Smackdown: That's One Ugly Baby


Pork chops. I have a hard time getting behind them.


I don’t blame the pork chops; how can you blame pork? It’s just that they seem so boring when compared to the other parts of the blessed pig. I mean, belly. Shoulder. Right? Right.

I also blame my father. He was a good man – a great man – but he could overcook a pork chop like nobody’s business. Of course, he could overcook a lamb chop or a piece of beef just as well and I still love those things, so maybe I’m just predisposed to be left cold by the pork chop.

hot tub

Still, Brian wanted a pork chop dinner, and you know how I live to please my man. So I got home from work, put on my housedress, heels and pearls and got to work.

You gotta figure that if anyone can make you like a pork chop, it’s the America’s Test Kitchen people. Say what you will about their unfortunate tendency to suck all the spontaneity and joy out of cooking with their incessant testing, they tend to produce a tasty end result. Plus, the guy who does their equipment reviews is like the love child of Jon Lovitz and Harvey Firestein who happens to know way too much about electric knife sharpeners.

Their pork chops are brined in water, salt and brown sugar, so I got the chops into the hot tub and stashed them in the fridge to soak.


While they bathed, I put together the puree that would eventually turn into the pan sauce: chipotles in adobo, orange juice, lime juice and zest and molasses.

Aside: “Pelvic Organ Prolapse” is a terrifying concept, and possibly also the name of my new death metal-reggae fusion band. Thank you for exposing me to the idea, Lifetime. Lifetime: Television for Scaring the Crap Out of Women.


After a scant hour, the chops got a patdown with some paper towels and took a short walk off a shorter pier into a smoking hot pan. The sugar from the brine started to caramelize almost immediately into dark crusty bits begging to be gnawed off the bone.

I hear tell around the campfire that the Powers That Be decided that pork doesn’t have to be cooked dad-style to be considered done and safe. I took them off the heat a bit shy of 140 degrees, letting the carryover cooking take the internal temperature up to 145.


The chipotle-citrus puree went into the hot pan to deglaze and then thicken into a syrupy sauce.

Once it was sufficiently reduced, I turned off the heat and whisked in some cold butter. Through their seventeen thousand practice efforts, the America’s Test Kitchen people have determined that the optimal amount of butter with which to mount the sauce is two tablespoons, which I’m sure causes Paula Deen to twitch in her sleep because it’s so paltry. Two tablespoons is what she stirs into her morning coffee; a true sauce needs at least a stick. But I didn’t want to spit in Christopher Kimball’s face, so two tablespoons it was.


Behold: The Pork Chop of Redemption. As it turns out, when a pork chop is well-seasoned and properly cooked, it’s pretty darn good – go figure.

Thanks to the brining, the chop was juicy and seasoned throughout and just a touch sweet. The sauce was punchy and spicy and sweet and sticky, which is everything you want in a sauce for pork. I gnawed at my bone, then took Brian’s bone and gnawed on that, and yes, I know that sounds totally dirty.

Test Kitchen people, you have changed my mind about the lowly pork chop, and for that I thank you. I hope they ocassionally unchain you from the stove where you’ve been unceasingly test cooking  the perfect tomato sauce for the last three weeks so you can see the sun.

9 thoughts on “Smackdown: That's One Ugly Baby

  1. we have one of those vacuum food saver things. it came with a marination peripheral. you put your meat in, your marination liquid, close it up and use the vacuum to create a vacuum in the container. this draws the liquid and flavour into the meat. i have to say i’m somewhat pleased with the results. i’ve done chicken and pork in it with stellar results and in a very short time. both were marinated in lemon juice, the chicken with spices and a bit of oil (white meat does tend to dry out) and the pork with garlic. then they were put on the bbq to sear up and get all tasty(er)


  2. I looove some pork chop – these look great!

    ps – your call on the spicy garlicky cashew dip out of the Essential New York Times Cookbook was spot on – much better as a dip for veggies than cooked onto chicken, etc. BIG hit – everyone make you some now! thanks

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  4. Being from the South, needless to say, we eat a lot of pork chops. My dad really thinks he knows how to cook them…I never tell him he’s so~ over-cooking them every time. Not desert dry (that’s my mom) but could use less time in the tanning salon.. It’s kind of like his cornbread..Oh, that’s another story. Maybe I’ll push him to try this way…

  5. I *like* it that the folks at ATK are so singlemindedly thorough about their testing – it means that I don’t have to be. I have totally drank the Cook’s Kool-aid, magazine subscriptions, website subscriptions and all. And yes, part of the package has been the redemption of pork and pork chops.

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