Pickle Brine Pork Chops (or Chicken) with Liquid Gold Sauce

By Ann Fulton

Hold onto that leftover pickle juice!  Crazy as it may seem, the components are that of a basic brine, and it will tenderize and flavor pork chops and chicken with no  “pickle-y” taste.  A sunshiny sauce adds an extra dimension of flavor with minimal  effort.
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Hold onto that pickle juice! Crazy as it may seem, the components will tenderize and flavor pork chops and chicken with no “pickle-y” taste. A sunshiny sauce adds an extra dimension of flavor with minimal effort. 


People often ask me how I come up with all the recipes I share in the newspaper and on my blog from week to week.

Many of the recipes I share on a weekly basis are my own time-tested creations, while others have been in my recipe box for years, passed on long ago by creative cooks like my friend, Jen, my Aunt Peggy, or longtime reader, Mary Lou.

Occasionally I find inspiration in an old cookbook, and I read up on current trends in an effort to add flair and health appeal to what I hope are easy and delicious home cooked meals.

Sometimes, however, I need only glance across the newsprint to a weekly LNP column called “The Press Table.“  (For those who don’t live in or around Lancaster, LNP is our newspaper for which I write a weekly Sunday food column.)

Last month, Kim Gomoll, the library manager for LNP, shared a recipe she enjoys often—pork chops marinated in pickle juice.  So often, I see recipes that I truly intend to try but ultimately struggle to squeeze into the weekly rotation.  Perhaps because I’d heard of this intriguing concept before — and possibly because there’s no shortage of pickle juice in our house this time of year — I got right on it.

Hold onto that leftover pickle juice!  Crazy as it may seem, it will tenderize and flavor pork chops and chicken with no  “pickle-y” taste.  A sunshiny sauce adds an extra dimension of flavor with minimal effort.

Kim mentioned that the flavor is not “pickle-y” at all, and the concept makes sense.  Many people brine turkeys at Thanksgiving time to add flavor and moisture to the meat.

Basic brine consists of nothing more than water and salt, and sometimes a little sugar.  Herbs and spices like thyme, parsley, and peppercorns can be added to lightly enhance the flavor.  Pickle brine accomplishes the same thing.  My grandmother, who hated to waste anything, would have loved this!

I figured the marinade might offer a little something extra to boneless, skinless chicken breasts, too, so I tossed a couple of those into the bag with the pork.  The flavor was mild but appealing—and it really wasn’t “pickle-y.”  What was more apparent was how well an overnight soak in the brine tenderized the chicken.

I find pork chops cook quicker than many people expect, and an overcooked pork chop is a dry, tough pork chop.  Variants such as bone or no bone, thickness of chops, and precise heat of the grill make it difficult to offer a hard and fast rule for cooking times.

Accordingly, the surest path to pork chop success is with a quick-read thermometer.  The National Pork Board recommends cooking chops, roasts, loins, and tenderloin to an internal temperature of 145° F, followed by a three-minute rest.  (Ground pork should be cooked to 160° F and chicken to 165° F.)

Of course, even if you brine your Thanksgiving turkey, chances are you still drizzle a little gravy over the top, right?  To add an extra dimension to Kim’s recipe (along with a thank you for sharing this clever trick!), I served it with a version of a sauce that Food Network host Jeff Mauro has dubbed “liquid gold.”

My streamlined version of the sauce requires no cooking and makes just enough to add saucy appeal to about four servings of pork or chicken.  It’s mustard-based with a hint of sweetness, but the presence of vinegar and absence of mayonnaise make it decidedly different than the typical honey mustard sauce.

Tangy with a hint of sweetness, this mayo-free mustard sauce adds great flavor to pork chops, chicken, and even salmon.

If you enjoy the zippy flavor, feel free to multiply the recipe as desired and store it in a jar in the refrigerator, where it will keep for several weeks.  And if you prefer the sweeter flavor of a traditional mayo-based honey mustard sauce but appreciate a lower fat alternative, you could add more brown sugar to taste.

Though I experimented with chicken and added a sauce, I stuck with dill pickle juice as Kim did, since we always have a steady supply.  You could, however, test the recipe with the brine of your favorite pickle variety.  Sweet flavors play well with pork chops, so I think sweet pickle brine would add complementary flavor.  Marinades with high concentrations of sugar can cause meats to burn more quickly, so just watch the heat of the grill more closely if opting for a sweeter brine.

Hold onto that leftover pickle juice!  Crazy as it may seem, the components are that of a basic brine, and it will tenderize and flavor pork chops and chicken with no  “pickle-y” taste.  A sunshiny sauce adds an extra dimension of flavor with minimal  effort.

Pickle Brine Pork Chops or Chicken with Liquid Gold Sauce
Yield: as many as needed (see notes for ratios) -- Liquid Gold Sauce recipe yields 1/3+ cup (may double or triple as desired)
Crazy as it may seem, pickle juice components are that of a basic brine, and it will tenderize and flavor pork chops and chicken with no  “pickle-y” taste. Tangy with a hint of sweetness, the mayo-free mustard sauce adds great flavor to pork chops, chicken, and even salmon.
  • Pork chops, bone-in or boneless as desired
  • Chicken pieces (we cooked boneless, skinless; choose according to preference)
  • Dill pickle brine (could try horseradish, spicy, or garlic pickles)
  • Salt (optional) and pepper
  • Optional for serving: honey mustard sauce or Liquid Gold Sauce (recipe follows)
For the Liquid Gold Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup (60g) yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 firmly packed tablespoon (15g) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon each Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce (I like sriracha)
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch (1/16 teaspoon) kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Pork or Chicken: Place the pork chops and/or chicken pieces in a large zip-top bag, and pour in the pickle juice.Seal the bag, lay it flat on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any leaks), and refrigerate all day or overnight if possible. Try to remember to flip the bag several times.

