Pork chops are a common dinnertime entree as they are somewhat simple to make and can be paired with a variety of flavors and ingredients. However, one of the biggest problems that most people have with cooking pork chops is that they turn out dry, tough, and flavorless. Overcooking is one of the main reasons for this, but it can also be due to the cut of the chop as well as its fat content. The good news is that dry pork chops can be easily avoided by following a few simple guidelines.
Buying the Perfect Pork Chop
A successful outcome of a final dish often begins with the ingredients themselves. So it is important to purchase a certain cut of pork chop to assure you will have delicious results. The best pork chops are center-cut loin chops or center-cut rib chops that are one inch thick. Whether you go with a loin chop or a rib chop, you'll have better results with bone-in pork chops; not only does the bone contribute flavor but it also helps the pork chop stay nice and juicy.
You also want to be sure the pork chops are thick enough. If you've been eating pork chops that are about 1/2-inch thick, it's going to be really difficult to prepare them so that they turn out moist and juicy. If the pork chops in the meat case all appear to be this thin, ask the butcher if he or she can cut you chops that are an inch thick each.
Cooking Pork Chops to the Right Temp
Due to food safety concerns, for many years the recommended way of preparing pork was to cook it well-done, leaving many of us overcooking our pork. But today it's perfectly safe to cook pork to medium, which means it's okay for it to have a slight rosy hue.
One issue we don’t have control of is that modern pork is much leaner than pork from years ago, and because it contains less fat, it's also less moist. This makes overcooking it even more likely. But by following a few steps from prep to post-cook, you can make delicious pork chops that everyone will love.
Prepping the Pork Chops
There are a few steps you can take before you even start cooking to increase your chances of juicy pork chops. If you have stored them in the refrigerator, let the pork chops sit out for 20 minutes at room temperature before you start to cook. (You can preheat your oven to 400 F during this time.)
Dry the pork chop thoroughly with paper towels, which will help them get a really nice brown sear on the outside. Then season generously with Kosher salt—it helps to press the salt crystals into the meat so that they really grab on—and freshly ground black pepper.
Pork Chops Need a Hot Pan
Once the pork chops have been sitting, dried, and seasoned, they are ready to be cooked. The first important step is that you make sure your pan is nice and hot. Heat an oven-proof skillet on the stovetop along with a couple of teaspoons of high-heat vegetable oil. You just need enough oil to fully coat the entire surface of the pan. Make sure you get it smoking hot; it might take 4 or 5 minutes to get hot enough, but it really makes a difference. Add the pork chops to the hot pan and let them sit there for a full 3 minutes, untouched.
Time in the Oven
The perfect pork chops are then finished cooking in the oven. After they are seared on one side, flip the chops over and immediately transfer the pan to the oven. Let the chops bake for 6 to 7 minutes. For the ideal doneness, you should be able to press your thumb in the center of the chop and feel it spring back firmly against your finger. If it feels mushy or jellylike, it's not done yet. Conversely, if it feels hard, you've overcooked it. (The target temperature is about 140 F, but poking a hole in the chop with a thermometer will let the juices leak out so it is not recommended.)
Let Them Rest
When the chops are done, remove the pan from the oven, transfer the chops to a plate, and tent with foil for 3 or 4 minutes. The chops will hit 145 F while they rest. Serve with a simple pan sauce.