Most Pork Chops sold today, in the opinion of many cooks are too lean and therefore have no flavour. For this reason, many cooks prefer blade chops because they are the one chop with a lingering bit of fat in it still
Pork Chops can be sold boneless or bone-in. Chops on the bone will cook up moister than those that are boneless.
Pork Chops are actually supposed to be tender and moist. More often than not, though, they land on plates dry and cardboardy because they were overcooked. Many people remember being served shoe-leather Pork Chops that were so tough even the family dog couldn’t make headway on them.
This can easily happen owing to their thinness, their increasing leanness, and owing to a misunderstanding of the health safety concerns behind pork (see Nutrition below.) The various pork boards in North America adopted for a while an advertising slogan which was “the other white meat,” but with what people did to Pork Chops at home, the slogan could well have been “the other dry meat.”
If you are cooking thinner Pork Chops, be mindful that they will dry out extra quickly. Lean chops that are 1/2 inch (1 1/4 cm) thick are almost too thin to grill. They will dry out almost the second they hit the grill. It’s okay, though, to grill a chop of that thickness if it’s a blade chop, which will have bone and more fat in it to help keep the meat moist.
If you are frying very lean Pork Chops, you need to put oil in the frying pan to compensate for the fat that would have rendered out of them in the old days, or they will stick and burn. Fry uncovered, unless your recipe advises otherwise.
It’s okay to even pull Pork Chops off the heat a minute or two before they are done, then cover them while you get the rest of dinner ready. They will keep on cooking for a few minutes off the residual heat they have absorbed.
For a 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick chop, fry or grill 4 to 5 minutes per side; For a 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) thick chop, fry or grill 5 to 7 minutes per side; For a 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) thick chop, fry or grill 8 to 10 minutes per side.
If a Pork Chop has a strip of fat around it, leave it on to keep the meat moist — you can trim it off at the table. But to prevent the chop from curling during cooking, you may wish to slash the strip of fat every inch (3 cm) or so.
One of the reasons Pork Chops are overcooked is fear of the trichinosis parasite, which is killed at 137 F / 58 C.
Owing to the vagaries of people’s thermometers (home cooking thermometers, remember, aren’t regulated by any standards boards), government health boards recommend cooking pork to 160 F / 71 C. The problem is, those 23 degrees (13 degrees Celsius) make a huge difference — because at that temperature, pork is overdone and starts to dry.
Using new “Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point” (HACCP) protocols, some food safety organizations are now saying that pork should be cooked to 145 F (63 F) and held there for 15 seconds; others are saying 155 F / 68 C for 15 seconds.
Literature & Lore
“A chop is a piece of leather skillfully attached to a bone and administered to the patients at restaurants.” — Ambrose Bierce (American journalist. 1842-1913)
Tougher cuts of beef can be tenderized by pounding thin slices into even thinner slices, using a meat mallet. The pounding action flattens the meat and breaks up some of the fibers and connective tissues, making the beef a bit more tender.
Cooking the tenderized beef rapidly with high heat cooking methods is an important factor in keeping the meat tender. The flattened beef slices may be broiled, grilled, or sautéed, which provide excellent results.
A powdered meat tenderizer can be purchased and sprinkled on tougher cuts of beef. The tenderizing powders contain enzymes that help break down the tougher fibers of the meat. The enzymes are often produced from pineapple and papaya extracts.
Another option for tenderizing beef is with the use of a marinade. Soaking various cuts of beef in a marinade is a good method for adding flavor as well as to help tenderize the meat.
A proper marinade should contain an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or wine, oil such as olive oil, and seasonings such as herbs and spices. Citrus fruit juices may be used in place of the vinegar or wine to provide the acidic ingredient that is necessary to soften the tissues of the meat.
Fresh pineapple juice is an excellent ingredient for a marinade because it contains one of the most powerful natural tenderizers, the enzyme bromelin, which is very efficient in breaking down protein. This enzyme is destroyed if it is heated, so when using pineapple juice for the purpose of tenderizing meat, the juice must be fresh. (Any previously cooked or canned pineapple juice has no effect on tenderization.)
