13 Ways To Upgrade Your Pork Chop Dinner

Pork chop on the grill with rosemary
Pork chop on the grill with rosemary - Grandriver/Getty Images

It's entirely possible that pork chops have a bit of a reputation in your house. While they're definitely a delicious, versatile cut of meat, they're also a little old fashioned to some. They're the stuff of weekend dinners with the older generation, piled high with onions of a funny texture, and Crock Pots -- bonus points for it being a 1980s-era Crock Pot.

It's also very easy to end up with a very dry, very tough, and very difficult-to-chew piece of meat. Sounds familiar, right? Anyone who's ever had pork chops has been there, but it's not the pork chop's fault necessarily.

Fortunately, we have some good news: It's incredibly easy to not only add some serious variety to your pork chop dinners but upgrade them way beyond those childhood and adolescent memories. Sure, it might take a little out-of-the-box thinking, but we have a whole list of incredible options to get you headed in the right direction. As a bonus, many of these ideas aren't going to require an extra shopping trip, just a deep dive into the fridge and pantry. If there's anything we love more than creativity, it's cutting down on shopping trips and making the most of what we already have! With that in mind, let's look at some ways to take that pork chop dinner from blah to stellar.

Read more: Cuts Of Steak, Ranked Worst To Best

Reach For The Mustard While You're Prepping The Pork Chops

Grilled pork chop with mustard
Grilled pork chop with mustard - Gbh007/Getty Images

If you're only using mustard on hot dogs and in your own honey mustard sauce, you're missing out in a big way. Mustard, after all, commonly shows up alongside pork cuts like ham and smoked pork, so it only makes sense that it might be pretty great on pork chops, too right?

That's absolutely correct, and using mustard is one of the easiest ways you can upgrade your pork chops. And there's no way to go wrong here. Yellow mustard, Dijon, or even a flavorful German mustard can seriously improve your pork chop game, and there are even a few different ways to use it.

Pan-sear your pork chops in a mustard-based sauce, or use mustard from the beginning. Prep with a mustard-based coating as you're getting ready to pan-fry your pork chops and get ready for a serious flavor burst — especially if you opt for using some spicy Colman's mustard. Want to go a step further? Tie the whole meal together with a side such as a roasted mushroom salad featuring not only pork-friendly mushrooms but asparagus and a dash of mustardy goodness.

Think Outside The Box With Dishes Like This Japanese Pork And Omelet Meal

Katsudon in dish with chopsticks
Katsudon in dish with chopsticks - Adilson Sochodolak/Shutterstock

Want to really surprise the family? Tell them that you're making pork chops and then take a page out of our recipe book with an incredible katsudon. This isn't your everyday pork dinner; instead, it's a deliciously light meal of breaded pork chop cutlets, an omelet, and rice.

Now that we've got your attention, let's really talk. Katsudon is a Japanese donburi-style dish, which recipe developer Patterson Watkins tells us is a rice-based dish that can be served any time of the day — and we love that. Pork chops, after all, don't have to be just for dinner, and if you happen to have one leftover, along with just 45 minutes? Make yourself an extra-special lunch.

Pork chops are pounded out, breaded, and fried before being nestled on top of an omelet and a bed of rice. Add some chopped scallions, spice up the omelet any way you see fit, serve with a side of pickled veg (or not), and it really is that easy! The only thing we like more than a delicious meal is a delicious meal that's much easier than it looks, and this one fits the bill.

Pork Chops Can Definitely Get A Southern-Fried Upgrade

Breaded and fried pork chops
Breaded and fried pork chops - Stepanek Photography/Shutterstock

Southern-fried steak — or chicken-fried steak — is always a win. There's just something about that crispy, crunchy exterior that takes a dish to a whole new level, so what if we told you that you can do that with pork chops, too?

You can! Southern-fried pork chops are easier than you might expect: Give yourself a moment to recover from the surprise that comes with the realization of how easy this really is, take some time to wonder why you haven't done this before, and then add it to your regular meal rotation. Another bonus? You probably have everything you need on hand already, especially considering you don't have to use buttermilk, but can use an egg wash instead.

The other thing we love about this is that it can be surprisingly versatile, and we're not just talking about the fact that it can be served up with anything from mashed potatoes or home fries to your favorite vegetables. We're also talking about the breading: Add some cayenne for a spicy kick or smoked paprika for some sweetness, or what about a dash of liquid smoke?

The Spicy And Sweet Kick Of Hot Honey Will Keep Pork Chops Moist

Pork chops with honey drizzle and jalapeños
Pork chops with honey drizzle and jalapeños - Kate Shungu/Mashed

It's no secret that there are a ton of trendy ideas that kind of fall flat when you actually try to put them into practical use, but we guarantee that hot honey is not one of those trends. Making your own hot honey is incredibly easy — just heat honey in a skillet with some sliced jalapeños — and trust us when we say you're going to want to keep some of this on hand for a number of applications.

