5 Ingredients or Fewer

Brown Sugar–Brined Pork Chops With Hot & Sour Peppers

March 16, 2020
4 Stars
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog.
Author Notes

By this point, it’s well-known that you should salt meat in advance. But did you know that you should sugar meat in advance, too? You should. I first stumbled upon this A+ tip thanks to community-favorite recipe Halfsies Chicken. This unexpected ingredient adds lots of flavor and encourages better browning. What’s more, you can apply this sweet technique (pun intended) beyond chicken—to beef, veal, lamb, and, my favorite, pork. In this recipe, pork chops get the brown sugar treatment (malty! molasses-y!), which helps them caramelize in the pan, creating a deep, dark, lacquered crust. (If you only have granulated sugar, that will work, too.) And to go with, I turn to one of my all-time favorite sides: sautéed bell peppers and yellow onions. Once melted down (be patient, this can’t be rushed), these are sweet in their own way, which is where pepperoncini come in. These spicy, zingy pickles not only add some much needed kick—but their brine serves as a pseudo-dressing to splash over the warm pork chops, too. You could serve this with nothing at all—or a simple green salad, or warm bread, or creamy polenta (for bonus points, try this Instant Pot version). And if you’re making this during warmer months, turn on the grill and try it there instead. I haven’t done this myself, yet, but you’ll keep me in the loop, right? —Emma Laperruque

Watch This Recipe
Brown Sugar–Brined Pork Chops With Hot & Sour Peppers
  • Prep time 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 4 bone-in pork chops (about 2 pounds/907 grams total)
  • 1/2 cup (106 grams) light brown sugar
  • 4 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 2 bell peppers, preferably different colors, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup sliced pepperoncini, brine reserved
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Add the pork chops to an airtight container, rub all over with the brown sugar and 4 teaspoons of salt, cover, and get in the fridge. Brine for 4 to 12 hours. If the pork chops are stacked on top of each other, shuffle them partway through, to encourage even brining.
  2. When you’re ready to eat, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet. Add the peppers and onions and season with the remaining ¾ teaspoon kosher salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally and lowering the heat as needed, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are buttery and tender. When they’re as soft as you want, cut the heat and stir in the pepperoncini, plus 1 tablespoon pepperoncini brine. Taste and adjust the salt and brine as needed.
  3. As soon as the vegetables start sautéing, heat a large, preferably cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Remove the pork chops from their brine and pat dry. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet and, once that’s hot, add the pork chops. (If your pan isn’t large enough to fit them all at once, do this in batches.) Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until an internal thermometer registers 140°F to 145°F. The sugar creates an intense (flavorful! wonderful!) caramelized crust, so fiddle with the heat, flip the chops, and move them around the pan as needed for even browning. When they’re done, transfer to a cutting board or plate, drizzle each chop with 1 teaspoon pepperoncini brine and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Serve the pork chops with the sautéed peppers and onions.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Greg Crawford
    Greg Crawford
  • Shane Bybee
    Shane Bybee
  • Eileen Hoffman
    Eileen Hoffman
  • Karen Spardello Sagaspe
    Karen Spardello Sagaspe
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in November 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

14 Reviews

Linda D. November 22, 2021
Delcious! Thank you, Emma!
 
virginia224 October 19, 2021
This was really good! Would be awesome with any kind of meet. I used hot chiles instead since that’s what I had and it turned out awesome and spicy! I also used more of the brine than it called for and let it cook a little longer on low and it was fantastic. Crazy how much flavor this has.
 
chezjewels June 8, 2020
We made this last night on the grill and it came out great! I cut the peppers into long 2” thick slices and also did thickly sliced rounds of large onions so they could go on the grill also. Put the pepperonci into a tightly wrapped foil package to warm them up at the end, and added the reserved juice to all the veg at the end. Oh, and we used an indirect heat method for the chops since they were quite lean. Quick, easy, and very little to clean up after a really delicious dinner.
 
Greg C. April 27, 2020
We made this dish tonight and everyone loved it. Especially the crispy crust the pork chops developed. The sweetness from the brine was nicely offset by the peppers and onions. It was super easy to pull together. The trick was to get that nice crust without scorching the chops because they have to cook long enough to be done. So you can't let the heat get too high. I struggled with that. One adjustment I would make is to increase the number of pepperoncini and juice. The tartness got a little lost. Already looking forward to making it again!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. April 30, 2020
So glad you enjoyed, thanks!
 
Shane B. March 25, 2020
This brine made the pork chops taste like ham, not a fan of this recipe.
 
Eileen H. March 22, 2020
Does this work if you are planning to grill the chops?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 23, 2020
Hi Eileen—I haven't tried grilling these, but I imagine it would work. If you give it a go, please report back!
 
JRL March 22, 2020
Do you wash off the brine before cooking ?
 
Karen S. March 22, 2020
No, just pat dry with paper towel. You’re going to love these!
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 22, 2020
Ditto to what Karen said!
 
Karen S. March 18, 2020
Made this for dinner tonight with two minor changes. I used thick cut boneless chops and jalapeño peppers in an jar. Everything else as per the recipe. Fantastic! Beautifully caramelized and so very moist. Highly recommend.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. March 18, 2020
Thanks, Karen! So glad to hear it turned out well.
 
Karen S. March 18, 2020
Just tagged food52 in my Instagram post 😊