Pork chops can go from succulent, juicy, and amazingly savory to cardboard in just a few moments. It all comes down to temperature: a perfectly cooked chop should be 140 F inside, slightly pink, and visibly juicy. But how do you achieve said perfection? Here are a few tips:
1. Brine! Brining your meat helps to keep the moisture in and seasons it from the inside out.
2. Go thick. It's a lot easier to control the temperature of the meat with thicker cuts. Thinner cuts cook quickly, so they're easy to over-do. Individual pork chops should be at least an inch thick; a 4-chop rack should be at least 6-inches thick.
3. Rest. Let your meat rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it. This is to ensure that all of the juices stay in the meat. Cut into it too soon, and they'll drain right out.
4. Buy good meat--any brand of heritage pork will do, as it has a deep, savory flavor. Factory-farmed pigs have been bred to produce very lean meat, which can be dry and bland when cooked; while heritage breeds tend to be fattier and thus more flavorful. Happy, well fed animals produce the best tasting meat, so if you can find organic, free-range, hormone-free, small-farm-raised-pork, go for it.
||For a truly special pork chop, you need truly special pork, so try a heritage variety like Kurobuta or Berkshire for a deep flavor and rich marbling. You can ask you local butcher or gourmet shop, or you can order this single eight-chop rack online. $115, Heritage Pork International
- for the chop:
- 1 4-chop pork rib rack (ask your butcher to french the rack and trim excess fat)
- for the brine:
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 5 peppercorns
- 1 quart of water
- for the rub:
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- to dress the chop:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- for the roasted apples and yams, with kale:
- 3 gala apples (peeled, cored, and cut into eighths)
- 2 yams (peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes)
- 1/2 bunch Tuscan kale (ribbed and cut into 1-inch thick strips)
- 1 yellow onion (sliced 1/4-inch thick)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped
- tools you need:
- instant read thermometer
- 2 rimmed baking sheets
- cooling rack
1. Combine brine ingredients and pour into a freezer bag or container with the pork. Marinate in the fridge for 1 hour (or 2 maximum).
2. Remove pork from the brine, then discard the brine. Rinse pork under cold running water for 5 minutes to reduce saltiness, then pat dry with paper towels.
3. Place the pork on a rack set over a sheet of foil in a roasting pan; let it stand at room temperature to take the chill off (at least 30 minutes) while you preheat your oven to 400 F .
4. Mix thyme and crushed peppercorns in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture over the pork, then position the rack in the center of your oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of pork registers 125 F, which should be about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven.
5. Let the roast rest for 30 minutes, then slice off the chops.
6. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter, and add the thyme. Immediately add the pork chops, searing until golden brown on both sides (about 2 minutes on each side).
For the roasted apples and yams:
7. Preheat oven to 400 F. Drizzle the apples, yams, and onion with olive oil, and toss with salt, pepper, and thyme. Do the same with the kale in a separate bowl. Spread ingredients in a single layer across two rimmed baking sheets. (Keep the kale on its own sheet as it will be removed first.)
8. Bake, flipping halfway through, until tender but firm--approximately 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the kale at the halfway point (it should be crisp).
9. Once all of the ingredients are cooked, mix together and serve with your pork chops.