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