Apple Cider Sage Pork Chops
Updated Dec 01, 2022
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Perfect pork chops brined in apple cider and cooked with fresh apples and sage. They look impressive, but between you and me, they’re super easy to make! All you need is a cast iron skillet and a my insider tips for juicy, crusty browned, no-fail pork chops.
Apple Cider, Sage-y Pork Chops – The Best Fall Dinner Idea
Let’s scrap the idea that restaurant-worthy, pan fried pork chops are unattainable at home. It’s quite the opposite! The secret here relies on a few techniques – brining, searing time, temperature testing, and a beautifully browned butter base.
But before we get started, let me just say that this apple cider, sage version hits the sweet spot for an impressive (and relatively inexpensive) fall dinner idea. The pork chops are brined in an apple cider solution, seared until golden in browned butter, then cooked with fresh apples and sage. Oh yeah – so good.
It’s a nice break from the typical chicken or steak, and honestly gives pork chops the spotlight they deserve on a weeknight dinner or holiday table! So grab your best cast iron skillet and I’ll show you how to cook pork chops to perfection.
Ingredients You’ll Need
For mouthwatering chops – brining is a small (yet crucial) step. I’ll go more into detail why later, but here’s what you’ll need for it.
For the brine you’ll need:
- Water & Apple Cider: If you can, grab apple cider and not apple juice. There’s a difference!
- Kosher Salt & Black Peppercorns: Salt plays a huge role in tenderizing the meat (which I’ll talk more about below) and the peppercorns will give this a spiced kick.
- Garlic & Sage Leaves: A fall inspired aromatic combo that really takes these pork chops over the top.
For the pork chops you’ll need:
- Butter: Opt for unsalted butter as the chops will already have been soaked in the salty, briny solution.
- Pork Chops: Bone-in pork chops are the way to go for maximum tenderness. (Keep on reading to see why!)
- Apples: Freshly sliced apples are added for a sweet, crisp touch, and taste amazing with a bite of that savory pork chop. I personally like honeycrisp or gala apple for this recipe, but you can use what you like.
- Coconut Sugar: Just one tablespoon is needed to give a touch of sweetness to the buttery skillet sauce.
- Shallot & Sage Leaves: I’m adding a bit more sage leaves again to really enhance the overall autumnal flavor.
- Apple Cider & Dijon Mustard: A blend of these two will add lots of flavor and depth to the apple cider sauce.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
Bone-In vs Boneless Pork Chops
Let’s cut to the chase between the ongoing debate of bone-in vs boneless. Yes, both can yield juicy, perfectly cooked results. But bone-in meats, and even seafood (like my grilled salmon steaks), have the upper hand in a few areas. Here’s my case:
- There’s more fatty goodness around the bone. As the pork chop cooks, the bone heats up the fat and the juices slowly get distributed into the meat. This will give the chop a juicier flavor and texture.
- It helps to cook it low and slow. Since bone-in meats take longer to cook, the meat is slightly more juicy and tender, and not as easily overcooked. Similar to how slow cooker recipes break down meats to meltingly tender goodness.
The Secret To Juicy Pork Chops: The Brine
Did you know that pork chops are naturally lean? Which means they’re prone to drying out faster when cooked – and no one wants to eat a rubbery pork chop. So, I’ve got a little tip for you – brining! This extra step early in the process goes a long way for extra juicy results.
When pork chops are soaked in brine (a mixture of salt, liquid, and sometimes aromatics), it helps to add additional moisture and flavor from the get-go. More specifically, the salt has a tenderizing effect on the meat, helping to soften the muscle fibers.
And good news – the brining process isn’t as long as you think. You only really need an hour or two. Heck, you’ll even notice a difference after 30 minutes. Just make sure not to exceed 12 hours, otherwise it’ll have a reverse effect and activate that (unwanted) rubbery texture again.
What’s The Ideal Internal Temperature?
According to the USDA, the safe internal pork cooking temperature is 145°F, followed by a 3-minute rest before eating. This will result in a product that is both safe to eat and at its best quality—juicy, moist, and slightly pink in the middle (yes, a smidge of pink is okay).
But make sure to use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature before removing from the skillet. Just slide it into the thickest part of the pork chop at a 45° angle, making sure not to poke it all the way through, just halfway.
How To Sear Pork Chops
Are you ready for the best pork chops ever? You’ll be blown away with these chops seared in buttery, apple cider goodness, and cooked to a perfectly juicy interior. Let’s get started!
