Pieces of pork loin -- chops or cutlets -- are ideal for all sorts of recipes and preparations. If you want to keep meal preparation simple and minimize cleanup, bake your pork chops and cutlets in the oven. Many cooks prefer to pan-sear pork cuts on the stove first and finish them in the oven to get a well-browned, crisp exterior. To make the pork extra crispy, bread the pork before you bake it.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit if you're just seasoning the pork chops or cutlets; preheat to 400 F if you're also breading them. The lower temperature helps prevent a scorched coating. Most ovens need a 20 to 30 minutes to preheat.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly grease it with a nonstick cooking spray or cooking oil.
Season or bread the pork. If you're just seasoning it, drizzle it with a bit of cooking oil or melted unsalted butter, then pat on salt, pepper and any other herbs and spices you'd like to use. If you're breading the chops or cutlets, mix bread crumbs with salt, pepper and other desired flavoring agents, such as herbs, spices, cornmeal or grated Parmesan cheese. Dredge the pork pieces first in all-purpose flour, then in beaten egg; finally, dredge the pieces in the breading. Place the seasoned meat on the baking sheet.
Bake the pork chops or cutlets in the middle of the oven. Cook them to an internal temperature of 140 F, as measured by a meat thermometer. Expect it to take about 15 minutes, but use the internal temperature, not the cooking time, to make a determination as to whether the meat is done. Cooking time varies based on the thickness of the meat; the reliability of your oven temperature, if you have boneless or bone-in cuts; and other factors.
Transfer the pork loin pieces off the baking sheet and onto a plate to rest. Tent them with a sheet of foil to keep them warm while resting. During this time, the pork's internal temperature continues to rise to the recommended 145 F. Aside from continuing to cook, this resting time helps ensure that the roast's juices will remain in the meat rather than running onto your cutting board as you carve the roast.
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- Keep pork below 40 F while storing it. Use fresh pork within three to five days after buying it or move it into the freezer. Airtight wrapping minimizes the risk of freezer burn.
- Rinsing and drying pork isn't necessary; cooking destroys the harmful microorganisms on the meat.
- Uncooked pork contaminates the surfaces with which it comes into contact with potentially dangerous bacteria. Wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling it.
- Don't reuse knives, tongs, cutting boards or other items you used with raw pork before sanitizing them. Sanitize counters or other surfaces that held the pork prior to cooking.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, travel, and lifestyle writer living in Orlando, Florida. He has professional experience to complement his love of cooking and eating, having worked for 10 years both front- and back-of-house in casual and fine dining restaurants. He has written print and web pieces on food and drink topics for Visit Florida, Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and other publications.