Why Your Pork Chops Turned Out Tough (and How to Avoid It Next Time)
A well-cooked pork chop should be unquestionably juicy, tender, and even a teeny bit pink at the center (yes, this is okay!). It’s what we should expect every time we cut into this meat. But sometimes we’re met with a tough, chewy chop instead.
Overcooking is the simple reason why your pork chops turned out tough, but here’s the best way to make sure it never happens again.
Overcooked Pork Chops Are Tough
Because pork chops are such a lean cut, they are relatively quick-cooking and prone to overcooking. When they’re cooked for even a few minutes too long, whether it’s in the oven or on the stovetop or grill, they’re quick to dry out, and — you guessed it — become tough, chewy, and less than appealing.
This is partly due to carry-over cooking. Even when you take the chops out of the oven or off the stovetop, they still continue to cook a tiny bit due to the retained heat. And it’s often this little bit that can take them from tender to tough. Luckily, there is a simply solution.
The Best Way to Avoid Tough Pork Chops Forever
The best way to banish tough pork chops is to know when they’re done.
Cook time and color are not totally accurate ways to measure the doneness of pork chops. Instead, the most foolproof way to tell when they’re ready is by measuring the internal temperature with a probe cooking thermometer, at the thickest part of the chop. Cooked to 145°F, the meat is tender, juicy, and just a touch pink. And yes, again, some pink is okay!
Determining the cook time for pork chops can be tricky because not all chops are the same thickness. They can range from as thin as a 1/2-inch up to a big 2-inch-thick chop. Regardless of the type of chop, thickness is the primary factor that dictates total cook time. Thinner chops will cook more quickly and can benefit from a shorter cook time, while thicker chops require more time.
As a rule of thumb, after being seared, thinner chops (1/2- to 3/4-inch-thick) should cook for five to seven minutes in the oven, while thicker chops (one-inch-thick or more) may need eight to 12 minutes. I always err on the side of checking the temperature sooner than later, since you can always add an extra minute or two of cook time if needed, but you can never get those precious minutes back.