We're talking about pork chops, though, and according to our recipe developer Kate Shungu, hot honey is exactly what your pork chops need. In a nutshell, you're going to be seasoning up and grilling your pork chops — this is a great place to get creative as well — and then drizzling them with some hot honey and adding some of those sliced jalapeños.

Not only will this help keep those pork chops moist, but it adds a wonderful, spicy heat instead of a burn-your-mouth-off kind of heat. All too often, spicy foods fall into the challenge category, and that's not what this is. This is moist, sweet, and spicy, all rolled into one.

Add Fruit ... And Not Just Apples

Pork chops with apple slices
Pork chops with apple slices - Alena_Kos/Shutterstock

There's a good chance that anyone who's had pork chops before has used applesauce alongside them. That's a pretty common upgrade, and we're going to take this up a notch. Apples and pork go together like peanut butter and jelly, and there are a few different ways you can make the most of this delicious combination.

For starters, there's apple cider pork chops, which call for simmering the pork chops in an apple cider-based sauce. If you're one of those people who always seems to end up with dry pork chops, this is a game-changer. There's also ideas like skillet pork chops with apples, which basically means topping your pork chops with a sweet side of apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon, cooked just a few minutes in a skillet.

Looking for something a little different? You can use the same concept but replace apples with peaches. Cook peaches in a skillet for just a few minutes while your pork chops are resting, then slice, top, and serve. You could also combine this with the spicy sweetness of hot honey. Another great option is to add a peach chutney, as suggested by Tasting Table. Looking for a perfect summer meal? A seared pork dish with peach chutney might just be the perfect thing.

A Dollop Of Compound Butter Can Go A Long Way

Butter melting on meat
Butter melting on meat - Mikhaylovskiy/Shutterstock

Butter makes so very many things better, and it turns out that's true of pork chops, too. Adding a dollop of compound butter onto your pork chops just before serving them can turn a so-so chop into something that's melt-in-your-mouth delicious. One of the other things that we love about this idea is that it's incredibly easy: In a perfect world, we'd have all day to plan exciting, unique, fun meals, but who has time for that every day?

A simple garlic butter is a delicious topping that can be made ahead, used on your pork chops, and saved for other applications. Trust us, this one isn't going to go to waste.

There's further good news here, too, and that's the fact that this one is super versatile. Compound, flavored butters are a great thing to experiment with, and there's no end to the options here. As far as pork chops are concerned, try a red wine butter, a lemon and thyme butter, a jalapeño and lime butter, or even a butter flavored with pecans and brown sugar.

Use Nuts For A Delicious Crusted Pork Chop

Pecan-crusted pork chops
Pecan-crusted pork chops - Jennine Rye/Tasting Table

Breaded pork chops are pretty standard fare, and while there's nothing wrong with Shake 'n Bake, the recipe developer Jennine Rye at Tasting Table, came up with a brilliant — and easy — way to upgrade breaded pork chops. She developed a pecan-crusted pork chop recipe that's everything you could hope for, and more.

Their recipe calls for fine-grinding pecans to make a spicy coating that gets an extra kick from ingredients like Colman's mustard and garlic. It's entirely possible that this might end up a new family favorite, and it's also entirely possible to use this recipe as a starting point for other ideas.

You can swap pecans for other nuts, and adjust the fixings to go with new flavor profiles. Try pine nuts, for example, and serve with a veg-and-goat cheese salad. Love almonds? Or how about walnuts? You can use those too. Nuts can make an incredibly healthy addition to any meal, and if you never thought that pork chops would be a brilliant vehicle for nuts, we're here to tell you that the combo has to be tried to be believed.

Take The Time For Some Applewood-Smoked Pork Chops

Grilled pork chops on a plate
Grilled pork chops on a plate - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Sometimes, we're fortunate enough to find a little extra time in our busy schedules to do something really fun, and what's more fun than breaking out the smoker on a warm summer afternoon? There's nothing like kicking back on the porch, grabbing a few ice-cold beers, and smoking some meats, low and slow. Some of the standard go-to cuts might be brisket and chicken wings, but pork chops? Completely legitimate, too.

Pork chops also aren't going to take the long hours that some other meats will -- though if you're getting the smoker fired up, why not take the time to enjoy it? It's entirely possible to smoke some thick-cut pork chops in around an hour and a half (just be sure to check your internal temperature as you go), and while applewood pellets, chucks, or chips might seem like the logical choice, you're not going to go wrong with maple or pecan, either. Pro tip? Make extra, because these make for incredible leftovers.

Get Creative With Marinades

Pork chops on a plate
Pork chops on a plate - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

On one hand, it's easy to get stuck in a rut using the same marinades over and over. While there's nothing wrong with having the go-to family favorites, getting creative with marinades is a great way to upgrade your pork chop dinner, particularly because marinades can help these occasionally dry cuts of pork retain their moisture. And the good news is that not only are there almost infinite ideas for marinades, but there are plenty of options that aren't going to take a special shopping trip.

