Pork Me

How to cook pork chops without them turning into cardboard (reader request)

A Reader Request came through from Lisa regarding pork chops. So I went on a mission to find a failsafe method for pork chops – this is what I discovered

Sick of cooking pork chops up seemingly perfectly, only to have them taste like they were cooked by a small caravan of Ewoks?

Same, so today we are going to have a quick lesson in porkery.

During my research (ahem, drinking beer) I actually reached out to Twitter to see if any beer snack followers had also come across this conundrum, and what their solutions were. To be honest, Twitter shits me to tears but on this day my tweets were smiled upon by the pork gods. 

You see I’ve always found pork kinda hit-and-miss. Sometimes it’s perfect – others not so much. Years ago I would screw it up royally, but that hasn’t happened for a long time. 

Which got me really thinking – could I find a good, solid method to cook pork chops deliciously perfect, consistently?

Why are pork chops difficult to get right?

The simplest answer to this question because of over cooking them.

  • fear of undercooking and eating raw pork
  • lack of knowledge about the cut of meat
Fear of eating raw pork

Stop being silly. Apparently, the old wives tale that you shouldn’t eat raw pork came about because years ago (many, many years ago) pigs were rubbish disposal units for farmers, and they would eat just about everything. Including other pig meat (even pigs like bacon) and rodents. Nice. So the parasites they would pick up, namely Trichinosis, would be transferred to humans if they ate the pig meat raw. 

However – a modern pigs life is a lot different and these disgusting facts are thankfully not any real issue. I’m not suggesting that you chomp into a slab of raw pork straight from the fridge. You still should observe standard food safety logic and know that just like with a beef steak – it’s the exposed surface area that is the only real concern. 

Lack of knowledge about the cut of meat

The pork chop is pretty straight forward, but ask most people where a pork medallion comes from and they will look at you silly while tilting their head. The thing is – the medallion is just the middle bit of the chop. And they are both cut from the pork loin.

Pork loin is a delicious, long sausage-ish shaped cut roughly 30cm (12inc) long. When this is cooked it is delicious, not fatty and cooked correctly will be nice and tender. One of my favorites is to cook a small loin whole in a pan, with some apples cut up, and once the loin is seared all around you pour in a little apple juice which reduces and caramelizes everything. Slice before serving with a little pink in the middle…mmm.

So, the trick with the chop seems to be the fact that we want to cook the chop so that it is nice and golden brown – but by the time that happens the medallion in the middle is now a turd.

What can be done to mitigate these challenges?

  • Salt correctly
  • Hot pan for quick cooking
  • Cook all sides
  • Allow to rest

The experiment

Upon realizing there was a mystery afoot I promptly informed my girlfriend that we would be having pork for dinner. I decided that although just having pork steaks for dinner would be fine for me – I should probably add some variety to the meal.

Enter green apples and onion.

The setup

Our new apartment is awesome but our kitchen not so much, so there are a few concessions I should go over. 

  • No skillet or pan that can get really hot, so surface cooking will take too long. Considering finishing off by resting in a warm oven
  • No pan that can go in the oven so I had to improvise with a tray, meaning I had to transfer
  • No good butcher that I know of to sell me good pork – so today we use supermarket pork chops

The process

IMG_4643
Don’t you just want to get your teeth stuck into some raw pork mmm
Salt correctly

I wasn’t taking any chances risking losing moisture from the pork. This means salt the chops well and let them sit for 15-20 mins while they room temp. Dry the chops with paper towel before cooking

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Hot pan for quick cooking

I got the pan as hot as I could without damaging it. 

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And this kids is how you ruin your iPhone by sticking it in the pan
Cook all sides

Now this I didn’t do as well as I should have – as you can see in the pics. Holding the chops together with your tongs start cooking the edges first. Sear off each edge while holding the tongs, figure out your hand position. Remember, the middle of the pork will cook really quick, so take your time with getting the edges nice, just how you like them.

Over the next 1-4 mins you should be able to watch the chop cooking from the outside in.

Once happy with the edges and you’ve rendered off and browned any fatty bits, sear up both sides of the chop. Not too long though!

Allow to rest

Now technically I didn’t rest – I did a ‘heat assisted rest’. I was concerned that it would get too cold too quick, and not actually cook. I thought this from the start so I chopped up some peeled green apples and onions, and threw them in the oven on a tray, hit them with herbs, cider, salt and pepper, and gave them a stir. They were in there for about 30 mins. 

As soon as I was happy with the pork, it was a quick transfer to the oven tray, then drop the heat down nice and low.

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At this point my mouth watering and the whole building smelt like awesome

The result

I set the table, lit some candles and tried to make it all romantic and shit. The girlfriend thought it was for her but really I wanted to make an impression on the pork chops. I was in love.

The first mouthful was so good. I was wrapped that the experiment had gone well, and paid off. Very, very tasty pork chops. 

Oh, and crazy delicious vegetables. 

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The veggies were a hit with the fans. Well, fan. Just one fan.

About halfway through the meal though I noticed the meat getting tougher. This was a real shame as it meant I hadn’t quite succeeded in getting a failsafe method, and that was my goal.

Also, I needed to re-salt. This is normal for a self-professed salt fiend but still worth noting.

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Lessons learned for next time

A few days later I developed another craving for the chops again, and I thought of how I would do it differently.

  • Definitely worth brining the pork chops, I know how well this works with chicken. I think I’ll do a 24hr cider and salt brine.
  • Don’t overcook it (heat-assisted resting is still cooking)
  • Take the damn meat thermometer out of the drawer and use it you lazy punk
  • But don’t change a thing with the veggies 😉

 

PS: A big thank you to Lisa for the request and for getting me inspired again for the humble pork chop and @BevTalk on twitter for the Ciderspiration 🍻

 

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Cheers – Pat

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