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A tried-and-true favorite: Maple-Black Pepper Pork Chops

November 21, 2008

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Ooh, just looking at that picture makes me drool! Today I am going to share one of my #1 favorite dishes, EVER. Imagine if you will: a lovely pan-seared pork chop, lightly swathed in a sweet-tart glaze of maple syrup, lots of freshly cracked black pepper, a little cider vinegar, browned shallot, and lots of earthy thyme. A dish that takes all of about 20 minutes to make, but is so knockout delicious that you could serve it for any dinner party and have very happy guests. A dish that turns out just as well with bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts; so if you get tired of pork (and it really has been the pork channel around here lately, hasn’t it? I told you it was my favorite meat…) you can just switch it up for a little variety. That, my dear readers, is what you have in this dish. I promise, if you make it, it will almost certainly become one of your favorites, too.

While I was cooking this dish, I thought I’d do a little photo essay, too. One of the top 5 things that I learned while I was at CIA Boot Camp was the proper way to pan-fry meat to ensure juicy, perfectly done results. The key? After the meat has been seared in the pan, finish it in the oven, where you can monitor the internal temperature so it comes out when it’s just done. I always did this with roasts, but not as consistently with smaller cuts of meat — chicken breasts, pork chops, etc. I’ve had more than one experience where I’d sear the first side, flip the meat over and continue cooking it on the stovetop, only to find that the meat was totally dried out, tough and/or burnt by the time it was finally done cooking. You lose a great deal of heat from the pan when trying to cook a breast or chop on the stovetop, and consequently have to cook it longer; plus, a lot of these cuts of meat are irregularly shaped, and don’t cook evenly in the pan. If you sear it in the pan to get a nice browned surface, then put the whole pan in a 350/375 F oven to finish cooking, you’ll get consistently evenly cooked, juicy results.

So here we go – here’s the process for making these beautiful, delicious pork chops, step by step:

1. Mise en place – get all of your ingredients chopped and ready beforehand. You want them at arm’s reach when you’re making the pan sauce after the chops are done.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

3. Season the meat well with coarse salt, and really rub it in. If you just sprinkle salt on the surface of the meat, you’ll get little crystals crusting the meat – you really want to get that flavor into the meat, not just on the surface. I scored some lovely pork chops from The Piggery last weekend at the farmer’s market.

rubbing the salt in

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4. Preheat your (ovenproof) pan! Once the pan is HOT, pour a little oil in — it should shimmer.

A little oil goes into a hot, hot pan

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5. Now, place your seasoned chops into the pan, presentation side down. LEAVE THEM. If you move them around a lot before they’ve seared well, they’ll stick and the surface will get all torn up. We want a beautiful, caramelized surface!

Place the chops in and leave them alone

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6. You’ll know they’re ready to turn when the chops release from the pan when you gently pull up on one edge. Using tongs, flip the chops over – you should have some nice caramelization on the first side.

flipped onto the second side

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7. Now, put a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chop. I use a remote kind, where I can stick the probe into the meat, and it’s connected to a cord that hooks into a digital reader, which I keep outside the oven. We’re going to want to cook these chops to 145 degrees F, and as you can see, they have just a little ways to go.

stick in the probe

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8. Put the whole pan into the oven. Don’t walk away! It will only take about 5 minutes for the pork to cook the rest of the way. Keep your eye on the temperature, and pull the pan out of the oven when it reaches 145 degrees F.

We’re at temperature now!

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9. Remove the chops to a plate, and cover them with foil to keep warm. Some carryover cooking will occur, when their internal temperature will continue to rise a bit more.

Looking so good!

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10. Now: we must do something with the tasty fond that’s developed in the pan! We’re going to use it to make the glaze. Place the pan back over medium-high heat…

Yummy brown bits

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11. Add in the aromatics: fresh thyme and chopped shallot. Cook those over medium heat until the shallot softens and begins to brown.

