Sometimes the best food is really the simplest.
We experiment frequently with different ways of preparing pork chops, but the way we have pork chops most regularly is with a simple dry rub and pan frying. My mother has been making chops this way for years!
How to Season Pork Chops
We use a favorite dry rub recipe of my father's, which includes cumin, black pepper, coriander, sugar, and salt. It requires some advance preparation — heating the whole spices to release their aromas, and grinding them in a blender or spice grinder.
The dry rub instructions make 1/2 cup of dry rub, for which you will only need 1 or 2 teaspoons for this recipe. Once we make a batch of the rub, we just use what we need and save the rest for future pork chops.
Why grind fresh spices instead of using already ground? Grinding fresh spices guarantees better flavor, so if you have the time and the whole spices, we recommend it.
If we are out of the dry rub, my mother will typically uses a bit of paprika, salt and pepper to season the chops.
How to Tell When Pork Chops Are Done
My mother uses a touch test, which is easy to learn, and which I now use as well. (The firmer the meat, the more cooked it is.) If you wait until you see juice oozing out of the top of the chop, it is definitely done.
You can also check the internal temperature of the pork with a digital thermometer; when the pork registers 145°F in the middle, it's done.
Using a Cast Iron Pan for Pork Chops
My mother likes to use a cast iron pan to cook pork chops. A cast iron pan may be slower to heat initially, but it holds its heat well. Once the chops get a good sear on both sides, mom turns off the heat and lets the pork chops continue to cook gently in the residual heat.
This approach saves energy and helps prevent the chops from over-cooking. After a couple minutes the cooling pan helps keep the pork chops warm.
What to Serve With Pork Chops?
Pork chops will go with practically anything — potatoes, pasta, rice for starch, and kale, spinach, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts for green vegetables.
Pork loves being paired with fruit! The sweetness in fruit brings out the natural sweetness in the pork. Applesauce or cooked apple slices pair perfectly with pork.
Sauerkraut is another natural accompaniment to pork; its sweet/sour tanginess intensifies the flavors of the pork. Other forms of cooked cabbage work well too.
Pork Chops Love! Here Are 5 More Ways to Cook Them:
- Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Garlic and Greens
- Citrus-Brined Grilled Pork Chops
- Sheet Pan Ranch Pork Chops
- Pork Chops with Ginger Pear Sauce
- Skillet Pork Chops with Cabbage
Mom's Perfect Pork Chops
- For Dad's dry rub (makes 1/2 cup):
- 1/4 cup cumin seeds
- 3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- For the pork chops:
- 4 pork chops (bone-in or boneless)
- 1 teaspoon bacon fat or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 teaspoons dry rub
Make the dry rub:
Combine cumin, peppercorns, and coriander in a heavy medium skillet. Stir over medium heat until fragrant and toasted, about 8 minutes. Cool slightly.
Finely grind toasted spices in blender, spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small bowl. Mix in sugar and salt.
Prep the pan and the pork:
Heat a large cast iron frying pan to medium high or high heat (hot enough to sear the meat).
If using bone-in chops, score the fat that surrounds the chops with a couple vertical cuts to help prevent the chops from buckling as they cook.
Sprinkle a pinch of dry rub spices (about 1/8 teaspoon or a little more) on each of the pork chops. Using your fingers, rub the spices into the meat. Turn the pork chops over and repeat on the other side.
Add the chops to the pan:
Once the pan is hot, add a teaspoon of oil or fat to the pan and coat the bottom of the pan. Right before you put the pork chops into the pan sprinkle each side with a little salt, or you can salt the chops in the pan.
Place the pork chops with the thickest, boniest parts toward the center of the pan where they get the most heat. Make sure the chops are not crowding each other too much.
You may need to cook them in batches. There should be space between the chops in the pan or the meat will steam and not sear properly.
Sear the chops on both sides:
Sear the pork chops, about 2 minutes on each side. Watch carefully, as soon as the chops are browned, flip them. As soon as you flip the pork chops, if you are using a cast iron pan, you can turn off the heat. Cast iron holds heat very well and there will be enough heat in the pan to finish cooking the meat.
Cover pan if working with thick chops to finish cooking:
If you have chops that are a lot thicker than 3/4-inch (many are sold that are 1 1/2-inches thick), you can put a cover on the pan and let the pork chops finish cooking for 5 minutes or so.
If you are using a cast iron pan and have turned off the heat, there should be enough heat if you cover the pan to finish the cooking of a thicker chop. If not, turn the heat to low and cover.
The easiest way to tell when the pork chops are done is to press on them with your fingertip. If they are firm to the touch, they are done. (See the touch test.) If you wait until you see juice oozing out of the top of a chop, it is definitely done. You can also check the internal temperature of the pork with a digital thermometer; when the pork registers 145°F in the middle, it’s done.