Commenter Brian asked me to write another food post and, as cooking is one of my favorite hobbies, I’m happy to comply. For those who prefer more serious posts, please indulge me here — there will be plenty of those forthcoming.
One of my pet peeves is dry pork chops, so I’d like to give a lesson on the simple but elegant pork chop, which is not only cheap, but so easy to cook and so tasty that any man (barring those who keep kosher or halal) can enjoy it.
When I was growing up, pork chops were a common dish at dinner time. However, the pork chops I had at home were tough and dry, so although I dutifully ate them without complaint, I thought of pork chops as second-rate food compared to tender steak, salmon and chicken. But they were cheap, so when I started living on my own I found myself buying pork rather than steak for dinner.
I received a cast iron skillet as a gift when I was about 20, and because these iron skillets require oil to prevent sticking, I soon discovered the key to good pork chops: they must be breaded and cooked in oil. It should be obvious, but a lot of northerners do not understand to this day. There’s a stigma against frying; it’s supposedly unhealthy, or maybe it’s seen as low-class in the north, but it’s pretty silly given the physical properties of the common pork chop. Some northerners go so far as to soak pork chops in brine before cooking them, which is totally unnecessary and a waste of time (and the excess sodium can’t be healthy). Others simmer them in various concoctions that leave the pork as the minor component of the flavor, and are far more complex than necessary.
When you’re cooking lean pork, as opposed to bacon or sausage, it will always dry out unless you fry it in oil, simmer it or boil it. Actually, this is true of any lean meat, but for some reason people don’t seem to realize that pork chops are lean. The pork chop was made for frying — not for roasting, broiling, grilling, boiling or simmering. It is a close cousin to German schnitzel, which is invariably breaded and fried.
What you’re aiming for is keeping the lean, but tender pork loin moist and juicy to keep it from toughening up. Preferably, you do not want it to be dripping with oil, which ruins the texture, but to have a crispy exterior. This is where the breading come in. Also, remember not to overcook them. As soon as the chop is firm throughout and the juice runs clear it is done.
Here’s how to cook a pork chop:
-A frying pan, preferably cast iron for even heat distribution, but any type will do.
-Bread crumbs (the kind that come in a can, like Progresso, are perfect)
-Thick or medium cut boneless pork loin chop(s) (you can use bone in chops if you’d like – they are just as good if not better – but I’d recommend boneless loin chops for beginners)
Crack the egg into a bowl and beat it with a fork.
Take a plate and pour out some bread crumbs onto it, spreading the crumbs so they coat the plate. You can add some salt or seasoning salt to the bread crumbs if you’d like.
Put your frying pan on the stove, then pour in enough oil to coat the cooking surface, but no more. Turn the burner on medium low.
While the pan is heating up, take your pork chop(s) and place in the bowl with beaten egg. Make sure the chop is thoroughly coated with egg. Pull out the chop and hold it above the egg bowl for a few seconds, letting excess egg drip off.
Then take the chop and put it on the plate covered with bread crumbs. Turn it over a few times and make sure it is thoroughly coated with bread crumbs.
Repeat above for each additional chop.
Now check your pan to see if it’s hot enough. Flick a little water in; if it crackles and snaps it’s good to go.
Place the chops gently in the pan, letting them brown for a couple minutes on one side, then turning to brown on the other. If they are browning too fast, turn the heat down a bit and turn them more often — you don’t want blackened breading. When the chops are firm throughout, sweating a bit on top, golden brown on the outside and the juice runs clear, they are done. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes or so, and less if they are thin. Take care not to overcook.
To drain excess oil, you can set them on a rack for a minute before serving, but unless you used too much oil it shouldn’t be necessary.
Serve chops with greens and your choice of carbs — they go well with just about anything. To avoid overwhelming the subtle flavor, they are best seasoned simply with salt. Also, use a sharp steak knife to cut the chop into clean, crisp bites while eating — this prevents them from getting smashed and losing their firm texture and crispy coating.
Some people say a white wine (zinfandel or pinot grigio) pairs well with pork chops, but I find they go very well with a nice, clean lager.