Pig and the pork

I received several questions after my most recent column in The News & Observer. A lot of y’all asked how to fry pork chops without turning them into floor tile. Part of it isn’t your fault. Today’s pork, the kind you purchase in the supermarket, is very lean, and it is easy to overcook it.

If you are able to find pork chops from a local farmer who is raising older breeds of hogs, you will get chops with that old-fashioned “porky” flavor and more fat.

The good news with modern pork chops is that it’s safe to cook them to medium – leave the meat slightly pink (160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). This prevents dryness. I prefer chops with the bone still in. I think this adds flavor, and gives you the lovely experience of gnawing like a caveman. Also, get chops about 3/4 to 1 inch thick.

I took inspiration for frying pork chops from a good cookbook for all frying fans, “The Fearless Frying Cookbook” by John Martin Taylor. He coats his pork chops in cracker meal. I use panko bread crumbs or, if I’m out of those, dried unseasoned bread crumbs. (In a pinch, I once used matzo meal, but I’m probably going to be hit by lightning by several deities for that.)

Season the crumbs with a little salt and pepper, and coat the chops. In a frying pan big enough to hold the number of chops you’re cooking without crowding them, heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil. Use medium to medium-high heat. The oil should get to around 365 if you check with an instant-read thermometer. It will take 4 or 5 minutes per side. Ideally, you only turn them once, but if you find that the coating is burning, you can turn several times; also, check your heat. Remember, you’re going for slightly pink meat; cook it all the way through and you’re guaranteed to have dry, chewy chops. I cut in slightly with a sharp knife to test. Drain them on paper towels or on a rack over a plate to maintain a crispy exterior.

Now, pig out!

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One Response to “Pig and the pork”

  • Comment from Robie Morris

    Maybe my Uncle Jim was right after all. He complained that all the breeding of modern pigs to make them lean resulted in tough pork chops — a complaint that my sisters and I discounted. We thought Uncle Jim’s pork problems resulted from his refusal to wear his false teeth.

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