There are few things as good as a Sunday brunch with some delicious juicy pork chops. The biggest problem we and our guests often run into is making dry pork chops—especially if they are thin!
So we thought, why not do some research on this and figure out how to make perfectly tender and juicy thin pork chops without overcooking it or making it too dry.
How do you cook thin pork chops? The best way to cook thin pork chops would be to first sear them over medium-high heat in a pan and then transfer them to an oven to continue cooking at 425°F for 5-7 minutes. Alternatively, you can also roast or slow roast your pork chops with a cooking liquid or marinade your chops beforehand.
In today’s article, we will discuss exactly why pork chops go dry which will then help you understand how to fix them.
Then, of course, we will discuss the many ways you can prevent it and we have even included some easy delicious recipes you can use.
What Is A Pork Chop?
A pork chop is a pork chop is a pork chop, right? Well, actually no! Believe it or not but the term “pork chop” is a very general and broad word used to describe many different cuts of pork meat.
Think about the term “beef steaks” and how many different kinds there are available on the market: there are ribeye steaks, hanger steaks, flap steaks, tenderloin steaks, strip steaks, and skirt steaks, to name a few.
Pork chops come from the loin of the pig. This loin runs all the way from the hip to the shoulder and also has a piece called the tenderloin.
The four most common sections of chops are cut from include rib chops, loin chops, blade chops (also known as shoulder chops), and sirloin chops.
Rib chops are also referred to as “rib end cut”, “rib pork chop”, or “pork chop end cut”. This chop is cut from the shoulder to more or less the middle of the loin. There are bones attached to these cuts called baby back ribs.
These rib chops have a bone running on one side of the chop and as we have mentioned, is from the lean loin meat of the pig. There is no tenderloin attached and only sometimes does it have a thick layer of fat on the one side.
Usually, the rib chops obtained from the blade end contain more connective tissue and fat compared to chops from the shoulder end.
These chops have a very tender texture and mild flavor with little to no fat attached. This means they are best suited for cooking methods like grilling, broiling, sear-roasting, and roasting.
You will find loin chops sometimes marketed as “porterhouse chops”, “top-loin chops”, “center-cut loin chops”, or simply “center loin chop”. This cut comes from the hip and loins more along the back of the animal.
These chops have a T-shaped boned surrounded by meat. They do sometimes contain tenderloin as part of the cut, which naturally increases the price tag of this cut as well.
Top loin chops (ones cut from the higher parts of the loin) do not contain any tenderloin.
This cut is also very lean and has a very mild flavor.
Its lack of fattiness makes it perfect for a wide variety of cooking methods including grilling, broiling, sear-roasting, and pan-frying – any method that uses quick-cooking to help keep the meat moist.
Blade chops, or shoulder chops, comes from the shoulder of the pig. They have a much darker color to them and loads more fat, connective tissue, and some blade bone, hence the name.
These types of chops have a very gritty and tough texture that needs to be tenderized in one way or another before serving. They are however still extremely flavorful cuts mostly due to the fat attached.
We would recommend either braising this meat or using any type of prolonged and slow cooking method. This will help soften the cut. A slow cooker works great for shoulder chops!
These sometimes cause a ton of confusion amongst consumers as they are also commonly referred to as sirloin steaks. They are a much cheaper cut as they come from the lower hip area toward the back of the loin.
This cut does have some hip and backbone attached and contains a variety of muscle groups.
Like the blade chops, these sirloin chops also need slow cooking methods as they can become quite tough despite being extremely flavorful.
Why Do Pork Chops Dry Out?
Pork chops are usually dry or have a dry texture because they have been overcooked. As we have mentioned, they usually have very little to no fat on the cut itself, meaning there is nothing to help add and retain moisture in the meat.
When pork chops cook, as with any other type of meat, the protein fibers contract and push out moisture.
The key is to control the exact amount of moisture that is being pushed out while also making sure the entire chop is fully cooked.
Naturally, pork chops come in varying thicknesses which will definitely have an effect on exactly how dry they become when cooked.
Thick pork chops are usually at least 1 ½ inches thick (3.8 cm). Thin pork chops can be as tiny as 0.4 inches (1 cm) in thickness.
A thicker cut will allow you to completely cook the chop without overcooking it and losing too much moisture.
Anything thinner on the other hand can lose a lot of moisture in a very quick amount of time, and leave you with an unappealing dry and bland chop.
How To Cook Thin Pork Chops Without Drying Them Out
Essentially what you are trying to do is help retain or add moisture to the chops. Luckily, we have quite a few tricks up our sleeves!
