Why You Should Always Season Pork Chops

Seared, grilled, sous vided, or even air-fried, pork chops can make for a comforting, easy-to-cook weeknight meal. However, there is a pitfall many home chefs have come to fear — dry, tasteless pork. 

As described in Edward Behr's influential essay "The Lost Taste of Pork" (published in the "Art of Eating") the American pork industry takes substantial blame for blander chops. In the 1990s, American consumers shifted towards leaner cuts, emulating appetites for meat like chicken breast (remember the tagline "Pork. The other white meat?"). Worsened by factory farming, most pork sold at the supermarket no longer contained its delectable fat-marbling. Less fat means chops dry out quicker, becoming more susceptible to a rubbery texture and bland taste — unfortunately all too familiar unappetizing qualities to most of today's pork consumers.

While you can of course search out fancy, heritage breed hogs to source your pork, if you're working with standard grocery store chops (and honestly, even if you did spring for the botique kind) seasoning is paramount to preparing a tender, juicy slice of porky delight. A simple ingredient or two will prevent blandness, improve texture, and ensure satisfying chops.

Seasoning pork chops seals in juices

If you've never cooked pork chops before there's no need to worry, as not much fuss is needed to season them properly. As J. Kenji López-Alt details on Serious Eats, all you really need to do is copiously salt your pork chops and let them sit in the fridge. Don't be alarmed, an overly salty result is unlikely — as long as there's rest time, the crust will crisp to perfection when you sear it, trapping succulent juices inside. (For extra-tasty caramelization, try throwing on some sugar, too! It'll amplify pork's natural sweetness, perfectly paired with sides like parsnip apple puree.)

While just sugar and salt work wonders, you can look towards dry rubs if you're searching for more distinct flavors. The options are endless, but something like this three-ingredient rub with hot paprika and brown sugar is a fine place start. You can also concoct your own; throw together some of your favorite spices with salt, considering how the flavors will meld with your sides.