Often ahead of the curve when it comes to food, Italians have been cooking pork with milk for years. A classic dish from the region of Bologna, pork loin braised in milk, uses a method that can be adopted for pork chops. Soaking the pork in milk prior to cooking results in a tender, moist meat that almost melts in your mouth.
Milking the Flavor
Classic marinades often use highly acidic ingredients, such as vinegar or citrus juices, that can dry out your meat or leave it tough. Pork is sometimes soaked in a marinade of pineapple juice, but the enzymes can turn the meat mushy instead of pleasantly tender. Lactic acid is milder than the acids in vinegar and citrus, so it tenderizes without toughening the meat. Food scientist Shirley Corriher suggests in an article in "Fine Cooking" that the calcium in milk may activate enzymes in the meat to break down the proteins.
Amount and Time
You don't have to drown your chops in milk. For every pound of of pork chops, use approximately 1/3 cup of milk. Cookbook author Rose Reisman says two hours of marination is long enough to get some benefit, but an overnight soak is best.
Herbs and Spice and Everything Nice
Fresh herbs such as rosemary and sage complement the mild flavor of pork chops. Add these to the milk as you marinate the meat. Alternatively, use a little dry thyme and basil. Drain the marinade off the chops if you plan on sauteing, grilling or broiling them.
Marinade Makes the Meal
The milk you soak the chops in can also serve as the base of a sauce for a delectable pork chop dinner. After removing the chops from the milk, pat them dry and brown them in a pan with onions, garlic and liberal amounts of butter. Add the milk marinade to the pan and turn to a low heat so that the chops simmer as the milk reduces. Classic Italian renditions include a bit of lemon zest to add more flavor dimension. The milk will curdle slightly but create a thick sauce. When the chops are fully cooked, serve over rice or potatoes and top with a bit of the sauce.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.