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Around the time that pork producers began raising meat that was lower in fat but still tender, Americans decided to turn the fire off before the meat went gray. Gray pork was such standard fare in this country that it was actually surprising to be served meat with a slight rosiness, with juices oozing. The overcooking was an old habit born from a fear of trichinosis, caused by a microscopic parasite sometimes found in pork. Earlier this century, home economists urged consumers to keep pork in the oven until the meat thermometer read 185 degrees, to prevent trichinosis. Today, we know 160 degrees is a safe temperature for pork. That new standard, which leaves the meat rosy, has transformed pork, allowing once-ordinary chops to sit pridefully on the plate.

The best chops are thick, of course, because even juicy meat will dry out more quickly if it's thinly cut. Thick pork chops should be cooked the way some restaurants do: over high heat in a skillet just until the meat browns and the thin strip of fat along the edge caramelizes. You can make a sauce right in the skillet, scraping the browned bits so they flavor the dish, then transfer the pan to a hot oven to finish cooking. The meat should be moist and rosy, crisp along the edge and really wonderful inside where the pork and bone once met. (Recipes follow.)

  • Pork Chops with Apple Brandy
  • Pork Chops with Bacon and Cabbage
  • Pork Chops With Potatoes
  • Pork Chops With Prunes
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