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Pan Frying Pork Chops/Chicken

I pan fry most meat I both for the purposes of caramelizing the exterior and for reasons of convenience. I find it a far preferable for of cooking than broiling for steak because I can get a nice medium rare center quite easily. However, I have discovered when frying pork chops or chicken, I tend to overcook the outside before the inside is done.

I would still like to caramelize the outside. Anybody have thoughts on how to caramelize the outside while still cooking the meat all the way through. I generally cook on high with the gas stove. I realize this is probably a bit too high, and that stoves probably vary, but what is likely lowest setting that will still achieve the necessary caramelization.

I sometimes will offset this by cooking the second half of the time in a liquid. In any case, I would love to hear peoples input on assuming either an inch thick pork chop or a chicken breast with bone the bone in.

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  1. For thick pork, I often cook at mediumish heat, and cover the pan. By covering the pan, the temperature will be much higher than otherwise. It also cook the meat in all direction too. Flip side every or often. When the pork get to about 90 where I want, I can (1) crank up the heat to finish it or (2) remove the pork, crank up the heat, wait for the pan get real hot, then put the pork back in.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Cooking on medium do you get the caramelization?

      1. re: mistiven

        <Cooking on medium do you get the caramelization?>

        Possibly but much tougher, so I like to turn up the heat at the end.

        Cook most of the meat at medium heat, and finish on high heat.

        Kind of like baking. Bake at the normal temperature, but you can always finish on broil.

    2. I don't pan-fry chicken much, but now that Mrs. O has gone veggie pork chops have become common fare on my Bachelor Nights, or even the occasional lunch. There are three things I usually do: first, get chops that are on the bone, unless I'm gonna make schnitzel (a whole 'nother category); second, take them out of the fridge at least an hour, preferably two, before cooking; third, salt lightly on both sides at the beginning of that time, and let the meat sit on a rack so that it can drip without sitting in the puddle. Get the pan hot, add whatever grease I'm gonna use (sometimes just cook down trimmings if the chops had enough extra fat) and then brown them nicely on both sides. Then I turn the heat down, cover and simmer for maybe ten minutes, turning once. A probe thermometer is handy here; you want the meat just at 140º in the middle, unless you're a pink-o-phobe. But 150º will be 160º by the time it's rested. With no thermometer at hand, use your finger to feel how firm the meat is. If it's about as firm as the tip of your nose you're good.

      I seldom pan-fry any inch-thick steaks or chops, though. Those I grill, or pan-roast by browning as above then finishing in the oven.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Will Owen

        Hey Will,

        Thanks for the input. Particularly about finishing in the oven. I imagine I could control the temperature there a lot more than in the pan after they are browned. I will try it anyway.

      2. Browning on high heat is fine, but as you've discovered the chops or chicken need to finish at a lower heat. As Will Owen suggests, finishing in the oven is the way to go. I set the temperature to 300 degrees F, sometimes 350, and finish for 20 to 30 minutes depending on the thickness.

        1. For what it's worth, what happens to meat isn't caramelization but the Maillard reaction, aka browning. Also to starchy foods like bread and potatoes. Vegetables caramelize when their sugars are subjected to heat, an entirely different process.

          1 Reply
          1. re: John Francis

            Thank you for the clarification. I had actually thought the Maillard Reaction was the process through which caramelization occurred.

          2. Medium heat. Tip: just before you figure the steak is cooked through to the doneness you like if the outside of the steak doesn't have that 'caramelized look crank up the heat to high and right away drizzle some good balsamic vinegar on the steak. In a minute the sweetness in the vinegar will caramelize and turn the steak a nice dark brown. Only do this for a minute then right away remove the steak and rest until it's just warm. That's the best temp. to serve a steak at IMO.