We’ve come to learn that it’s all too easy to overcook pork chops. Unlike large, fatty cuts such as Boston butt and picnic shoulder, chops are very lean, which means they’re prone to drying out quickly.
If your pork chops come out on the dry side, is there any way to perk them back up again? Sure, but you might have to get creative. Here’s what to do with dry pork chops—and a primer on how to avoid the problem going forward.
What To Do With Dry Pork Chops
To rehydrate dry pork chops, try heating them in a bit of chicken stock. You can also try to bump up the moisture by smothering the meat in your favorite barbecue sauce, or give the pork a second chance at life by adding it to a soup, stew, or casserole.
What’s the Proper Temperature for Grilled Pork Chops?
In the past, experts recommended cooking all pork products to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s because the raw meat may have been harboring the trichinella parasite, which causes a food-borne illness called trichinosis.
Heating pork to 160 degrees is an effective way to kill off the parasite. However, thanks to improved farming practices, pork is far less likely to contain trichinella these days.
It’s now considered safe to cook pork to just 145 degrees before you take it off the heat. At this temperature, the pork is considered medium-rare, and it may still have a pinkish tinge to the center.
When you cook a pork chop until it hits the 160-degree threshold, there’s a good chance that it will have a dry, sawdust-like texture. For leaner cuts like this one, we would suggest using a lower temperature as your target.
How Long Does It Take To Grill Pork Chops?
The amount of time that the pork chops should spend on the grill depends on a few variables. The thickness of the chops, the temperature of the grill, whether the pork chops are boneless or bone-in—these are all factors in the total cooking time.
Clearly, if you grill the pork over high heat, the meat will be done sooner. However, depending on the thickness of the chops, a high temperature could also lead to charring—therefore, a dry texture.
Thinly sliced pork chops will only need to cook for a brief amount of time when compared to cuts that measure an inch thick. Also, bone-in cuts may need to cook longer to ensure the proper texture.
For boneless chops, try using medium-high heat. For every half-inch of thickness, plan on 7 minutes of total cooking time. This means that a chop measuring 1/2 inch thick should cook for 3-1/2 minutes per side.
You can use medium-high heat for thinner bone-in pork chops, but if the cuts are thicker, try reducing the heat to medium after the initial sear. Otherwise, the outsides will burn before the insides have a chance to hit 145 degrees.
It takes longer to grill a bone-in pork chop, but the results should be well worth it. Cook each chop for about 5 minutes longer than you would a boneless cut of the same size.
For example, a bone-in chop measuring 1/2 inch thick would be on the heat for about 6 minutes per side. This will add roughly 5 minutes to the total cooking time.
How To Avoid Dry Pork Chops
One way to ensure that the meat will remain juicy is to select thicker chops at the butcher counter. Thinly sliced pork chops will cook through so quickly that they can reach a leather-like consistency in just a few seconds.
Try to choose pork chops that measure at least 1 inch thick. The meat will need to spend more time on the grill, but it will hold up better to the direct heat.
Brining the pork chops will help them retain moisture as they cook. You don’t have to leave them in the saltwater solution for long. Even a 30-minute brining period can have a positive effect on the texture.
If the chops are thick enough, try searing them over high heat for 2 minutes per side at the outset. Once you’ve attained impressive grill marks, turn the heat down to medium for the rest of the cooking time.
You could also move the pork to a cooler section of the grill to finish cooking over indirect heat. This will allow the chops to remain moist and tender throughout, with no charring on the exterior.
Finally, don’t forget to let the pork chops rest for about 5 minutes before you serve them. When you cut into meat that’s just come off the grill, the juices will spill out, giving the inside a drier texture.
How To Test Pork for Doneness
The best way to ensure that pork has cooked to a safe temperature is to use an instant-read meat thermometer. We recommend keeping one of these close at hand every time you grill. Make sure the probe isn’t touching any bone when you insert it into the chop.
You can also press your finger lightly against the center of the chop to test its texture. A cooked pork chop will have a similar texture to the tip of your nose. When it’s still undercooked, it will feel more like the soft part of your cheek.
As a last resort, you can use a small, sharp knife to make a nick in one of the chops. The meat should be opaque and whitish, with a tinge of pink in the center. Try not to perform this test on more than one chop—you can lose a lot of juice that way.
What To Do With Dry Pork Chops
If you’ve followed all of the advice listed above and the pork chops still have a texture reminiscent of sawdust, all is not lost. You can revitalize the leftover meat using one of the following techniques.
Use a Sauce
If you smother the pork chops in barbecue sauce, you might not notice the dry texture. You can use your favorite store-bought sauce, but you’ll probably yield better results if you make your own from scratch.
Rehydrate in Broth
This is an excellent way to run damage control when the pork is still fresh off the grill. You can also use it the following day, as long as the pork has a chance to reheat to at least 145 degrees.
Add a couple of tablespoons of chicken stock or water to a skillet. Set the skillet over medium heat. Place the pork chops in the pan and reheat slowly, using a food thermometer to test the temperature. Serve as desired.
Alternatively, you can use the oven for this method. Set the oven temperature to 350 and reheat the pork for 10 to 15 minutes. Just make sure the pan you use is oven-safe.
Make Soup or Stew
One of our favorite ways to save dry pork leftovers is to repurpose them into an entirely new dish. Because pork chops are so lean and mild-tasting, the possibilities are endless.
One option would be to slice the leftover pork into thin strips, then add it to a bowl of freshly cooked ramen noodles in a hearty broth. Top with scallions, toasted sesame seeds, and sliced spinach. For an extra dose of protein, add a poached egg.
Pro Tip: Choose your ingredients based on the seasoning you used for the pork chops to begin with. If you used a barbecue spice rub, try chopping the meat and adding it to baked beans. Herbed pork chops would make a nice addition to a pot pie or casserole.
It’s preferable if your pork chops don’t come out dry to begin with, but if they do, there’s no need to throw them out. Pork is versatile enough to make a superb addition to plenty of other dishes.