How To Cook Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker

How To Cook Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker

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Emma Christensen
Nov 3, 2015
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Here's one more way to get your pork chop fix — in the slow cooker! I particularly love this method when there are a few extra people around my table or when I just want to come home to a meal that's already done. Since you cook the chops on top of a bed of vegetables, this one also comes with its own side dish.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Why Make Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker?

Pork chops are so quick and easy to make in the oven, so why bother making them in the slow cooker? I'll give you the reason I gave myself: sanity. Weeknight dinners always end up feeling so rushed and frenzied, even if I've planned ahead. Sometimes so-called "quick" meals like pork chops — where lots of things happen very quickly — just add to my stress level. This is why I love the slow cooker: I can do the prep work when it works for me and look forward to just sitting down to a finished meal come suppertime. I know it sounds a bit like a commercial when I say this, but for me, this is my real life.

Any time cooking several pork chops on the stove starts to feel like too much of a juggling act, this method is the one I go for. It's a homey dish with lots to go around.

Bone-in rib chops take a dip in a brine.
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

The Best Chops for Slow Cooking

If you have the choice, go for bone-in blade or shoulder chops. These can be hard to find, so snap them up and freeze them when you do. The cut comes from closer to the shoulder (as the name implies!), where the muscles are a bit tougher and have more connective tissue. This is a good thing for slow cooking since it means the cuts become more tender as they cook.

Sirloin chops are also a good choice if you can find them. They come from the hip area at the opposite end of the loin region, and also do well when slow-cooked.

Second best to blade or sirloin chops are bone-in rib chops. This is what you see in the photos here and can be found at most grocery stores. The loin meat is very lean without a lot of fat or connective tissue, so it can wind up a bit tough and dry. If you are a pork connoisseur and love your chops medium rare, then you'll want to avoid these chops altogether. If, however, you prefer your pork well-done, then I think you'll be very happy using rib chops here.

Avoid boneless chops all together. The bone acts as an insulator protecting the meat during cooking and helping to slow moisture loss; boneless chops just become chewy and and unsatisfying in the slow cooker.

Give Your Chops a Brine!

Brining your pork chops is always a good idea, no matter the cooking method, and it's doubly true here. Not only does brining add good flavor to your chops, but it gives you even more insurance against overcooking.

For four pork chops, I use a basic brine of 1/2 cup of salt and eight cups of water. Dissolve the salt in the water, pour it over the chops, and refrigerate for up to four hours. Rinse the chops off and pat them dry before cooking. Far from being salty, your chops will be seasoned perfectly through and through.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Let's Talk Cooking Time and Texture

I give quite a range of cooking times for this recipe: anywhere from two to six hours at low heat. This is partly because different slow cookers will heat and cook food at slightly different rates and also because everyone likes their chops cooked a little differently. Consider your first batch of pork chops a trial run — plan on being around to check how they're cooking and keep track of the time. After this first batch, you'll know exactly how much cooking time to plan for going forward.

At two hours in my slow cooker, my chops have a texture similar to chicken breast — tender, but firm. Cooked longer, from three to six hours, the texture ends up more like pulled pork; the meat starts falling off the bone and I can cut it with just a fork. (I don't recommend cooking the chops on high heat. I feel this cooks the chops too quickly, at which point, I feel you're better off just following the oven-cooking method.)

Since pork chops lack the fat of the cuts used for true pulled pork, chops cooked longer than two hours tend to taste a little chewy and dry despite the fact that they are fork tender. To make up for it, spoon all that delicious cooking liquid over the chops to give them some extra moisture. Or even better, use the cooking liquid to make a quick gravy!

As I said above, if you love a really good pork chop — cooked until just barely up to temp and still with a bit of pinkish tinge in the middle — then stick with the shoulder cuts. Even then, you may find the texture a little more firm than you usually prefer.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Making Slow-Cooker Chops into a Meal

One of the things I love about this particular recipe is that it makes its own side dish. The pork chops cook on top of a layer of vegetables, which get basted in the juices from the chops and wind up incredibly flavorful. You can use almost any vegetable or mix of vegetables here that sounds good to you, as well as fruits like apples, Asian pears, and dried cranberries. One of my favorites is a mix of apple slices and onions. Stick of celery and carrots, chopped potatoes, sliced fennel, or even sauerkraut would also be fantastic.

How To Cook Pork Chops in the Slow Cooker

Makes 3 to 6 chops

What You Need

Ingredients
3 to 6 bone-in pork chops (3/4- to 1-inch thick, around 1/2 pound each) — preferably blade, shoulder, or sirloin chops; rib chops are second best

For the brine, optional:
1/2 cup kosher salt
8 cups water
Aromatics like bay leaf, whole peppercorns, and other spices

For the slow-cooker dish:
Chopped vegetables and fruits, enough to form a layer on the bottom of the slow cooker — like apples, Asian pears, onions, carrots, celery, fennel, potatoes, sauerkraut
1/4 cup cooking liquid, like broth, cider, hard cider, white wine, or water

Equipment
Shallow dish, if brining
Paper towels
Skillet, if searing your chops
Cooking utensils
6-quart or larger slow cooker

Instructions

  1. Brine your pork chops, optional: Brining seasons the meat throughout and provides some insurance against overcooking. Stir together the salt and the water until the salt dissolves. (You can also warm the water in the microwave to make this easier, but wait for the water to cool before continuing.) Place the chops in a shallow dish and pour the brine over them. The chops should be submerged; if not, make additional brine solution. Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 4 hours.
  2. Season with salt and pepper: If you brined your pork chops, rinse them under running water, then pat them dry with paper towels. If you didn't, just remove from their package and pat dry. Either way, season both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Sear your chops, optional: Searing adds good flavor to the overall dish, but if you're in a rush, you can skip this step. If you do sear the meat, you can also quickly sauté the onions or other vegetables going into the dish and then deglaze the pan with the cooking liquid. Add an extra splash of the cooking liquid to the pot to compensate for the liquid that evaporated during deglazing.
  4. Add a layer of vegetables to the slow cooker: Scatter the vegetables or fruits you've chosen over the bottom of the slow cooker. They should form a single layer.
  5. Layer the chops on top: It's OK to overlap the chops slightly, but don't stack them on top of each other.
  6. Pour the cooking liquid over top: Pour the cooking liquid, or the liquid left from deglazing your pan, over the chops. If you sautéed any vegetables, tuck some of them below the chops and scatter the rest on top.
  7. Cook for 2 to 6 hours on LOW: At around 2 hours, your pork chops will be cooked through (145°F) and have a texture similar to chicken breast — tender, but firm. Between 3 to 6 hours, the chops will have a texture closer to pulled pork; it will be easy to cut with a fork and will pull easily from the bone. (The first time you make slow cooker pork chops, check the chops every so often to see how they're cooking; after this first batch, you'll know exactly how much cooking time to plan for going forward to make your ideal pork chops.)
  8. Serve with the vegetables and cooking liquid: Serve straight from the slow cooker or transfer everything to a serving dish. Spoon the cooking liquid over top of everything.

Recipe Notes

  • Leftovers: These are not my favorite chops to reheat and serve the next day; I find that they're just a bit too dry and tough at that point. If you do end up with leftovers, I recommend pulling them into shreds and using them in burritos, tacos, soups, and the like.
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