“Delicious simply” perfectly describes the pan-grilled pork chops from Mark Bittman’s best-selling tome How to Cook Everything. The recipe epitomizes simple cooking that exploits salt, fat, acid, and heat to yield some of the best pork chops I’ve ever had. Indeed, after preparing this dish, I better understand the popularity of Samin Nasrat’s award-winning Netflix series eponymously named for the same culinary elements.
Ever since the christening of pork as the “new white meat,” loads of recipes for pan-grilled pork chops have appeared, with many claiming to provide the best method of producing juicy ones. I’ve tried a few of them, but none delivered the great results I obtained with Bittman’s. If the chops had good color, they were often dry; if juicy, they were either pale or their natural flavor masked by a marinade or finishing sauce. Last night’s pork chops, however, had none of these faults. They were perfectly browned, thoroughly cooked yet moist, and tasted like pork. My only regret was being unable to procure the less lean heritage pork, which would have intensified these qualities.
Not knowing how, or even if, the recipe would turn out, I served the chops just with a side of buttered peas; however, some creamy mashed potatoes would have been a welcomed addition to the plate.
If you decide to make these chops, I have several caveats. (1) Make sure your pan can withstand the high heat called for, a minimum of 500°F. A cast-iron skillet works best, especially one just large enough to hold the chops. (2) Keep high-quality, as opposed to decorative, pot holders nearby; it’s all too easy to get burned from that blisteringly hot skillet. (3) Finally, be prepared for a lot of smoke that may set off your sensitive smoke detector.
As I was only cooking for two, I used 2 pork chops, about 1¼ thick and eye-balled all the other amounts. I also opted for my oven’s maximum temperature of 550°F and because of the size of the chops, I went for 6 minutes per side. Finally, after taking the chops from the oven, I used the heat of the pan to brown the chops’ fat. A time when those pot holders were essential.A time when those pot holders were essential.
The following recipe seems to get lost in Bittman’s huge volume. It appears on page 748 at the end of a larger entry titled “Grilled or Broiled Pork Chops.”
Pan-Grilled Pork Chops (from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman)
4 center-cut loin pork chops, about 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat (I brought the chops to room temperature and blotted excess moisture from them with paper towels.)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving
1. Turn the oven to its maximum temperature, at least 500°F, and set a rack in the lowest possible position.
2. Heat a cast-iron or other sturdy ovenproof skillet just large enough to hold the chops over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes; the pan should be really hot, just about smoking.
3. Rub the chops with olive oil only, then put in the skillet.
4. Immediately transfer the skillet to the oven; cook for about 5 minutes per side. (For thicker chops, you may want to add a little more time.)
5. After taking the chops from the oven, I used the heat of the pan to brown the chops’ fat. Be careful here and use a pot holder to avoid getting burned on the extremely hot skillet.
6. Season with salt, pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon juice and serve with lemon wedges.
Wine Pairing: Barbera d’Alba, or a full-bodied Chardonnay