Pork chops are hardly the easiest dish for a home chef to tackle. If your pork chops lack that juicy consistency so many people love, you are certainly not alone. During a Haligonia interview with "Iron Chef America" champion, Madison Cowan, one journalist confessed: "I’ve stayed away from cooking pork chops for quite some time since they always seem to end up dry and blah." Luckily, Cowan stepped in and offered some simple advice. The chef suggested cooking the chops until they reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and then letting them sit on the counter for about three minutes. Apparently, the results were fantastic.

While Cowan’s advice could be a total game-changer for folks hoping to make juicier chops, she is far from being the only chef who can help you improve your pork game. Several other culinary professionals recommend adding secret ingredients to pork chops as a way of maximizing their flavor. From bourbon to honey marinades, some of these unusual combinations could very well blow your mind.

Bourbon

It’s hardly a secret that apples and brown sugar combine well with pork chops. As chef Cory Bahr explained in a video for Knoe 8 News, pork chops are, "something that any mom or dad can put together in no time for a great weeknight meal. You know, with having brown sugar and apples and all that … the kids are gonna love it." However, the chef has an extra idea or two on how to dress up this common combination. "Trying to develop some flavor, get [your chops] nice and brown … We’re going to add our red apples … A little bit of brown sugar … [and] some bourbon."

While a touch of bourbon can add some oomph to your plate, you should be careful to choose a bottle that combines well with your meat. Before dumping your favorite spirit into the pan, it’s important to consider factors like alcohol content. Kentucky-based private chef, Whitney Fontaine, suggests staying away from bottles with a particularly high ABV since they could ruin your pork chops. As she told Liquor.com, "High alcohol coagulates meats and fats quicker than you would like." Instead, you would be better off choosing a brand of bourbon that is on the lower end of the ABV spectrum.

If you enjoy adding bourbon to your pork chops, you might also want to include it in other types of meat dishes, like beef ribs with a molasses-mustard glaze.

Kosher salt

You don’t have to cook your pork chops in spirits to improve their flavor. Sometimes, a simple but high-quality ingredient can make all the difference. For Food & Wine culinary director Jason Chapple, that ingredient is Kosher salt. As reported by Food & Wine, Chapple adds a rub to his pork chops before he even touches the stove. His seasoning of choice is a flavorful blend of black pepper and Kosher salt, which he spreads all over the meat.

Here, the choice of Kosher salt – arguably the only salt you’ll ever need — rather than regular table salt, is particularly significant. Unlike the salt you can find in most shakers, Kosher salt has only been moderately processed. In terms of composition, this means Kosher salt comes in larger pieces than its more refined alternative. Its crystals aren’t smooth like table salt, and they also have a much less intense flavor. This unique structure is what makes Kosher salt ideal for adding flavor to your pork chops.

Although salt and pepper work together to make a great dry rub, you might want to spice up your seasoning with a few more ingredients. This smoky dry rub incorporates Chapple’s two key ingredients and builds on them to create something more flavorful. By throwing in some stronger spices, like smoked paprika and a dash of cayenne, to a basic Kosher salt and pepper seasoning, your pork chops will be taken to new heights.

Thai chilies

If you’re looking for ways to spice things up in the kitchen, you might want to add hot peppers to your pork chops. Culinary director Jason Chapple told Food & Wine that he sometimes adds some heat to his pork chops by basting them with a butter infused with Thai chilies. To make it yourself, heat up a stick of unsalted butter on the stove and throw in some garlic along with a handful of Thai chilies. To ensure you get the full power from the chilies in your sauce, Chapple suggests using a knife to lightly break the peppers’ skin before adding it in. Once the butter is ready, you can baste your pork chops.

While Thai chilies are certainly flavorful, they also aren’t for everybody. As noted by Spice and Life, they are one of the hottest peppers out there. People who aren’t so keen on heat might consider substituting Thai chilies for a milder type of pepper. One delicious alternative is the cubanelle pepper, which offers a slight kick with a touch of natural sweetness. If you want to really feel the burn, however, you can take Chapple’s advice and serve your pork chops with the butter-soaked chilies piled on top.

