Pork loin center-cut chops provide a large amount of protein, with minimal fat and calories. Due to the lack of fat, cooking them can dry them out, if you're not careful. If you follow some of these tips and tricks, your pork loin center cut chops will stay tender and moist.
To help ensure you cook tender, juicy pork loin chops, make sure you brine them and bring the chops to room temperature before cooking. When you cook them, make sure you don't over cook them, to help avoid losing moisture.
Read more: How to Make Oven-Baked Boneless Pork Chops
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Brine or Marinate the Chops
The pork loin runs from behind the shoulders of the pig to the back end, where ham is cut. The closer the loin is cut near to shoulders, the fatter the meat will be. The closer the loin is cut to the ham end, the leaner the meat will be. The Mayo Clinic notes both brining and marinating meat as a way to add flavor without adding lots of fat or other unhealthy ingredients.
Leaner meat, like pork loin center-chops, tend to be a bit tougher and drier than beef, because of the high protein to fat ratio. To help prevent your chops from becoming too tough, you could try following baked boneless pork chop recipes that have you brine and marinade the chops before cooking.
A brine will not alter the fat content of the center-cut pork loin chops. According to the USDA, a bone-in, 4-ounce portion of loin chop will add 144 calories to your diet. Loin chops are also high in protein, and will provide nearly 25 grams in that serving size. If you are watching your fat intake, there are less than 5 grams of total fat in a pork loin center-cut.
If you are new to cooking, you may not know the difference between a brine and a marinade. A brine is a salty solution, often made with water and salt, but other liquids could also be used. You place your pork loin center chops in the brine for several hours, or overnight. The salty solution helps draw additional moisture into the meat. In addition to retaining more moisture, brined meat will also be more tender.
A marinade is somewhat similar to a brine, but it serves a different purpose. A marinade helps add flavor to the meat. Similar to a brine, you would soak the pork loin in the marinade for a period of time, often shorter periods than brining. A marinade might add flavor, but it does not necessarily add additional moisture. Ideally, you would use both a brine and a marinade, for the best-tasting pork loin center chops, but if you have to pick one, and you are aiming for tender pork, use a brine.
Tender Baked Pork Chops
A brine is a good start for cooking your pork loin center chops, but it is not the only step you should take to help get tender pork loin chops. Here are some additional tricks for making tender baked pork chops.
Before cooking the pork loin chops, take them out of the refrigerator. Let them warm up to room temperature before cooking them. This helps ensure even cooking, and that the meat won't get shocked, and dry out too much, as it cooks.
You should also avoid overcooking your pork loin chops. It only takes about 20 minutes to cook most pork chops in the oven. If you want to be extra sure, the National Pork Board suggests using a meat thermometer to check if the meat has reached an internal temperature of 145 Fahrenheit. If you cook it to 145 F, it is considered medium-rare. If you cook it beyond that temperature, it could dry out and toughen the meat.
Once cooked, let your pork loin rest for a few minutes before cutting into it. If you cut into the pork loin chop right after you take it out of the oven, you will loose a lot of the juices from the meat.