Buy Quality Bone-In Chops
Yes, this might not make sense as an instruction on how to cook thin chops, but prevention is better than trying to fix a problem. We highly recommend buying good-quality pork chops that are at least 1 ½ inches (3.8 cm) thick.
Alternatively, you can buy a double chop which is basically the thickness of two thin chops together (almost 1 inch in thickness). Trust us, by literally only doing this you will already have much juicier and more tender chops.
We would also recommend using pork chops (regardless of their thickness) with the bone still inside. The meat itself should also have some marbling (fat) and be a nice bright pinkish-red color.
The fat in the meat will help to add a ton of meaty flavor as well as moisture while the bone will help conduct the heat to the meat.
This means that it will help prevent the meat from overcooking as it then “cooks” the meat from the inside outwards.
Use A Marinade
If you only have thin chops to work with, then your next best bet would be to add some sort of liquid, preferably a marinade, to your chops.
A marinade is a fantastic way to add different unique flavors to your chops and helps them to not only retain moisture but to add some as well.
The best and simplest marinade to make is by combining an acid, an oil, and some seasoning. The best acids that can be used include lemon or lime juice, or some kind of vinegar.
For pork, we would recommend using either white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Both complement the natural flavors of pork beautifully.
In terms of choosing an oil, olive oil is arguably the safest bet. It has a very neutral yet delicious flavor that will only elevate the flavor of the other ingredients.
You can experiment a lot with different oils and use something like sesame oil, peanut oil, or avocado oil.
All of these will pair beautifully with pork chops and you can pair them with different herbs and spices as well. If you are new to making marinades, try using simple spices and aromatics like salt, pepper, and garlic.
Once you feel more comfortable you can use virtually any spice or combination of spice you’d like. You can also include herbs or dried herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage. These are the most common herbs that are paired with pork in general.
An acidic marinade will help to tenderize the meat by breaking down the tough fibers and helping soften them.
You should marinate your thin pork chops inside the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours; however, you can keep them there for 12 hours or overnight.
Room Temperature Pork Chops
This is a crucial step if you are marinating your pork chops. After they have rested in the fridge or a salt-water bath, remove them from the liquid and bring them back to room temperature—but only right before you want to cook them.
Whenever meat is too cold and it comes into contact with a hot pan, the meat will seize up, which can lead to curling in the pork chop and excessive moisture loss.
Because of this, it’s important to make sure your meat is at a comfortable temperature before searing.
Don’t leave the pork chops, especially thinner ones, for hours at room temperature. This will put them at risk for harmful bacteria.
Make sure to pat dry the excess moisture from the pork chops which will help prevent them from burning later on.
This process will help release excess moisture at a much slower pace and will also help the pork chop retain it much better.
Sear-Roasted Cooking Method
For virtually any type of pork chop, we would suggest using this specific cooking method that is guaranteed to leave your pork chops juicy and tender.
We will still discuss exactly how to execute this method, but basically, you first quickly sear the sides and edges of the pork chop over medium-high heat and then continue cooking it in an oven.
By searing the sides first, you’ll introduce a delicious crust to the pork chop and help build some deep caramelized flavors.
Add Cooking Liquids
If you choose not to marinate your pork chops and you choose a cooking method that allows this, add some other form of liquid to help add and retain moisture.
This works especially well if you are roasting the pork chops in the oven. You can use a savory and meaty basting sauce, some broth, or stock.
Your first choice of broth and stock should obviously be pork to help carry the theme and natural flavors through; however, if you struggle to find some you can also use vegetable or chicken stock.
Do not use fish or beef stock as they have entirely different profiles and intensities compared to what pork chops can handle.
You can also baste the chops with a glaze, like honey and mustard, or simple barbeque sauce.
Test The Temperature
This is one of the best methods you can use to prevent drying out your pork chops. This method works fantastic regardless of how thick or thin your pork chops are.
Make sure you buy a proper and good quality thermometer. This can either be a candy thermometer or a meat thermometer—do not use a digital thermometer or one that cannot be inserted into the meat.
With pork specifically, the internal temperature at the thickest part of the chop should reach 145°F. This is when the pork has been cooked enough to be safe to consume but still has not been overcooked.
We would recommend taking the chops out of the oven at 140°F and allow the internal heat to bring the temperature up more. This will also help prevent you from overcooking the meat.
How Long To Cook Thin Pork Chops
There are a ton of factors to take into consideration when figuring out how long to cook your pork chops so there isn’t one clear-cut answer. First, it depends on the thickness of the chop.
Then you also have to think about the cooking method you are using, and finally the temperature you are cooking the chop at.
We have a few general time frames you can use to help guide you, but take it with a pinch of salt.
|Slow Roasting (with liquid)
Determining the exact times at which pork chops have to be pan-fried is even more difficult as there aren’t exact temperatures for the pan.
