One of my main goals here at BRG is to encourage you guys to enjoy more flavorful meals despite all the “restrictions” of a Paleo-style diet. So today’s post is precisely about that:
How to Get the Most Out of Your Pork Chops
Buying pork chops can actually be quite confusing once you start to pay attention. There are multiple ways a butcher can cut a “chop” and they’re not always labeled well at the store. I’m not here to fully educate you on the nuances of every type of pork chop (this post from The Kithn does that well) but to simply share with you my favorite.
The Bone-in Center-Cut Loin Chop
Loin chops include the loin meat, as opposed to rib chops which include rib meat (rib meat has more connective tissue and is usually tougher–think low and slow cooking for bbq ribs). The loin is a long section so not all loin chops are center-cut. When the loin chop is cut from the center, you’ll get that familiar t-bone through the middle (just like a t-bone steak). What you also get is a lovely section of tenderloin–AKA “filet.” Just like with a cow, the filet is known to be the priciest and most tender piece from the animal. So basically getting a center-cut loin chop is like getting the best of both worlds. And because we’re talking pigs, it’s a much more economical way to enjoy a luxurious piece of meat. T-bones at my local New Seasons Market (they source only pastured meats) run around $18.99/lb, whereas the center-cut loin chop pictured here was just $6.99/lb!
Onto the controversial topic of cooking pork. I’ve posted about this on Ig, talked at length to multiple butchers, and conducted experimentation at home for years. And the consensus is, fewer people are fearing cooking pork LESS than well-done plus I have yet to get sick from it in about 5 years of cooking pork this way. There actually has not been one reported case of death from trichinosis from pork since prior to 1997. My thoughts are, buy from an unreputable source and you’ll be at higher risk. Those who feed pigs garbage or keep pigs in highly unsanitary conditions are going to the ones to watch out for. Know your butcher and you’ll be much safer. Enough said.
So onto the cooking… I enjoy my steaks rare but I definitely do not recommend that for your pork. Cooking to medium is perfect, any less and the lean loin meat can be tough to chew anyway (if you aren’t buying pastured, I recommend medium-well). If you investigate how to cook tender pork, you’ll come across a lot of recommendations for brining. And while I am in favor of brining in general, I’m also in favor of easy meals.
Cooking your pork medium keeps it moist and avoids the need for brines. Combine this with the presence of the bone through the middle, which offers a more forgiving cooking process than boneless pork chops. I pretty much always buy bone-in. If you hate paying for the bone weight, get a dog and then it’ll double as a treat for them after dinner. 😉
(You’ll note I never use a meat thermometer with cooking, I’ve found it can be an unreliable crutch. I prefer to learn the feel of the meat to gauge doneness and have found that it’s actually a much more reliable system, albeit with a great learning curve, for cooking your meat.)
I love this method for gauging doneness of your meat. I didn’t learn it that way but it works well for anyone starting out. Try it out and get a feel for what “medium” is like and give it a go on your next (hopefully bone-in center-cut loin) pork chop! When sliced, it should appear similar to the photo below, with just a hint of pale pink in the center of the loin. Of course, this whole post applies just as easily to the other chops and the Garlic Herb Oil recipe below tastes just as delicious on them, but I’ve found the bone-in center-cut loin to be my favorite because it provides a consistently delicious, easy to cook perfect pork chop every single time.
Perfect Pork Chops
Yields: 2-4 servings
2 bone-in center-cut pork loin chops
low-sodium or salt-free “all seasons/everything” type seasoning (Flavor God is great)
organic garlic salt
Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel. Season them heavily with a low-sodium all-seasons type seasoning and press the seasoning in well with your hands–this helps give them a nice crisp crust when searing. Add more seasoning than you’d normally think to add, this is why low- or no-sodium is important here. Add a small amount of garlic salt to each side, as desired. This is definitely recommended if you’re using a no-sodium seasoning. (I use Flavor God and add just a touch of garlic salt because I find his seasonings to be very low sodium.) Let the chops rest for 10 minutes to let the seasoning bind well to the surface of the meat.
Heat a wide skillet (cast iron is recommended for a good sear) over medium high heat*. The cooking process moves quickly so you’ll want to do this just before serving your meal. Add a bit of avocado oil (or other high-heat cooking oil) and then the chops, making sure not to crowd the pan–cook in batches if needed. Cook until browned on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the chops from the pan and let them rest 3-5 minutes before slicing into them to keep the juices from running out too quickly.
Top with some Garlic Herb Oil and taste the magic of the warm meat heating up all those herbs and garlic!
*Note: if you are cooking a boneless chop, it’s going to cook quicker than bone-in. So move the heat to high and it should only need 2-3 minutes per side.
Garlic Herb Oil
2 c. fresh herbs*
2-4 cloves fresh garlic
½ lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 c. extra-virgin olive oil
Add all the ingredients to a food processes or blender. Pulse until it reaches the consistency you like. I like mine a bit chunky so I don’t go too crazy here. Store extra in the fridge for up to two weeks.
*Note: I love a combo of basil and parsley OR cilantro and parsley. If you want to use stronger herbs like rosemary or thyme, I recommend using a small bit of those — just a couple of sprigs — and filling in the rest of the measurement with parsley.