When most people think of a pork chop, they think of a bone-dry, flavorless piece of meat that’s so tough it could break your knife in half. As a chef, people are always asking me why their pork chops are dry and tasteless with a texture that resembles a hockey puck. Cooking this lean cut of meat can be intimidating because there’s a very small window between perfectly done and overcooked.
But a great chop doesn’t have to be an unattainable goal or a far-off dream. Follow these few simple tips and tricks and you’ll be on your way to a juicy, flavorful pork dinner in no time.
1. Buy bone-in pork chops
Do yourself a favor and go to a quality butcher to get your pork chop. You’ll notice a huge difference in the taste and texture of the meat. When ordering, ask for bone-in pork chops that are at least 1 1/2 inches thick and are pink in color with some marbling. The bone conducts heat, helping prevent the meat from overcooking while the marbling (fat) adds flavor and moisture during the cooking process.
2. Add a flavor boost with a simple marinade
A common complaint about pork chops is that they’re bland and tasteless. A quick fix is to marinate them in a simple combination of acid (such as vinegar or lemon juice), oil, salt and aromatics (any of your favorite herbs or spices). The acid will break down the proteins to tenderize the meat and season it from the inside out. It’s best to marinate in the refrigerator at least 3 to 4 hours but no longer than 12 hours.
3. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking
After the pork chops have sat in their refrigerated salty bath, they need about 30 minutes to come to room temperature. This helps to ensure they cook evenly and retain moisture during the cooking process. While you’re waiting, dry the chops with a paper towel to remove the excess marinade and prevent burning later.
4. Start them on the stove; finish them in the oven
If you want a juicy chop, you have to quickly sear it on the stove and then transfer it to the oven. Searing creates a crust that will seal in the juices and keep your chops tender while cooking. Finishing in the oven will ensure the chop is cooked through without the risk of overcooking.
5. Add a splash of chicken stock to prevent the meat from drying out in the oven
Before transferring to the oven, add a splash of chicken stock to give an extra layer of protection against drying out. Adding a few tablespoons of butter to the top of the chops doesn’t hurt, either.
6. Buy a meat thermometer — it doesn’t have to be expensive
A meat thermometer is truly the only way to know whether the meat is done. Everyone talks about taking the temperature of meat after it’s cooked, but it’s just as important to take the temperature while it’s being cooked. For example, if the inside of the chop is only at 115 degrees Fahrenheit after searing, it’s a safe guess it will need at least 10 minutes in the oven.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends cooking pork to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for safe consumption, but it’s best to take it out of the oven between 140 and 145 degrees to account for carryover cooking while it’s resting.
7. Let it rest
Easy and simple: Let the pork chops rest for at least 10 minutes, covered, before slicing them up. The juices will redistribute back into the meat to keep them flavorful, tender and juicy.
Try this tried-and-true recipe for pork chops, and make sure you follow the steps above. Bon appetit!
Marinated Pork Chops
2 bone-in pork chops (1 1/2 to 2 inches thick)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil + 1 tablespoon
4 garlic cloves, smashed
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic cloves and thyme sprigs.
2. Add pork chops to large plastic bag. Pour marinade over pork chops, making sure to coat each one. Seal bag and refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours.
3. Remove pork chops from marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Let come to room temperature, then season generously with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
4. Heat a large, oven-safe skillet with remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side until golden brown.
5. Remove from heat and pour chicken stock into pan. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the top of each pork chop.
6. Transfer skillet to oven and cook until pork reaches 140 degrees, about 6 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness.
7. Transfer pork chops to plate, cover with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.