Cooking - not overcooking - pork cutlets/boneless chops. Is organic pork less marbled and therefore more dry?

I've heard that organic, grass-fed beef has less marbling and can be tougher/drier than CAFO beef, so you need to cook it more gently. Is the same true with pork? I cooked some WF boneless pork chops (level 4 of 5 on their new kindness/humane scale) using a new recipe this weekend, and even though I cooked them for the shorter duration of the recommended 4-6 minutes, they came out very dry (like the ones our mothers used to make, right?). I rested them under foil and served them in a sauce. Next time I think I'll cook them at a lower heat (never mind about trying to brown them). Thoughts, experiences?

  • Posted by: Peanut
  • March 14, 2011


mainecook61 March 16, 2011
Don't give up on boneless pork cutlets. Quick, find an online recipe for the Japanese comfort food "tonkatsu" (breaded pork cutlets, use panko for the breading). I'll give you the quick version. If I've used up the tenderloin in the freezer, I sometimes take chops off the bone, slice them thin horizontally, and pound them flat. Dip them in flour, then egg, then panko, and fry in a neutral oil (not olive). They cook quickly and are not tough. Then, what you want is some rice, maybe a little cabbage salad, and some tonkatsu sauce (kind of a thick-ish Japanese worcestershire), which is easy to find in an Asian market, even in Maine. No tonkatsu sauce? Lemon wedges will do. You can find tonkatsu all over Japan, in bentos, in the train station restaurants, everywhere.

Peanut March 16, 2011
Thanks for the recipe, mainecook61. I'm thinking boneless pork is not such a good option for a quick weeknight dinner -- but I will give it one more try with the low-and-slow cooking method without brining the meat first.
Nora March 14, 2011
I agree with brining. And I prefer bone-in. And fattier cuts are also worth considering.
mainecook61 March 14, 2011
We do raise our own pigs and sometimes (depends on what we're feeding them) the meat can be quite lean, especially chops. I always use this brining formula, from Judy Rodgers's The Zuni Cafe Cookbook:
5 cups water, room temp.
6 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons salt--a bit more if it's kosher
Some crumbled bay leaves or juniper berries--JR suggests simmering these for a short time in one cup of the water first, to draw out the flavor. This amount is enough for 4 chops.

You can refrigerate the chops in this brine for one day or two or three. It works wonderfully. Rinse the chops, dry them, and proceed with your recipe.

The same formula, modified, works for chickens, especially the kind that have gotten lots of free range exercise!
6 cups water
3 Thb sugar
3 Thb. salt

usuba D. March 14, 2011
I have said it before and I will say it again. Pork loin is the most undesirable cut from pork and is only worthy of being made into bacon, what you all call Irish style bacon, with some of the streaky left on. There are so many wonderful cuts on a pig that are thrown into sausage in America . . Do you know there is a brisket and a flank steak on a pig? Do you know how wonderful they are for cooking? That is only a fraction of the juicy, flavourful cuts. Cook up chops off the collar (butt) or the sirloin from the hip of the ham . . . Leave the fat on when cooking . . . Cut it away when eating. Ever braised a fresh belly? The fat will melt in your mouth, and you will not be able to stop eating it. The breed of the pig is very important to the quality of the meat. . . and they are what they eat . . . an organic diet should give a better tasting product. Try Jude Becker's organic pork from Iowa. Eats very well and is sold, on a limited basis in some WF and better shops in SF and NYC.
ChefDaddy March 14, 2011
Bone in, boneless, organic, whatever it may be it should not be dry after cooking if done right. (not overcooked). I have only seen marbling in pork in the fattier cuts but not in loin or your average pork chop. That being said, if it's dy, you over cooked it.
Peanut March 14, 2011
What about boneless cuts, though? I imagine those would not do so well with a sear -- the ones I made this weekend certainly didn't respond well. And I still wonder -- does the type/brand make a difference with pork as it does with beef?
ChefDaddy March 14, 2011
Yes, all is true and good suggestion but, a pan seared pork chop done right should not be dry. Season, sear and turn down the heat and cook at little lower than medium heat or put in the oven and cook until you reach an internal temp of about 160F and let it stand for a few minutes (internal temp will rise a little due to carry over). If you cook it past 165F for any length of time you will dry it out by driving all the juices out. Brining in my opinion is for grilling or smoke roasting but for saute or braising I don't like the results no to mention the extra moisture in the pan when cooked is salty and you cannot build a pan sauce or have a jus when done.
Peanut March 14, 2011
I tried brining pork once, and it was an expensive disaster: I couldn't get enough of the salt out of the meat, and it was borderline inedible. I'll give it one more shot, though, with this recipe. Thanks!
Blissful B. March 14, 2011
I find pork chops to be a dry meat, whether they're organic or not. Braising & brining are great methods for helping them retain the juice. In the past, I've always braised, but think brining would be even more effective. Here's a link to simple brining instructions:
Here's the contest-winning pork chop recipe on Food52 (which includes an overnight brine):
Helen's A. March 14, 2011
Lately I have been using the really thick sirloin boneless chops which I braise. They are juicier (probably because they have more fat) and my husband loves them. I usually salt and pepper them then lightly flour. Then I brown them on both sides in olive oil & butter over medium high for several minutes. After that I will deglaze with wine or stock and braise them until tender. You can add what ever flavorings and herbs you like. Mushrooms with tarragon, onions and thyme, etc. Hope this helps.
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