The secret to the juiciest, most flavorful pork chop is a simple brine with just two ingredients: salt and sugar (okay, maple sugar). Once you’ve brined, a stepped-up weeknight dinner is just a sear, baste, and bake away.
Brine: In a medium saucepan, bring water, salt, and maple sugar to a boil over high heat. Stir until dissolved, 5 minutes. Turn off heat and add ice to the concentrated brine, diluting and quickly chilling it so you can use it right away. (Alternately, add 3 cups cold water to the concentrated brine and chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before using.)
Pork Chops: Three hours before you plan to cook the pork chops, place them in a gallon-size zip-top bag set in a bowl (for easy pouring and clean-up), then pour in the brine, making sure the chops are submerged. Seal, and chill in the refrigerator 2 hours.
Remove pork chops from bag and discard brine. Dry chops well with paper towels. Allow meat 1 hour to come to room temperature (this will ensure even cooking). Season each chop on both sides with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until rippling but not smoking, 2 minutes. Sear pork chops, 1 at a time, pressing the meat down with a heavy plate or bowl to get an even, golden sear on the bottom, 1–2 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining oil and pork chops. Finish the chops by placing back in the pan, 2 at a time (for a 9-inch skillet). Turn off heat and add 3 tablespoons butter and a sprig of thyme. Tilt the pan and, using a long-handled spoon, baste the chops with the butter. Repeat with remaining chops and butter.
Finish by placing all of the pork chops on the preheated baking sheet and roasting in the oven 3–5 minutes. Chops will be done when they’re springy to the touch and the thickest part, near the bone, reaches 120 degrees F.
Assembly: Transfer chops to a bed of thyme and tent lightly with foil to rest, 5–7 minutes. Remove tent, discard thyme, and serve.