Jack Daniels-Brined Pork Chops

Jack Daniels-Brined Pork Chops

Spring time is grill time at our house. I like my grill, but I’m a fair-weather griller. You won’t find me in the middle of winter donning a parka and mittens trying to work the tongs. Now that the weather is grill-friendly, however, I’ll be at the grill a couple of times each week. My grill is also a smoker and sometimes on Saturday’s when I’m going to be near the house all day, I’ll smoke a brisket or pork shoulder “low and slow” for six to ten hours.

When I don’t want to commit to an all day grill-a-thon, one of my other favorites is pork chops. I am of the generation that can’t hear the words “pork chops” without thinking of Peter Brady’s saying “Pork Chops and Apple Sauce” in his attempt to adopt a Humphrey Bogart-like persona. You may not realize it but the pork that was on the Brady Bunch’s dinner table is a lot different that what you and I eat today.

There is some good news and some bad news related to today’s pork. The good news is that pork is much leaner than it was a couple of decades ago, about 30% leaner. The bad news is that with the fat went much of the flavor. One of TV superstar chef Emeril's catch phrases is “Pork Fat Rules.” He is right. Bacon tastes so good because it still has a lot of fat. Much of the rest of the hog, especially the chop, is very lean on fat and on flavor.

All-in-all I think the leaner pork is probably a good thing. There are techniques that can enhance flavor without adding fat. Brining is one of those techniques. There is science behind brining. Think osmosis. If you really want to understand how it works, check out Cooking for Engineers. It will tell you way more than anyone needs to know about brining and many other aspects of cooking.

Anyway, this brining technique uses Jack Daniels to add extra flavor. This is my absolute favorite way to prepare pork chops. Here is the recipe.   

Jack Daniels-Brined Pork Chops

  • 4 pork chops (either bone in or boneless can work)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 7 allspice berries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Dash of grated nutmeg
  • One-quarter cup Jack Daniels
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 cups cold water

Bring 1 cup of water to boil and add the brown sugar and salt whisking until the sugar and salt are dissolved in the water. Add the other ingredients to the hot water and allow this to steep for about 10 minutes. Pour the brine mixture into a heavy duty zip lock bag.
Add the additional 2 cups of cold water. Put the pork chops in the bag, seal the bag, and place in the refrigerator for two to four hours.
When you are ready to cook the chops, prepare your grill. If you have the ability to smoke, using indirect heat, these chops taste best when smoked for about 30 minutes prior to direct-heat grilling. Apple wood chips work well for this recipe but hickory is good too.

Whether you smoke them or not, the chops eventually will need to be grilled directly over the fire. So, prepare your grill and put the chops on. If you smoke them first, your direct-grill time will only need to be about 10 minutes. If you are not smoking them, they will need to grill longer. Use an internal-read thermometer and cook them until they reach 160 degree.

Remove the chops from the grill and let them “rest” for about 5 minutes prior to serving. This gives the moisture time to settle and it will result in a juicier piece of meat.

I like to serve these with horseradish mashed potatoes with a green salad. Here is good recipe for horseradish mashed potatoes.

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