Pork chops come in many shapes and sizes. Likewise, there are many methods of cooking pork chops that can achieve a nicely browned crust and moist interior.
Do You Need to Use Flour When Frying Pork Chops?
You don’t need to use flour when pan-frying pork chops. It is common for pan-fried pork chop recipes to call for a breading that includes flour, because the coating helps prevent the lean pork chops from drying out. However, you can also promote browning and moisture retention by using a brine rather than coating in flour.
After analyzing dozens of pan-fried pork chop recipes, I’d consider myself a bit of a pork chop expert. Let’s dive in and discover the invaluable prepping and cooking techniques that will lead to a perfectly juicy pork chop every single time—whether or not you coat with flour or another type of breading.
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How Do You Fry Pork Chops Without Drying Them Out?
Pork chops are usually pretty lean cuts of meat, which makes them susceptible to drying out while cooking. The best way to ensure your pork chops stay moist when frying is to brine and tenderize them beforehand. A simple brine of water and salt for at least thirty minutes prior to cooking will make all the difference.
Adding a sweetener to the brining solution such as brown sugar or honey can also add flavor and enhance browning. Especially if you decide to not dredge in flour, adding sugar to the brine will help achieve better color on the crust.
An additional trick that helps prevent drying out is to prick the pork chops with a fork before submerging in the brine. This technique is two-fold—first, pricking with a fork breaks down some of the fibrous tissue, therefore manually tenderizing the meat.
Secondly, it helps the brine (and also the finishing butter, if using) seep into the pork chops, resulting in a moister end result. This technique is particularly helpful when working with thicker pork chops, since the brine doesn’t always permeate all the way to the center.
Your best chances of getting your pork chops to not dry out starts at the grocery store. If you’re not using breading, bone-in pork chops are the way to go. The bone prevents overcooking and also adds a ton of flavor. Thicker chops will also work better if you’re not breading—try to pick pork chops that at least one to one and a half inches thick. Thin, boneless chops cook very quickly, and over-cooking is common, and thus pork chops get a bad reputation for being dry.
You’ll also want to look for the pork chops with the most marbling. Marbling within the muscle signifies that those chops have a higher fat content which will prevent them from drying out as much as leaner cuts. Pork chops with the most marbling tend to come from the rib end of the pork loin and are sometimes labeled as rib chops. They are identifiable by the curved bone on one side.
How Do You Keep Pork Chops Moist When Frying?
Now that you’ve purchased the right chops for the job and prepared them properly by brining and drying, we’re onto the cooking portion. Start with medium-high heat to create an initial sear on the exterior—this should only take about one or two minutes per side. After searing, lower the heat to continue cooking, flipping frequently for even browning. To get a nice brown color, you must make sure not to overcrowd the pan.
Once the pork chops are about done, finishing them with a pat of butter helps to ensure they stay moist. The technique of butter basting involves adding a couple tablespoons of butter to the pan off heat and continuously spooning the butter onto the pork chops. The butter will mix with the pan juices creating almost a sauce that the pork chops soak in for additional moisture.
The last and most difficult part—once the chops are finished with butter, let them rest for five minutes before serving. It will be difficult to resist pork chops that look this good, but I promise you it’s worth the wait. Resting ensures even distribution of the juices to give you the moistest pork chops possible! If you cut into the chops too early, the juices will pour out, and your pork will turn out dry.
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How Do You Know When Pork Chops are Done Frying?
The easiest way to know when pork chops are done is by using an instant-read thermometer. Since pork chops vary greatly in size and thickness, you should not wholly rely on a recipe that tells you how long to cook them for.
Pork chops should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit at the thickest part.
To achieve this final internal temperature, you must remove the pork chops from the heat source when they register 140 degrees. The internal temperature will continue to rise in the pan when you are finishing and resting the pork chops.
Besides internal temperature, you are looking for the outside of the pork chop to be a nice even golden-brown color on all sides of the exterior (and ideally this will line up with the internal temperature). To achieve the desired brown crust, it’s important to drain and pat the pork chops completely dry after removing from the brine. It’s also helpful to remove the brined pork chops from the refrigerator about thirty minutes prior to cooking—bringing them closer to room temperature. When the pork chops start out at room temperature rather than 32-40 degrees, they are able to come up to temperature faster and cook more evenly.
If you slice into your pork chop and you see a little pink, do not be alarmed. Perfectly cooked pork will have a little bit of pink in the center and is still entirely safe to eat. Don’t be tempted to cook it until it turns completely white, or it will likely turn out dry! Additionally, brining the meat, especially for longer periods of time, can also be the reasoning behind a tint of pink in the fully cooked pork.
What Should You Serve with Fried Pork Chops?
There are many different ways to take a pork chop dish in terms of flavor profile. One traditional pairing is pork chops with mustard-based sauces such as charcutiere sauce, which is made from demi-glace flavored with mustard and cornichons. Pork with mushroom-based Marsala sauce is another common flavor combination. Pork also pairs very well with apple and is commonly served with some sort of apple chutney in restaurants, especially in the fall.
Particularly when the pork chops are breaded, sauces should be served underneath or on the side of the chop to preserve the crispy coating. Of course, you may not need to make a sauce at all with pork chops as flavorful and juicy as the ones you are about to prepare!
Meghan Splawn, The Kitchn, How To Make Easy Pan-Fried Pork Chops
Kelli Foster, The Kitchn, Everything About Pork Chops: How to Buy It and Cook It to Perfection
Taste of Home, How to Fry Pork Chops to Tender, Juicy Perfection