The 30-Minute Brine

Thinking about skipping the brining step? Don't.

You might be tempted to skip the brining step when preparing pork recipes like our Crunchy Baked Pork Chops. Don't. Center-cut chops are quite lean, and left untreated they will be very dry and chewy, even when cooked to medium (an internal temperature of 150 degrees). The salt in the brine changes the structure of the muscle proteins and allows them to hold on to more moisture when exposed to heat. My tasters had no trouble picking out the chops that I had brined versus chops that I had left untreated.

If you're accustomed to brining a turkey for the holidays, you might think you don't have time to brine pork chops for a weeknight recipe like this. But I found that making the brine super-concentrated (with 1/4 cup of table salt dissolved in 1 quart of water) gets the job done in just 30 minutes-the time it will take you to prepare the fresh bread crumb coating. And my potent brine fits, along with four chops, in a medium container or gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. No brining bucket needed.

One exception: If you've purchased enhanced chops injected with a salt solution, don't brine them. The injected solution will make the chops moist, even spongy, and brining will make the meat way too salty. We prefer the flavor of natural chops and find that 30 minutes in a strong brine makes them plenty juicy.

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