It took me a long time to learn to like pork chops. My childhood memories are of thin, overcooked, curled-at-the-edges chops that you needed to chew forever and wash down with a big swig of Tang (a subject we’ll save for another time). Not terribly appealing.
Then I had kids, and in an effort to expand my menu-planning repertoire, I began to re-examine the pork chop. After all, it does have its merits. It’s lean, relatively inexpensive and can generally be cooked quickly, which makes it perfect for weeknight meals.
As perfect as it is, though, if it’s dry and flavorless, I don’t want to eat it, and neither does my family. The good news is that pork chops can be moist and flavorful, if you know how to cook them. Here’s what I learned.
Choose the right chop. A thin, boneless chop is not the best choice. Look for a bone-in chop that’s at least 3/4-inch thick. Pork chops on the bone cook more evenly, and if the chop isn’t too thin, it will give you time to brown it before you overcook it.
Brining is helpful. Soaking a protein in a saltwater solution helps ensure that the meat will retain some moisture after it’s been cooked. Adding some kind of sugar to the brine adds flavor and promotes browning. This process works well for poultry and shrimp, two other proteins that often end up tough and bland after cooking.
Stovetop to oven. A quick sear in a hot pan, then a few minutes in the gentle heat of the oven can help prevent overcooking on the outside before the chop’s inside is done.
These guidelines have kept pork chops in the meal rotation in my family. Trust me. For meat eaters, these are destined to become a favorite in your house, too.
Pan-Roasted Maple-Brined Pork Chops
Note: A maple syrup and salt brine, along with a brief roast in the oven, keep these pork chops moist and flavorful. From Meredith Deeds.
• 4 c. water
• 1/4 c. maple syrup, divided
• 2 tbsp. salt
• 4 bone-in pork chops, no thinner than 3/4-inch
• 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Mix water, 3 tablespoons maple syrup and salt together in a large bowl. Place pork chops in brine mixture and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the mustard and remaining 1 tablespoon maple syrup; put half in a separate bowl.
Remove pork chops from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides with pepper.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Lay the pork chops in the skillet. Sear until the undersides of the chops are seared golden, 3 minutes.
Remove from heat. Flip the chops, brush with half of the Dijon-maple glaze and transfer to the oven.
Roast until the pork chops are cooked through and register 140 to 145 degrees in the thickest part of the meat with an instant-read thermometer. Cooking time will be 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops. Start checking at 4 minutes, as you don’t want to overcook.
Transfer the cooked pork chops to a plate, brush with remaining Dijon glaze and pour any pan juices over the top. Tent loosely with foil and let the chops rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 250 Fat 14 g Sodium 580 mg
Carbohydrates 2 g Saturated fat 4 g Total sugars 1 g
Protein 29 g Cholesterol 80 mg Dietary fiber 0 g
Exchanges per serving: 4 lean protein, 1 fat.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.