Not sure if your pork chops are done? Here’s a quick and easy method to ensure that your pork chops are tender, juicy, and perfectly cooked.
Pork chops are the star of the meal when cooked properly. But the entire meal can easily be ruined by pork that is over or under-cooked.
No one wants dry, chewy pork!
So, how do you know when pork is done? Or how do you know if they’re still raw on the inside?
Many recipes simply say, “cook until done.” That doesn’t help me out! I need a bit more guidance.
So in this article, I’m sharing a no-fail strategy for cooking juicy, tender pork that is always perfectly done. Keep reading for all the tips and tricks to make perfect pork chops at home.
How to Tell If Pork Chops Are Done (Using a Thermometer)
No one likes a dry, chewy pork chop. Chops are the best when they are rich with juices and flavor. So, how do you tell if your pork chops are done?
The best way is to use a meat thermometer. Here’s what to know when checking your meat’s temperature:
- Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, hitting no bone.
- The USDA recommends that pork should be cooked until it reaches a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the lowest temperature at which your pork is safe to eat and will be a Medium Rare cook.
- You can keep cooking after this temperature if you prefer, but Medium Rare to Medium will be the juiciest and most tender chop. 150-155° F will be Medium, 155-160 is Medium Well, and 160 is Well Done. If you cook the chops past 160, they will be overdone.
- Your pork chops should sit and rest for 3-5 minutes in between pulling them off the heat and serving them. This helps the middle keep cooking a little more and allows the meat to relax and re-absorb all the juices. You can cover your pork chops with tin foil to keep them warm while they rest.
What Color Should Pork Chops Be When They Are Done?
When it comes to pork chops, the color on the outside doesn’t change much when you’re cooking it. So it can be hard to tell when the meat is cooked through.
If you’re cooking your pork chops in a skillet or in the oven on broil, check your chops when the outside color is a little more golden brown.
If you’re grilling your pork chops, they can look pretty white on the outside and seem done, but when you cut them open, they’re bright pink.
It’s okay to eat pork when it’s a little pink on the inside, but it should be more of a greyish white with just a hint of pink.
Bright pink meat is most likely still raw. However, because of pH and ‘color reversion,’ some ways of cooking pork keep it pink even when cooked to a hot temperature.
Just know, pork is not the same as beef, and to be safe, use that thermometer!
How To Tell If Pork Is Done Without a Thermometer
What if you don’t have a meat thermometer?
Don’t worry, there’s another way to measure your pork chops for done-ness. Try testing the firmness of the chop.
If it’s soft, it’s still raw in the middle, while extremely firm means very well done. Your chops should be firm but not overly hard or leather-like. Too firm means tough and dry meat. Yuck!
There’s a fun trick to tell how firm the meat is. For newbies like me, this was necessary information.
- Hold up your left hand and feel the meaty part of it just under your thumb. This feels like raw meat.
- Pinch your thumb and your first finger together, the pad underneath gets a little firmer. For each finger, the meat is more cooked.
- First finger – Rare. Middle finger – Medium Rare. Ring Finger – Medium Well. Pinky – Well Done.
- Touch your hand and then touch your meat and compare it!
Cutting into your meat to check it will let all the juices out, so try the firmness measure or a thermometer before you cut!
Tips and Tricks for Making the Best Pork Chops
Besides cooking it to the perfect temperature, there are a few tricks to remember when cooking pork chops.
First of all, knowing what cut of pork you’re getting is key. Not all pork chops are created equal.
There are cuts that are more lean and tender and cook fast, and there are cuts that are tougher and will require more time to cook.
All pork chops come from the loin, but the loin includes the shoulder area, ribs, loin, or sirloin. So there’s a lot of variety, even though it’s technically all from the same area of the pig.
Check the label or ask the butcher about the cuts.
The second tip is to be sure to season your meat. Pork can be a little bland, so be sure to season it with salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and sugar. Here’s my favorite pork chop seasoning.
Most recipes recommend at least a quick half-hour brine to bring out the natural flavors of the meat. Whether you salt it or brine it (for up to 4 hours), this is a step you cannot forget.
Seasoning pork improves the taste, but it also improves the texture of the chop, so this is an essential step towards getting the perfect pork chop.
Third, take the meat out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Throwing cold meat on the heat is a sure-fire way to get unevenly cooked meat, overcooked on the outside and undercooked on the inside.
If it’s at room temperature, it will cook evenly from the outside in, and your chops will be juicy, tender, and will make your mouth water.
And there you have it! Everything you need to know to cook juicy, tender pork chops that are perfectly done.