When ready to cook, drain off the marinade and discard. Sprinkle optional salt and pepper on both sides of the meat. (Brines vary in their level of saltiness; we enjoyed a light sprinkle of salt.)

Grill over medium heat until the chops or chicken are just cooked through. Time will vary based on thickness of chop or breast, presence of bone, etc. Look for an internal temperature of 145° F for pork chops and 165° F for chicken. Be cautious not to overcook the meat or the tenderness provided by the extended steep in the pickle juice will be lost.  Allow the cooked meat to rest for several minutes before cutting, and then enjoy with spoonful of sauce, if desired.

For the Liquid Gold Sauce: In a small bowl mix all of the ingredients, stirring for a minute or so to dissolve the brown sugar. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Sauce will keep for several weeks. If you prefer a sweeter sauce, feel free to add more brown sugar to taste.

Notes & Tips
  • After eating all the pickles from a 28-ounce jar of dill pickles, I measured 1 1/4 cups of brine.This amount was sufficient for 4 bone-in pork chops and 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
  • Kim mentioned that she enjoys using the brine from horseradish pickles, and that garlic or spicy pickle juice would likely be delicious. As noted above, marinades with a high sugar content should be watched more closely when cooking, as they tend to burn more easily.
  • For those who don’t usually have pickles on hand but would still like to try this recipe, Kim also shared the clever idea of asking your local sandwich shop or deli for brine, as many places discard the brine once the pickles are gone.
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  1. Miranda

    I’ve only brined chicken in pickle juice once but I have been trying to find a new recipe to try. I think I’m going to go with the pork!

    Have you tried using pickle juice from bread and butter pickles? Wondering if that amount of sweetness would work well with the pork or if that would be going overboard?

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Miranda, I haven’t use bread and butter pickle brine, although I think the underlying sweetness may work quite well with pork. As I mentioned, the biggest benefit is the tenderness the brine creates in the meat, and the pickle flavor is mild. If you try, I’d love to know how you make out!

  2. Kim Post author

    One more pickle juice hint from my partner. He loves homemade macaroni and cheese with sharp cheddar cheese. I’ve never really liked macaroni and cheese, but if he’s cooking, I’ll eat a bit of it. He likes to pour a small amount of pickle juice over the hot mac and cheese serving. The acidity cuts the sharpness and the richness of the cheddar nicely. Pepper and honey balsamic works well too!

    1. Ann Post author

      I love that idea, Kim. I’m always game to try seemingly odd combinations, so I’ll give it a go one of these days!

  3. Connie Post author

    I enjoy your Sunday News food articles. Fun to read and I have saved many of your recipes in my Try These Sometime cook book.
    I did make the refrigerator pickles and they were easy to make and very good. So this past week when your recipe featured Pickle Brine pork or Chicken…….I tried it! Chicken marinated in some of the Refrigerator Pickles’ Juice!! Two of your recipes. Very good and not overpowering with the strength of the pickle juice. The chicken was very tender. I “encouraged” my husband not to over cook on the grill and he did a great job. We tried the Liquid Gold Mustard Sauce and it complimented the chicken flavors. (Third recipe here if you are counting.)

    Thanks for your hard work and fun and easy instructions in the Lancaster Sunday News!

    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for your wonderful comment, Connie. This is the sort of feedback that keeps me motivated to keep doing what I do week to week. I’m delighted you’ve tried and enjoyed so many of my recipes…and great job to your husband on not overdoing it on the grill! 🙂

  4. Amy Post author

    Awesome results! I used the leftover pickle juice for some chicken I had in the fridge. After an overnight soak it was probably the most tender chicken I’ve ever managed to grill. Thank you!

    1. Ann Post author

      I know, right? I really noticed the difference with the chicken, too. So glad you had great results, Amy!

  5. Nadja Dobesch

    Hi Ann,
    I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but experience tells me you can’t go wrong with this: A popular winter dish in my home is cubed beef or strips of beef, browned (with onions) and then simmered in water or beef broth and a really good dose of fermented (!) dill cucumber pickle brine. Add a few slices of the cucumbers and serve with potatoes and perhaps a bit of sour cream. I fashioned this after the Russian beef à la tatare (azu po tatarski – which is obviously not what we know as steak tartare!), but I omit the traditional tomato paste.
    I will give your recipe a try – though right now my family can’t get enough of your chili lime chicken and absolutely famous Greek marinade chicken!


    1. Ann Post author

      I so appreciate your thoughtful comment, Nadja. Thank you for taking a moment to provide these details. Your recipe sounds intriguing and I’m delighted that you’ve been enjoying two of our summertime favorites!

      1. Nadja

        … not just these two … I think I’ve said it before, but your style of cooking and experimenting is similar to my own. I never run out of ideas and recipes I’d like to try, and I’m sure this condition is going to get worse: Starting in September, my older son (just turned 15) will attend a 5-year gastronomy and hotel business school where he has to take cooking exams (and hopefully get a cooking diploma)…