This pork chop marinade is a simple mixture made with common ingredients, but takes your pork chops from good to great!
Pork chops are one of my go-tos for a quick and satisfying family meal. They’re readily available, relatively inexpensive, and my family loves them.
One of the not-so-great things about pork chops, though, is they can be a little bland. What to do about that? Brining is a great way to boost the flavor and juiciness of lean meats like pork, as is dry brining.
But to add even more flavor, I mix up a marinade.
How does a marinade work?
You might think of a marinade as something that seeps into meat, adding flavor and also tenderizing that meat. But that’s actually a bit of a myth.
Marinades do add flavor and tenderness, but unlike a brine, they don’t actually seep into your meat more than about 1/8 of an inch. No matter how long you marinate.
It’s even possible to over-marinate. That’s because most marinades have one or more acidic ingredients, and acid will indeed initially tenderize the surface of your meat, but then it will go on to make it tough.
So instead of thinking of a marinade as a long soak that flavors and tenderizes your meat through and through, think of it as a brief soak that will add a flavorful crust. How brief? That depends on the type of meat and how acidic your marinade is, but I’ve found that 15 to 20 minutes adds plenty of flavor—and I don’t recommend more than 45 minutes to an hour.
The makings of a marinade
A good marinade should have a fatty base because fat helps carry flavor and helps any particles in the marinade—chopped garlic or herbs, for example—stick to the meat.
It should also have some acid, to break down the meat, which helps the marinade absorb—but as you now know, not much beyond the surface. A little acid also helps balance the overall flavor of the marinade—like how acid gives a pleasant tang to salad dressing.
A marinade should also have aromatics—things like herbs, spices, onion, and/or garlic.
Finally, a marinade might include salt, sugar, or salty or sugary ingredients, like soy sauce or honey.
The best pork chop marinade
My pork chop marinade puts it all together, inspired by the flavors that we all know go well with pork. It has olive oil as the fatty base, then adds apple juice and apple cider vinegar for flavor and acidity, plus aromatics in the form of sage, thyme, and garlic. Extras include a touch of soy sauce, a dab of Dijon mustard, and brown sugar.
Mix it up, put it in a shallow dish or resealable bag with your chops, then set it all aside at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes. After marinating, cook your chops however you like—on the stovetop, on the grill, or in the oven.
A quick tip for even more flavor
Want to get even more marinade flavor into each and every bite? Set some aside before adding your meat, then serve the saved marinade at the table as a drizzling sauce. :)
A simple mixture made with common ingredients, this marinade will take your pork chops from good to great!
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage, thyme, or a combination
- 4 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 4 tsp. soy sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 bone-in or boneless pork chops, 3/4- to 1 inch thick
- In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the oil, apple juice, vinegar, brown sugar, herbs, mustard, soy sauce, garlic, and salt. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.
- Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish or resealable bag, add the chops, and seal the bag, squeezing out as much air as possible. Set aside at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Remove the chops from the marinade and cook them however you like.