Leaner meats like chicken, turkey, and pork chops benefit from brining since the salt solution forces water molecules into their fibers that help to keep them juicy during cooking. While brining is not ideal for low-sodium diets, it can be a special treat since it makes meat extremely flavorful from the inside out. Brining liquid can also be infused with a host of tasty spices, so feel free to flex your creative muscles.
Step 1: Calculate The Amount of Brining Liquid
The general rule for brining is 5% salt solution (by weight) but to avoid dealing with the math, most people use 1 gallon of water with 1 cup kosher salt. To determine the amount of brining solution you’ll need for your meat, simply place the meat or poultry in the storage container you plan on using and estimate the amount of water required to cover it. The meat shouldn’t fit too snugly so that the water can easily circulate around and submerge whatever you’re brining. Most plastic containers will have the cup size written on the underside of the container, to make measuring easy.
Step 2: Prepare The Liquid
For brining thick large pork chops (about 3/4 pound), like the ones pictured here, I use 2 quarts of water along with 1/2 cup of kosher salt. Next, I added “aromatics” — including black peppercorns, fennel seed, and bay leaves (about 1 tablespoon of each). Place the water, salt, and aromatics in a 2 quart saucepan and bring to a boil (don’t add the meat). Allow the mixture to cool completely.
Step 3: Add the Meat
Place the meat in your storage container and pour over the cooled brining liquid, leaving a 1/2-inch space at the top to avoid leaks, then cover and refrigerate for about 10 to 12 hours. If you want to brine your meats in the same pot where you prepared the brining liquid, place the cooled saucepan or stockpot containing the liquid in the sink to catch the flow-over. Slide in the meat and be sure to leave a 1/2-inch space at the top. Cover with a lid, and refrigerate for about 10 to 12 hours.
Step 4: Cook The Meat
Before you cook the meat, remove it from the brining liquid and pat dry with a paper towel (damp meat will not sear properly and can cause oil to spatter). There is no need to season the meat with additional salt or spices. To prepare these pork chops with onions and mushrooms, chop 1 red onion and 2 cups of mushrooms, such as crimini or white button. Heat 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil or light olive oil (or other higher smoke point oil) in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the dry chops and cook 3 to 4 minutes, turning once or twice until the chops are well browned. Scatter the onions and mushrooms around the chops and continue to cook, stirring the onions and mushrooms well until they are golden brown (about 5 minutes). Test the chops for doneness by cutting them with a pairing knife, they should be pinkish white but not translucent in the center. Serve immediately.