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Ahhh the pork chop. The cheapest cut of meat in the supermarket, and, in my opinion, the hardest to cook. Make one mistake and you’re chewing on leather, or you have worms. What a gamble. Admittedly, I’ve been intimidated by pork chops for years, therefore avoiding them like the plague. But, every home cook should know how to cook perfect pork chops.
. The cheapest cut of meat in the supermarket, and, in my opinion, the hardest to cook. Make one mistake and you’re chewing on leather, or you have worms. What a gamble. Admittedly, I’ve been intimidated by pork chops for years, therefore avoiding them like the plague. But, every home cook should know how to cook perfect pork chops.
Pork chops are the leanest part of the pig, which means they contain less fat than say, bacon, and dry out fast. Pork chops have little flavor on their own, and need a lot of pre-stove lovin’ in the form of spice rubs or marinades.
I’m going to let you in on all my juicy pork chop secrets.
There are actually just three secrets: A marinade, a cast-iron pan, and rest time.
The Marinade: This can be anything, really. No flavor is too big, as pork chops are relatively flavorless, absorbing whatever you put on them. Additionally, because they’re so dry, they will reject a lot of the seasoning. What I’m trying to get at is, you cannot over season a pork chop.
The Cast Iron Pan: This is a non-negotiable. Obviously you can cook a pork chop in or on anything that’s hot enough. The cast iron pan delivers a crisp exterior while delivering heat slow enough to cook the interior well. It’s naturally non-stick, and it can transfer to the oven to finish the cook on your meat. This last part is essential to cooking perfect pork chops.
The Rest Time: The secret to not overcooking pork chops is to let them finish cooking during the post-oven rest. When meat is pulled out of an oven or pan, it doesn’t stop cooking. Think about boiling water…when you pull the pan off of the stove the water stops bubbling, but it retains all of its heat. Meat does the same thing, and continues to cook for several minutes after it’s removed from it’s heat source. This is where perfect pork chops are made.
Ok, now for my step-by-step guide to cooking perfect pork chops…
- First, salt and pepper each side of your pork chop generously, letting the meat sit for 15-20 minutes. Next, pick a marinade, or a rub, and let it sit 4-6 hours in a Ziploc bag or a glass container. Make sure you have enough of it to coat every pork chop. If you’ve been a long-time reader you know I LOVE these spice blends. If I’m using them on pork chops, I add some olive oil to the rub for added fat.
- Heat your cast iron pan or skillet to medium high, and add a touch of oil or non-stick spray. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Set each pork chop down in the pan on the fatty side first. They will cook longest on this side, for three minutes (It will look golden brown and be crispy on the outside, as the fat will have rendered)
- Turn the pork chops and cook three minutes on each side. After the last side is done, cover the top of the pan with tin foil–careful don’t burn yourself, and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 140 degrees F when stuck inside the center. This will vary greatly depending on the thickness of your pork chops. You may need to cook them up to 15 minutes. (If you don’t have a instant read thermometer, make a small cut in the center of one chop to make sure the juices don’t run bright red. Center should be LIGHT PINK)
- Remove the pork chops from the oven and the pan, and set on a serving dish or cutting board to rest for at least 5 minutes. This is where your pork chops become perfect.
- Serve IMMEDIATELY.
Now, pork chops are good for a lot of things, but they are not good for leftovers. Microwaved pork is nasty, so this is a meal best made the same day you’re going to eat it.
Remember, you can always keep cooking the pork chops but you can’t un-cook them. If you suspect they are over cooking, take them out of the heat, let them rest, and check the center. If you’re wrong, just pop them back in.
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet I highly recommend investing in one. I like this 12-inch one, because I can cook several cuts at once, and also make fun thinks like skillet cornbread from Chef Alex Guarnaschelli.
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