Follow these three tips, and your friends and family will consider you the world’s expert on how to cook pork chops. Hint: a little pinkness is just fine.
There is one big problem with pork chops. If you cook off all the fat, your chops could become dry and tasteless. But a rare chop could be unsafe, and pork fat isn’t good for your health.
There’s a solution, which will give you safe and juicy but not especially rich chops.
Tips before you cook
Tip 1: Buy half-inch-thick chops with a bone. Center cut pork loin rib chops are a good choice: they’re on the bone and combine the lean loin meat and some marbling with darker meat around the edges.
Tip 2: Brine your chops. For every 2 pounds of pork chop (about four chops) you need 4 tablespoons of table salt and 4 cups of water. You’ll also need a dish that will allow you to submerge the chops in the liquid.
To make your salt solution, pour 2 cups of boiling water into a dish that contains 4 tablespoons of salt. Stir to dissolve the salt. Then you can add the remaining 2 cups of water and, if you like, any flavorings like garlic or black pepper. It’s okay to add more salt solution (with one tablespoon of salt for every cup of water) if you need it.
Cover the chops (tin foil will do), and refrigerate them for at least a half hour or up to 4 hours.
If you’ll be serving the chops with a sweet sauce like the mango salsa below, you can add ¾ teaspoons of sugar to the brine.
How to cook pork chops
When it’s time to cook, rinse your chops and pat them dry with a paper towel. Let them rest a few minutes, then rub each side with a teaspoon of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Heat a cast iron pan until a drop of cold water bounces off. You don’t need to put any grease on the pan. Now place your oiled chops in the pan, and let them cook for at least 3 minutes. Be patient. Let them sit until they come up completely when you pick them up with a pair of tongs. If they stick a bit, allow more time.
When they’re ready, there will be a brown crust on the pan side that seals in the juices. Flip them over.
By the way, you can also cook steak and salmon this way, without brining: the key is to let a thick cut develop a crust that seals in juices. You’ll cook them on the other side for at least three minutes and serve with any sauce prepared separately.
With pork chops, it’s safer to give them some time in the preheated oven, still in the cast iron pan or another dish that exposes all the chops equally to the heat.
Tip 3: Use an “instant-read” digital thermometer. After 8 minutes, pull out your dish and stick the thermometer through the side of a chop, without touching the bone. According to the National Pork Board, your chop is safe once it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit. And yes, it’s okay for the meat to be a little pink in the center. Let the meat rest for another 3 minutes or so.
You may need to experiment with your oven to get the timing right. Look here for instructions from the National Pork Board on cooking different cuts of pork in various ways. But once you know how to cook pork chops perfectly, you may be perfectly satisfied!
It’s not absolutely necessary to brine, but you need only a half hour to make your chops juicier, and everyone will feel you made a special effort.
Add mango salsa
Mix a 1/2 cup diced peeled mango, a 1/2 cup diced plum tomato, a 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, and 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl.
October 18, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN