Tired of the family busting your chops over boring weeknight dinners? Retire the basic spaghetti and store-bought sauce and bust out your best quick-and-easy pork chops. Pork is exceptionally versatile, typically lean, relatively inexpensive and can be gussied up with a variety of sauces, glazes and spices. Here’s a low-down on pork chop know-how and a collection of recipes to make them shine:
Pork chop basics: While pork tenderloin is the darling these days, pork chops are more economical and they’re kid-friendly. Lean center-cut chops are fine, but bone-in pork chops have the advantage of a little natural fat, which cooks up more tender and yummy. When choosing your chops, look for a little marbling and judge freshness by how much liquid is resting in the meat tray—there shouldn’t be much, if any.
Cooking pork chops: In all methods, whether it be sautéing, grilling or pan frying, pork chops will usually cook very quickly—they typically range in thickness from 1/2 to 2 inches. To pan-fry, sear seasoned pork chops over high heat to lock in juices before lowering the temperature to medium. Remove from heat once pork chops are white and have a pale pink center. Take care not to overcook or the meat will become dry and tough. To saute pork chops, start with a uncovered heavy skillet, a little oil and medium-high heat, and use tongs to flip—a fork will release the flavorful juices.
Gussy up your pork chops: Your favorite marinades and dry rubs not only dress up pork chops with flavor, but can also help tenderize the meat. Keep it simple with bottled vinaigrettes—any kind will do. If breading pork chops for frying or baking, try marinating for a few hours in buttermilk—the acidic milk tenderizes the meat, makes it more juicy and helps the breading adhere during cooking.
—By Emily Arno