Pork is one of the leanest meats there is, which is why so many pork chops turn out dry and overcooked. Many home cooks are still using doneness guidelines that are long out of date. Combine these two factors and it's quite possible to make and eat a lot of not-so-great chops. To help prevent overdone pork, avoid these seven common cooking mistakes.
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Choosing Thin-Sliced Pork Chops
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. Even if you do opt for the boneless variety, make sure you choose thin-sliced pork chops that are at least 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches thick.
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Cooking Ice Cold Pork Chops
Because pork chops are relatively lean, they will easily overcook if they spend too much time in a hot pan, oven, or grill. Pork chops shouldn't be ice cold when they hit the pan or grill. By the time the interior temperature reaches the desired 145 degrees Fahrenheit, the outer crust will be much hotter (and drier). The solution is to 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. Use that time to season or marinate the meat.
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Not seasoning food, or having insufficient seasoning, is certainly one of the top mistakes home cooks make. 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.
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Not Trimming Excess Fat
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, 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.
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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 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy a parasitic worm called Trichinella. The parasite trichinella in pork was eradicated in the 1990s and in 2011, the USDA updated its cooking guidelines, now recommending 145 degrees Fahrenheit as the correct target temperature for properly prepared pork. Now, instead of automatically drying out your pork chops by cooking them too much, you can enjoy juicy ones at a nice medium instead of well-done.
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If you want them juicy, resting pork chops after cooking is a must. Resting means letting your pork chops (or 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. By giving the meat a few minutes to rest, 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.
National Fire Protection Association. Grilling safety.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trichinellosis. Updated Sept. 4, 2020.
U.S Department of Agriculture. Cooking meat? Check the new recommended temperatures.