Don't these pork chops look AWESOME?
If I didn't know any better, I could almost mistake them for steak. And that's huge for me.
I'll admit it, I truly hated pork chops as a kid.
Thanks to the era of Shake'N Bake & thin-sliced cutlets that were cooked until they resembled shoe leather, there were few (if any) redeeming qualities.
But years later, things have taken a turn for the better.
Well, the BIGGEST improvement was in 2011 when the USDA finally lowered the safe internal cooking temperature of whole cuts of pork from 160 degrees Fahrenheit (aka shoe leather status), to a juicy & tender 145 degrees.
After the meat hits 145 degrees, it should be removed from the heat and allowed to rest for 3 minutes to let the temperature rise just a few degrees more & kill any pathogenic bacteria.
The old enemy, trichinosis (a roundworm infection from eating undercooked meats), isn't really a problem anymore in today's agriculture. Pigs are typically grain fed now, and are not exposed to raw meat that may contain the larvae/cysts (that's how pigs get the disease themselves, by eating infected meat). Plus, once the meat reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit, the parasite is killed instantly.
These new guidelines completely changed the game.
Pork chops cooked to 145 degrees are juicy, tender, succulent, and yes, still slightly pink. It makes eating a pork chop 1000x more enjoyable. Like a cross between a nice juicy steak and a tender moist chicken breast. YUM.
And again, I'm here to preach the value of an instant read thermometer.
The ThermaPen is my absolute favorite.
I was lucky enough to get one for Christmas (thanks mom!!), & seriously use it every time I cook meat. It makes everything so much easier. No more guess work/under or over-cooked meats. Perfection every time. Yes, it's a little pricey, but it's actually instant! Like stick the probe into your meat and get an accurate reading in just 3 seconds (instead of having to wait 30s with other brands). Life. Changing. Plus, how can you go wrong with a 5-star rating on Amazon with over 1,000 reviews??? Trust.
The second huge improvement is the emergence of thick cut pork chops.
I'm talking 2-inch thick delicious chops. I'm not here to mess around with ½ inch or even 1 inch thick cuts. They curl up and turn tough so quickly (thanks to their very low fat content), that it's almost impossible to cook them right. I only cook thin pork chops like I would a chicken cutlet- breaded and quickly pan fried. They need a hit of seasoning and crunch to be delicious.
But the THICK cut chops are something else. They can be cooked long enough to develop a nice crusty char on the outside while remaining moist and delicious on the inside.
You can ask your butcher for a double-cut pork chop (meaning it would have 2 bones in it, rather than the typical 1 bone thickness), either bone-in or boneless. Bone-in will take a little longer to cook, so I just prefer the simplicity of boneless. Plus then it is easy to trim the extra layer of fat off the outside that no one likes 😉
Then your can treat them like a steak & pan sear on a cast iron skillet until they develop a nice crust & release themselves from the pan. Cooked this way, they need nothing more than a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and a simple pan sauce. Absolutely delicious and quick enough for a weeknight meal.
I served mine with a wild rice blend (cooked in the rice cooker while I did everything else), and parmesan roasted fennel. It would also go great with Sautéed Swiss Chard with Garlic and Lemon, Simple Kale Salad with Golden Raisins and Romano, or Pan Sautéed Mushrooms.
Seared Pork Chops with Mustard Pan SaucePrint
- 4 boneless pork loin chops, about 2-inches thick, trimmed of excess fat
- Generous sprinkle of kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup minced shallot
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced thyme
- 1 cup dry white wine
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
- Take the pork chops out of the fridge and let rest at room temp for at least 15min while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Pat the chops dry with paper towels, then season generously on both sides with kosher salt and ground black pepper.
- Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large cast iron skillet and warm over high heat until shimmering. Add the pork chops, being careful not to crowd the pan. Let sear on the first side for about 3-5 minutes, until the pork forms a nice crust and releases itself from the pan. (If the pork is still stuck to the pan, it’s not done yet!)
- Flip the chops & repeat until they release from the pan again. Insert an instant read thermometer (the Thermapen is my favorite), into the center of the thickest part of the chop. Once they hit 145 degrees Fahrenheit, they’re done! Use tongs to remove the pork chops to a plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the shallot to the pan. Cook for a minute or two, stirring often, until softened. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook about 1 minute more until fragrant.
- Next, add the wine & stir with a spatula to deglaze the pan, stirring up any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom. Increase the heat & boil for about 3 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by about half. Stir in the heavy cream and mustard, and boil for about 5 minutes more until reduced to a sauce consistency.
- Plate the pork chops & spoon a generous amount of sauce on each. Sprinkle with extra fresh thyme if desired. Enjoy!