Preparing Perfect Pork Chops
If you are getting tired of the same old pork chop recipes or are just looking for ways to make more exciting pork chop meals, look no further. With this simple guide, you will learn how to identify the different cuts and discover new and exciting ways to prepare them.
What Part of the Pig Is the Chop?
The best pork chops come from ribs and loin - the part of the body that runs all the way from hip to shoulder. There are also four major sections that run from shoulder to back that yield tasty chops: the shoulder (for blade chops), ribs, loin, and sirloin.
Pork Shoulder Chops
Also known as blade steaks, blade chops, blade-end loin chops, pork shoulder steaks, and pork steaks, shoulder chops come from - in point of fact - the shoulder. The meat in shoulder chops are dark with plenty of fat with some connective tissue and, sometimes, bits of bone.
Shoulder chops are very flavorful but can be tough and gristly, depending on how they are butchered. Tenderizing before cooking and slow-cook moist heat methods are recommended for this cut to make the finished product soft and tender. Braising is the most recommended method for preparing shoulder chops, while grilling and other fast-cook methods can be used if the chop is adequately tenderized first.
Rib chops can be identified as end-cut chops, center-cut rib chops, and rib-end chops. They come from the rib section of the pork loin loin, starting at the shoulder and continuing to the middle of the loin. The coveted baby back ribs also come from this section (but are not considered chops).
A rib chop resembles an eye of tender, lean meat with no tenderloin meat attached. They have a bone that runs along one side and can have an outside layer of fat if not trimmed by the butcher.
Blade-end rib chops are fattier with more connective tissue than those taken from closer to the shoulder. The meat is tender with lots of fat to give it some good flavor. These chops are great for broiling, grilling or pan-searing, especially after a good brining to tenderize and enhance the flavor.
Also known as center loin and center cut chops, loin end, and porterhouse, these chops come from the hip and back of the pig. They often have bits of tenderloin, depending on the butchering method. Loin chops from near the center of the pork loin have T-shaped bones with loin meat on one side and tenderloin meat on the other.
This is a very lean cut with a mild flavor that lends itself to numerous seasoning methods and recipes. Grilling, broiling, and searing are the best cooking methods for this cut.
Known commonly as America's cut chops or pork loin filets, these chops are taken from above the loin chops and are mostly rib and top loin chops with the bones removed. The meat is lean and tender with little to no connective tissue attached. Brining before cooking is recommended and fast-cook methods like grilling and searing that lock in the juices are the best cooking options.
Also called sirloin pork steaks, this is a cheaper cut taken from the hip area near the back end of the loin. These chops have the highest percentage of bone with meat from several different muscle groups. While flavorful, the meat can be very tough if grilled or seared. Braising and other slow-cook, moist heat methods (stews, soups, crock pot recipes) are recommended.
Recipes for Pork Chops
Knowing the different cuts of pork chops and their composition should give you a good idea of the types of recipes that would fair well with each. There are a number of online resources that can point you in the right direction, several of which are listed below.
Deciding on a pork chop recipe can be tricky, but if you follow the advice above and you know the cut you will be using, keeping the following in mind will help you make a smart decision:
- Choose slow-cook recipes for cuts that are tougher and less naturally flavorful. Slow cook methods include crock pot recipes, smoking, and stewing (as examples).
- Choose fast-cook methods for cuts that are naturally tender or can be easily tenderized. Grilling, pan-searing, and deep frying are examples.
- Experiment with different seasonings. Seek out recipes that allow you to sample both the savory and sweet sides of pork.
Top 5 Routes for "Pork Chops"
- Pork Be Inspired This is the official site of the National Pork board. Here you will find recipes and other information on cooking perfect pork chops.
- Food Network This is a great one-stop site for every pork chop recipe you will ever need or want.
- All Recipes Here you will find great recipes for the tougher cuts on your menu.
- Delish Discover 10 exciting and versatile recipes for fast-cook cuts here.
- The Kitchn Have a recipe in mind? Find out which cut you should use for it here.