Pork Chops

Don't be fooled: not all pork chops are alike. While one may be tender and only need a quick sear, others can be tough and require a good long braise. Why? Even though pork chops are all cut from the loin, there are actually four distinct cuts. Working your way from front to back, you can find the shoulder chops, rib chops, loin chops and sirloin chops. Shoulder and sirloin chops are both superflavorful but have a lot of bone and connective tissue throughout the meat, so it's best to braise them. Rib and loin chops are lean, so you should cook them both quickly. Food & Wine has plenty of recipes, no matter which cut ends up in your shopping cart.

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Spiced Pork Chops with Cucumber Pico de Gallo

Lately I have to coach myself through the meat department of my local grocery store. Take a deep breath, I tell myself. Stop scowling. Still deeply entrenched in the fat-phobic '90s, the pale, quick-cooking lean cuts of beef and pork outnumber the juicier, ruddier braising cuts three to one. And now they’ve even phased out my preferred 80/20 grind of hamburger, replacing it with ruby packs of lean 85/15 and leaner-yet 90/10. I lean on the bell, summoning the manager to explain to me why they’ve drained all the fat and flavor from the display case—phrased in a much nicer way, of course. “These days, people want lean meat,” he says with a blinking, open expression. He tells me about “heart-healthy” and “saturated fat” in simple terms, with the bottomless patience of a kindergarten teacher. In my small, admittedly food-obsessed social circle, small portions of richer, marbled meat edged out the large, plate-spanning lean ones about five years ago, but I feel suddenly out of sync—as if I’ve been transported 20 years into the past, when we spread margarine on our toast and trimmed all the fat off our steaks.So I pick up the pack of pork chops, which have been cut thin enough to hold an edge, and reconsider them. Cooking a single mammoth fatty chop and slicing it into juicy, pale-pink tranches to serve three people still seems more logical to me than overcooking one thin chop per person. I may not be wrong, but being right is a lonely game. I drop them into my cart. After all, it’s just a Wednesday night dinner, I tell myself. Let’s not be so cranky.On my drive home I think about how I’ll convert the thin chops’ deficits into advantages. Thin chops are quick to cook, which will give me time to make some interesting sides. They have a lot of surface area. If I blanket them with spices, char them hard on a hot grill pan, and top them with with a fiery cilantro-and-lime-loaded cucumber and Vidalia onion salsa—everything I love to use to garnish a taco—each chop will be one giant, plate-filling, griddle-kissed burnt end. In the kitchen, I spring into action, assembling the cucumber pico de gallo, then rubbing the chops with the mixture of spices I use to make homemade chorizo—paprika, garlic powder, a jolt of warm allspice—and throwing them on the hot grill. They smoke immediately, profusely, but I don’t give them any relief. I keep going until their tops dome, their undersides turn warning-sign dark, and I see the doneness creeping up the sides. I flip them over and cook the second side just long enough to find a platter to hold them, then whisk them off the grill.I sit down to the pork chop and zesty, fresh cucumber salsa sprawling across my plate and silently apologize to the meat manager for my earlier bad behavior. Next time, I’ll tell him that I’m a convert.  

Potato-Crusted Pork Schnitzel with Hot Pepper Mayonnaise

It’s not a trick of molecular gastronomy that produces the shatteringly crisp crust on these butter-fried pork chops. The secret? Dried potato flakes, aka instant mashed potatoes. The flakes are made from dehydrated cooked potatoes and make a great gluten-free substitute for breadcrumbs. Be sure to look for hot cherry peppers, not sweet ones, to give the mayo-based sauce some kick. Slideshow: More Pork Chop Recipes 

Salt-and-Pepper Pork Chops

Wilson Tang’s cornstarch-battered pork chops are somehow crisp and nicely chewy at the same time. The Chinese five-spice powder and white pepper sprinkled on the chops after frying are like a touch of fairy dust. Slideshow: More Pork Chop Recipes 

Fried Pork Chops

Resting the seasoned pork chops at room temperature for 30 minutes before dunking them in mustard-spiked buttermilk and herbed panko crumbs allows them to fry to juicy perfection in about 5 minutes. Slideshow: More Pork Chop Recipes 

Smothered Pork Chops

Sweet smoked paprika gives a smoky, bacon-like note, to these saucy smothered pork chops. Slideshow: More Pork Chop Recipes 

More Pork Chop

Ham-Brined Pork Chops

Rating: Unrated
To make his pork chops extra-juicy and give them a perfect caramelized crust, Underbelly chef Chris Shepherd lets them sit overnight in a honey-spiked brine inspired by the flavors of a Southern ham. Before adding your pork chops to the skillet, make sure they’re thoroughly patted dry to avoid any oil splatters. Pair them with a California Pinot Noir: “The chops have a sweet-salty flavor that is really exciting with the Pinot’s bright acidity,” says Matthew Pridgen, Underbelly’s wine director. Slideshow: More Pork Chop Recipes 

Pork Chops with Cherry-Miso Mostarda

Rating: Unrated
Food & Wine’s Justin Chapple adds a bit of umami-rich miso to a cherry mostarda to amp up the flavor, making a perfect condiment for juicy pork chops. Slideshow: More Pork Chop Recipes 

Pork Chops with Burnt Applesauce and Greens

Chef James Lowe, of Lyle's in London, was inspired to char apples as an accompaniment to his luscious pork chops after watching a cook in Mexico burn vegetables to make salsa. Slideshow:  More Pork Chop Recipes