These delicious, thick Pork Chops with Peppercorn Sauce are one of my favourite ways to enjoy a pork chop dinner.
It's been a long while since I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner. Not because I don't care, but because, without fail, he would always say "pork chops". Yes, this is a man who is married to a food blogger and that's all he's got. So yeah, I don't ask anymore, but I do occasionally, actually make pork chops :)
This easy pork chop recipe is one of my favourites. The Peppercorn Sauce is plate-licking good and it's perfect with the chops. It's also very tweakable, by switching up the wine (or omitting it altogether) and adding as much pepper as you're comfortable with.
When it comes to pork chops though, I quickly learned that the secret to a great pork chop is to brine them. Brining pork chops in a salt/water solution, changes the cellular structure of the meat, resulting in a more tender finished pork chop. And if you're ever dug in to a pork chop and found it a bit like shoe leather, you'll appreciate that!
I've never been much of a briner, but I've discovered the benefit that this simple preparation step can have on pork chops, so I try to plan for a little brine whenever pork chops are on the menu.
How to Brine Pork Chops
My basic formula for a brine is 1/4 cup kosher salt with 4 cups water. I like to add a bit of sugar to mine, as well (to balance out the saltiness). In order to get the salt and sugar to dissolve, you'll want to mix them first with boiling water, then cool it down with some cold water. So here's how it breaks down then ...
1/4 cup kosher salt (or 2 Tbsp fine table salt)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 cups boiling water
2 cups cold water
Dissolve the salt and brown sugar with 2 cups of boiling water, then add 2 cups of cold water to the mixture, which will cool it. Check the temperature of the brine and be sure your brine is not too warm when adding your meat. Allow to cool a bit more if necessary.
Add brine to a container deep enough to hold all the brine and allow you to submerge your pork chops. You may need to put a weight on top to keep them down in the brining liquid. Cover with plastic or foil wrap and always refrigerate while brining.
How Long to Brine Pork Chops
The ideal time to brine nice 1-inch + thick chops would be about 8 - 10 hours, so perhaps you start the brining process in the morning for that evening's' dinner. That's the ideal and as we all know, things don't always go as planned. So know that you can brine for as little as 30 minutes, if that's all the time you have to work with. A little brining is better than no brining. On the other end of the spectrum, it is not recommended to brine your pork thick chops any more than about 12 hours. Large cuts of pork (such as a pork loin roast) can brine longer, but smaller cuts are best kept under 12 hours. Thinner pork chops should ideally brine about 4 hours.
What to Do After You Brine Your Pork Chops
Once your pork chops have brined, rinse several times to remove any surface salt and dry well. Allow to stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, to come to room temperature. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and cook. If you like, you can dredge your pork chops in flour, which will give your fried pork chops a nice crust and colour.
Add Some Flavour to Your Brine!
If you like, you can replace some of the water in your brine with other liquids to add flavour to your pork chops, such as beer, cider, wine or vinegar. You can also add fresh herbs to the brining liquid, such as rosemary, sage, thyme etc. For this peppercorn pork, a few peppercorns added to the brining liquid would be a great idea.
Cook's Notes for Pork Chops with Peppercorn Sauce
While I'm sold on the benefits of brining my pork chops, it's an optional step. As noted above though, if you can squeeze in even a short brining time (even 30-45 minutes), it's worth it.
Look for nice thick pork chops for this one. Centre cut pork chops are the nicest, as they have a nice solid piece of meat.
If you own a cast iron skillet, it should definitely be your cooking pan of choice for this dish :)
As mentioned above, you can vary the wine depending on what you have on hand. White or red is fine, or even some nice dry Marsala wine works well. Same with the broth choice. I prefer chicken broth in this one myself, but beef is also nice.
Adjust the amount of pepper to your taste. Do be sure to crush the peppercorns though. You can use a mortar and pestle if you have one or if not, put the peppercorns in a little ziploc bag and whack them with a rolling pin. Don't whack too much though. You don't want powdered pepper. You really just want them not to be whole. Large pieces are fine.
Dairy free? This sauce is still lovely without the cream at the end, so if you're avoiding dairy, just skip it!
Don't forget to salt your sauce at the end. While pepper is the star here, the sauce needs a good salting to really round out the flavours.
Pork Chops with Peppercorn Sauce
- 2 one-inch thick bone-in centre cut pork chops (, brined if you like *See Notes)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup very finely chopped shallots (or onion)
- 2 - 3 tsp crushed peppercorns (black, green or red or a mixture )
- 1/4 - 1/3 cup red or white wine (or dry Marsala wine)
- 1 cup chicken or beef broth
- 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
- 2 - 3 thyme sprigs
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (or lighter cream and add more thickener)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
To thicken gravy (add only as much as needed):
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp water
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Heat olive oil and butter in an oven-proof or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Pat dry pork chops and season with salt and pepper. Scatter flour on plate and dredge pork chops lightly on both sides. Sear chops in hot skillet until lightly golden on both sides. Pop the skillet with pork chops into preheated oven and cook until pork reaches 135F, about 10-12 minutes (depending on thickness of chops). Note that this is a little undercooked because it will cook a bit further on the stove-top and a bit more as it rests, so it will get to the recommended 145F in the end.
- Remove from oven and place over medium-high heat on the stove-top. Quickly brown the chops on the stove-top, then remove to a plate to rest.
- To the hot skillet, add 1 Tbsp butter, onions and peppercorns and stir until onions are golden, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring until mostly evaporated, about 1 minute. Add broth, Dijon mustard and thyme sprigs. Reduce heat to medium and allow sauce to simmer/reduce for a few minutes. Add cream and then salt and pepper, to taste. To thicken gravy, combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Add a bit at a time to your hot gravy, stirring, until desired thickness is achieved.
- Spoon hot sauce over pork chops. Finish with a generous grind of freshly ground pepper.
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If you don't have an instant-read thermometer in your kitchen yet, why not make it your New Year's resolution to fix that :) I think they are an essential kitchen tool, especially when it comes to cooking meat. Why guess? Just stick that thermometer in and you'll know exactly when your meat is cooked to perfection!
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