On busy weeknights, I often build meals around boneless pork chops. Their mild taste makes them easy to pair with sides, they’re ready to cook straight from the package, and they don’t require hours of cooking to turn tender.
But plain chops can be boring, so I like to gussy them up a bit. This time, I had my sights set on a sweet, tangy glaze. I could picture juicy chops with a rich, glossy coating clinging tenaciously to the tops and sides. And yet, as soon as I started experimenting with recipes, I realized this was fantasy: By the time a glazed chop reaches your plate, its coating ends up everywhere but on the meat.
Many glazes are made with jams, jellies, or preserves, which is a big part of the problem. They are sugary and offer sheen, but they liquefy when heated. I needed a sweet option that would stay put. Enter apple butter: It’s still sweet, but it’s also packed with apple solids. That means it won’t budge when heated.
I spiked some apple butter with maple syrup, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, and cider vinegar and painted the mixture onto a batch of pan-seared chops. The deeply browned, glistening chops looked terrific, so I called my colleagues to taste. But by the time they arrived, my pride had faded to embarrassment: The chops had become surrounded by a watery pool of glaze.
I realized that although pan searing is great for producing a substantial crust on meat, the intense heat causes the proteins on the meat’s surface to contract and squeeze out liquid as it rests. And that liquid diluted my glaze. I had a hunch that slow roasting would be better: The low, ambient heat would cook the pork gently, so it would exude less liquid during the resting period.
I brushed a teaspoon of glaze onto each chop before popping the baking sheet into a 275-degree oven. After 40 minutes, the chops were nearly cooked through and the thin glaze had dried to a tacky film that was primed for a more substantial application—great news since I like a generous amount of glaze. I layered on a second coat and slid the sheet under the broiler. This brought the chops to 140 degrees (the ideal serving temperature) and fused the sweet, tangy lacquer to the meat. It also added a hint of char—a good stand‑in for the intense browning produced via pan searing. Just as I’d hoped, the meat exuded very little liquid, so the glaze wasn’t diluted and clung nicely.
The final benefit of slow roasting was the time I had to prep a simple side. I whipped up one of my go-tos: fork-mashed potatoes. All I needed to do was boil baby potatoes, drain and mash them, and then gloss them with extra‑virgin olive oil and butter. I also used a trick from the test kitchen to ensure well-seasoned potatoes: I boiled them in heavily salted water with a garlic clove and a few sprigs of thyme. Since I had time to spare, I chopped some parsley to add color, freshness, and vibrancy to both dishes.
With my technique established, it was easy to swap out ingredients and change the personality of the menu. A spicy glaze made with gochujang (Korean chile-soybean paste) gave the chops an intense savory flavor. (Like apple butter, gochujang doesn’t thin out when heated.) I used the roasting time to clean and pan‑roast some sugar snap peas, which I seasoned with minced garlic and a dash of soy sauce.
I think you’ll love these tender, juicy chops—especially their picture-perfect glaze—as well as the sides that go with them. You’ll even have time to spare to tidy up the kitchen and set the table. Or, better yet, pour a glass of wine and put someone else in charge.
The best way to produce tender, juicy chops with a stay-put glaze is to take it slow. Bonus: You'll have built-in time for making a side dish.