A side of pickles

Sometimes, the thing your food really needs is a delicious side. The way "Top Chef" contestant Carla Hall sees it, a side of salty, sweet, and tangy pickles can do wonders for a fresh plate of savory pork chops. As Hall noted in an interview with The Fresh Market, some of the best pork chops she ever ate were prepared by a member of her family. "I really loved … my grandmother’s smothered pork chops. She cooked them ‘low and slow’ so by the time we ate them, they would just fall apart," Hall recalled.

Apparently, one of the factors that made her grandmother’s pork chops so delicious was the side of pickles that always accompanied the meat. "We always had pickles on the table," Hall said. According to the chef, the reason these brine-soaked cucumbers combine so well with pork relates to their vinegar component. "If you look in my fridge, I always have pickles and vinegars because they add balance and cut through rich food," she explained.

To take chef Hall’s advice and make the perfect pork chop side, you could prepare your own vegetable pickles. While this idea might seem intimidating, the process itself is actually quite simple. To start out, make a brine of salt, vinegar, and water. Then, soak some fresh cucumbers in the liquid for up to one week. Once you have your homemade pickles, serve them alongside some thick, juicy pork chops.

Trout roe

Trout roe on spoon

The word "roe" refers to fish eggs that have never been fertilized. As evidenced by its name, trout roe is just the type of roe from a trout. While some people confuse these delightful orange eggs with caviar, there is a fundamental difference between caviar and fish roe, since caviar can only come from a sturgeon.

In the United States, one of the most common ways to serve fish roe is as a sushi garnish. However, Los Angeles-based chef Andy Doubrava, has a more unusual way to use these tiny bursts of flavor. In his opinion, trout roe makes an excellent addition to pork chops.

In an interview with Resy, Doubrava explained that trout roe can give a sophisticated twist to your classic pork chop recipe. According to the chef, one way to incorporate this ingredient into a pork recipe is by tossing it into the sauce. "In the sauce, we use our ricotta whey butter, some white wine vinegar, dried currants, some coriander seeds, some herbs, and then we add smoked trout roe." Apparently, the combination works well, as both ingredients contribute a degree of elegance to the plate. "It’s a fun surf-and-turf element and it allows me to play with the smoky flavors," the chef said.

Pickled coriander seeds

Dried coriander seeds

Pork chops prepared with trout roe might sound like an unusual flavor combo. However, chef Andy Doubrava has even more pork preparation ideas hidden up his sleeve. In an interview with Flavors Unknown, Doubrava revealed there is another unexpected ingredient that he adds to his chops. "The curveballs in [our pork chop recipe], we have, like, we get really, really nice coriander seeds and pickle them," the chef said. "[This] gives it kind of a unique pop when you get one of the 10 coriander seeds that’s in each dish."

According to BBC Good Food, these delicious seeds add a warmth and citrusy taste to your cooking. Pickling the coriander seeds gives them a new dimension and adds a sharpness alongside the citrus notes, which is perfect to cut through the meaty and savory richness of the pork chops.

If you want to give Doubrava’s recipe a try, go ahead and pickle some coriander seeds at home. To do this, don’t soak seeds in the same salty vinegar solution that is commonly used for other pickles. Instead, pickle your coriander in a brine made of vinegar and sugar. This will help to accentuate the seeds’ citrusy taste, rather than overpowering it.

Chinese barbecue sauce

If you are hoping to upgrade your pork chops, you should definitely consider using a marinade. Not only will this help to make your meat more tender, but it will also add flavor to the final product. As per celebrity chef Stuart O’Keefe, one of the tastiest marinades to use on pork chops is a delightful Chinese barbecue sauce.

In an episode of the Cooking Channel’s "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" (via Jar), O’Keefe told Jar Chophouse chef Suzanne Tracht that he is a huge fan of her pork chop recipe. "Jar [Chophouse] has a char siu pork chop and it is … so good. I order it every single time," O’Keefe confessed.

Because of O’Keefe’s passion for this meal, you might want to try replicating it at home. However, according to Tracht, Chinese barbecue sauce is not easy to make. As she told O’Keefe on his cooking show, "The main ingredients are oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, a lot of garlic, ginger, fermented Chinese black beans, brown sugar, soy sauce … the kitchen sink basically." Anyone who is up for the challenge of making this marinade should bathe their pork chops for 24 hours. But, if that seems like too much of a commitment, you can always try out one of these easy marinades instead.

