For some reason, my mom would make pork chops at least a couple times a month when us kids were little. And even though she always tried her best, bless her, she always ended up with tough chops and would compensate by drowning it in some kind of mystery gravy. Up until I was about 20 and moved to the Bay Area, I always thought that pork was just meant to be that way. I know some of you are probably screaming into your screen right now, but don’t judge me – I didn’t know any better.
Everyone knows that pork chops have a tendency to be over cooked, dry, or tough. And the reason for it, is that they cook really fast and they are super lean, so they don’t have much fat to hold in any moisture. But that doesn’t mean that they are sentenced to be a substandard cut of meat – in fact, pork is one of my absolute favorite proteins (if you hadn’t noticed the amount of pork on the blog).
Through a bunch of trial and error, I’ve noticed that the key to making pork juicy, especially when cooking it quick, is to slather it in butter or oil to try and retain as much moisture as possible. A lot of people (my mom included) swear by tenting the pork with foil to try and seal in any moisture. I decided to completely dismiss the foil because I hate it, and just use a lid instead. It does the same thing, and it does it better.
Balsamic Butter Pork Chops
- 4 boneless or bone-in pork chops
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 Tbsp butter (3/4 stick)
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp olive or canola oil
- 1 lemon; 5 rings cut from middle, do not discard ends
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/4c dry white wine or chicken stock (optional)
- 1tsp all purpose flour (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°
- Pat dry chops and season both sides with salt and pepper; set aside. Combine butter and vinegar in microwave safe bowl and heat until melted and mix thoroughly.
- Heat lemon slices and ends in a cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until lightly charred on the sides. Removes lemon and add oil; heat until almost smoking. Add chops and sear for 2 minutes. Flip chops and pour butter mixture over the top; add garlic and thyme to the pan, and spoon sauce over the top of the pork chops. Top with lemon slices, and squeeze lemon ends to release juice into the skillet.
- Cook for another few minutes, spoon sauce over the top again, cover, and transfer to oven. Bake for 6-7 minutes covered, remove lid and spoon sauce to cover pork chops, and bake 6-8 more minutes uncovered.
- Remove chops from pan and keep warm until ready to serve. If desired, add 1/4c. white wine or chicken stock to deglaze skillet, and add 1tsp flour to thicken into a gravy.
Notes and Variations
The biggest thing to note with this recipe is that the cooking time will vary if you’re using bone-in chops instead of boneless. It’s not a huge difference, but definitely something worth noting – if using bone-in pork chops, cook for 3-4 minutes longer in the oven, or until it registers 160°.
These are best served straight from the oven, but are still moist and tender the next day. Just keep in airtight container in the fridge, and make sure to enjoy within a few days.
If you don’t want to use balsamic vinegar (for some crazy reason that I don’t understand) you can substitute it with 1 1/2 Tbsp Dijon or whole grain mustard.