Pork chops are one of my favorite meats to grill. They’re quick cooking and relatively cheap, but they haven’t always been so well received. The popularity of pork took a nosedive in the 1970’s because people were concerned about fat. To quell their fears, producers bred leaner pigs so the pork we’re eating today is much healthier (has less fat) than the pork you could buy 30 years ago. But this healthier pork a double edge sword, especially when it comes to lean cuts of meat like pork chops—good in that it’s healthier for us because its lower in fat, but bad in the flavor department. Fat helps meat stay juicy and flavorful when it’s cooked. Is there away to enjoy juicy pork chops with less fat? Yes! Follow these simple tips for cooking juicy pork chops every time:
1. Buy pork chops on the bone
Don’t let bone-in pork chops intimidate you! We prefer bone-in pork chops because they are juicier than their boneless counterparts. Why? The bone locks in moisture and slows the heating process, ensuring that the meat closest to it remains moist and tender.
2. Stuff it!
It’s easy to stuff a pork chop. It adds a ton of flavor and helps keep the chop moist. To make a pocket for stuffing, hold a knife parallel to the cutting board and slice almost through to the bone. Then toss together a filling of your choice – try cheese mixed with chopped veggies or breadcrumbs.
3. Size it up
If you’re following a recipe it’s important to buy the right size chops to avoid over or undercooking them. We like to look for chops that are 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick and weigh 7 to 8 ounces each. They yield 3 to 4 ounces of cooked meat and are done in about 6 minutes on the grill or on the stove.
4. Don’t overcook it
Last year the USDA lowered the recommended safe temperature for cooking pork to 145 degrees. Hallelujah! The old recommendation of 160 degrees was murder for pork chops, leaving them dry and tough. Why the concern over pork? Humans can contract trichinosis from undercooked pork, but the incidence of people actually contracting the bacteria have been greatly diminished since the 50’s. The USDA now recommends removing pork chops from the heat when they reach 145 degrees (don’t forget to use your meat thermometer!) and then letting them rest for 3 minutes to let them “carry-over cook” before serving.