There are several important points to remember when using a marinade:
Quantity: The marinade should totally cover the meat in order for it to work effectively.
Soaking Time: When using tender cuts of beef, a soaking time of 2 hours or less is all that is required because the marinade is used basically to flavor the meat. Tougher cuts of beef should be soaked in the marinade for several hours or overnight in order to tenderize the meat as well as flavor it.
Refrigeration: Always marinate beef in the refrigerator.
Proper Containers: Since the marinade contains an acidic ingredient, reactive containers such as metal bowls should not be used. It is best to use containers such as glass or plastic bowls or plastic bags that can be sealed.
Reuse: The marinade should not be reused for any other purpose because of the bacteria that may be present from having been in contact with the raw meat. The only way the marinade can be reused is to boil it thoroughly to be used as a basting liquid or as part of a sauce for the meat.
An additional option for tenderizing beef, as well as adding flavor to it, is with the use of a rub. A dry mix of herbs and spices are applied to the raw beef and are allowed to permeate and flavor the meat over a period of time, usually overnight in the refrigerator. An endless variety of rubs can be prepared for beef depending on the types of flavors that you want to add to the meat.
Application: A rub mixture can be rubbed onto the meat, but the moisture from the meat can cause the dry ingredients to stick to your hands. The best results often occur when the ingredients are sprinkled evenly on all sides.
Ingredients: Some of the ingredients that may be used for a dry rub include black pepper, cumin, chili powder, crushed red pepper, celery seed, garlic powder or fresh crushed or minced garlic, salt, and brown sugar.
Paste Rub: A small amount of liquid may be added to the mixture in order to create a dry paste, which may be preferred in some cases. Some of the liquids that are often used are vinegar, cider vinegar, wine, or fruit juice.
Sugar Usage: Use sugar sparingly because it will melt and burn during the cooking process, especially if the beef is grilled or broiled. Too much of the burnt sugar will provide unpleasant results. Only a small amount of sugar is necessary to provide adequate flavor.
Results: Both the dry rub and the paste will form a flavorful crust when the beef is cooked. Rubs are most often used with beef ribs that will be grilled or barbecued, but they can be used with almost any cut of beef.
Barding consists of wrapping thin layers of beef fat or bacon around cuts of beef. Some of the fat melts during the roasting process, which adds moisture and flavor to the meat and serves as a natural tenderizer. The remaining fat can be removed after the meat is cooked.
If you plan to roast a lean, tough cut of beef rather than braise it, then barding may be beneficial. Lean cuts of beef, such as cuts from the round, which are among the muscles responsible for locomotion, are usually tough because often used muscles are less tender than seldom used muscles. Muscles that are constantly worked also lack internal fat, known as marbling.
Suspension muscles from the center of the animal, located in the rib and loin area, are very tender because they do not move as much as muscles in the front or rear portions of the animal. As a result, beef cuts from the loin and rib never require barding.
For a loooong time, I avoided buying and cooking pork chops.
That’s because I had been turned off so many times by tough, stringy, dry pork chops that were just about as tender as a shoe sole!
I knew the meat was inexpensive, and it was the perfect dinner solution when you couldn’t decide between poultry or red meat. But no oh no, I was not going to be pulled into the trap of leathery pork chops…
Well now I eat pork chops at least once a week!
And that’s because I have found the method of cooking pork chops that yields juicy, tender, decadent, perfect meat every time.
This method is called “reverse searing,” and it involves baking the pork chops first for 15-20 minutes to make them tender and juicy on the inside, and then searing them in screaming hot oil to get a crispy browned exterior.
And then, like we do with all meat, we’ll let those delicious pork chops rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Best of all, this method of cooking pork chops is customizable to what you have in your pantry or what you’re feeling tonight.
You can brine or marinate the chops for 20-30 minutes in an acidic solution before baking to up the flavor.
Do you have a few cloves of garlic or some fresh herbs sitting around? Smash them and sauté them in the hot oil in the pan before searing the chops to infuse another layer of flavor.
Want to go saucy? Spoon barbecue sauce, hoisin glaze, or a warmed garlicky tomato sauce over the chops before serving!
If you’re like I used to be and you’ve given up on pork chops, try this of cooking them.