Perfect Pork Chops?
June 8, 2014 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I have bought the most expensive, most organic and local and mollycoddled pork chops in my life. I do not want to waste this experience. Please tell me how to make the perfect pan-fried pork chop in agonizing detail. I own cast iron pans and I'm going to serve it with asparagus - that's the only limitation. Otherwise anything goes. Teach me the wisdom of Pork Chopery.
posted by The Whelk to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I know that the best pork chops I ever have are at Nopa here in SF and they brine them and then do magic. So, definitely brine them. I don't know if this is exactly what they do, but it sounds about right.
posted by rtha at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2014

One small tip: if you're sautéing, add butter and a couple of cloves of garlic. Then when you turn the chops, baste them with the butter several times. Makes a big difference.
posted by argybarg at 12:15 PM on June 8, 2014

Beer cooler sous vide them (135 or 140 for an hour) then crust them in a smoking-hot cast iron. (Turn off the smoke detectors.) No contest on a better pork chop.
posted by supercres at 12:19 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

As to brine: this method doesn't need it. Brine tends to taste good (it's salt and sugar after all) but it dilutes the flavor of the meat, which you definitely want to get your money's worth from.
posted by supercres at 12:20 PM on June 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Pork Chops with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce! The best pork chops I've ever cooked used a hybrid of the cold-pan method from Cook's Illustrated with seasonings adapted liberally from Nick Stellino's "Mediterranean Flavors". We didn't brine them - they were still wonderfully juicy, and I'm a little loathe to change anything at this point.

The thickness of the chops is critical - if yours differ, choose a different recipe (and try this one next time!) You'll need an instant-read thermometer, which is a good investment if you don't already have one.

Also, I don't think this is the place to use your cast-iron pans because they will take too long to heat up - just use regular stainless steel here.


2 pork chops, 1/2 -3/4" thick
Ground black pepper
Olive oil for sautéeing
1 tsp butter
2 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
3/4 c white wine
2 Tbs whipping cream
1/2 c crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (don't overdo this - makes sauce very salty)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

1. If you have an electric stove, preheat large burner to medium-high. Do not preheat the skillet.
2. Cut 2 slits through the layer of fat and connective tissue that encircle the chops, to prevent curling during cooking.
3. Rub both sides of each chop with a little oil, then sprinkle with pepper. (Don't salt - there's already enough salt in the cheese.)
4. Place chops in cold skillet.
5. Cook over medium-high heat until nicely browned on first side, about 4 - 9 minutes, pressing down to help brown the meat evenly.
6. Reduce heat to medium-low.
7. Flip chops over and continue cooking about 3 - 6 minutes longer, until center of meat reaches 140°F on instant-read thermometer (hold chop vertical with tongs and poke thermometer in from the side).
8. Remove chops from skillet and keep warm on a plate (covering with a lid will help).
9. In same skillet, melt butter over low heat and sauté the garlic until brown.
10. Deglaze with wine and boil gently until volume is reduced to half.
11. Add cream and Gorgonzola and stir until cheese melts.
12. Add black pepper and pour any juices from plate of chops into skillet.
13. Return chops to skillet to reheat, if desired, or put on serving plates and pour sauce over top.
14.Garnish with parsley (optional) and serve right away.
posted by Quietgal at 12:23 PM on June 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

Bone-in or boneless? Rib or loin?
posted by KathrynT at 12:45 PM on June 8, 2014

Response by poster: Bone-In!
posted by The Whelk at 12:47 PM on June 8, 2014

Quietgal's quite right about the saltiness (and has a v. good recipe there), and also note that you want to use a light hand with the oil when searing.
posted by The Gaffer at 1:10 PM on June 8, 2014

Oops, yeah, forgot to say you should put a little olive oil in the cold skillet before you add the chops, about 2 tablespoons, just enough to coat the pan. And the slits you cut in the side of the pork should be about 2 inches apart and only deep enough to split the "belt" of connective tissue into 3 or 4 segments. This recipe is for bone-in chops, by the way.
posted by Quietgal at 1:43 PM on June 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is my wife's recipe; her computer is acting up so she's dictating to me. These are wonderful - she doesn't even like pork but makes the best damn pork chops I've ever had, just for me.