Start with the brine. In a small pot, bring the brining ingredients to a boil (except the apple cider). Remove from the heat, stir in the apple cider, and let it cool. Then, place the pork chops in a dish, bowl, or sealed bag, and pour the cooled brine over the pork chops. Brine for a few hours in the fridge.
Prep the chops. Remove the pork chops from the brine, rinse with cold water, and pat them dry with paper towels. Then let them come to room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.
Let the searing begin! Heat your cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter and oil. Once it starts to cook a little, turn the heat down to medium and add the pork chops. Sear for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Then move them to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm while you make the apple cider sage sauce.
Apple cider sage sauce time. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and coconut sugar to the pan, and stir together. Add the sliced apples and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly soft. Then stir in the shallots and chopped sage leaves for another minute.
The final touches! Add the apple cider and mustard, and gently stir the sauce together. Add the pork chops back to the pan, and simmer in the sauce until warmed through, while occasionally spooning the sauce over the pork chops. You’ll know your chops are done when they’re cooked to 145°F.
Tips For No-Fail Pork Chops
Here’s a pro tip – always cook big chunks of meat in a cast iron skillet. It maintains consistent heat and will cook your pork chops evenly, enhancing the meat’s natural flavor, and giving it that browned crust we all love. Bonus – you can easily move the pan to the oven to finish off any meat!
For evenly cooked meat, make sure to always let your pork chops come to room temperature. From the fridge, take them out 10 to 15 minutes before you plan to cook them. From the freezer, let them defrost in the fridge overnight, then bring them to room temperature the day before cooking.
It’s tempting to slice right into the meat after it comes off the skillet. But if you do, all those delicious, fatty juices will seep right out. And we don’t want that now do we?! So if you want extra juicy meat, let it rest. Those extra 2 to 3 minutes will help the meat lock in all that moisture.
Round Out This Dinner With…
Fall-inspired sides! Make the most of this season’s hearty vegetables by giving them a quick roast or saute. You can also toss together a simple side salad with fresh leafy greens.
- Veggies: A side of roasted or sauteed veggies always hits the spot. A few delicious options that would work well with this apple flavor are roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted broccoli, garlic herb roasted potatoes, creamy mashed potatoes, or simple sauteed green beans.
- Salads: For a more refreshing bite in between, whip up a simple massaged kale salad, wild rice and arugula salad, or roasted butternut squash salad.
How To Store and Reheat Leftovers
If you happen to have leftovers (which is a rarity), store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. When it comes to reheating, I’ve got two methods to tackle the fear of drying them out.
- Microwave: For a quick reheat, the microwave is your best choice. Just place the pork chop on a plate, cover it with a wet paper towel, and heat in 30-second intervals, until the internal temperature reaches 145°F.
- Oven: Heat your oven to 350°F and place your pork chop in a baking dish along with a few tablespoons of broth. Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F.
Best Pork Chop Recipe Video
Want to see how I make this recipe? Watch the video below!
More Meaty Dinner Ideas
These pork chops make for a stunning dinner, but have you tried these meaty mains? They’re just as delicious and quite foolproof… as I’ll walk you through how to cook each type of meat perfectly.
Given how delicious (and easy) this recipe is, it’s a no brainer for your next dinner party. Or a cozy weeknight family dinner. So if you make these pork chops, let me know how they turned out! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.
Apple Cider Sage Pork Chops
For the Brine
For the Pork Chops
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- 4 bone-in pork chops
- 2 apples (I prefer honeycrisp or gala apples), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped sage leaves
- 1 cup apple cider juice
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- In a small pot, bring the water, salt, garlic, sage, and peppercorns to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in apple cider. Let the brine cool to room temperature.
- Place the pork chops in a glass baking dish or bowl (you could also use a sealed bag). Pour the cooled brine over the top of the pork chops, making sure they're completely covered, and let them brine for 1 to 2 hours (or up to 12 hours) in the fridge.
- Remove the pork chops, give them a rinse with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Let them come to room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter along with the oil. Once shimmering, turn the heat down to medium and add the pork chops. Sear for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove the chops from the pan, set on a plate, and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add another 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan, along with the coconut sugar, and stir together. Add the sliced apples and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened but still firm. Add the shallot and chopped sage leaves, and stir for another minute.
- Add the apple cider and mustard to the pan, and gently stir together. Use tongs to add the pork chops back to the pan, and bring the liquid in the pan to a simmer while warming the pork chops, about 2 to 3 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the pork chops and use an instant read thermometer to ensure the pork chops are cooked through to 145°F.
- For a slightly thicker sauce: mix 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder with 2 teaspoons water in a slurry, then add to pan.
- To make it dairy-free: use a vegan butter or swap the butter for more oil.
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