In go the aromats

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12. Deglaze! We’re going to add some cider vinegar to the pan, then scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon to incorporate all of the tasty bits of fond into the forming sauce.

add the cider vinegar

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scrape up the fond with a wooden spoon

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13. Now, add the maple syrup and fresh, coarsely ground black pepper. Turn up the heat a bit and let this reduce by about half its volume.

in goes the maple syrup and cracked black pepper

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reduced by half – it looks more like a glaze now.

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14. Done! Spoon the glaze over the chops to serve, and revel in the flavors.

hello, lovely

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This dish makes a great Sunday evening dinner. In fact, I think we’ll be having it for our dinner this Sunday (again.) It’s just so tasty! You could make some pureed butternut squash, dollop a bit on a plate and serve the pork chop propped up on it, with the maple black pepper glazed drizzled over…perhaps with some roasted brussel sprouts alongside? Yum! This is the food I love to eat!

Stay tuned for some Thanksgiving recipes coming up early next week!

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Maple Black-Pepper Pork Chops

View printable recipe

Adapted from Cooking with Shelburne Farms

This dish is equally delicious made with bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. In fact, the original recipe uses a whole chicken, cut into pieces. You can easily halve this recipe for 2 servings.

Ingredients
4 pork chops, bone-in or boneless (I like ones that are about 1 inch thick, and as always, if you can find a local purveyor of humanely-raised meat, please do choose that.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 large shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (I prefer Grade B or Dark Amber)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Pat the pork chops dry and season them well with the 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt. Rub the salt into the surface of the meat.

3. Preheat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the 2 tablespoons of oil (it should shimmer.

4. Place the chops into the pan, presentation side down. Leave them to brown on this side for a few minutes. You can tell they’re ready to flip when the meat releases from the bottom of the pan when you gently lift up an edge.

5. Flip the chops over, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of one of the chops, and put the whole pan into the oven to finish cooking.

6. When the chops reach 145 degrees F, take the pan out of the oven and place the chops on a plate. Cover with foil and set aside.

7. Return the pan to the stove. You should have about 1-2 tablespoon of fat remaining in the pan; if there’s a lot more, pour it off before putting it back on the stove. Add the shallot, thyme, and another 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook over medium-high heat until the shallot is softening and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.

8. Add the vinegar and stir with a wooden spoon to loosen the bits of fond on the bottom of the pan. Simmer for another 1-2 minutes, then add the maple syrup and ground peppercorns.

9. Simmer the sauce for about 8-10 minutes, until it’s been reduced by about half, to a syrupy/glaze consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

10. Spoon over the pork to serve.

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27 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2008 6:53 pm

    That looks incredible! I think the pork channel is my new favorite channel. Have a good weekend, Amy.

  2. November 21, 2008 8:01 pm

    That looks amazingly delish (and pretty easy). I am really bad about making tough pork chops but I will have to give this method a shot. Hope you have a great weekend!

  3. November 21, 2008 9:07 pm

    wow, i’m speachless :)

  4. Betsy permalink
    November 21, 2008 10:55 pm

    What a great tutorial Amy – this looks delicious! I’ve never cooked pork chops before but this recipe is enough to make me want to try. Yum yum!

  5. November 22, 2008 7:06 am

    loved the photo essay – these chops look great and the glaze sounds perfect for this time of year! I am enjoying the pork channel as well!

  6. Steve permalink
    November 22, 2008 10:59 am

    Mmmmm these are getting made soon, I adore maple syrup. Just don’t do what I did the last time I finished in the oven: remove the meat to a side plate, then absentmindedly turn around and grab the panhandle.

  7. Steve permalink
    November 22, 2008 11:00 am

    Oh and also – for Whitney above me – brine the chops first and you’ll never suffer through another tough one

  8. Toni permalink
    November 22, 2008 12:19 pm

    Thank you for the details instructions. I didn’t know about letting the meat cook enough so it DOESN’T stick to the pan. I’ll be making this tonight. MMmmm mmm can’t wait.

  9. November 22, 2008 12:24 pm

    Great post, and this looks delicious!

  10. November 22, 2008 6:57 pm

    ooh I’ll have to try these this week

  11. November 23, 2008 7:47 am

    Kristin – thanks; it’s one of my favorite channels, too. :)

    Whitneyinchicago – I hope this method works for you; I’ve had my share of tough pork chops but this method of cooking seems to help!

    ttfn300 – enjoy!

