use for pork chops.