Maple Bacon Bourbon Butter:
1 stick of butter, softened
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp bourbon (1843 works well)
Fry one slice of bacon in your cast iron pan until crisp; crumble into butter and mash it all together. Set butter aside in fridge (you can wrap up the extra in wax paper and freeze it for later)
Make sure chops are fully thawed (if you froze them).
Put some regular butter in the pan with the drippings and cook chops to the desired done-ness, turn as needed. Set on a plate covered with foil. Add 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika and one minced clove of garlic to the pan, and let it cook (stirring constantly) for about 30seconds. Add about 3 tbsp maple syrup to pan for another 15 seconds, and deglaze with 3 tbsp bourbon, scraping bottom of pan and mixing thoroughly. Stir a splash of chicken stock to make as much sauce as desired. Let it cook til it starts to thicken. Return pork chops and any accumulated juices from plate into pan. Turn to coat with sauce and serve with sauce and MBB butter on top.

For the asparagus, cook in another pan with 2 tbsp water and 2 tbsp olive oil, uncovered. By the time the water is cooked off, they should be cooked. Add salt, pepper to taste and mix to coat with olive oil. Pine nuts or sliced almonds may be cooked with the asparagus, or a bit of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (not the shit in the green can!) can be added at the end.

(We also usually have some couscous as a second side.)
posted by notsnot at 2:18 PM on June 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

(if you want a heartier starch and make baked potatoes, the MBB butter is great for that!)
posted by notsnot at 2:19 PM on June 8, 2014

No matter what recipe you use, don't overcook the pork chops or they will dry and tough. They're best when there's a bit of pink inside.
posted by DrGail at 2:45 PM on June 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

The most often overlooked aspect of cooking meat is the temperature of the meat before it hits the pan or grill. So it depends on how thick the chops are. For pork chops I would let them come to room temperature before.

Hot pan cold oil, a little large salt before the pan and if you cook it to the FDA heat recommendations the ghosts of pigs past will haunt you. I would use canola rather than olive oil owing to the relative smoke temperature. Some pepper to finish.

You remember your Brady Bunch of course so something apple to accompany and my secret is a light chamomile reduction.

Just don't overcook it yo.
posted by vapidave at 3:05 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I will second the recommendation for sous vide at 57C/135F to 60C/140F, a brief rest and then a 30 second sear in a screaming hot skillet with oil and butter. "Getto sous vide" can easily be done with a large stock pot, a thermometer and a few baggies. Most pork chops are horribly overcooked, and having a properly medium-rare pork chop is a revelation.
posted by slkinsey at 3:19 PM on June 8, 2014

I would sauté them with some butter and olive oil, at medium high. If the pork is as pure as you say, salt and pepper should be plenty. Serve with baked apples and sweet potatoes.

Another option is, after they're browned, add the best imported Italian tomatoes you can get fresh or canned) and fresh sage.

Serve over fresh pasta.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:22 PM on June 8, 2014

I have developed the Northern California belief that perfectly raised/grown food should be cooked as simply as possible, to highlight its flavors.

If it were me (and it was me a few weeks ago, and they were the best organic humanely raised local pork chops I have ever ever ever eaten):

Bring the pork chops to room temperature by taking them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking them. Rub them with a bit of olive oil, then add salt and pepper (and fresh rosemary if you have some).

After 30 minutes, heat a cast-iron skillet to very hot. (A tiny drop of water flicked onto the surface should evaporate in about one second.)

Put the pork chops on the hot skillet. DO NOT MOVE THEM. Let them sizzle for five minutes (assuming 1" to 1 1/2" inches thick; if they're two inches, add a minute).

Flip them. DO NOT MOVE THEM. Let them sizzle for four to five minutes.

Take them off the heat and let them rest (do not cut them!) for at least five minutes.

