by Eric Wharton
My Recipe Book, constantly being added to
Left me here to cry alone with a bottle of juice and pork chop bone.
— Frank Zappa
Pork chops are one of most popular meat strips. They can actually come from different areas of the pig, but all come from the loin. The packaging will help you know where each cut comes from. No matter what cut of pork chops, each of them offers a unique taste and are the most flavorful part of the pig—as well as the priciest.
When people began to enjoy pork, they began to experiment with cuts of meat. With each section cut from the domestic pig having its own distinct appeal and application in the making of pork dishes, separate pork parts slowly began to get more and more attention. Pork chops began to get more attention because their meat was tender, juicer, and easier to eat. A pork chop that’s still attached to bone produces the more flavor than any other pork parts.
Pork chops all come from the loin, which runs from the hip to the shoulder along the back and tops of the sides of the pig and contains the small strip of meat called the tenderloin. While the T-shaped rib chops are known to be the most popular, the shoulder chops are also loved fo their taste and tenderness when barbecued or roasted. Working from the shoulder toward the back of the pig, there are four major sections where pork chops come from: the shoulder, ribs, loin, and sirloin. Here’s the breakdown of each section:
Also called blade chops, blade steaks, blade-end pork loin chops, pork loin blade chops, pork shoulder steaks, pork shoulder blade steaks, pork steaks.
Shoulder chops, as the name says, come from the shoulder end of the spine and tend to contain more connective tissue and considerably more fat than the chops taken from the loin end. They also have some blade bone. They have loads of flavor, but they also have a fair amount of tough gristle and bone. The meat has to be braised to tenderize it before cooking. While they can be cooked over high heat if tenderized properly, they have enough fat to withstand slow, moist heat to break down the connective tissues, so do well in a slow cooker.
Also called center-cut rib chop, pork chop end cut, pork rib cut chop, rib end cut, rib pork chop.
Rib chops come from the rib portion of the loin, from the shoulder to the middle of the loin (the rib bones attached to these chops are baby back ribs). They have a large eye of lean loin meat and no tenderloin meat. There is a bone running along one side and sometimes a layer of fat on the outside. The chops are very tender, have a little more fat than loin chops, and have a mild flavor. Since the meat on these chops is lean, quick cooking like grilling, broiling, or sear-roasting are the best methods. Brining first will help keep these chops moist and tender.
Also called center loin chop, center-cut loin chop, loin pork chop, pork loin end chop, porterhouse, top-loin chop
Comes from the hip and loin toward to the back of the animal. Loin chops cut toward the center of the loin will have a T-shaped bone that has loin on one side and tenderloin on the other. Sometimes the more tenderloin present, the higher the cost. Top loin chops will have no tenderloin. Loin chops all have a very lean, very mild pork flavor, but because tenderloin and loin cook at different rates, loin chops can be hard to cook properly since both are present. Like rib chops, they should be cooked quickly, so grill, broil, or sear-roast these chops, but be careful not to overcook them. Brining will also help with keeping the meat moist.
Also called America’s cut, pork loin filets, center cut boneless.
Boneless pork chops are basically the best loin or rib chops with the bones removed.
They contain lean meat with very little connective tissue or fat and no bones. The absence of bones to provide protection from overcooking and the lack of fat present usually around these bones means that these chops are less flavorful than their bone-in counterparts. They are cooked the same way as rib or loin chops—grilling, broiling, or sear-roasting. It is highly recommended that boneless pork chops be brined.
Also called sirloin steak.
This cheaper cut is from the hip area toward the back of the loin and will actually contains some hip and backbone, with a higher percentage of bone than other chops. The meat is composed of various muscle groups and also contains more connective tissue. It had lots of pork flavor, but it's tough unless braised. Because of all the different muscles present, sirloin chops should be cooked over slow, moist heat, in a slow cooker or in stews.
4-6 center cut boneless pork chops
6-8 small red potatoes, diced with skin on
1 yellow onion, quartered in large sections
1 cup sliced baby carrots
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup water
1 tbsp margarine
Place margarine and pork chops in skillet and brown each side on stove top over medium heat. Add potatoes, carrots, onion, cream of mushroom soup, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until potatoes and carrots are well coated. Cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender. Stir frequently.
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