Here's how you make a pork chop that can truly rival a great steak at home: Brine it with brown sugar, pan-fry it, and then baste it with butter. If that sounds a lot like how you cook a steak at home, you're right — this is basically pork chop steak!
There are a number of reasons you might want to serve pork chops instead of steak (cost and effort chief among them), but our favorite is this: A steak-fried pork chop is incredibly tender and juicy, bathed with brown, garlicky butter, and just as satisfying as its beefy brethren. Here's how to cook a pork chop like a steak on the stovetop.
The Secret to Life-Changing Pork Chops? Treat It Like Steak
Pork chops truly are an underrated dinner option. For everything from weeknight dinners to great dinner party fair, pork hits the sweet spot of being all but universally adored, relatively inexpensive, and easy to prepare. The prime mistake most of us home cooks are making when it comes to pork chops? Not giving it proper due as a crave-worthy, steak-like supper.
If you've ever pan-fried a steak in hot cast iron and finished it with butter, then you already know what a pleasure it is to cook and eat. The exterior develops a golden-brown crust that's flaked with salt and butter, and the interior cooks to juicy, rosy perfection. This method allows the pork chop to hold on to its juices so you won't need a drip of added sauce — the flavor from pan juices are all you need to finish it off. The only thing we do differently to cook a pork chop like a steak is a quick brine and tenderizing before pan-frying.
Use Thick, Bone-in Rib Chops for Steak-like Chops
Pork is much leaner than beef, with less marbling to keep the meat tender and moist. For pan-frying — and to avoid dry pork chops — buy thick, bone-in rib chops. These pork chops have more fat and connective tissue around the bone to keep the pork chops moist and prevent overcooking.
Key Steps for Stovetop Pork Chops
- Tenderize it with a fork. I learned this trick from my grandmother, a prudent home cook, who regularly gave this treatment to all steaks and chops. Pricking meat with a fork to make it more tender works especially well for thick pork chops; it helps the brine permeate the pork chops make it easier for the butter to seep in while cooking.
- Brine with brown sugar. We pretty much always suggest brining when it comes to pork chops. Not only does it add moisture, but it also seasons the meat inside and out. A little brown sugar in this brine also helps the exterior caramelize in the pan.
- Cook in cast iron. We have two goals for these pork chops, right? A juicy interior — aided by fork-tenderizing and brining — and a golden, crispy exterior. More than any pan, cast iron allows for the best sear on meat, and these pork chops are no exception.
- Flip frequently and finish with butter. Maybe this goes against meat cooking advice you've previously learned, but we want to flip these pork chops often and here's why: Repeated flipping cooks the pork more evenly, ensuring that every angle meets the pan and gets golden on the outside while remaining rosy on the inside. Towards the end of the cooking process, add a few pats of butter to the pan and use a large spoon to repeatedly coat the chops in butter to finish cooking.
Serving Stovetop Pork Chops
Your temperature destination for pork chops is 145°F — the sweet spot of juiciness and a rosy interior. You'll be resting the pork chops in the butter-y pan for five minutes off the heat, so don't wait any longer after that to thinly slice the pork chops and serve right away in a pool of their buttery pan juices. There's no need for steak sauce for these steak-like pork chops!
How To Make Easy Pan-Fried Pork Chops
Serves 2 to 4
What You Need
bone-in pork chops, preferably rib chops (1 1/2 inches thick, 8 to 10 ounces each)
packed light or dark brown sugar
garlic, peeled and smashed
Gallon zip-top bag
Large plate or baking sheet
Large cast iron skillet
Tenderize the pork chops with a fork. Place the pork chops on a large plate or baking sheet. (Optional — place a wire rack on a baking sheet.) Prick the chops all over with a fork, about 1/8 inch deep. Flip the pork chops and repeat pricking the other side.
Brine the pork chops. Place the water, salt, and brown sugar in a gallon zip-top bag and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the pork chops and seal the bag. Place the bag on a rimmed baking sheet and arrange so that the pork chops are sitting in a single layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.
Drain and pat the chops dry. Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and sear. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot and just beginning to smoke. Add the pork chops and cook for 1 minute on each side — they should begin to brown and release some fat into the pan.
Continuing flipping and cooking for 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes more, flipping the chops every minute, until they register 135°F in the thickest part.
Butter baste off the heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter, thyme, and garlic. Use a large spoon to spoon the melted butter over the pork chops. Flip the pork chops and baste again. Let the pork chops rest in the pan until they reach 140 to 145°F, 5 to 7 minutes.
Slice and serve. Slice the pork chops across the grain and serve with the butter sauce.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.