The meat counter at the supermarket can get confusing, and you may have noticed that pork chops now have new names. The National Pork Board is rolling out the new names for pork chops to make things less confusing. They have partnered with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association to give pork chops some familiar names most often associated with beef steaks: rib-eye, porterhouse, sirloin and New York steaks. Not only are the names the same, but the preferred method of cooking each new pork chop is identical to the instructions for cooking a beef steak of the same name. Read on for how to cook each type of pork chop, and then serve them up at dinnertime partnered with salads, cheesy potatoes or vegetable sides.
Pork chops are typically sold in packages in the meat case at your supermarket. Be sure there are no holes or tears in the plastic packaging. Then, look closely at the meat in the package: pork should be pink, never gray. The meat should have some marbling (the fine streaks of fat in the meat itself), and all fat on the chops should be white, never yellow. The package should look dry, with no liquid pooling at the edges near the wrapping. Place your package in a bag to be sure any juice on the container doesn’t leak on fresh fruits or vegetables in your cart. When shopping, make the meat area the last place you visit before the checkout counter.
All meat should be stored at 40°F or below. If the market is more than 30 minutes from your home, remember to pack a cooler with ice or ice packs so you can keep the meat out of the “danger zone” when it’s in your car. The “danger zone” is any temp. above 40°F and below 140°F when bacteria can grow. Place meat in the refrigerator as quickly as possible. If you will not be using it by the sell-by date on the package, freeze it.
Rib-eye pork chops are the pork equivalent of a rib-eye steak: They are the meat and one bone of a “prime rib.” Because they are typically well-marbled chops, they are juicy and tender. Perfect for grilling, pan-frying or broiling, rib-eye chops—like all pork—should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F.
Porterhouse pork chops are the best of both worlds: They have loin and tenderloin on either side of the T-shape bone in the middle of the chop. Any recipe for T-bone steak will work with these pork chops: Just be sure, as always, to get to an internal temperature of 145°F. Any quick cooking technique, whether you grill, broil, sauté or pan-fry, works best, as it will keep them tender. But avoid braising. Braising is best for pork shoulder recipes.
Sirloin pork chops are closer to the hip. Really, they're the pork equivalent of a rump roast. They’re great when you're looking for a Healthy Living option, like our Lime Pork Chops with Asparagus. Because they are lean, quick-cooking is best. Braising is not a good option for this cut.
New York pork chops, also called center-cut chops, are the pork chop version of a New York strip steak. They either can be boneless or on the bone, but most markets sell only the boneless pork chop. They range in thickness from ½ inch to 2 inches. To keep the thickest chops moist and to avoid overcooking, consider searing on the grill or stovetop and finishing in the oven. Remember that pork doesn’t need to be cooked to 160°F anymore. The new guideline established by the USDA is 145°F. The cooking time is not influenced by whether the cut of meat contains a bone. The time is the same. And remember that a meat thermometer is your best friend here.
Blade chops are found closer to the shoulder area. They have bones, and are usually thick, with marbling. They often are butterflied and sold as country-style ribs. The extra marbling means these ribs will stay moist and tender if you braise them, and they are the perfect cut of pork for cooking in a slow cooker.