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Pan Seared Pork Chops

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Pan Seared Pork Chops

by ValenceMagi

Meat is funny. There are so many cuts of meat to choose from, and they can get real expensive real fast. And there isn't much reason for it, except one piece happens to come into vogue, and suddenly it's another $1 a pound.

This is especially true with the humble chicken, but that has to wait for another day. I was going to do it this week, but the chicken I had bought turned out to be not so fresh, and I nixed it.

But you know what's really good and pretty cheap? Pork Chops. Out here in Midwestistan where I live, a decent chop is about $3 a pound, and that's a lot of pork chop.

For a long while, I had a bit of an aversion to pork chops. My step-mom would make them fairly often, and bless her heart, she would always err on the side of caution when it came to doneness. So for a while, I always associated pork chops with small greyish pucks of sorta flavored meat fiber.

Then I moved out.

And it turns out pork chops are not only moist and delicious, they're easy and quick to make!

How, you ask? Thanks for playing along!

Get yourself a pan, and place it on medium heat. It's going to be getting hotter, but I don't want to rush it. Things get wonky when you rush them. If you have a cast iron pan, this is wear it will really shine. A thin, cheap aluminum pan will have a hard time heating as evenly as you want, and staying hot as well.

Preheat your oven up to 350F.

Remove you chops from the package, rise it off in cold water, and place them out on a paper towel. Also, daub the topside with another paper towel. The idea here is to remove all immediate excess fluids from the outer most part of the pork chop. This will help give you a good contact with the pan for searing, and cut down on steam ups.

Speaking of searing, once you pan is up to temperature, add a small coating of oil. What kind of oil?

Let's talk smoke point.

Not all oils are built the same. In fact, they are radically different, both in terms of flavor, and in terms of the temperature they can withstand. Any oil, once it gets hot enough, will start to break down and then burn, emitting acrid smoke when it does so. This is BAD. Best case, it ruins the flavor of your food. Worst case, it starts an oil fire. This point is called the Smoke Point.

(Oh, always have a charged ABC fire extinguisher in your kitchen, and locate it in place that would be easy to get to if a fire were to break out. Do not put it in a place where it would be inaccessible should you need it, like say in the cabinet over the stove.)

Since we're going to be searing meat, we need an oil with a high smoke point, in this case vegetable oil. Canola oil would also work well, but has a different flavor. Don't try to use butter or olive oil; even at a medium heat, they will burn and smoke almost instantly.

Alright, informative text wall over. After you have added oil to your heated pan, turn the heat up to a medium-high, and make sure the oil has covered every part of the cooking surface. It should only take a few minutes for the oil to heat up to temp, so quickly return to your chops, and one side a healthy shower of salt and pepper. I use fancypants designer course sea salt so the chunks are large, but that's not necessary if you don't want to invest in something other then Mortin's.

You'll notice I only said one side, and only just right now while the oil is heating up. There is a window of a few minutes at play before the oil starts to get too hot, so why not do it sooner? Because if left on for long periods of time, the salt and pepper will draw out juices from the meat, which would be lost on the pan and dry out the cooked meat. No bueno!

Now, watch your oil closely. When it's hot enough in the pan, you'll notice it start to shimmer and maybe make small waves. It might even just start to smoke; if it does, turn the heat down a skosh.

Now, take your pock chops, and place them, seasoned side down, on the pan. Say hello to the first appearance of my cast iron skillet!

And don't. Touch. Them. Leave them right where they are in the pan. They will hiss and steam and complain, and that's exactly what you want. Leave them right there and let them complain. Even if you wanted to move them, right now they're mostly stuck to the pan. Wait 2 - 3 minutes, then gently poke with tongs or a flipper, and see if they've fully seared and come free from the pan. If they have, season the now-top side with salt and pepper, flip, and repeat the hands-free wait on the second side.

While you wait, let's talk about what we're doing to the meat.

Searing. A common misconception is that searing the meat "seals in the juices" , however this is provably untrue. Weighing two cuts of meat before and after cooking, the seared cut did not lose less weight then the unseared cut, and as such could not have retained more moisture.

Instead, all searing does is quickly caramelize the outside surface of the meat, boiling off the excess water and leaving it densely packed with flavor, as well and giving the surface a nice firm texture and visual appeals.

After 2-3 minutes on the second side, test that the meat has now fully seared and come free from the pan. Slide in a meat thermometer, and pick up the pan, chops and all, and place it in the pre-heated oven. Thermometer placement is a shade tricky to get right. Typically, you want to place the tip of the meter into the center of the meat to ensure doneness. However, these pork chops have two aspects are play:

1: Since we're placing the chop into the over on an already-hot pan, the side still touching the pan will cook faster then the side exposed to the hot over air. As such, skew the meat with the thermometer slightly above the center line of the cut, and nearer to the top. Not a lot, but just a bit.

2: Pork chops got bones. And bone is pretty good insulation, and you will want to get the meter in closer to the bone then to the center. You don't want it touching the bone itself however, so eyeball how deep you need to plunge it in first, then skew the meat.

As seen here on this un-cooked pieces, for demonstration purposes.

In the oven, you'll want to reach the desired doneness to prevent you from having a really bad day about 4 hours after eating. 160F is considered safe for pork meat, so set your meat thermo to about 155. Or eyeball the analogue meter if you have that kind.

"Bwuh?!" I hear you eject. "But YOU said it was safe at 160! Saboteur!"

The thing with heat is that it wants to go to the colder place. When you add ice to a beverage, you're not so much cooling the drink, as it is you're warming the ice. Which results in colder drink.

So when you take anything out of the oven, in this case our meat, the center is still cooler then the rest of the dish that is closer to the heat source. Meaning that once you remove the dish from the menu, the heat will still be permeating inwards to the cooler center, and the dish will continue to cook up noticeable a few more degrees.

In short, if we waited to remove the pork until it was already 160 in the oven, it would risk being over-cooked by the time we get to eating it.

Once you remove the pork from the oven, slide it off the pan to a cutting board or serving dish, and allow it to rest for a minimum of 2 minutes.

You can't tell, but they're totally listening to the Beatles right now. Aaahhhh~!

Also note that I have left the thermo probe in the meat while it rests, as to help prevent juices from escaping the probe hole.

Hey. Settle down now.

I'm sure it's been mentioned previously on this site, but: the reason you let the meat rest is to give all the bits on the inside a chances to cool down and relax. If you were to cut open the meat right now, all the hot cells and parts that are contracting from the heat would squeeze the moisture out onto the plate, resulting in a wet plate and dry meat.

After a few minutes rest, you're ready to munch! Personally, I don't think the pork needs anything beyond the salt and pepper from the cooking process, but I did find that the tangy sour tzatziki sauce from the gryo recipe went very well with the sweet pork meat.

All told, this is done in about 20-25 minutes from prep to serve, depending on how thick your cuts are. These started out about an inch thick, but time in over went by very quickly.

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