Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How to (sort of) cook pork

We are not very good at cooking pork. It always turns out dry and just sort of overdone. Thankfully, it always tastes good...even if it's a little tough to cut and chew.

In the past, we've done the ole "stick it in a baking dish, cover it with sauerkraut and let it bake for a while" method, which is salty and delicious, but not entirely creative. So last night, I decided we would attempt this recipe from Real Simple.

Our pork chops were bone-in, and they were probably not thick enough, and of course, they turned out dry and chewy...but they were really, really good. If they hadn't been overcooked, they would have been unstoppable.

A note on the brussels sprouts: I made this recipe from memory, having seen it on the Food Network (a show called Cooking for Real, I believe). Basically, you slice brussels sprouts sorta thin, and heat 'em in a pan with some olive oil. Add dried cranberries and nutmeg at some point. Heat till it is wilted and maybe a little brown. I also added some salt and pepper. Clearly, I have great measuring skills. It was pretty tasty though, and I had some leftovers for lunch today. Excellent hot or cold. Yum!

Anyway, the question of the day: Do you have any tips on not overcooking pork? I didn't eat a lot of it growing up, so I don't have a ton of experience in the matter...the recipe said the internal temperature should be 150 degrees, but my meat thermometer was barely reading 145 when we took it out, and like I said, it was way overdone. Thoughts? Tips? Recipes?


  1. I wish I could help, but if you need tips on how to cut a slit in the plastic cover of a Lean Cuisine...I'm your girl.

  2. How long did you cook it for? Some things you can try:
    - bring the meat to room temp before cooking
    - start with a hot oven so that the meat sears to keep in the juices
    - remember that the temp will continue to rise after removing from the oven by 5 to 10 degrees.
    - Oven-roasting thin chops is tricky, you'd need to have used a moist heat. You can sear first, then pop into a pre-heated 350f degee oven for 10 mins to finish it. I prefer to pan roast: sear on high heat, then deglaze the pan with broth or wine, cover and let it cook through for about 10 mins.

  3. Shannon - We pan-seared for a few minutes per side (to brown it), and then put it in the oven for about 7 minutes (checked after 5 and the internal temp was only 135 degrees). We didn't use a moist heat...I like the idea of cooking in the broth/wine. Probably should have done that! Next time...

    The good news? Our two pork chops cost less than $5!

  4. The key is to dry your chops first and then salt them generously, on each side. The salt serves to keep the moisture in the meat. I don't know why, but I swear it works like magic. This works for chicken as well.
    Then sear the salted chops on a cast iron skillet on high heat, then finish in the oven.

  5. How long does it take to "finish in the oven"? How do you know when they are done?

  6. The trouble with pork is that you cannot eat it if it is undercooked. I do have some tips though: searing in a cast iron skillet is ideal, and the skillet should be so hot it is ready to explode before you put the chops on. The point of searing is to almost burn the outside without the inside reaching steam temp.

    The salt trick is, well, tricky. You either have to salt at the last second before cooking, or else brine overnight. Meat left sitting in dry salt will actually lose all of its moisture, but brining will add much more water to the meat, and help the meat retain its water (because salt water has a higher boiling point). Finally, finishing it in sauce as Shannon suggested is great, so is either covering it as it finishes or just plain wrapping in tin foil before baking. Dryness is the great enemy of good pork, and the battle is not easy so don't feel bad. Good luck in your next skirmish.

  7. I can't believe I forgot the most important thing! Always, always always coat every piece of meat with fat or oil before cooking. Any oil will do, olive, canola, peanut, whatever. softened butter is good too (that's what most pro kitchens use). The oil coating creates a waterproof seal around the meat, slowing the loss of moisture. It ain't healthy, but its how you make meat good.

  8. I've never made pork chops, but my pork roasts are TO DIE FOR. (There's no room for modesty here.) I just toss the roast into a casserole dish, surround it with red potatoes chopped big, and put it in the oven uncovered at 350*, twenty minutes for every pound. Yum yum! Sometimes I slice apples or pears and lay them on top just for fun. They get all brown and delicious.

  9. Thanks for that tip, Frosty! I've never made a pork roast, but that sounds delicious!