I don’t know if it’s the coffee or the true excitement behind sharing this recipe with you guys but lemme just say I am typing a mile a minute with the biggest grin on my face. Probably the coffee.
But really – this is a truly delicious and satisfying meal that I’m getting ready to share with you. Reverse seared & dry-brined pork chop AKA the juiciest melt in your mouth bite of pork chop you’ll ever have, paired with a tomato sauce that makes you second guess why you haven’t been putting ginger, lime, and jalapeno in all your tomato sauces.
I broke it down below into the brine, the cooking method, and the sauce. All along the way there are tips and tricks and helpful suggestions. PUHLEASE read through the recipe as you’ll see in the notes there’s much more that I didn’t squeeze in the post. I have a lot to say, so let’s get to it.
Dry Brine (Optional)
I’m sure by now we’ve all heard or have brined meat, especially come the holidays. Traditionally it’s giving meat (most commonly poultry or pork) an overnight soak in a water-salt-sugar solution to keep it juicy and tender, as these meats have a reputation of drying during cooking. We’ve all been there. There’s a science behind it (Osmosis), and if you’re interested I’d recommend giving J. Kenji López-Alt’s Serious Eat’s article a read.
I’ve become fascinated with dry brining as it doesn’t require any liquid. Well isn’t that the point? In my opinion it keeps the meat true to it’s flavor and better yet, concentrates it ten times more than your traditional brine. Lemme explain. Dry-brine is simply a good rubbin’ of salt and an overnight stay in the fridge. The process is still osmosis: the salt extracts the moisture, the salt dissolves, the salt and meat juices create a brine, and the brine works its way into the meat.
My favorite part: there’s no water involved meaning that juicy pork we bite into later is not brine water, it’s simply concentrated meat with a total flavor enhancement.
Now, I’m saying this in bold letters because I mean it – go ahead and brine the traditional way. Yes you’ll get a juicy pork and yes it works, I’m writing about dry-brine because it’s my little experiment and I’ve talked about water-brines before (see these turkey legs). K let’s carry on.
My second favorite part: the cooking method.
I’ve also talked about this before (see lamb chops), but to sum it up reverse sear is exactly how it sounds: bake the chops to almost desired temperature, then sear the heck out of it. Cooking the chops at a low heat slowly brings them to temperature without drying them out, then a QUICK sear locks in the flavor with a to-die for crust or char. You’ll see in two photos above the pork will come out of the oven pale pink/white (yup, ugly), but once you sear you get a flavorful crisp crust. Make sure you read the recipe for alllll sorts of tricks and helpful hints (like if your chop curls while searing). You can do this in your cast iron, then add in some butter, garlic, and thyme to baste (see recipe below). You can also do this entire process on your grill (see lamb chops).
If you want to cook these entirely on the grill, have a disposable pan or cast iron on the grill with melted butter, garlic, and thyme. Transfer the seared chops to the butter immediately after cooking.
I recommend this whole butter thing if you’re not making the tomato sauce, which trust me we are getting there. But I have one last thing to say. Don’t hate me.
Why the Brine is Optional
Will I go to the grocery store after work one day and see a few irresistible pork-chops that I immediately crave but it’s been a long day and the last thing I feel like doing is brining and waiting one more day for the chops that I NEED THAT VERY MOMENT? Yes. That will happen and when it does I won’t be brining my pork and I’ll be totally okay with it because that reverse sear saves me.
I have made reverse-sear pork chops several time without brining and they are still delicious.
The Tomato Sauce
I have found my new favorite combination and it’s tomato, lime, ginger, jalapeno, and cumin. OH MY GOODNESS. Throw this all together in your stock pot, sauce pan, or Dutch Oven, and let it hang out for an hour or so on your stove simmering away. After an hour you’ll be side tracked because of how amazing the house smells.
If you do not like the skin, you can remove them prior to making the sauce. The process is called concasee and instructions are here.
I knew after trying this sauce I wanted to pair it with pork. The flavors were the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and earthy with a tang. I took some leftover sauce to my mom’s and she ended up toasting some hand torn bread and eating the bread with the sauce. GIMME! I so recommend trying out this combination especially since you can go to your local market and big up a box of second tomatoes for dirt cheap.
So, let me just end by saying this meal was probably my favorite dinner I made all summer. I think Scott would totally agree. I can’t stop talking about this tomato sauce and the pork chops? Psh, made them three times since these pictures. The juiciest most tender pork chop that has the perfect touch of salt in every bite paired with the acidity of the sauce that’s been simmered with spice and tang – MMM. This is one is a treat.
I hope you read & enjoy & kinda hoping you crave this heavenly combination because I want you to start planning this one. Be sure to read through the recipe carefully and the notes as if you do decide to brine, it takes some time. ENJOY!
- 4 bone-in pork chops, preferably 1 1/2 inch thick*
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt*
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- black pepper as needed
- 2-3 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 tablespoons butter (optional)*
- 1 bunch thyme (optional)*
- 1 shallot thinly sliced (optional)*
- 1 1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes (cored)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 large lime, juiced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
- IF DRY-BRINING: Combine the salt and sugar and generously pat all over both sides of the pork chop. Lay the pork chops on a wire-rack fitted into a baking sheet. Sit in the fridge uncovered for 8-24 hours. When ready, pat the pork chops dry, season both sides with pepper, and proceed to step 3.
- IF NOT BRINING: Reduce the amount of salt listed in the recipe to only 2-3 teaspoons depending on the size of your chops. Season the pork chops on both sides until seasoned well with salt and pepper.
- FOR THE INDOOR SEAR: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Bake the pork chops until your meat thermometer reaches 120 degrees, about 35-minutes. Add the canola oil to your cast-iron skillet and heat to medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chops and sear 3 minutes. Flip and add the garlic. If using the butter/thyme/shallot, add them at this point. The shallot and thyme will burn fast, so spoon those on top of the chops. Baste the chop by spooning it with butter. Control heat as needed (and that fan!). Sear an additional 3 minutes or until your chop has formed a seared crust. Note: because the meat is attached to the bone the chop might curl while cooking, if this is the case apply pressure with a spatula to hold the chop down for an even sear.
- FOR THE OUTDOOR SEAR: Set your grill for indirect and direct cooking. Whether it's gas or charcoal, only heat one side to high while the other side is not lit at all. I light the right side. Add the chops to the indirect (away from the fire) side of the grill. Close the lid and cook 20-30 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 120 degrees. Transfer the chops to the direct side (fire) and cook until charred on each side, about 2 minutes. You can have a disposable pan on the indirect side with melted butter, garlic, shallot, and thyme (slightly cooked from the heat), and transfer the chops to the butter sauce.
- Enjoy as is, or serve with tomato sauce (below).
- Add all of the ingredients except the tomato paste to a sauce pan, Dutch oven, or stock pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (about medium-low heat). Cook for thirty minutes, then stir in the tomato paste. Cook another 1 hour (up to 1 1/2 hours), until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has formed. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Cool and store in fridge for 1-week.
- *You will notice there are several types of pork chops, most preferred are Pork Rib Chops, Blade Chops, or Center-Cut.
- *I reduced the salt by half from the original recipe as I did not need as much as the original recipe suggested.
- *I recommend doing the butter, thyme, and shallot pan sauce if you are not making this pork with the tomato sauce.
- *If you are not brining your chops, I recommend the indoor reverse sear method.