Pork chops are the perfect weeknight meal. They don’t take long to cook and they go well with numerous accompaniments from baked potatoes to plain white boiled rice and of course a hefty serving of greens.
Most people prefer grilling or broiling pork chops. But you can also bake them. Baked pork chops are tender, juicy and flavourful. But you have to do it right. Here are some tips for preparing the best oven cooked pork chops.
1. Know your pork chops
Pork chops come in different cuts, with each requiring special care when cooking. Some cuts need a longer cooking time while others can easily get dry and chewy if you bake a couple minutes longer than you are supposed to.
There are shoulder chops, rib chops, loin chops and others. Generally, there are two major types: boneless and bone-in pork chops.
Bone-in pork chops are usually the best for baking. They are adequately thick to avoid drying out and the bone slows down the cooking time, ensuring your pork is cooked through without losing its juiciness.
Boneless pork chops are usually thinner and cook more quickly. So you have to be very careful not to overcook.
Thicker is better. Buy chops that are at least 1.5 inches thick. Thicker chops are also the best for stuffed recipes.
2. Marinate or brine them
To get the best out of your meat, brine it. This helps the pork retain its moisture and gives it a stronger flavour.
To prepare brine, add salt and molasses to hot water then soak in the pork chops for between 30 minutes and 12 hours. You can also add herbs and spices to the solution for more flavour.
Alternatively, dry-brine by rubbing salt and seasoning on the meat and leave it to rest for 24 hours in the fridge.
If you cannot brine your pork chops marinate them overnight before baking. If you are in a hurry, there are plenty of quick marinades that will flavour and tenderise your pork chops in less time.
3. Start at the stovetop
The normal method is to put the pork chops directly into a preheated oven or a good mini oven. Here’s a new trick to try out.
Start at the stovetop instead. Use an oven-safe skillet to sear the surface of the pork chops using high heat. When the underside is golden brown, flip the chops and move the skillet immediately into a preheated oven. The residual heat on the skillet will brown the other side.
Because the meat has already started cooking, set the oven at medium heat (around 200C). This gently cooks the meat without overcooking it.
Pre-searing gives the chops a nice browning on the outside and protects the meat from going too dry because of too much heat or time in the oven.
These are just the basics of baking pork chops in an oven. Don’t be afraid to try out new things. Add new herbs and spices to your brine, try stuffed pork chops and experiment with different cuts.