From America's Test Kitchen Season 11: Weeknight Workhorses
Lean pork cutlets are flavorless without proper browning, but by the time the cutlets take on any color, they’re dry and lacking any tenderness. We wanted tender, browned cutlets with meaty flavor and a rich pan sauce to accompany them.
Instead of supermarket pork cutlets, we opted for a meatier-tasting cut: boneless country-style spare ribs. These ribs combine a large portion of the flavorful shoulder meat with minimal connective tissue and only a bit of bland tenderloin. Even better, because the ribs are sold portioned into relatively small pieces, they require little work to be fashioned into cutlets. To guard against dry meat, we brined our cutlets to help them retain moisture. A quick brine worked well, but the retained moisture kept the meat so wet that it steamed, cooking the cutlets all the way through before they had a chance to brown. To trigger faster browning, we added sugar to the brine. The sugar in the brine helped the cutlets develop a golden-brown exterior without sweetening them too much. And for an even darker crust, we cooked the cutlets in a combination of olive oil and butter. The sugars and milk proteins in the butter promote browning and boost flavor.
We prefer natural to enhanced pork (which has been injected with a salt solution to increase moisture and flavor). If using enhanced pork, omit the brining step. Look for ribs that are about 3 to 5 inches long. Cut ribs over 5 inches in half crosswise before slicing them lengthwise to make pounding more manageable.