Pork chops are one of my favorite meats to grill. They're quick cooking and relatively cheap, but they haven't always been so well received. The popularity of pork took a nosedive in the 1970s because people were concerned about fat.

To quell consumers' fears, producers bred leaner pigs. Thus, the pork we eat today tends to be better for us than the pork you could buy 30 years ago (it has less fat). However, this improvement has a downside, especially when it comes to lean cuts of meat like pork chops: It is lacking in the flavor department.

Fat helps meat stay juicy and flavorful when it's cooked. But is there a way to enjoy juicy pork chops with less fat? Yes! Follow these simple tips for cooking juicy pork chops every time:

1. Buy pork chops on the bone

Don't let bone-in pork chops intimidate you! We prefer bone-in pork chops because they are juicier than their boneless counterparts. Why? The bone locks in moisture and slows the heating process, ensuring that the meat closest to it remains moist and tender.

2. Stuff it!

It's easy to stuff a pork chop. It adds a ton of flavor and helps keep the chop moist. To make a pocket for stuffing, hold a knife parallel to the cutting board and slice almost through to the bone. Then toss together a filling of your choice -- try cheese mixed with chopped vegetables or breadcrumbs.

3. Size it up

If you're following a recipe, it's important to buy the right size chops to avoid over- or undercooking them. We like to look for chops that are 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick and weigh 7 to 8 ounces each. They yield 3 to 4 ounces of cooked meat and are done in about 6 minutes on the grill or on the stove.

4. Don't overcook it

Last year the USDA lowered the recommended safe temperature for cooking pork to 145 F. Hallelujah! The old recommendation of 160 degrees was murder for pork chops, leaving them dry and tough. Why the concern over pork? Humans can contract trichinosis from undercooked pork, but the number of people actually contracting it has greatly diminished since the 1950s. The USDA now recommends removing pork chops from the heat when they reach 145 degrees (don't forget to use your meat thermometer!) and then letting them rest for 3 minutes to let them "carry-over cook" before serving.

Pesto and Mozzarella Stuffed Pork Chops Recipe

Pesto gives great flavor to the oozy mozzarella stuffing in this breaded pork chops recipe.

Serves 4.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons prepared pesto

2 tablespoons plus 2/3 cup fine breadcrumbs, preferably whole-wheat, divided

4 bone-in pork chops, 1/2-3/4 inch thick (about 2 pounds), trimmed

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 large egg whites

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

4 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Combine mozzarella, pesto and 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs in a small bowl.

Cut a horizontal slit in each pork chop along the side opposite the bone, nearly through to the opposite side, so it forms a "pocket." Stuff each chop with the cheese mixture (about 2 tablespoons each).

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Whisk egg whites in another shallow bowl. Place the remaining 2/3 cup breadcrumbs in a third shallow bowl.

Dredge each pork chop first in the flour, shaking off the excess, then dip in egg white to coat. Coat on both sides with breadcrumbs, pressing to help the crumbs stick.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 pork chops and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the pork chops to a baking sheet. Wipe out the pan and repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 2 chops.

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the pork chops are cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe nutrition:

Per serving: 390 calories; 22 g fat (6 g sat, 12 g mono); 79 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 35 g protein; 1 g fiber; 391 mg sodium; 424 mg potassium

Nutrition Bonus: Calcium and Zinc (19 percent daily value)

1 carbohydrate serving

Exchanges: 1 starch, 4 1/2 lean meat, 2 fat

Pork Chops, Stuffed Pork Chops, Grilled Pork


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The Secret to Juicy Pork Chops Without the Fat

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