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How to cook the perfect pork chop at home

Thick pork chops topped with cider-brown sugar pan

Thick pork chops topped with cider-brown sugar pan sauce. Credit: Marge Perry

A big, juicy pork chop makes a hearty, satisfying, and relatively inexpensive dinner. But cooking any thick cut of meat takes a little know-how. Simply baking the chops until the center is cooked enough will result in pork that is overly dry in all but the center, and if you try to cook them in a skillet, the outside will be scorched by the time the center is cooked through.

The solution is an easy two-step process: sear the chops on the stove, and finish them in the oven. Use just one ovenproof pan, such as cast iron, or a good nonstick skillet that is oven-safe. Importantly, don’t overcook pork, or it will be dry and chewy. To keep it moist and tender, take it out of the oven when an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally until the tip is at the center of the thickest part of the chop registers 140 degrees. As you finish the sauce, the chop will go up another 5 degrees or so. It will be slightly pink in the center — safe, but tender and juicy.

Cider-Brown Sugar Thick Cut Pork Chops

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 (1 1/2-inch thick) bone-in pork chops, about 12 ounces each

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup apple cider

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork chops with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Add two of the chops to the skillet and cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the pan, and repeat with the remaining two chops.

3. Fit all four chops in the skillet and transfer to the oven. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the thickest part of the chop registers 140 degrees F, about 12-14 minutes. Transfer the pork chops to a plate; drape loosely to keep warm.

4. Return the skillet to the stove over medium-high heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cider, sugar and vinegar; bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is slightly syrupy, about 6 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Return the pork chops to the skillet and turn to coat with the sauce.

Makes 4 servings

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