Pork Chops are thin cuts of meat from a pig, most usually designed to be individual-serving sized. They can be up to 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) thick.
Various names are applied to them, depending on where on the pig they were cut from. The most tender are those Pork Chops cut from the centre loin and rib of the animal. The next most tender are those from the sirloin area, and after that, those cut from the blade area. Even the least tender Pork Chop, though, is still tender enough by far to grill very well.
Most Pork Chops sold today, in the opinion of many cooks are too lean and therefore have no flavour. For this reason, many cooks prefer blade chops because they are the one chop with a lingering bit of fat in it still
Pork Chops can be sold boneless or bone-in. Chops on the bone will cook up moister than those that are boneless.
Pork Chops are actually supposed to be tender and moist. More often than not, though, they land on plates dry and cardboardy because they were overcooked. Many people remember being served shoe-leather Pork Chops that were so tough even the family dog couldn't make headway on them.
This can easily happen owing to their thinness, their increasing leanness, and owing to a misunderstanding of the health safety concerns behind pork (see Nutrition below.) The various pork boards in North America adopted for a while an advertising slogan which was "the other white meat," but with what people did to Pork Chops at home, the slogan could well have been "the other dry meat."
If you are cooking thinner Pork Chops, be mindful that they will dry out extra quickly. Lean chops that are 1/2 inch (1 1/4 cm) thick are almost too thin to grill. They will dry out almost the second they hit the grill. It's okay, though, to grill a chop of that thickness if it's a blade chop, which will have bone and more fat in it to help keep the meat moist.
If you are frying very lean Pork Chops, you need to put oil in the frying pan to compensate for the fat that would have rendered out of them in the old days, or they will stick and burn. Fry uncovered, unless your recipe advises otherwise.
It's okay to even pull Pork Chops off the heat a minute or two before they are done, then cover them while you get the rest of dinner ready. They will keep on cooking for a few minutes off the residual heat they have absorbed.
For a 1 inch (2 1/2 cm) thick chop, fry or grill 5 to 7 minutes per side;
For a 1 1/2 inch (4 cm) thick chop, fry or grill 8 to 10 minutes per side.
If a Pork Chop has a strip of fat around it, leave it on to keep the meat moist -- you can trim it off at the table. But to prevent the chop from curling during cooking, you may wish to slash the strip of fat every inch (3 cm) or so.
Owing to the vagaries of people's thermometers (home cooking thermometers, remember, aren't regulated by any standards boards), government health boards recommend cooking pork to 160 F / 71 C. The problem is, those 23 degrees (13 degrees Celsius) make a huge difference -- because at that temperature, pork is overdone and starts to dry.
Using new "Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point" (HACCP) protocols, some food safety organizations are now saying that pork should be cooked to 145 F (63 F) and held there for 15 seconds; others are saying 155 F / 68 C for 15 seconds.
Literature & Lore
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-- M.F.K. Fisher (American food writer. 3 July 1908 - 22 June 1992)