Pork is one of the leanest meats there is, which is why so many pork chops turn out dry and overcooked. Not only that, but many home cooks are still using doneness guidelines that are long out of date. Combine these two factors and we end up making—and eating—a lot of not-so-great chops. To help prevent overdone pork, avoid these seven common cooking mistakes.
01 of 07
If preventing dry pork is a top priority for you, then it's important to start by choosing the right chops. Sure, we understand that the boneless ones were on sale and no one really wants to pay per pound for a bone you're not even going to eat, but that bone is what keeps the pork chop moist and imparts flavor. For best results, choose bone-in pork chops that are 1 to 1 1/2-inches thick.
02 of 07
Simply put, pork chops that are too thin are highly prone to overcooking. It's not uncommon to see boneless pork chops that are cut to half an inch thick—or even thinner! These super-thin chops are always boneless because the width of the bone itself prevents the meat from being sliced any thinner. In short, even if you do opt for the boneless variety, make sure you choose thin-sliced pork chops that are at least an inch to 1 1/2 inches thick.
03 of 07
Because pork chops are relatively lean, they will easily overcook if they spend too much time in a hot pan, oven, or grill. That's why pork chops shouldn't be ice cold when it hits the pan or grill. By the time the interior temperature reaches the desired 145 F, the outer crust will be much hotter (and drier). The solution: take your pork chops out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to cook them, so they can sit and come to room temperature. You can use that time to season or marinate.
04 of 07
Not seasoning food—or having insufficient seasoning—is certainly one of the top mistakes home cooks make and pork chops are a prime example of this. As pork has grown leaner over the years, its flavor has become milder, so adding the right amount of seasoning is extremely important. When you do it matters less than the fact that you season them at all. At a minimum, use Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Marinating also helps, especially if you're cooking the chops on the grill since the marinade will help prevent them from drying out. Dry rubs can also be nice.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
You'll often see fat around the edges of a pork chop. Not trimming excess fat can be a problem. Ideally, this should be trimmed to about 1/4 of an inch all around. If your butcher hasn't done this for you, you can do it at home with a sharp knife. Especially when grilling, this excess fat can drip onto the coals and cause flare-ups, which can cause all kinds of other problems (no one wants their pork chops to taste like ash!).
06 of 07
Cooking pork chops well-done is a biggie and it stems from fear of a foodborne illness that has long since been eradicated. For generations, people were taught that pork needed to be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 F to destroy a parasitic worm called Trichinella. However, trichinella in pork was eradicated in the 1990s and in 2011, the USDA updated its cooking guidelines, now recommending 145 F as the correct target temperature for properly prepared pork. Now, instead of automatically drying out your pork chops by cooking them to 160 F, you can enjoy juicy ones at a nice medium instead of well-done.
07 of 07
If you want them juicy, resting pork chops after cooking is a must. Resting means letting your pork chops (and this really goes for any meat) sit for a few minutes after removing them from the grill, oven or wherever you cooked them. When you cook a piece of meat, the juices race toward the center, away from the heat source. Cut into it immediately and those juices spill all over the place. But give the meat a few minutes to rest and the juices will be reabsorbed, ensuring that each bite is as juicy as possible. For pork chops, resting for 2 to 3 minutes should be plenty.