A properly maintained freezer keeps foods edible almost indefinitely, but their quality will deteriorate over time. One of the most common signs that items are past their prime is freezer burn, grey-brown patches that appear on the surface of your foods. Some items, such as thick-cut pork chops, can be salvaged even after they're freezer burnt. You'll need to cut away the affected areas, but then the chops can be cooked normally.
Preparing the Chops
Remove the chops from your freezer and leave them in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.
Separate the chops and inspect them carefully for damaged areas. Wherever you spot a dry, grey freezer-burnt spot, carefully cut it away with a sharp knife. Make several shallow cuts, shaving away the affected area until the meat appears normal.
Repeat this process until you've removed all visible traces of freezer burn from the surface of the chops. If a spot has occurred over a seam in the meat, cut out the areas on either side of that seam as well. There's a strong likelihood that the damage went inside the chop, following that natural channel.
Pat the chops dry with a clean paper towel. If you've had to cut away seams in any of the pork chops, wrap them and tie them with butcher's twine to hold the chops in their correct shape.
Grilling, Broiling or Pan-Frying
Lightly brush or spray the chops with oil, then season them with salt and pepper. Preheat your skillet, grill or broiler.
Arrange the chops on your grill or broiler tray with plenty of room between them, so the air can circulate. If you're pan-frying, cook only one or two chops per skillet so they won't crowd each other. If there are too many chops per pan, they won't sear properly.
Cook the chops for 6 to 7 minutes per side, until they're well-browned and show an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit when tested with an instant-read thermometer.
Remove the chops to a serving tray and cover them loosely with aluminum foil. Let them rest for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.
Dry the chops on a clean paper towel, then spray or brush them with oil. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet and sear the chops for about 1 minute on each side, until well-browned and savory.
Arrange the chops in the bottom of a casserole or baking dish. Cover them with sauteed onions or mushrooms, then pour in enough tomato sauce, cream sauce, country gravy or cream soup to cover the chops.
Sprinkle chopped fresh herbs over the dish, if you like, then place it in a preheated oven at 325 to 350 F.
Bake the chops for 25 to 30 minutes, depending on their thickness, until they show an internal temperature of 145 F or higher when tested with an instant-read thermometer. Serve the chops and their sauce over your favorite side dishes.
- On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen; Harold McGee
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Freezing and Food Safety
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Food Storage Chart
- Freezer burn leaves the meat dried out and chewy and the affected spots have unpleasantly rancid, oxidized flavors. Cutting away the affected area should eliminate the off flavors, and searing the meat at high temperature or cooking it with a flavorful sauce will help mask any remaining evidence of freezer burn.
- If the chops are too thin to trim away the freezer-burnt areas, discard them.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.