Coffee

It’s easy to fall into a cooking routine — which unfortunately can leave home cooks making the same old recipes week after week. When it comes to pork chops, in particular, people don’t always feel comfortable trying a new recipe. One piece for Haligonia even claims that eight out of 10 cooks only have three ways or fewer to prepare their pork chops. If these numbers are accurate, it would definitely be a shame, as this great cut of meat can be enjoyed in combination with many other flavors.

One such flavor is coffee, which is a favorite pork chop seasoning at Vibrato Grill Jazz restaurant in Los Angeles. In an interview with Today, Vibrato’s chef Christopher Ennis explained how he incorporates this ingredient into his pork chops recipe. Apparently, the trick is to take a spoonful of ground coffee, mix it with citrus zest and thyme, then use the mixture as a dry rub. After that, Ennis refrains from adding any fancy sauces, as he wants these few, yet powerful, flavors to speak for themselves. "If there are three or four ingredients on a plate, I want you to be able to taste them all," the chef said.

If you are a fan of Ennis’ pork chops, you might want to try making some other recipes with coffee.

Annatto seeds

Annatto seeds are a small red spice hailing from Latin America and the Caribbean, according to Smithsonian Magazine. These colorful seeds have been used by humans since ancient times. As noted by Spiceography, the Mayan people and Aztecs used annatto seeds in their ritualistic practices as a symbol of blood. They also crushed the seeds to make ink for writing. The Aztecs, meanwhile, used annatto seeds for culinary purposes, adding them to their bitter hot chocolate. These days, the legacy of annatto lives on, as the seeds continue to contribute both flavor and color to meals across South America. Annatto seeds — which are also known as achiote seeds — are a key ingredient in the Yucatan specialty, cochinita pibil, a slow cooked pork dish.

When prepared with pork chops, ground annatto seeds contribute a musky flavor. To incorporate this ingredient into your pork chops, combine some annatto with salt and pepper to form a dry rub. Because it can be really difficult to grind your own annatto seeds, Smithsonian Magazine recommends buying them pre-ground. If you are having trouble finding this ingredient in a supermarket, you might want to stop by a Latin American specialty grocer and make an inquiry.

Due to annatto’s history as a dye, this ingredient won’t just make your pork chops taste better — it can also make them look better, adding a vibrant red shade.

Honey

Honey is so versatile, pairing well with flavors ranging from blue cheese to lattes to red meat. As Canadian home cook, Arwen Snow, revealed in a chat with SaltWire’s "The Food Dude," honey also makes a great marinade for pork chops. The reason for this is that honey can tenderize meat, leaving your final creation with a mouthwateringly succulent texture.

To emulate Snow’s honey-marinated pork, combine three simple ingredients: honey, olive oil, and garlic. Toss these components into a plastic bag, throw your raw pork chops inside, and let them bathe in the marinade for between two and four hours. By the time your chops are ready to cook, they should feel softer to the touch.

If you’re interested in applying this technique to other types of meat, Snow says to go for it. The amateur cook told The Food Dude he has "alterations for [the marinade recipe] that are keyed into each kind of meat." When it comes to chicken, for example, he suggests adding a liberal amount of honey. "[My] chicken [marinade] tends to be more ‘herby’ too but I use much more honey," Snow explained. Rather than soaking your bird for hours, however, you should try marinating your chicken for only 30 minutes.

An open mind

There are tons of ingredients out there that can majorly dress up your pork chops. As a result, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. However, experienced chophouse chef Lilah Plaggemars says the best thing you can do is keep an open mind when it comes to hearing new ideas. One of her favorite strategies for creating an amazing meal is sitting down with other chefs for a brainstorming session. "We try to get all chefs together monthly to cook together and work on new ideas," Plaggemars told Halperns’.

Interestingly, Plaggemars doesn’t just look to elite chefs for cooking tips. On the contrary, she recommends talking to many different kinds of cooks for recommendations. "I get a great deal of inspiration from my friends in the industry. I have friends that are chefs at Michelin-star restaurants, pubs, and diners and I take ideas from all their concepts," she said. The way that the chef sees it, the next great chop preparation idea could be around the corner, and if you don’t keep an open mind, you might just miss out on it.