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How to Cook Pork Chops

Pork Chop Skillet Dinner
Whether you stuff them, grill them or simply toss them in a skillet, pork chops are the perfect choice for any dinner—and they’re simpler than you think.

Introduction

Pork Chops and Apples

You might think all pork chops are created equal, but au contraire—there are several different cuts and types of pork chops to choose from, and plenty of ways to make them delicious. Pork chops are easy to cook and super versatile, making them the perfect choice for weeknight dinners, or a lazy Sunday supper.

A pork chop is cut perpendicularly to the spine of the pig, and is available in individual portions. They are roughly the pork equivalent to beef steaks. Those chops with bones left in usually include a rib or part of a vertebra.

Pork chops do contain a significant amount of fat and cholesterol, however they also provide 19 percent of the daily recommended value of potassium, plus 55 percent of your daily vitamin B-6, 22 percent of vitamin D and more than 100 percent of your protein for the day.

Choosing the Right Pork Chops

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For best flavor, look for chops that are about an inch thick. Bone-in chops tend to contain more fat and are thus more flavorful (they’re also less prone to overcooking). Boneless chops are easier to eat and are a leaner choice with less fat, but they do have less flavor.

Common bone-in pork chops

  • Center cut or pork loin chops: include a T-shaped bone.
  • Rib chops: come from the rib portion of the loin (from the shoulder to the middle of the loin). These chops tend to be fattier, more tender and cook very quickly.
  • Blade or shoulder chops: come from the spine and contain connective tissue. These chops are dark in color, and tend to be tough and gristly. They often need tenderization before cooking.
  • Loin chops: come from the hip and loin, and can contain some tenderloin. These chops tend to have a mild flavor, and are great for grilling or broiling.
  • Sirloin chops: an economical cut that comes from the hip area. These chops are tough, but flavorful.

Fresh pork chops, packaged and sealed, can be kept in the refrigerator two to four days before cooking. If you buy pork chops from a butcher or supermarket meat counter, ask the butcher how to store the meat, and how long it will last in the fridge.

If you’d like to buy fresh pork chops to freeze, you can do so for about six months providing you wrap it in coated freezer paper heavy-duty aluminum foil, heavy-duty plastic wrap or in heavy-duty freezer bags. Make sure to portion it out, and cover bones with extra paper, foil or plastic so they don’t poke through the wrapping. Wrap the chops tightly, pressing out as much air as you can. According to the National Pork Board, it takes about 12-14 hours for a frozen one-inch chop to thaw properly.

Pork chops are typically a very economical choice for dinners, and since they freeze so well, stocking up during sales is always an option. Wondering whether it’s worth splurging on organic or natural pork? Here’s what you need to know about organic versus conventional pork chops: Those that are certified organic come from pigs that are not treated with antibiotics, synthetic hormones and pesticides; the food the animals ate must also adhere to these standards. Organic certification for pork also requires that the animals have access to the outdoors. The term “natural” does not have strict requirements, but may mean that the pork is minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients. Be wary of “hormone-free” on labels; some manufacturers use this claim as a selling point, but the USDA forbids the use of added hormones in any pork or poultry products anyway.

How to Prepare Pork Chops

Italian Breaded Pork Chops

Some people like pork chops seasoned simply with salt and pepper, but a marinade is a great option to add flavor and to avoid drying the meat out during cooking. Try using your favorite chili, barbecue or lemon-garlic sauce or salad dressing—think Italian or another oil-and-vinegar based dressing—to keep your meat moist and flavorful, or use one of our easy marinade recipes. Brining pork chops is also a great way to add flavor and keep them juicy. Submerge chops in a solution of 1 cup water to 1 tablespoon salt, cover and keep in the fridge for 30 minutes to 4 hours.

Whether your pork chops are marinated, brined, or you’ll just be seasoning with salt and pepper, make sure to set them on a plate on the counter up to 30 minutes before cooking. (This way the outside won’t overcook before the inside can come to the right temperature.) Once you’ve mastered the simple art of making pork chops, try breading or stuffing them before you cook!

How to Cook Pork Chops

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Pork chops can be cooked on the stovetop, roasted, grilled or even made in the slow cooker. Pan-cooking should be done over medium heat so the heat distributes through the meat evenly. Baking or roasting takes a bit longer—about an hour—but can be useful when you have other food to prepare. Grilling is a super-fast way to cook pork chops, while slow-cooking them is low maintenance and seals in tons of flavor.

Pork chops should be cooked to between 145°F and 160°F, according to the USDA. Be careful not to undercook or overcook, and to use a meat thermometer to gauge temperature. Let the meat rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

What to Serve with Pork Chops

Pork Chops and Apples

Pork chops pair perfectly with almost any veggie, a simple salad, potatoes or grains like pasta, rice or quinoa. Classic sides include applesauce or other apple-centric dishes, buttery mashed potatoes, root veggies like carrots or parsnips, and sauteed bell peppers. Since pork is so versatile, chops lend themselves well to just about any flavor profile. Try chili-lime, lemon-garlic, barbecue or honey-mustard.



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