Have some cola on hand, for example? That can make an excellent pork chop marinade, and no, you shouldn't believe those tall tales about cola somehow activating worms in pork.

Let's talk about just some other examples that come courtesy of our sister site, Tasting Table. If you love jerk chicken, try jerk-marinated pork chops. You can make them as mild or as spicy as you like, which is sure to please everyone who's pulling up a chair to the dinner table. If spicy is your thing, a chipotle-adobo-marinated pork chop might end up a new family favorite — especially served with a side of pico de gallo. Finally, how about breaking out the pesto to marinate pork chops? Serve this one with some roasted vegetables, and it might just be the perfect autumn meal.

Break Out The Slow Cooker

Creamy pork chops
Creamy pork chops - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

What's not to love about a slow cooker? Not only can you set it, forget it, and come back to a delicious meal with little effort, but it's also particularly good at pork chops. Why? Letting pork chops slow-cook in the liquid of your choice means that you're more likely to get moist, delicious chops instead of the dry, tough pork chops that your family may complain about.

And there are a ton of options here, too. Your favorite slow cooker pork steak recipe can be adapted to pork chops, especially when it leans heavily on spices like cumin and chili powder for a spicy kick. And using your slow cooker doesn't have to be complicated.

Short on time? You're not going to go wrong slow-cooking with the help of a few cans of cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup. Use gravy or broth, layer in some vegetables on top, and add some onions or a dash of apple cider. If you have the time and the inclination, you can also opt for searing your pork chops before putting them in the slow cooker for a little extra flavor -- although it's not a necessary step.

Use A Dry Brine For A Major Flavor Boost

Pork loin with salt and seasonings
Pork loin with salt and seasonings - FoodAndPhoto/Shutterstock

There's a good chance that you may have had a Thanksgiving turkey that went through the dry-brining process, and it was pretty amazing, right? You can do the same thing with pork chops, and you're going to get that same flavor boost.

There's actually a bit of cool science going on here, as the salty dry brine solution interacts with the meat on a molecular level. Not only is it going to improve the flavor of your meat, but it's going to improve the texture, too — and one of the things we love about it is that it can take as little as 20 minutes to do.

While you can plan ahead and leave pork chops to dry-brine overnight, that's not always necessary: Even the aforementioned 20 minutes will do the trick. Salt is key here, of course, but this is a versatile trick that allows you to get creative with what you have in your spice cabinet. Use rosemary and thyme, reach for the cayenne, chili, and cumin, or add some paprika. You can even use brown sugar for a unique sweetness that just works. Pair your chops with some butternut squash or cinnamon-baked apples, and you'll never skip the dry brine again.

Add Almost Endless Variety With Stuffed Pork Chops

Apple-stuffed pork chops
Apple-stuffed pork chops - Jennine Rye/Mashed

Making stuffed pork chops is another great way to avoid the dreaded dryness, and there's no end to the ideas here. One of our favorites? Use up that leftover Thanksgiving stuffing in a pork chop. Trust us, it's so good that it might just be a reason to make even more stuffing than normal.

Looking for something a little further out of the box?  Gourmet stuffed pork chops can be a restaurant-worthy dish, and there's no reason to tell anyone that it took hardly any prep time. Pork chops stuffed with apples, shallots, and cheese? Sign us up!

This is also a great reason to keep a few boxes of Stove Top on hand. Scratch-made or Stove Top, bready stuffings or sweet apple stuffings, there's a few things to keep in mind to make your life easier: Opt for thick-cut pork chops, and when you slice them to stuff them, make sure you're not cutting them all the way through. And don't forget, you can always serve more stuffing on the side.

Get Creative With Wine Pairings

pouring rose wine
pouring rose wine - New Africa/Shutterstock

There's a good chance that you may have heard the old bit of wisdom that says it's a red wine that should be served with pork, but we're here to say that's not always the case. Pouring a glass of wine alongside your pork chop dinner is a great way to elevate the whole meal, and while there are some cases where a nice pinot noir is going to be just heavenly, there are some other things to consider, too.

If you're frying your pork — as with a schnitzel — opting for a lighter wine is going to be the way to go. Pick something on the dry side, and consider grabbing a bottle of Prosecco. Fried food of any kind can be heavy, and a sparkling wine can be ideal — even if it's white or rosé.

What about those pork chop dishes with a creamy sauce? Consider a white wine here, too. Also reach for a white if you're serving up pork chops with apples or peaches. And what about those red wines? That's also an option with creamy sauces, but red wine's going to work best with grilled pork chops. The type of red wine matters, too: Reach for a pinot noir, or a zinfandel.

Static Media owns and operates Mashed and Tasting Table.

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