How to Cook Pork Chops that are tender, juicy, and melt in your mouth ~ it’s not hard as long as you forget everything your Mama taught you (about pork chops, that is)…and listen up!
First up ~ why you need to learn how to cook pork chops
Pork chops have gotten a bad reputation for being tough, and they’ve fallen out of foodie fashion lately, probably because so many of us have awful memories of growing up eating wooden chops for dinner…but all that has changed and we’ve come a long way in our understanding of pork chops and how to cook them properly.
The rule of thumb is to cook pork chops to 145F ~ and yes, they can (and should!) be pink in the middle
Used to be we aimed for 160F in pork, which meant meat that was tough and dry. The new USDA guideline for the safe temperature for cooked pork is 145F, or medium rare, which means juicier, more delicious pork. (Ground pork, like all ground meat, still needs to be cooked to 160F) So even if you change nothing else about how you’re cooking pork chops, this one little tweak can make a huge difference. Note: the temperature doesn’t apply when slow cooking or braising chops, where the long moist cooking will be tenderizing the meat.
The term “pork chop” itself can be confusing, because there are several different types, and each one cooks a little differently.
You’ve basically got two choices when it comes to cooking pork chops ~ go quick and hot or low and slow…both will result in tender juicy chops if you’re matching the right cut to the right method.
How to cook pork chops in the Instant Pot
The beauty of the Instant Pot is that you can brown your meat for extra flavor and cook it all in the same pot. Plus, melt-in-your-mouth pork chops ready in under 30 minutes? Sign me up!
BEST PORK CHOPS FOR THE INSTANT POT: the Instant Pot can handle all types of pork chops.
- I like to brown or sear my chops first, just to gain some extra flavor. You can do this right in the IP, with the sauté setting.
- Pork chops can be pressure cooked in the Instant Pot in about 15 minutes (your specific pork chop recipe may need more or less time.)
- When the time is up, press the “Cancel” button, and allow to sit for about 10 minutes before releasing the pressure valve.
How to cook pork chops in a slow cooker
Slow cooking is probably my favorite way to cook pork chops. It’s an easy and foolproof way to make pork chops that are fork tender, which is the way I like them.
BEST PORK CHOPS FOR SLOW COOKERS: all types of pork chops are appropriate for the crock pot, but I especially like to use boneless chops because they stay so moist.
- If you want to brown your pork chops first, do so on the stove top before adding them to the slow cooker
- Cook pork chops for 6-7 hours on “low” with your preferred sauce.
How to cook pork chops in the oven
Slow braising in the oven, like the slow cooker, is one of the low-and-slow cooking methods. My Slow Cooked Apple Bourbon Smothered Pork Chops takes advantage of the further tenderizing qualities of apple cider vinegar. The sweetness of the apples and the earthy sage make this dish perfect for a chilly night in fall.
BEST PORK CHOPS FOR OVEN BRAISING: Bone in Sirloin chops and rib chops, the thicker the better.
- Make sure to brown your pork chops first before putting them in the oven, for extra flavor.
- Cook the pork chops at 275F for 3 hours or more.
- Alternatively you can brine the chops first before baking, and then brown and bake in a hot 400F oven just until cooked through to 145F…here’s a basic brining technique:
a basic brine formula: (you can add other herbs and flavorings to this) the ratio of salt to water for a brine is 4 tablespoons of salt to 4 cups of water. Make sure your meat is covered with water, and refrigerate for up to an hour.
How to pan fry pork chops on the stove
Stove top or grilling is the trickiest of all pork chop cooking methods. The key here is not to over cook, and to choose your cuts wisely.
BEST PORK CHOPS FOR STOVE TOP COOKING: thick (at least 1″) rib chops are the best choice, but you can use other cuts like the thin boneless chops I used in the recipe photo, below. A layer of fat is a good thing, so don’t trim it off ~ it will help keep the pork moist and juicy as it cooks.
- Brining is a good technique for pork chops that will be quick cooked on the stove, see above.
- Take your chops out of the refrigerator about half an hour before cooking, which allows the meat to come to room temperature and results in even cooking.
- A cast iron skillet is the ideal pan to use for a nice even heat.
- Cook your chops in plenty of butter for added moisture.
- Brown on one side, then turn down the heat to medium low, cover, and cook until the inner temp reaches 145F.
- When you’re done, make a quick pan sauce with more butter, wine, or cream, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan for extra flavor.
- My friend Mary from Barefeet in the Kitchen has a good video demonstration on pan frying pork chops, here.
How to cook pork chops on a grill
You can have great success grilling pork chops, just keep these tips in mind.
BEST PORK CHOPS FOR GRILLING: very thick (1 1/2 inch) rib chops, or t-bone loin chops are best for grilling. The thickness (and the bones) keeps them from drying out and getting tough over the high heat.
- Rub your chops with oil, and then use a seasoning rub all over the surface of the chops.
- Sear the chops over high heat on both sides, then put them over indirect heat, or a slower part of the grill, to finish cooking to 145F. Do not cook the chops continuously over the hot part of your grill because they’ll over cook.
- A general rule of thumb is that 1 1/2 inch pork chops should take anywhere from 15-20 minutes total cooking time, but do check with your thermometer to be sure.
- Don’t poke your chops with a sharp fork or knife, or those precious juices will flow out.
- Let your chops rest under foil for a few minutes after cooking to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.