Why are my Pork Chops Always Dry ?
Ok, I'm new to the world of cooking pork chops, and it just seems like no matter what, they always come out kinda dry.
I've been browning them in a cast iron pan and then finishing them either in a 350 degree oven, or on the stove after adding a little wine + seasoning.
Perhaps I'm cooking them for too long? 4 mins per side, and then an additional 10-12. Or is there something else?
Any advice would be much appreciated.
I use the Joy of Cooking recipe (current edition).
Basically, cook on medium-high heat in a mixture of butter and olive oil for one minute per side, lower heat, cook for two more minutes, and let them rest for a few minutes. They're perfect every time. I use a steel skillet instead of cast iron because of the need to lower the heat but I bet you could just start at a lower temp in cast iron and get about the same results. And while they're resting, you can deglaze the pan and make a fantastic pan sauce. I deglaze with orange or apple juice and then add minced shallots and herbs. Cook for about five min, strain, then swirl in some softened butter. Also a JoC recipe. Wow.
Being a "southern girl" I find the BEST way to keep from having a dry chop is to lightly bread and fry it- short of that I dont like brining, but prefer the sear and the braise method for juicy and tender chops. I do agree that 20 minutes even on low heat sounds like a bit much for a pork chop
I'm not intimately familiar with pork chops, since I usually use pork sirloin (I think), which is a different cut.
However, I think it may be because the chop itself is inherently dry. Is the meat lighter in color, sort of a light gray, rather than a brown-ish color? If so, it's inherently dry. It has no marbling, as others have pointed out.
One thing I think I would try is this: brown the outside of the meat on a particularly high heat, probably for no more than 30--60 seconds. That will caramelize it and give the outside flavor. Then remove and bake *very* slowly--say, 250 or so--for, oh, 30 minutes to an hour. That might help.
I buy 1 1/2 inch-thick chops and brown, then braise them, more often than not, and they are always fork-tender. My favorite braising recipe includes sliced onions, minced serrano chile, chopped fresh Roma tomatoes, sliced green olives, raisins, capers, fresh oregano, bay leaf, either water or white wine, and a little tomato bouillon. Brown the pork chops. Sauté the onions and chiles, then add tomatoes and simmer until the tomatoes give up their juice. Add remaining ingredients and braise (covered) for 1 1/2-2 hours. Delicious.
Don't use any pork chops that do not have a nice amount of marbling. This will cut out most center cut chops. Since the anti-fat craze became popular, most hogs are bred and fed to have as little fat as possible, and therefore certain cuts do not have enough fat to keep them from drying out when cooked. I use only loin chops from the ends, which tend to be well marbled, and show proper feeding BEFORE going to the stock yards.
You also might cut down the cooking time a little - some pink in the meat isn't dangerous and does add to the moistness, as well as the taste.
Chops can be problematic. Taking a chop out of the refrigerator, seasoning, and cooking immediately might be part of the problem. Allowing the meat to lose its chill for 20 - 30 minutes before cooking might help, and is a good technique for starters. Cooking by the timer is a crutch you should try to learn to do without, because pan heat, chop thickness, pan crowding, fat content can all effect timing (hair splitting detail, yes). Don't try to learn to cook by feel when you're cooking to impress. Save the trial and error for yourself or the famiy. Start touching the meat and getting a sense of its doneness by how it feels. Between flacid and firm is the perfect chop. An underdone chop can be returned to the pan for a little extra heat, and overdone chop requires more wine or beer. If all else fails try thinking like a pork chop, and ask yourself when you're done....
It does sound a bit like you're cooking them too long- you don't need to cook pork until it's well done anymore, and I think that a total 20 minutes of cooking would certainly be too much. Another thing you can do to improve the chops is to brine them in a mix of 3/4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt, 1/2 cup plus one tablespoon Morton kosher salt, or 6 tablespoons table salt; 6 tablespoons sugar; and 3 quarts of cold water for about an hour before you cook the chops. Once you're cooking them, sear for about 2 or 3 minutes on a side then put them in the oven for 7-9 minutes. Alternately, you can grill them (which is MUCH better) over a two-level fire, with the sear on the hot side and then slide them to the cool side and cover with a disposable aluminum roasting pan.
re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)
Agreed with the Jester that 20 minutes sounds too long for your typical pork chops, and assuming you're using very lean loin chops, there's a real short window for "baby bear" - i.e. not undercooked, not overcooked, but "just right."
Depending on how thick the chops are, you might be able to use an instant read thermometer. Most precut supermarket chops are not thick enough to use a thermometer sucessfully, but an extra-meaty 2 inch thick chop would work ok. Anyway, I cook pork loin to 140-145 F, and rest them for 5 minuts before serving. It will be slightly rosy in the middle if taken off at 140, and very juicy.
In lieu of a thermometer, buy an extra chop to use as a tester, and cut into it to check for doneness.
Definitely try brining. You won't be disappointed.
re: Professor Salt
Amen to the overcooking.
You are cooking them way to long.
I think pork roast and pork chops need to be treated differently when it comes to cooking--mainly because of the fat content already discussed.
I marinate my chops for 1/2 - 1 hour (I always add vinegar to my marinate sauce)and then I cook them in high heat 1 minute each side and then 2 more minutes per side in somewhat lower heat. They are always nice and juice this way.
I learnt to cook them like this following the method from the Minute Gourmet and it always works for me.
re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)
Brining is the ticket. I just did a pork roast last night. 1/2 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons peppercorns, 3 cloves of garlic (smashed), and some bruised fresh sage leaves. I then soaked the roast for over 24 hours in the 'fridge.
The roast was tender; the flavors were gently infused.
Brining the chops should produce similar results. You may wish to experiment with the ratio of salt/sugar to water. You don't want the meat to be too salty. Too much sugar may cause the meat to burn, if it is cooked at a high temperature.
re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)
Ditto on the brining -- it helps a LOT.
Never buy a pork chop without the bone attached. This robs the meat of the protection of the bone while cooking, plus the added fat in the nooks and crannies of the chop bone.
I only buy thick 1-1 1/2 inch "baking" pork chops -- never the thin kind, and I use an old Westinhouse Cookbook method (after the brining)
Bring the chops to room temperature.
Heat a cast iron (best is cast iron, but any heavy skillet will do) over lowest heat for 5 minutes.
Put no fat in the pan. Cook chops over lowest heat for 12-17 minutes per side (about 12 for a 1 inch thick chop, up to 17 minutes maxiumum). Around 10 minutes on each side I start peeking with a paring knife.
When I feel like it's about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes away from done (with only some very light pink near the bone) I pull the pan off the heat and let it sit on a cold burner for about 5 minutes while I pull together the applesauce and corn bread for serving.
Perfect pork chops :)