Pork chops make a great entree. They're high in protein, so they're satisfying, and their mild flavor supports a practically endless roster of seasonings, sauces, glazes and accompanying side dishes. Of course, nothing ruins pork chops quite as definitively as overcooking them. Overcooked pork chops are dry, chewy, tough and just generally unpleasant to gnaw on. The meat's internal temperature -- not its exact cooking time in the oven -- is the key to proper preparation.
Oven Cooking Times
Cooking times always vary based on a number of individual factors, especially when baking or roasting in the oven. The oven temperature affects cooking time, plus oven temperatures aren't precise and fluctuate, so each oven cooks at its own pace to some degree. With repeated use, you'll get a feel for whether your model tends to require shorter or longer cooking times. The thickness of your pork chops affects their cooking time; the thinner the cut, the quicker it cooks through. Also, bone-in cuts cook faster than boneless ones. The amount of food you're cooking at the same time, the material and color of the baking tray and other particulars influence cooking time, too.
Of course, you need a good idea of how long your pork chops will be in the oven so you can plan the rest of your cooking and meal preparations. While cooking times always vary, it's not difficult to come up with a decent estimate of how long the meat stays in the oven. To use the simplest method, bake your pork chops at 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a shallow, uncovered roasting pan. Using this method, expect bone-in pork chops to require about 20 minutes cooking time per pound, and boneless pork chops to need about 23 minutes per pound. Remember, these are only approximations, and the meat's internal temperature is the key to perfectly cooked meals.
The cooking time and the color of the pork chops are variable enough to be unreliable measures for knowing when the meat is cooked just right. As the USDA advises, pork must be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F to be safe. This kills off bacteria and parasites that reside in pork and can trigger illnesses in humans, such as salmonellosis and trichinosis. Ideally, pork chops shouldn't be cooked beyond this point, since the longer it cooks the drier and tougher the meat becomes.
Because the pork chop's internal temperature is the key to knowing when it's safely cooked and not yet overcooked, invest in an instant-read meat thermometer. Lots of different types are available and most are generally reliable, so pick a style you like and that fits your budget and follow the usage and care directions. Insert the tip into the center of the thickest pork chop to take a temperature reading. Make sure the thermometer stem doesn't come into contact with bone or the baking tray, as these read hotter than the meat.
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images