Recipes will usually refer to “medium heat” or “medium-high heat”. This is usually around 375°F.
Pork chops have to be pan-fried at medium-high heat for a short amount of time. This will help prevent overcooking the chops and leaving them dry and flavorless.
Below is a table of rough cooking times based on the thickness of the chops. Remember, the best way to truly test if they are done is by testing their internal temperature.
The total time given should be divided into two for each side of the chop. For example, if you need to fry a chop for 10 minutes, it means frying it for 5 minutes per side.
|Pork Chop Thickness
|Pan Frying Time
|¾ inch (1.9cm)
|1 inch (2.5cm)
|1 ¼ inch (3.2cm)
|1 ½ inch (3.8cm)
How To Cook Thin Pork Chops In The Oven
There are three main ways you can cook thin pork chops in the oven;
- Sear first and then roast to cook
- Roast as is
- Roast with liquid (braising)
To sear-roast your pork chops, heat a pan with some oil to high heat. Place the chops in the pan and fry each side for roughly 1-2 minutes or until they are nice and golden brown.
Place the browned chops in a lined baking tray and bake them at 425°F for roughly 5-7 minutes. Remember to test the internal temperature until it reaches 145°F.
To dry roast your pork chops, simply follow the estimated roasting times we have set out in the above table. You can season the chops before roasting them and always remember to line your baking tray with non-stick paper.
If you want to braise your pork chops, simply place your cooking liquid in a baking tray or casserole dish, add the pork chops, and cook them for the correct amount of time at the temperatures set out above.
For braising, we would recommend using lower roasting temperatures. This helps tenderize the meat without overcooking it or drying it out.
How To Cook Thin Pork Chops On The Stove
As we have mentioned, cooking pork chops on the stovetop in a frying pan or griddle pan requires quick cooking at high temperatures.
You can place some form of fat (like vegetable oil, butter, or animal fat) in a pan and set it to medium-high heat. Preheat the pan and pre-season your chops with spices or basting.
Place the chops inside the pan or griddle pan and cook them on each side for the correct amount of time depending on their thickness. You can again refer to the table we have set out above.
Make sure to test the internal temperature and allow your chops to rest for 5 minutes before serving them warm.
How To Cook Thin Pork Chops In The Air Fryer
What makes an air fryer amazing for pork chops is that you can set the exact times and temperatures to cook them at, meaning you can control exactly how cooked you want them.
We would recommend choosing thicker pork chops to help keep juiciness as air fryers dry out the exterior of ingredients very quickly.
These pork chops will take roughly 15-20 minutes depending on their exact thickness. Thin pork chops can take as little as 10 minutes at 375°F.
Simply place the seasoned pork chops inside the air fryer, set the temperature and time, and wait till they are done. You can use the oven roasting times and temperatures as a rough guide for the air fryer.
Recipe For Thin Pork Chops
There are many different ways to tie a knot and there is no correct way to cook a pork chop. There are, however, better ways than others. Here are some of our favorite simple pork chop recipes;
Pan-Fried Pork Chops
- Pork chops
- 1 tbsp (15ml) Italian seasoning
- Sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Olive oil, for frying
- Fresh lemon juice, for garnish
- Combine all of the seasoning ingredients and rub your chops with them.
- Add your olive oil to a frying pan and heat to medium-high.
- Add the chops and cook them on each side for the recommended amount of time.
Honey Garlic Pan-Fried Pork Chops
- Pork chops
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- Olive oil, for frying
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) salted butter
- ¼ cup (60ml) honey
- ¼ cup (60ml) vegetable stock (or water)
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) vinegar of your choice (apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar)
- Season your pork chops with salt and pepper. Set them aside.
- Heat the olive oil and garlic in a pan.
- Once the garlic has become nice and toasty, add the pork chops and start frying the one side.
- Once you turn them over to fry the other side, add the butter, honey, vegetable stock, and vinegar.
- Continue cooking the chops while basting them with your sauce.
Slow-Roasted Pork Chops
- Pork chops
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp (5 ml) ginger, minced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable stock
- 1 ½ tbsp (22 ml) soy sauce
- ½ tbsp. (7.5 ml) Worcestershire sauce
- Heat the olive oil and fry the garlic, ginger, and onion. This will help them develop flavor and become much more aromatic.
- Whisk together the vegetable stock, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce and add it to a baking dish or casserole.
- Add the pork chops, cooking liquid, and onion base together and place them in the oven at 250°F for 2 hours.
- Continue cooking while turning and basting your chops.
- Make sure to test the internal temperature before removing and serving the chops.
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