Overview

There is a kind of endless feedback loop in cooking that I have found myself stuck in on multiple occasions. If there’s an ingredient I haven’t worked with a lot, I’m afraid to work with it. Being afraid to cook it means I won’t cook it, and so it goes. For me, pork is just one of those things.

My parents didn’t make it at home when I was a kid, which meant I didn’t grow up eating a ton of it. And so I never learned how to cook it.

Even when I started cooking for myself, I never gravitated toward pork. Force of habit, yes, but I also felt like all I heard about was the danger of overcooking it, so I never bothered.

Well, here I am! I have learned how to cook pork! And, yes, I overcooked it a few times, but, yes, it still tasted good. If you’re anything like me, you’ll slip up, you’ll get distracted or you’ll be working in an unfamiliar kitchen, and the internal temperature of the meat will slide above where you want it to be. But even if your pork chops are just a bit overcooked, the sauce provided with both recipes here can mask many faults.

Why two recipes? Because of that whole overcooking thing, you have to think about the best way to evenly cook the meat, and the best way isn’t necessarily the same for thick and thin cuts. Thin cuts easily dry out, because by the time you get the outside sufficiently seared, the meat inside is overdone. Thick cuts can be hard to get an even cook on, because you may overcook the outside before the inside can even finish.

“Poaching” thin chops in a cider-based glaze keeps them moist and adds lots of flavor. Searing them first on one side will yield an appealing, golden brown crust. The original recipe from America’s Test Kitchen called for thin, boneless chops, but I thought this method was especially well suited to thin, bone-in chops, which I found more easily at the grocery store. (Either rib or loin chops will work, although I found it easier to fit four rib chops in the skillet at once.) I tweaked the sauce a bit to mirror one from J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats, so you can use it in this recipe or the related recipe that calls for thick boneless chops and a cooking method that takes the pork from the oven to the skillet.

You’ll need an instant-read thermometer for monitoring the meat. If your chops are on the thinner side, check their internal temperature after the initial sear. If they are already at the 140-degree mark, remove them from the skillet and allow them to rest for 5 minutes, tented with aluminum foil. Then add the platter juices and glaze ingredients to the skillet and proceed with glaze reduction. If your chops are closer to 1 inch thick, you may need to increase their cook time in the glaze ingredients.

And about that temperature: The 160-degree mark may stick in your mind. That was previously the recommended safe internal temperature by the government (it still applies to ground pork), but most chefs and even home cooks can attest to that temperature causing many a sad, overcooked piece of pork. In recent years, the Food and Drug Administration lowered the safe minimum cooking temperature for pork to 145 degrees, so for medium, cook the meat to 140 to 145 degrees, knowing that the temperature will rise to 145 to 150 degrees as the meat rests.

Dry, spongy pork? It’s a thing of the past, just like my fear of cooking it.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.


Ingredients


12cupcider vinegar

12cupunsweetened apple cider

12cuppacked light or dark brown sugar

Pinch ground cinnamon

Pinch ground cloves

1teaspoonminced fresh thyme

1shallot, thinly sliced

1Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 cup)

Four 5- to 7-ounce bone-in pork chops, 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1tablespoonvegetable oil

2tablespoonsunsalted butter


Steps

Step 1


Combine the cider vinegar, apple cider, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, shallot and apple in a medium bowl; mix thoroughly.

Step 2

Use a sharp knife to score through the fat and silver skin of the pork, making two cuts about 2 inches apart in each chop (do not cut into meat of chops). Pat the chops dry with paper towels; season lightly with salt and pepper on both sides.

Step 3


Heat the oil in a heavy, 12-inch skillet (stainless-steel or cast-iron) over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the pork to the skillet and cook for 4 to 6 minutes until well browned (check internal temperature of thin chops; see headnote). Turn the chops over and cook for 1 minute longer. Transfer to a plate and pour off any oil/rendered fat in the skillet.

Step 4


Reduce the heat to medium. Return the chops to the skillet, browned sides up, and add the cider vinegar mixture; cook for 4 to 7 minutes, until the center of the chops registers 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the skillet from the heat. Transfer the chops to a clean platter, tent with foil and let them rest for 5 minutes.

Step 5


Once the chops have rested, add any accumulated juices to the skillet along with the butter, over medium-high heat. Cook for 2 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly with a spatula, to form a thickened glaze that is the color of dark caramel (the spatula should leave a wide trail when dragged through the glaze).

Step 6


Return all the chops to the skillet, and turn to coat both sides with the glaze. Transfer the chops back to the platter, browned sides up, and pour the remaining glaze over the chops. Serve hot.

Adapted from recipes by America’s Test Kitchen and cookbook author J. Kenji López-Alt.

Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.

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Nutrition

Calories: 420; Saturated Fat: 7 g; Cholesterol: 100 mg; Sodium: 150 mg; Carbohydrates: 33 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 31 g; Protein: 33 g.