With only a short time to get dinner on the table, home cooks don't automatically think about cooking pork chops. Lower in fat than the chops of twenty years ago and mild in flavor, pork chops anchor a quickly-prepared meal with solid protein. Pan-saute chops with easy accompaniments for a nutritious meal that can be ready in half an hour. Pork chops get you out of the kitchen and to the table fast.
A far cry from old-fashioned frying, pan-sauteeing browns meat in a small amount of fat, to which aromatic vegetables like garlic and onion, as well as herbs or spices can be added. For a 3/4-inch-thick chop, 5 to 6 minutes per side over medium-high heat is usually adequate to reach a U.S. Department of Agriculture-recommended internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. A flavorsome liquid, like broth, wine, fruit juice, vinegar or beer, stirred into the pan can be used to compose a simple sauce. Remove meat from the pan long enough to deglaze it, scraping browned bits into the liquid, then return meat to the pan to finish cooking. Adding a vegetable or fruit, sliced thin so it can steam within a couple of minutes, turns chops into more of a meal or even company fare.
Today's pork compares favorably with skinless dark meat turkey and salmon in terms of fat and protein. Loin, sirloin and rib pork chops meet the United States Department of Agriculture standards for "lean" meat, with under 10 grams total fat and 4.5 grams saturated fat. To brown chops adequately, coat the pan with 1 tablespoon of oil. You can save calories with cooking spray, but browning may not be as deep.
Marinades and Rubs
Marinades and rubs are quick ways to add a wealth of flavors and variety to sauteed chops. Let raw chops sit for a maximum of 10 to 20 minutes in a marinade containing an acid liquid, like citrus juice, vinegar, wine or beer, herbs and spices. Except for those containing dairy products, marinades function better as flavorings than tenderizers, so brief marinating is effective with smaller pieces of meat like chops. Even quicker than a marinade, a rub composed of spices and herbs can be sprinkled on both sides of the meat directly before cooking. Adding a very small quantity of oil helps herbs and spices adhere. Vary seasonings to create a Southwestern, Asian or Cajun-themed meal.
Sauces and Glazes
A sauce can be a simple as a splash of broth to deglaze the saute pan or as complex as a classic sauce like Bearnaise or chasseur. The quickest sauces take only a minute of stirring. Cover the saute pan and simmer chops with sauce for another minute or two. Glazes take slightly longer because ingredients are usually cooked or mixed together before applying to cooked meat. Often containing sweet ingredients, glazes are applied late in cooking to keep them thick and satiny.
Making a Meal
Make a fresh relish in the short interval required to cook pork chops. A mango chutney, cucumber-yogurt raita or spicy fruited slaw makes an excellent accompaniment or side dish and enhances the seasonings of your chops. For example, diced cucumbers and tomatoes, a yogurt sauce and warmed pita bread turn oregano-rubbed pork chops into a Greek-themed dinner within the time it takes to saute the chops.