Pork chops are cut from the part of the pig that extends from its shoulder to hip, a strip called the pork loin. They are the most chosen cut of pork based on their ease of preparation, economical cost and consistent flavor and texture. Pork chops are called different names depending on the part of the pork loin from which they are cut.
Loin chops are the ones located nearer to the lower back or loin of the pig and have the most tender varieties. Rib chops are normally attached to one rib of the loin, cut about 1 in. thick and usually weigh between 4 and 5 oz. The center cut chop weighs about an ounce more and has the same thickness. It has a T-bone in it and includes a tenderloin section, which makes it well liked. Top loin boneless chops, also called center cut or America’s cut, weigh between 5 and 6 oz. and are about 1 1/2 in. thick, which makes them good for stuffing. The boniest loin chop, cut from the shoulder end, is only about 1/2 in. thick and weighs around 4 to 5 oz.
These are cut nearer to the front of the pork loin. Blade chops are the most common type of shoulder chop and have more marbling than those cut from the loin. This kind of pork chop is traditionally about 1/3 in. thick, weighs between 5 and 6 oz. and is frequently butterflied and sold as a country-style rib. Thin chops cut from this pig section are favored for quick frying and are normally the most economically priced pork chop. Pork steaks come from the area just below the shoulder where the pig’s leg attaches, and when the small round bone is removed, they are marketed as pork cutlets.
Choosing Pork Chops
Figure on 1/2 to 3/4 lb. of bone-in chops per serving and around 1/3 to 1/2 lb. per person for boneless cuts. Thicker chops require longer, slower cooking but have more aesthetic appeal and are generally moister than thin ones. Only buy chops that have a pale pink colored flesh and pure white fat, as yellowing fat indicates the meat is old. Make sure the packaging is free of holes or tears and that there is a minimal amount of liquid in the packaging tray.
Pork is best when braised, grilled or sautéed. Cuts with bones are generally more succulent than boneless chops. Less expensive cuts require longer, slower cooking like braising. Ask your butcher or meat department manager for recommendations on cooking times and serving suggestions.
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Cassie Damewood has been a writer and editor since 1985. She writes about food and cooking for various websites, including My Great Recipes, and serves as the copy editor for "Food Loves Beer" magazine. Damewood completed a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in creative writing at Miami University.