Why marinating in alcohol works
Bourbon Pork Chops are a great weeknight dinner for any season. The bourbon softens even the toughest pork chop, and the marinade makes a delicious and easy sauce for serving.
Marinating meat is a great way to add flavor, but the more important use is to soften the meat. Proper marination can make the toughest cut of meat tender. You’ll see many recipes using a combination of oil and acid (vinegar or citrus juice) to marinate meat. Those marinades tend to be very oil heavy, and hence rarely make for good cooking sauces. The best part of an alcohol based marinade is that it can be cooked down into a sauce to cover your meat with.
Alcohol works as a marinade because it breaks down the collagen in the meat. Too much collagen and your meat will be too tough to chew. But be careful not to marinate your pork chops for too long. I recommend no longer than 6 hours, but for thinner pork chops (an inch or thinner), I recommend not exceeding 2 hours. The longer the marinade interacts with the meat, the more collagen is broken down. While some collagen breakdown is desired, too much will leave you with soggy, barely held together pork chops.
You might ask, what if I’ve started marinating my pork chops but my plans changed? Are my pork chops trash now? No! But you have to act quickly. Simply take the pork chops out of the marinade, reserving as much as you can in the original bowl, rinse the pork chops, and store in a separate container. Return both containers to the fridge and they’ll be ready to cook when you are.
Make these Bourbon Pork Chops your own
I make these Bourbon Pork Chops frequently for an easy weeknight dinner, but I almost never make them exactly the same way. The biggest difference is usually the bourbon – I use something good, but not too expensive. Admittedly, ¼ cup is only a little more than a standard 1.5 oz shot, so why worry about the price? Cooking the bourbon in the sauce removes the alcohol and mutes the flavor since it is cooking together with dijon mustard and minced garlic. I would rather enjoy a nice bourbon in an old fashioned than mute its flavor into a sauce.
Another recommendation to make this recipe your own – play with the marinade ingredients. I rarely use the full 2 tbsp of brown sugar, and in fact you can omit it entirely if you prefer a tangy sauce over a sweet sauce. The bourbon is already releasing sugar into the sauce as the alcohol boils off, so additional sweetness is up to you.
While I recommend maintaining the quantity of dijon mustard, you could reduce the quantity of garlic, especially if you’re using fresh garlic. I use a jar of Kirkland Minced Garlic for most of my garlic needs, and 3 tbsp of freshly minced garlic will have a more powerful flavor. If using fresh garlic, consider reducing it to 2 tablespoons.
Lots of serving options
These Bourbon Pork Chops can be served many different ways. It’s as simple as choosing your starch and vegetable of choice. Here are a few options to consider:
- Serve over rice with a side salad as I have.
- Serve over pasta by mixing the pasta into the sauce and putting the pork chop on top. Add a roll to make a complete meal.
- These pork chops would be great over mashed potatoes.
- You could even grill the pork chops and serve with grilled veggies like corn on the cob. If you go this route, I would suggest omitting the chicken stock from the sauce preparation, as the thicker sauce will hold onto the pork chop better.
Other weeknight dinner ideas
- Green Chicken Enchilada Casserole – Think green enchiladas but as a casserole with tortilla chips and cheese melted on top.
- Grape Chicken in Brandy Sauce – Another saucy protein dinner, that derives a little sweetness from grapes.
- Homestyle Bakes Chicken and Biscuits – An improved copycat of those old Banquet brand Homestyle Bakes
How to make Bourbon Pork Chops
Bourbon Pork Chops
- 4 pork chops (about 4oz each)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/2-2 tbsp brown sugar I used 1Tbsp, scale for sweetness
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2-1 cup chicken broth (you can use bouillon and water)
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine all marinade ingredients. Stir well to form a smooth sauce.
- Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper. Add pork chops to the marinade and set aside for 10-30 minutes (or up to 6 hours).
- Remove pork chops from the marinade, shaking excess marinade off into the bowl. Reserve this leftover marinade for making the sauce.
- In a skillet on medium-high heat, brown the pork chops for 2-4 minutes per side, or until golden and slightly undercooked in the center.
- Remove the pork chops from the skillet, and add the rest of the reserved marinade to the skillet and reduce heat to medium. Stir the marinade to combine with the pork chops and their juices, then bring to a simmer.
- Add ½ cup of chicken broth to the skillet, depending on how saucy you want the dish to be. I recommend a half cup to start, and add more if you feel you need it.
- Once the pork chops are between 150-165F internal temperature, serve them over a plate of pasta or rice, drizzling sauce over top.