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Friday, March 15, 2013

Pork Chop Experiment

Today’s post is fraught with diversions and side notes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Pork chops. There is such a fine line between good pork chops and terrible pork chops that I just usually avoid cooking them altogether. (On a related note, this recipe for pork loin is the best pork I’ve ever cooked or eaten. The recipe is super reliable and beyond delicious. Side note #1 is now complete.) The other day I was thinking about pork chops and thought to myself that the AMAZING technique I discovered from America’s Test Kitchen for cooking steak could perhaps be applied to pork chops. (Side note #2: If you haven’t yet made the perfect steak, what are you waiting for? Seriously, you’ll never cook a steak on the grill again.) The technique involves baking the meat before searing and using a thermoeter.  When you follow this technique, the steak cooks very evenly and comes out perfectly every time.

Okay, so back to pork chops. When I toured America’s Test Kitchen in Boston last summer, I got to meet a few of the chefs. As I was ruminating over pork chops this week, I pestered emailed Chef Dan to ask his opinion. He said he thought it would work and gave me some advice, including target temperatures for the pork chops when cooking.

SOOOOO…I tried it last night and…it worked! I used the garden variety 3/4″ – 1″ thick boneless pork chops at the grocery store because that’s all they had that day. The pork chops came out not dry (woohoo!) and had great flavor. It’s still pork, so, you know, it’s no filet mignon. But the pork chops were simple and yummy and Anna and Owen could not stop eating them!

I am going to try the technique again another time with a different kind of chop and see what happens. But for now, here’s what I did if you want to give it a try yourself! The recipe is nice and simple!

Thanks for the advice, Dan of the Test Kitchens! For the record, if anyone cooks this and something goes wrong, blame me and not Dan! Unlike ATK, where they test recipes literally hundreds of times, the recipe below has been tested ONCE by yours truly. That’s what I call thorough recipe development.

Pork Chop Experiment
Recipe type: Main Dish, Pork
  • - ¾”³ – 1”³ thick pork chops
  • - Rock salt (or a nice coarse salt if you don’t have the rock salt)
  • - Pepper
  • - A bit of olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Let pork chops sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Pat dry then sprinkle with rock salt and pepper on both sides, pushing the salt into the surface of the meat with your fingers.
  3. Line a baking sheet with foil then place a wire rack on the lined cookie sheet (I also put a bit of foil over the wire rack for easier clean-up). Place the pork chops on the rack and insert an instant read, oven-proof thermometer into the center of one of the chops. Place in oven and cook until temperature reaches 115 degrees F (this took about 30 minutes).
  4. When the temperature hits 110 degrees, begin preheating a skillet at medium heat. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of oil on the pan while heating and spread it around by tipping the pan. Sear the pork chops (that have reached 115 degrees), about 5 minutes per side, until they reach 135 degrees. Don’t cook them longer than that! Quickly sear the edges just to brown them up and make them look prettier.
  5. Let meat sit for 5 minutes then serve.



  1. Jane,

    Very interesting post! I’ve been making pork chops for years and haven’t heard of baking them BEFORE putting them in the skillet. Usually it’s the other way around! I will have to try that and see how it turns out. Thanks for the tip!

    • Jane Maynard

      let me know how you think it compares!

      with the steaks at least, ATK did tons of testing and proved that searing does not hold the juices in (letting the meat rest after cooking is the best way to keep juices from escaping). they said searing is mostly for flavor and looks and a nice way to finish off the cooking, and since it’s not necessary for “searing in the juices”, baking before made the cooking more even. so interesting!

      anyway…let me know how it goes if you try it!

  2. I want to know how to turns out too, Jane! 🙂

  3. 3

    If you want a good oven recipe that is a hit with my family
    Slather dijon mustard all over your chops. Dip in a pork like Shake and Bake (I use our store’s own brand) add rosemary if you like and cook at 400 degrees in the oven until done. Great flavor.
    I will try your recipes, I am always hesitant with pork chops since I tend to overcook them all the time!!!

  4. we love pork chops, so I’m always on the look out for new ways to fix them!

  5. we love pork chops too! especially my husband. i’ve never baked them before – i’ll have to try this experiment out!

  6. Pork chops are always a favorite around here, looks like a great way to try them!

  7. 7

    After trying this method (prior to finding this blog), I will never cook a pork chop any other way. Prior to baking/searing, I also marinade them in buttermilk with chopped fresh garlic. They are perfect without any additional fuss, but we like to top them with horseradish. 🙂

  8. 8

    This concept works very well for moist and tender chops…not so much for browning. I brined my chops first and included 1/2 tsp baking soda in with the salt, sugar and garlic. The baking soda changes the ph of the surface on the chop, which helps increase the maillard effect (browning), as does the sugar in the brine. The chops were already golden when coming out of the oven (yes, even at 275) and a crusty brown when seared. By the way, the baking soda idea also came from an ATK episode. I’ve been using it for anything roasted ever since.

  9. 9

    Over done pork is such a poor representation of how good pork can be. To help calm your fears, here are some facts:
    1) Back “in the day” when grandma learned that pork was to be cooked until it approximated the surface temperature of the sun, the pork industry was not the same as today. Hogs are fed a much more controlled diet and rarely consume “dirty” food such as rotten vegetation and even raw animal byproducts. As such, the animal has will have fewer issues with parasites and pathogens in the body/meat.
    2) The meat processing industry today in almost infinitely safer than many years ago. Not to mention commonly practiced cold-chain management and proper retail handling procedures.
    3) Finally, the bug that we are/used to be so afraid Is trichinosis. Illness from thricinosis caused food-poisoning-like symptoms that we at the least very miserable and could even be legal for folks with other underlying health problems. Research has concluded that the trichinella spiralis organism dies at about 137 degrees F. Cooking pork that measures 140 in the thickest part, removed from heat an allowed to rise the few degrees it will after heat is gone, gives juicy, pink pork.

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