5 Tips for Cooking Juicy Pork Chops Quickly
A good pork chop is a thing of beauty. When handled correctly – with a nicely caramelized crust enveloping moist, flavorful meat – it can even give your favorite cut of steak a hard time. But anyone who has eaten this cut of meat has often encountered at least one tough, dry cutlet, leading them to try and choke it anyway to save face or avoid food waste.
The oven is one way to avoid the parched pork chops, but it may take longer than I’m willing to spend on a weeknight. When I’m hungry, cooking pork chops on the stovetop can put them on my plate in minutes, but without the right care, these warriors of the week can easily turn into shoe leather.
For quick, moist, and juicy stovetop pork chops, here’s what you need to know.
Choose the right cut of pork chop
Cooking great pork chops starts at the grocery store. They come in a variety of cuts and thicknesses, but the best choice for searing in a skillet is thick bone-in chops. The bone slows down the cooking process ever so slightly, which can be a lifesaver for lean cuts of meat. My personal favorite cut has the curved bone on one side. These may be labeled ribs or center cut ribs, but porterhouse or loin chops, which have a T-shaped bone, are also suitable for quick cooking meals. (Sirloin chops should be braised.)
In terms of thickness, I find one inch to be the sweet spot. “Thin cuts dry out easily, because by the time the outside is seared enough, the meat inside is overcooked,” my colleague Becky Krystal wrote, and they’re best reserved for frying. “It can be difficult to get thick cuts evenly cooked because you risk overcooking the outside before the inside is even finished.” So unless you’re confident in your cooking, save the extra thick, double-cut pork chops for the pros.
It is not necessary to brine pork chops
In a quest to find “the absolute best way to make juicy pork chops,” food writer Ella Quittner wrote in Food52 that a wet brine “produced the juiciest chop, by a landslide” in a comparison with dry cured and uncured meat. . However, when it came to a caramelized exterior, the wet-brine chops “had the worst, because moisture is the enemy of crispiness.”
I find brining completely unnecessary ― and I’m not the only one. “Not only is brining unnecessary to make tender pork chops, but it can also introduce a lot more water into your meat, which won’t improve its texture,” Joe Sevier wrote in Epicurious. Also, brining adds to prep time which I don’t have when I want dinner imminently, so I say skip it. If you must brine, be sure to dry the chops thoroughly with a towel before searing them in the pan.
Return the meat to the counter before cooking
Removing pork chops from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking leads to more even cooking. Granted, it wasn’t very noticeable in the 1-inch-thick chops I’ve experienced, but I guess it makes a bigger difference for the thicker chops.
A more definite difference is that letting the meat rest at room temperature before searing reduces the overall cooking time by a few minutes. So when it’s time to prepare a meal, simply take the pork chops out of the fridge before you start your other dishes. Once these are well underway, you’ll have knocked the cold off the meat and you’ll get more even results.
Fat is essential for keeping pork chops moist
The leanness of the pork chops is what makes this cut a weeknight favorite, but it also means they can easily get tough and dry. The solution? Drizzle them with fat, like butter. Add aromatics while basting for extra flavor – like you might cook a steak – and then you have the added bonus of browned butter and crispy garlic and/or herbs to serve with the meat. (Yum!)
Don’t overcook the pork chops ― and let them rest
Perhaps the most important tip is not to overcook your pork chops. Growing up I was taught that pork must be well done to be safe to eat, but the USDA has since lowered the recommended safe cooking temperature from 160 degrees to 145 degrees with a three minute rest, which means you can enjoy an average pork. chop as you would a medium steak. (I prefer to take the pork chops out of the pan at 135 degrees before resting them, covered in foil, for 5 minutes where the temperature should rise to 145 degrees, which is considered medium rare.) If you don’t If you haven’t already, now would be the time to invest in an instant-read thermometer, and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying juicy, tender pork chops in no time.
Butter Pork Chops
Active time: 15 minutes | Total duration: 20 minutes
2 to 4 servings
While pork chops can be quick and tasty, they can also dry out easily. Double-cooking or brining methods that take longer can yield juicy results, but there’s an easier shortcut to delicious, moist pork chops: butter.
The leanness of pork chops is what makes this cut a quick-cooking warrior on weeknights, but it also means they can quickly become dry and tough. Brushing the chops with fat helps negate this. Add aromatics while basting for added flavor – like you might cook a steak – and then you have the added bonus of browned butter and crispy garlic or herbs to serve with the meat.
The other key is not to overcook the chops. Contrary to what you may have learned years ago, it is perfectly safe to eat pork that is undercooked. An instant-read thermometer is ideal for determining the precise temperature, but you can also rely on the feel of the meat with enough practice. (Reducing the heat once you get a nice sear on one side also reduces the risk of overcooking the meat and burning the butter.)
Following the steps below will lead you to pork chop success, and once you’ve mastered the technique, feel free to customize this recipe by changing up the seasonings.
Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.
Two (12 ounces) bone-in center-cut pork chops, about 1 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or other neutral oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Crushed garlic cloves, fresh thyme sprigs, fresh rosemary sprigs and/or fresh sage sprigs
Remove pork chops from refrigerator and transfer to counter for 30 minutes (optional, see NOTE). Pat the meat dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and sprinkle with the garlic powder, pepper and salt.
In a 10 or 12 inch stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. And the pork chops and cook, pressing down with tongs occasionally to make sure they have good contact with the pan, until nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium and, using tongs, place the chops on their side in the pan, fat side down, to melt some of the fat, about 1 minute. Lay the chops on the uncooked side; add butter, crushed garlic cloves, fresh thyme sprigs, fresh rosemary sprigs and/or fresh sage sprigs; and cook, tilting the pan evenly and using a large spoon to baste the chops with the butter, until the meat has an internal temperature of about 135 degrees, 4 to 8 minutes (see NOTE). Transfer the pork chops to a cutting board, serving platter or individual plates, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. (Meanwhile, the internal temperature of the meat should rise to 145 degrees, which is considered medium-rare.) Serve hot with the butter and aromatics from the pan poured over the top, if desired.
NOTE: Allowing pork chops to come to room temperature before cooking reduces overall cooking time by a few minutes and ensures slightly more even cooking.
Nutritional information per serving (1/2 pork chop), based on 4 | Calories: 300; Total fat: 16 g; Saturated fat: 6g; Cholesterol: 133mg; Sodium: 247mg; Carbohydrates: 1g; Dietary fiber: 0g; Sugar: 0g; Protein: 38g
This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.
Recipe by Washington Post writer Aaron Hutcherson.