Your Pork Chop Cheat Sheet

A handy guide to shopping for and cooking blade, rib, and center-cut chops.

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Whether they’re thin or thick cut, bone-in or boneless, all pork chops are cut from the primal loin–the long stretch of muscles (and bones) in the center of the hog’s back between the shoulder and the hind legs. The best way to cook a particular chop depends on which muscles it is cut from and how much fat it contains. Lean chops from the center of the loin, for example, should be cooked quickly so that they don't dry out, whereas chops from the blade end require more cooking to melt the additional fat and connective tissue. Read on to learn more about the test kitchen’s favorite chops–blade, rib, and center-cut–and our preferred cooking methods for each.

BLADE CHOPS Cut from the fatty shoulder end of the loin, blade chops contain parts of several different muscles, lots of dark meat, and/or some connective tissue.

Alternative names Shoulder chops, blade-end pork loin chops, pork steaks

What they taste like Blade chops have a bit of fat and a ton of flavor.

How to cook them: Braise, barbecue, or smoke With their high proportion of marbled dark meat and connective tissue, these chops require extended cooking to become juicy and tender. 

RIB CHOPS Rib chops contain a large “eye” of loin with some fat around it. 

What they taste like Rib chops are tender and flavorful, and the fat surrounding the lean eye of loin meat helps keep the meat moist. 

How to cook them: Pan-sear or grill These chops are unlikely to dry out during cooking, making them ideal for high-heat methods that can create deeply browned, flavorful crusts. Note that rib chops are also sold boneless.

CENTER-CUT CHOPS Center-cut chops resemble mini T-bone steaks with loin meat on one side of the bone and lean tenderloin meat on the other. 

What they taste like Center-cut chops are quite lean, with a clean, mild taste.

How to cook them: Grill Because the loin and tenderloin muscles in these chops are bisected by bulky bone or cartilage, they don’t lie flat and thus make a poor choice for pan-searing. Save them for the grill, but position the ultralean tenderloin away from the fire to keep it from drying out.

Boneless Pork Chops

We often call for boneless pork chops—they’re easy to cook and weeknight-friendly. They’re typically cut from rib chops, but sometimes they're from center-cut chops. When we want to ensure chops that are thick and evenly weighted, we often skip buying ready-made chops and cut them ourselves from a boneless center-cut pork loin.

Thick-Cut and Thin-Cut Pork Chops

Thin-cut chops are typically about ½ inch thick, while thick-cut chops can be up to 1½ inches. Their different sizes mean that they need different treatments to be perfect. Thin-cut chops can be seared quickly on both sides. We like to presalt thick-cut chops, bring up their internal temperature in a low oven (you can also cook them sous vide), and then sear them in a smoking hot pan for a juicy interior and well-browned crust.

Buy Natural, Not Enhanced, Pork

No matter what type of chops you buy, we recommend looking for natural, not enhanced, pork. Enhanced pork is injected with a solution of salt, water, and sodium phosphate (this will be indicated on the packaging) that we’ve found thwarts browning and dulls the flavor of the meat. - Rebecca Hays

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