In the cooking world, a lot of breath is spent on explaining how to cook the perfect steak. What else could you expect, given the near fetishistic emphasis that gets placed on pricey, prime beef? But as long as we're on the subject of cooking to temperature and getting a sear, it's worth mentioning that, hey, there are other meats out there to which the very same principles apply, with no less tasty results. Consider the pork chop, which more or less, is the porcine equivalent of the rib eye, t-bone, or sirloin steak.
Pork chops can come from anywhere on the loin, a big muscle that runs up and down the back. But not all chops are the same, their physical characteristics depending on the particular spot that they are cut from. Blade chops, from the area closest to the shoulder, have darker, fattier meat that is rich in flavor. Rib chops, cut from along the cage, can be distinguished by their tidy round of tender meat. Sirloin chops, coming from the bit closest to the hind legs, contain a few different chunks of muscle, and can be a bit on the tough and gristly side. Two-in-one center cut chops have a piece of bone in the middle, dividing a piece of rib chop from a piece of tenderloin.
Regardless of which cut you go for, if you want them to cook like a steak, with juicy, tender results, make sure your chops are on the thick side, an inch or more in width. They shouldn't be completely devoid of fat, either—a little white worming its way through the muscle will add that porky flavor.
Many of us grew up with dry and lean, too thinly cut chops cooked until parched. Let's break that cycle and do it right this time.
You Will Need:● Oven-safe frying pan, or a frying pan and a baking dish ● Paper towels ● Tongs or a spatula ● Meat thermometer ● Aluminum foil ● Two pork chops ● Vegetable oil ● Salt and pepper ● Meat spice rub, dried ground cumin, ground sage, or ground mustard (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (it will take at least 20 minutes to warm up). Let the pork chops rest at room temperature while you are heating the oven. Coat the bottom of your frying pan with oil.
2. Spread the oil around with a paper towel—this will help ensure that the meat comes in contact with the pan evenly and browns nicely. Heat the pan over medium-high heat on the stove until the oil is almost smoking, about four minutes.
3. Meanwhile, season the chops generously with salt and pepper. Rub the spice rub, cumin, sage, or mustard on all sides of the chops, if using.
4. Once the pan is hot, place the chops in the pan and cook for five to six minutes without moving. A nice brown crust should form. Flip the chops.
5. If you’re using an oven-safe pan, transfer the pan to the oven. If you aren’t, place the chops, cooked side down, in a baking dish and transfer that to the oven.
6. Roast until the chops are well browned, firm, and have an internal temperature between 135 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit when a meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part, about five minutes. This is the sweet spot for medium, with just a faint hint of pink but still plenty of juice.
If the chops aren’t ready, put them back in for another five minutes and recheck. When they’re finished, remove the chops from the oven and loosely cover the pan with foil. Let the meat rest for two to five minutes before serving.
Once you’ve got the technique down pat, why not give them a whirl on one of our nine favorite easy pork chop recipes or one of the CHOW recipes below?
Easy Baked Pork Chop
This basic recipe takes the leftover fond in the pan and incorporates it into a white wine and mustard pan sauce, for a simple and convenient pairing. Get our Easy Baked Pork Chop recipe.
Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce
The beautiful thing about pork is that it’s both sturdily savory and mild enough to take on bold, fruity sauces, like this cherry sauce with balsamic and port. Get our Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce recipe.
Grilled Pork Chops with Fresh Plum Sauce
The same goes for this plum-based sauce with ginger and soy, which brings a bit of Asian-inspired flair to the plate. Get our Grilled Pork Chops with Fresh Plum Sauce recipe.
Braised Pork Chops and Fennel
These chops start out with the basic searing technique then finish to temperature in a braise of broth and fennel, which provides an extra dose of hearty flavor. Get our Braised Pork Chops and Fennel recipe.
Tuscan Grilled Pork Chops
You could easily adapt these chops for the pan and still serve it with the accompanying cannellini and spinach salad—it’s one of those universally agreeable sides that could get along with just about anything. Get our Braised Pork Chops and Fennel recipe.
Pan-Fried Pork Chops with Yogurt
A yogurt sauce, plus plenty of garlic, oregano, and olive oil takes these chops towards the Mediterranean, pairing them with a light cucumber and tomato salad. Get our Pan-Fried Pork Chops with Yogurt recipe.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.