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Why is Any Pork I cook Dry? Please Help Chowhounders!

You know.......I'm always enjoying reading these posts and if I can be of advise I love to reply. I love cooking and love food. However, the one bane of my cooking existence is pork. My family all adore pork..but I can't stand it. Why???? Because, in my opinion, any time I make pork, it is always on the dry side. Pork Chops. Gag. Sorry, I don't care how much I smother them in caramalized onion or how I disguise them in my tomatoe sauce with black olives and lots of basil and herbs--the meat is always dried. I hate that.
So..does anyone out there have a way to cook pork, whether chops or roast or any kind of pork so that it isn't dried out? My fiance has been asking for pork chops and I cannot even bring myself to cook them.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. It would be helpful for you to tell us what your cooking method is -- temp, how long you cooked them, etc. Sounds like you are cooking it too long and/or on too high a heat. Pork only needs a few minutes to cook, unless you are braising it or something.

    1. Brine, brine, brine and don't cook more than medium.

      1. do u brine them first?

        at the minimum a salt and water brine...for at least 2 hours if not 12 or 24
        but if u do a little googling u can find different recipies for brines with different herbs and flavors

        1. You are overcooking it, plain and simple. Fears of trichinosis are outdated and overblown. Today's leaner, less-marbled pork is best served with a slight pink blush at the center. If you want a cushion to allow you to cook it beyond that, brine it first.

          1. Pork loin dries out VERY quickly. Especially if they are thin cuts. Marinating helps, but dont use too much salt as that draws moisture out of the meat.
            I find that the pork chops on the bone stay moist when cooked properly. Boneless one inch chops need only a total cooking time of 5 mins or less. Slightly more if the bone is still attached.
            For bone in, I usually sear on one side for a few minutes, flip, then transfer to the oven for a few more minutes. Total cooking time varies with the thickness of the chops.

            Use your finger to test for doneness. Once you feel the slightest resistance from the pork take it off the heat. If it feels "tough" then its over cooked. You will eventually develop the touch and get it right. And remember that meats continue to cook for a few minutes after removal from the heat source.

            1. Here are some general rules I follow for moist pork:

              1. Brine. Almost every cut of pork benefits from brining, but especially so with the leaner loin cuts.
              2. Don't overcook lean cuts: for loin and tenderloin, they can be cooked medium/medium well with a little pink.
              3. Slow cook, for cuts like shoulder, cook as low as you can in the oven for as long as you can.

              1 Reply
              1. re: joonjoon

                Even better, buy thick-cut, bone-in chops and invest in a probe thermometer so you'll know when they're medium to medium-well. I usually take mine out of the oven at 150 - 155 F, hot enough to kill the (probably-nonexistent) trichina worms but not as dry as if cooked to 165.

              2. Stop cooking pork loin and chops, and start cooking pork shoulders. They have a lot more fat, and therefore are much harder to dry out - the longer they cook at lower heat, the moister and more delicious they are. They're a roast, though, so think low and slow methods (braising, roasting, or - my favorite - smoking). Not a quick weeknight meal, unless you put it in a slow cooker in the morning.

                Pork loin is, IMHO, inherently dry because it's so lean. No matter what you do, it's going to come out dry.

                2 Replies
                1. re: monopod

                  I am totally with monopod on this. Ever since pork chops became almost fat free I have not enjoyed eating them. My husband has always argued that cooked properly and until still pink they can be good. So last week he brought home a pair of chops and cooked them perfectly....but at the end of the meal decided they just weren't inherently flavorful because of the lack of marbled fat. So from now on, it's the fat cheap cuts braised to luscious tenderness--one of my favorite meals.

                  1. re: monopod

                    Agreed. Get a shoulder roast/butt/boston butt/ whatever it might be called near you. Cook it low and slow and you can have it the way you'd like... roasted to a slicing temperature, with a little crust on the outside but still delicious inside, braised with whatever goodies you like (I think a butt makes the BEST pork and sauerkraut), or smoked until it approaches 195 or so internal for delicious pulled pork. Others here have some great ideas as well, but stay away from the loin until you find some confidence. Above all else, it's just cooking, so keep trying!

