So, you’ve mastered grilling different types of meats. Yay! Now you feel confident to level up and make those meats even more delicious. Let us introduce you to a magical potion called brine — it is a game changer.
Basically, brining is giving meat a nice long bath in a salty liquid full of amazing flavor. This technique not only imparts flavor that penetrates deep into the meat, but, thanks to the salt, also alters the protein structure and breaks down the fibers within the meat, causing it to retain more moisture. Yeah, science! Technical, yes, but over-the-top delicious.
Brining is a perfect solution for leaner cuts of meat that tend to lose moisture as they cook, such as pork chops, turkey, and chicken. A brine starts with a mixture of water and salt, and then can include a combination of a sweetener, herbs, and spices to add dimension. Experiment with molasses, sugar, honey, maple syrup, even beer. Throw in some bay leaves, peppercorns, pickling spices, juniper berries, or rosemary. For even more flavor, citrus, whole garlic cloves, or onions, even chilis, are great. Adding a little pre-cook bath to increase the meat’s flavor and tenderness is absolutely worth it to improve your culinary skills.
Grill up a fall favorite
I felt Fall creeping in, but here I am, still holding onto the last bits of Summer. Apples are starting to pop on the trees, signaling a change in season, and my grill is still very much in operation mode. Why not take the forever classic dish of pork chops and apples and give it a late summer spin?
I am firing up the grill for these cider and rosemary brined bone-in pork chops, even taking those first-of-the-season apples and tossing them on the grill, too. (There’s nothing you can’t grill these days!) Then, to give these chops a tangy kick, I make a quick sauce of apple cider, whole grain mustard, garlic, brown sugar, and cider vinegar, and reduce it so it thickens a bit. This luscious sauce is then spooned generously over the finished pork chops. The sweetness from the cider and apples, the fall-inspired herbs, the char of the grill…what’s not to love? The flavor here is unreal: seasonal, rich, and mouthwatering.
Cider-Brined Grilled Pork Chops
For the brine
- 4 cups apple cider
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 8 bone-in pork chops
- 4 apples (sliced into ¼-inch rounds)
- Olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce
- ⅓ cup apple cider
- ¼ cup whole grain mustard
- ¼ cup Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- Pinch red pepper flakes
To prepare the brine
- Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over low-medium heat. Stir to dissolve the brown sugar and salt. Once dissolved, allow to simmer 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
- Add pork chops to a zip-top bag (you may need two) and pour the brine over the pork. Place in the refrigerator for 8 hours. Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine. Season the pork chops with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To prepare the sauce
- Add all ingredients to a small saucepan. Whisk to combine and set aside while you heat the grill.
- Heat the grill to medium high, about 400° F. Grill the pork chops for about 5 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 5 minutes, until a thermometer inserted reads 140-145° F. Remove chops from the grill to a platter and cover loosely with foil to rest for about 10 minutes.
- While the pork chops rest, lightly brush the apple slices with olive oil. Place the apples on one side of the grill and grill about 2 minutes per side, until softened. On the other side of the grill, place the saucepan with the sauce. Whisk until thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Serve the pork chops with sauce spooned over them and apples on the side.