Cider Braised Pork Chops

Here’s a tip. America’s Test Kitchen. Watch it. Best cooking show. Ever. And it’s on PBS. Which I think makes it even better. Especially if you like to feel intellectually superior.

Actually, I love America’s Test Kitchen for a variety of reasons. It’s not the flashy, celebri-chef stuff you see on Food Network. This is honest-to-goodness cooking science. Cooking for nerds. If you want to know the how and why that something works (or doesn’t), this is the place. There’s no glamour here, just real cooking tips and information.

Another reason to love America’s Test Kitchen? Founder and host, Christopher Kimball. He created America’s Test Kitchen and its companion, Cook’s Country, from scratch and has built it into a reliable TV and print production. While he does make TV appearances outside of his own shows, he’s still the Bill Nye the Science Guy of cooking and charmingly dorky. Here’s a video of him demonstrating today’s recipe on the TODAY Show.

Cider Braised Pork Chops. Amazing! And easy! My family loved it, and as one of my customers said, “I know if it says ‘braised’ I’m going to love it!” So true. If you haven’t braised before, give this a try!

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Cook’s Country:

  • 6 bone-in blade-cut pork chops, about 1 inch thick (I used thick, boneless chops from Costco and they worked great)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup apple butter
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley (I omitted)

Before you begin, adjust the oven rack to below the middle oven position. Make sure to leave enough room for your Dutch oven’s lid. Heat oven to 300 degrees. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, don’t fret! Use a large, oven-safe pot and cover the top tightly with foil. It’ll be fine. Promise. If you’re dying to get a Dutch oven and have been put off by the price tag of some of the big name brands, try this one. It’s the one I have and it’s great!

Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Rinse and pat your chops dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.

Pat dry and season pork chops

Once the oil is hot (just smoking), add the pork chops in two batches and brown on both sides. About four minutes per side. TIP: If your meat won’t pull away from the pan, it’s not brown enough. It’s hard to over brown, so even if they seem a little too done, don’t worry.

Brown the chops on both sides

Once they’re all browned, transfer to a plate. Reduce the heat to medium. Pour off all but about 1T of fat. Add the chopped onion. Cook until soft, about five minutes.

Add the onion

See all that brown stuff in the bottom? That’s flavor. It’s going to make the dish even more awesome.

Add the garlic, flour, and 2T of the apple butter. Cook until the onions are coated and the mixture is fragrant. About one minute.

Add the garlic, apple butter, and flour

Add the cider and thyme and deglaze the pan. Now, don’t freak out, deglaze simply means to use the liquid to loosen up and scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Remember before when I said browned bits=flavor? Now’s the time to get those flavor bits into your broth. The broth is what will gently cook the chops and make them tender and wonderful.

Add the cider and deglaze the pan

Bring the liquid to a boil and return the chops and any accumulated juices from the meat to the pan. See how they all snuggle together?

Return the chops to the pan

Cover with lid (or make a lid from foil) and transfer to the oven. Braise about 1 1/2 hours or until chops are completely tender. My thicker chops were better after two hours. Transfer the chops to a platter and strain the sauce. Use a shallow spoon to skim off the fat. Or use one of these.

Strain the sauce and separate the fat

Whisk together strained sauce, vinegar, and remaining apple butter. Add the parsley. Taste, season with salt and pepper as needed.

Whisk the remaining ingredients into the sauce

Serve sauce on the side, or pour over the chops and serve.

Cider Braised Pork Chops

I like to serve these with a side of stewed apples which pick up on the apple cider flavor, and sautéed spinach which provides a contrasting flavor.

Do you braise? What are your favorite things to braise?

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