                  2. Not enough fat in them. I cook to 140. Anything more is like pork jerky.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chowser

                      Same here - no more than 140 for a perfect blush pink centre. And BRINE as others have mentioned. Makes a HUGE difference. My pork loins, tenderloins, chops, etc. are never dry that way.

                      1. re: chefathome

                        Agree with this -- cook to 140, then rest and it will carry over 5 or 10 degrees higher. The bad guys get killed off at 137, I believe, if I remember the food safety class. So it will be safe, yet reasonably tender. Then do a nice sauce or mango chutney or something, to add more flava.

                        Or, as mentioned above, go for a nice fatty shoulder in the oven (or BBQ). A whole different cook. Low and slow to an internal temp of 195-200, to break down the (delicious) fat. No dryness here at all!!

                        1. re: woodburner

                          Yes - the bad guys do get killed off at 137 so carryover cooking from 140 to 145 is just right.

                    2. For pork chops, I have been using Cooks Country Pork Chop recipe, served with apple sauce.

                      For pork roasts, I have been using Zuni's Mock Porchetta recipe.

                      1. I'm not a fan of wet brined pork pork cut. To me, I find the meat becomes too cured and ends up like cold cuts (ham)

                        If you have patience, try low and slow roasting rib roasts and loins. 225 for for about 3.5-4.0 hours for bone-in.......2.5-3.0 for boneless loins.

                        1. Agree with most everything here: cook tenderloin, loin, and chops till they are a pale and beautiful rosy pink---no more. Use a thermometer at first (leaving it in until ready to eat or you'll lose those precious juices), memorizing how it looks and feels when done right. Later I'd recommend ditching the thermometer and just going by feel: there's not a ton of juice in any of these cuts, and when you stick the thermometer in there you can see liquid streaming out of your meat. For the same reason, it's especially important to let pork rest a good 10 minutes before eating---even 15 or 20 for a decent-sized roast. Hope that helps.

                          1. Among the possibilities are 1) Overcooking 2) Over salting prior to the end of cooking (look at your brines, sauces, seasoning blends, etc.) 3) Cooking at too high a temperature.

                            I'm not a fan of brining for smaller cuts of pork; shoulders, butts, ribs on the bone, maybe. I cook on a lower temp and include ingredients that add moisture like more pork (bacon, lardon, etc.) liquids like juices, broths, etc. or vegetables that add moisture. Also, I love using a slow cooker for things like thick cut pork chops, loin, tenderloin, etc. because the moisture is constantly being circulated back into the meat then, if I need a crust, I'll finish it under the broiler.

                            1. Most of it has already been said. brine pork and poultry. Cook thick pork chops not thin ones (3/4 inch thick minimum). Start them in a pan and finish them in the oven. I still can't cook medium pork for fear that my dead mother will show up and spank me. I have been able to cook them to 150 degrees or just slightly pink. I'm from Texas so you won't see a pork chop in my house without breading and white gravy to go with it.

                              Tenderloins .. brine em, sear em and finish in the oven to about 150 degrees.

                              Loins... get them on sale, cut them 3/4 inch thick and make pork chops. Freeze what's left in foodsaver bags.

                              Pork shoulder , boston butts.... slow cook em ( I like the crockpot) and make pulled pork.

                              Ribs smoke em slow.

                              Ham hocks.... make beans with em.

                              Sausage... food of the gods... cook em anyway you want they will still be great.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                THANKS SO MUCH--EVERYONE!! I'm going to really take all the advice into action. I HAVE been getting lean cuts of pork and will now most definitely look for the fattier cuts. I cannot believe what a challange pork has become! This weekend--I shall be cooking up some pork!!!
                                Fatty, Briney and thanks to Chowhounders--delicious!