Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Linda Hirst

Yes, the thickness of your pork chop matters. Here’s how to choose the best chop for your meal.

Elizabeth Laseter
August 16, 2018

Pork chops are an effortless weeknight dinner. They’re ultra-versatile, quick-cooking, and always delicious. But whether you want to make a grilled, pan-seared, or crispy-fried pork chop, can you use just any type of chop?

Not quite. While bone-in and boneless pork chops have small differences, the thickness of the chop you use can make or break a recipe. How? Toss a paper thin pork chop onto the grill and you’ll see why—it will overcook before you have the chance to char the outside. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to bread and fry a thicker pork chop—the crust would burn before the chop has cooked on the inside. Avoid either of these fates by knowing when to buy a thick or a thin pork chop. This handy guide shows you the difference between the two so you can make a perfectly juicy pork chop at home. 

Thin Pork Chops

Photo: Greg Dupree; Styling: Claire Spollen

Here’s an easy rule of thumb to remember—if your endgame is crispy or fried, use thin pork chops. Thin pork chops are around ⅛ to ¼ inch thick, can be boneless or bone-in, and are perfect for pan- or deep-frying. Thin pork chops cook up fast, and they’re also a great staple to stockpile in your freezer, since they thaw relatively quickly. 

How do you identify thin pork chops at the grocery store? Look for pork cutlets, which are cut from the pork loin and may contain meat from the tenderloin, sirloin, or a combination (called center-cut). Pork cutlets from the tenderloin are very tender, while cutlets from the sirloin tend to be tougher and should be pounded at home before cooking. Pounding breaks up the connective tissue of the meat to help tenderize it.

If you’re cooking several pork cutlets at once, consider buying a whole pork tenderloin and trimming it into medallions at home. You should be able to cut about 12 cutlets from one 1-lb. tenderloin—but don’t hesitate to ask your butcher for help.

You can cook thin pork chops in several different ways. Dredge them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper before pan-frying to create a flavorful crust. If you prefer a thicker, heartier crust, you can assemble a basic breading station of flour, eggs, and bread crumbs or panko, then dip the pork chop into each one before cooking. A crust isn't always necessary—you can also saute thin pork chops over very high heat to give them a golden-brown sear, just keep in mind that they will cook through quickly.

The cook time for thin pork chops depends on the recipe, but it generally ranges from 4 to 8 minutes total. If you bread the pork chops, the cook time will be on the high side of this range.

Thin Pork Chop Recipes

Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr    

A crispy fried pork chop is delicious on it own with creamy mashed potatoes, but it also makes a comforting sandwich. Thin pork chops don’t always have to be crispy—they’re also tasty when quick-sauteed and topped with a creamy or tangy sauce. Here are our favorite recipes for thin pork chops:

Thick Pork Chops

Photo: Jennifer Causey

If you prefer smoky, charred pork chops, then thick is your jam. Thick pork chops, which are about 1 to 1 ½ inches thick, are ideal for grilling, pan-searing, and broiling. Yes, they take a bit longer to cook than thin pork chops, but the deep caramelization you can get on the outside is worth it. 

Thick pork chops are also perfect for brines, which work to lock flavor and moisture into the meat while it cooks. Because thick pork chops give you more meat to work with, you can easily cook them to a perfect medium (150° F) on the inside, no matter the cooking method you use. Conversely, internal temperature is less of a concern for thin pork chops, which you’ll typically cook through regardless.

For the best flavor, choose thick, bone-in pork chops like pork loin chops or center-cut chops. While it depends on the actual thickness of the meat, expect grilled pork chops to take about 8 minutes to cook (4 minutes on each side). If you’re pan-searing thick pork chops, they should take about 10 minutes (5 minutes on each side) to cook. For ultra-thick pork chops, you can always use a meat thermometer to check the temperature if you’re unsure.

Thick Pork Chop Recipes

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Ginny Branch Stelling 

Grilled pork chops are delicious brushed with a tangy glaze or topped with a fruit salsa, while pan-seared pork chops are tasty when sauteed with apples or other veggies. Here are our favorite recipes for thick pork chops:

Thin or Thick Pork Chops? The thickness of your pork chop depends entirely on how you intend to use it. For crispy fried pork chops, opt for thin. For pork chops with a smoky char, opt for thick. However you cook them, both are super versatile, delicious options for any night of the week.

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