Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Perfect “Dry-Brined” Pork Chops – Come for the Oxymoron, Stay for the Juicy Meat

I’ve wanted to do a video on “dry-brining” for a while now, and was reminded of that fact after recently seeing a friend’s blog post on the subject. That friend would be the lovely and talented, Jennifer Yu, who publishes the blog, Use Real Butter.

Seeing those juicy pork chops in her post inspired this video, which features one of my favorite getting-meat-ready-for-the-grill techniques of all time. If you can call sprinkling salt on pork chops, a “technique,” and for the purposes of this post, we will. 

By the way, if this looks familiar, it should. We’ve used this trick before in previous videos, but just never called it “dry-brining,” mostly because that’s not a thing. By definition, a “brine” is a liquid, but since this contains the same active ingredients, and has the same effect, we don’t let a minor detail like no water get in our way.

I could go into a long, scientific explanation of what exactly happens here, but instead I’ll provide a link to this great article on Serious Eats, by J. Kenji López-Alt. Jen used his cookbook, The Food Lab, as a guide, and so we’ll send you his way for all the pertinent details.

While our friend Kenji will do a much better job explaining the science behind this magical method, I think I did a decent job in the video explaining how wonderfully this works. As long as you don’t horribly overcook your meat, this “dry-brine” technique will produce the juiciest, and most flavorful pork chops you’ve ever had.

So, a big thank you to Jennifer for inspiring us, as well as to Kenji for inspiring her. With peak grilling season right around the corner, I really do hope you give this amazingly simple trick a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large pork chops:
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Mix and apply generously to both sides of the chops. Let “brine” uncovered in the fridge for 18-24 hours. Some say you can do this in less time, but I’ve always let it go at least overnight.


Karen said...

I love your rhymes! How would a boneless pork loin work?

Christopher Zilla said...

Mmm these remind me of the good ol' days out in the forest where I could just whack a wild pig with a wooden sword until pork chops fell out of it. Then I'd throw them in a cobblestone furnace to grill up to perfection.

Frank said...

I will try this but I don't see how it could possibly be better than your Mongolian pork chops.

Divtal said...

That's for tomorrow! I bought the chops today.

Do you think that recipe/technique would be good with chicken? (although, I can't think of much that isn't good with chicken.)

I always use bone-in, skin-on chicken, unless it's for kebabs, stir fry etc.. A favorite chicken "go to," is Kosher salt/black pepper/cayenne ... and a drop, or two, of "Kitchen Bouquet." So, it wouldn't be much of a departure.

I've never tried applying a rub, or seasoning, under the skin for a marinade for a full 24 hours.

Will Clark said...

Chef John,

I heard you mention in the video that you can add sugar to this recipe. What type of sugar would you suggest, and about how much would you suggest to throw in the rub?

Will Clark

Cryptoclassic said...

Does this technique work with other types of meat?

cookinmom said...

I love dry brine sooo much better than a wet. I dry brined my turkey at Thanksgiving and will never do it any other way!

Chris K. said...

I hate to be pedantic but a "dry brine" is another way of describing a short-term "cure."

My favorite blend is a couple big handfuls of fresh sage, stems and all. A couple sprigs of fresh rosemary, and a big wad of fresh thyme. I grind it all up in a food processor with 1/2 a head of garlic and some red pepper flakes. Then I add 2 cups of kosher salt and grind it until it's a thick, bright green, dry-ish paste.

I transfer the processed "paste" into a big mixing bowl with another 2 cups of kosher salt and stir until it's thoroughly combined. The end result is salamoia, what ueed to be a seasoning blend for Italian salumi, but turns out to be an extremely versatile seasoning salt for all kinds of applications.

One of my favorites is seasoning for roast chicken. But it's great on sauteed vegetables, in salad dressing, even popcorn (although my wife disagrees on this point). It is especially terrific on meats intended for high temperature grilling. Salamoia keeps well for several months in a cool, dry cupboard. I am hooked on it.

I've given out batches of salamoia as cheap gifts (in fancy bottles with festive ribbons, Martha Stewart-style) to friends and colleagues, and everybody loves the stuff. You should check it out sometime.

Raymond Keeler said...

stupid question...

are we to use all of the dry rub? i mean, dry brine? Not sure if you said to use it all.

again, thanks for all of your hard work and patience.

LowerCaseR said...

You didn't render the fat on the side on the grill :(

andrew pool said...

Thanks for the awesome video (as usual), looks like I'm off to get some pork chops!

Artemis r said...

Our pork cuts are locally raised but the pork products we receive are frozen. You have many great recipes. Do you advise defrosting the meat then rubs and brines or going ahead and adding those flavors and reps while frozen and defrosting?

inchrisin said...

Looks soo yummy, John! Thanks for the vid.

I've played with dry brine in a few applications. I find that it's really good for thinner foods. I've used dry brine on pork shoulder and you get a lot of hot spots with the saltiness. Do you worry at all about the thickness of the chops here? Also, dry brine actually brings a lot of moisture from the meat to the surface. I was surprised not to see any chop juice under the rack in the fridge. Maybe it was because you left them uncovered? A great way to develop a pellicle that smoke from a grill sticks to. I've never seen anyone grill a chop on the bone tip before. I'm stealing this idea! Thank you, sir.

Food Junkie said...

These do produce a juicy chop but I found them a bit on the salty side for my taste. I may have applied the rub a little heavier than you did but it is hard to tell. I will be making this again but will definitely pare down the amount I use to try and find a personal sweet spot for the amount.

Ying Jie-Jie said...

Like Food Junkie, I found the chops on the salty side. I, too, will be reducing the amount of salt, but otherwise, the chops show promise. Will make again after adjusting the salt. Thanks, Chef John!

Janice said...

This tells you how to brine them but not how to cook them? We usually grill. Is this advisable for this method? If not, what is better?


I made this and substituted one tablespoon of kosher salt with one tablespoon of lemon pepper. My family was amazed at the flavor!

Tom Westbrook said...

I tried this yesterday for dinner and the flavor was fantastic. The chops were pretty dry, though, sitting in the fridge uncovered for 24 hours, so next time I think I'll cover them loosely with foil.

Dale Percy said...

Hi Chef!
I made a "Food Wish" on your latest Greek Chicken video about de-boning and stuffing chicken thighs. I'd still love to see your take on that, because I recently de-boned a bunch of chicken thighs myself, with varying results, however, I took a couple out of the freezer early yesterday to try this method on them. I must say, they came out amazingly! I have done the pork chops (boneless, loin chops for a dinner party, and wound up being propositioned by one of my guests to be her: "Other husband"), but it was just me tonight so a couple little boneless chicken thighs were good enough for dinner. Makes me wonder what else this method might work on? Thus begins the alchemy!

Silly Papa said...

I used your dry brine, and my daughter and I loved it. My wife liked it, too, but said it was a little salty for her taste. If I want to reduce saltines, would it be better to reduce the amount of salt in the dry brine, or decrease the amount of time I let it sit in the fridge before I cook it?