(I like an apple-cider vinaigrette on my asparagus when served with pork -- chop a shallot, throw it in a bowl with ACV, olive oil, and bit of salt and pepper, mix it up, spoon a bit over the cooked asparagus. The ACV works really well with the pork.)
posted by jaguar at 3:26 PM on June 8, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm in a minority on this, I appreciate, but I favour oven cooking pork chops. 25 mins at 200 degrees is perfect for me, and easy.
posted by prentiz at 3:29 PM on June 8, 2014

Jaguar has your answer. A great heritage breed chop need neither sauce nor brine. Just a hot pan.
posted by JPD at 5:01 PM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you go for the pan method, use bacon fat instead of olive oil. It can take a higher temp than olive oil so you can get a nice crust on it.
posted by fiercekitten at 5:45 PM on June 8, 2014

Seconding Jaguar's method, although I have also moved them to the oven for a few minutes after frying, as described here (I couldn't locate my recipe but this is good too). Preheat the oven, heat your skillet in the oven to get it hot, fry the chops in the skillet, move skillet to oven for a few minutes (like, only 6-7 minutes) to finish things off. Delicious, and I think a little oven time makes them juicier.
posted by luckyveronica at 7:34 AM on June 9, 2014

Pork chop = steak.

Salt. Pepper. Pan-sear to a nice golden brown.

Roast until juuust past med rare. Rest until medium.

Don't cook past medium, please.

Make a compound butter with apple and fennel pollen.

posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:29 AM on June 9, 2014

If you haven't done it yet, nthing the low-tech sous vide approach--you don't have to make it complicated. If you put even a thick chop in a zip bag, force most of the air out by slowly submerging it in water up to the zipper, and then put the bag in the largest pot you have full of say 135f water, that chop is going to gradually come up to the temperature you want it. A beer cooler makes this even easier. After as little as an hour your chop will be "done" to your desired temp, and you can sear it as hot and as short as possible. When you do this with steak it's very evident that the inside is evenly pink instead of a gradient from gray to pink. That means more delicious tender juicy pork flavor surrounded by the key flavor of strong browning. I've done this well, and I've screwed it up by not having my browning pan hot enough, cooking too long, and ruining the middle.
I've moved on to an Anova circulator and a vacuum sealer, but if I didn't have them I would still cook those really precious cuts the beer cooler way. (If you do have a vacuum sealer, the bones in a chop can pierce the bag--I'll put a garlic clove or something else flavorful over the pointy bits).

Also, new rule that like cat questions, poster must follow up cooking questions with pix!
posted by Mngo at 9:11 AM on June 9, 2014

NB: if you go the sous vide route, don't (per the people at season your chops before going into the bath. Season before the pan sear or grill.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:18 AM on June 9, 2014

please don't sous vide your chop.

sous vide has serious drawbacks in terms of flavor. Evaporation is a key part of concentrating and developing the flavor in something like a grilled chop. You forego that when you sous vide something.

Sous vides real value comes at scale and needing the ability to prepare multiple dishes to a very high level with low variance a la minute. You aren't doing that.

Properly done a grilled chop will by definition be better than a sous vide one.
posted by JPD at 10:17 AM on June 9, 2014

BTW - who is the chop from? I see you are in NYC. Personally I think Mosefund Mangalitsa is the best in town.
posted by JPD at 10:21 AM on June 9, 2014

I'm sorry JPD, but as a professional chef with quite a bit of experience cooking sous vide, you are incorrect. 'Evaporation' in protein terms means toughening the protein--aka overcooking. That is why sous vide provides such tender results.

Think of proteins as a wet towel. The more you cook them, the more you are squeezing the towel--what you refer to as 'evaporation.'

Proteins react differently than vegetables, is what I'm saying.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:32 AM on June 9, 2014

I've probably eaten as much sous vide as you've cooked. Its an inferior method.
posted by JPD at 10:52 AM on June 9, 2014

yes sous vide is more tender, its also less flavorful. and in the context of cooking a high quality chop you don't need to worry about the tenderness, but instead can focus on developing the flavor.
posted by JPD at 10:53 AM on June 9, 2014

I am not entering into an argument about this with you, JPD. You are mistaking your opinion for fact.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:07 AM on June 9, 2014

nthing those suggesting sous vide. If only because it ensures the most importantly aspect which is not to overcook them. Ignore any suggestions that don't explicitly mention that this is important or a method to avoid it.
posted by turkeyphant at 11:27 AM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hot pan, butter, salt and pepper.

Let them sit on the plate after cooking to just-right, and splash in some flour and milk into the fat. Add a bit more pepper and salt, mix up over low heat, adding in more flour or milk to create white gravy.

Spoon over the chops and the asparagus.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:55 PM on June 9, 2014

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