A great pork chop is like a proof of concept. It changes your outlook. It confirms your theory. It becomes the pork chop by which all future chops are judged. A bad pork chop, well, you may as well use a bad pork chop to shim an unsteady card table. Most of us have had our share of bad pork chops—they can be deceptively difficult cut to cook. However, as long as you follow these simple tips for cooking the perfect pork chop, you’ll see great results.
- Buy pasture-raised pork, free of antibiotics and hormones. You can put lipstick on a conventionally raised pork chop but at the end of the day, it still comes from an animal that likely ate garbage (but don’t worry it’s “cooked garbage!”), didn’t exercise, and was continually fed antibiotics for weight gain. Your Walden Local pork chops are from heritage breed Tamworth or Berkshire cross pigs (not a pink industrial bred Yorkshire breed) raised outdoors on pasture, exercising every day and eating a healthier, more natural diet. There are plenty of visible clues that pork from these animals tastes better than pork from conventionally raised pigs, including the natural pinkish color and better marbleization. These higher quality chops require a little more attention while cooking, as pasture-raised pork cooks faster than conventionally raised pork. Be prepared and check your meat frequently during the first couple of cook (a perfect opportunity to snap some action shots for the ‘gram while you’re at it).
- Brine your pork chops. Yes, it takes longer, but a simple 30-minute brine can yield great results. You don’t have to submerge them in the salty, sugary liquid overnight, in fact, you can over brine them and end up with chops that are way too salty. Shoot for four hours, but a half hour is sufficient. Here’s a classic brine recipe that we like to use, with the salt, sugar, and water being the only must haves. Note: If you brine your chops, be careful seasoning before you cook, they can get salty!
- Dry your pork chops thoroughly. Don’t take those tongs and transfer your chops straight from the brine into the frying pan. If you want a nice sear, liquid is your enemy. Take your chops out of your brine and pat them off with a paper towel until they are as dry as you can get them.
- Bring your chops up to room temperature before you cook them. If you cook refrigerator-cold pork chops, they will take that much longer and the heat will dry them out before they finish. After you remove your chops from the brine and dry them off, let them sit on your counter under a paper towel while you prep the rest of your meal. After an hour or so, they will be good to go and you will have side stepped one of the most common cooking errors with pork chops.
- Keep the fat! Did your pork chops come with a thick peel of fat around the curve? Good! Don’t remove that rind, cook with it! Not only does this help keep your pork moist, but if you stand your chop on the fat edge and crisp it up, you are basically adding bacon to your pork chop meal…
- Use a thermometer. This is especially important when cooking with pasture-raised pork for the first time. The USDA recommends pork cooked to 145 degrees fahrenheit, but with pasture raised meat, we recommend pulling the meat off the heat at 135 degrees — which leads us to the next important step.
- Let your meat rest. After you take the pork chops off the stovetop or out of the oven or off the grill, remember to let your meat rest. This gives your pork a chance to reabsorb some of the juice that high heat brought to the surface. In addition, your meat will continue to cook, bringing the temperature up before levelling off. Ten minutes is a good goal to shoot for, although we usually can’t wait that long before we dive in.
Members should check out our new recipes from our friends at Cook’s Illustrated for inspiration ranging from how to bread and fry your pork chops, grill them over charcoal, or start them in a sizzling hot pan and finish in the oven. You can butterfly them, bake them, braise them, or some combination of all the above. Follow these starting and finishing steps for a great pork chop every time.
Walden Local pork chops come from pigs raised right here in New England and New York, by farmers like Tyler and Lindsay Justice, of Charleston, Vermont. When you become a Walden member, not only are you bringing the best tasting truly pasture raised pork to your family dinner table, but you are also supporting local sustainable agriculture!