    Betsy – hi there! :) Let me know what you think if you try them!

    sue bette – thanks!

    Steve — ooh, ouch! Sadly, I’ve done that too, though with me it was picking up a (just used) burner that had been knocked out of place. Hot metal + bare hands is not a good match, as you know!!

    Toni, Kalyn, Marissa – thanks, and enjoy! :)

  12. Alexandra G permalink
    November 23, 2008 1:17 pm

    I love this site, I randomly came across it this morning, and bookmarked it right away- great stuff!

    I’m going to make these tonight, they look absolutely delicious. I think I will pair them with braised red cabbage and maybe the brussel sprouts you suggested. Yum!

    Steve- how do you brine a porkchop?

  13. November 23, 2008 4:05 pm

    This looks fantastic, and simple as you say! Yum. Thanks for the step-by-step instructions. It really makes it a lot easier to follow and inspires me to try it very soon.

  14. emielli permalink
    November 23, 2008 4:42 pm

    This picture is making me starve! The pork chops looks delicious and actually simple to make. I need to invest in a meat thermometer one day.

  15. anita permalink
    November 23, 2008 10:36 pm

    this was a great recipe- made it tonight for my husband, and served it over butternut squash puree- the glaze was amazing and very easy.

  16. bernielynch permalink
    November 25, 2008 10:29 am

    I made something similiar last night. It’s actually one of my quick and easy dinner staples. My recipe has some dijon mustard in the glaze and I use the very thin pork scallops, but aside from that it’s virtually identical. It’s super fast and the kids love it, what could be better than that?

  17. November 26, 2008 5:00 am

    I’m not normally a massive fan of pork, but I have to say you’re tempting even me with those pictures!! Inspired by the pork belly the other day I tucked into some Roast Pork with crackling at a friend’s house this weekend, which was delicious, and I might have a shot at the pork chops myself.
    Thanksgiving looked fun as well – if only we celebrated over here in the UK! I’ll just have to make up for it at Christmas. :D

  18. November 30, 2008 9:44 am

    OK!!!

    I made a variation of the recipe today and I was pretty pleased with it…some thick pork rashers rather than chops (which were smashing) and then red onion and sage into the glaze.

    I think I’m a pork convert!! Thanks for the inspiration!

  19. November 30, 2008 2:18 pm

    Amy– I tried this last week, and had to come back here to tell you how delicious it was. Thanks for the great recipe and easy to follow instructions!

  20. December 7, 2008 11:32 pm

    This looks incredibly tasty. I need to get one of those probe thermometers…

  21. Vance permalink
    January 4, 2009 9:07 pm

    I just prepared this recipe tonight–pure pork pleasure! It was absolutely delicious! I didn’t have thyme so I used sage instead and a little bit of my uncle’s homemade pear preserves. AWESOME! I will definitely be adding this recipe to my recipe rotation.

  22. Alexandra permalink
    September 2, 2009 8:13 pm

    Hi!
    I absolutely love this recipe, and have in the past served it with nice wintery sides like roasted vegetables and braised cabbage. However, I want to make these this weekend at the cottage, and am trying to think of how to “summer it up” a bit? Any suggestions for summery sides that might pair well with this?
    Thanks!

  23. Deanna permalink
    March 2, 2011 10:21 pm

    just made this tonight, very delicious. this recipe is a keeper!

  24. Christina permalink
    January 27, 2012 1:41 pm

    Had this last night and it was amazing! Instead of the shallots and type i used onions, and oregano. It was so yummy! Put it in our recipe box!

  25. Mary permalink
    December 5, 2012 8:39 pm

    Made this today, substituting a pork tenderloin for the pork chops. It was absolutely delicious. Thanks!

  26. Tyler permalink
    January 24, 2013 12:36 am

    I used your recipe tonight but subbed Maker’s Mark for the cider vinegar and it turned out RREALLY GUHHHD

  27. Heidi permalink
    September 2, 2013 4:18 pm

    I just made this.. that was by far one of the best recpies for pork chops I have ever tried

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