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Shopping for Loin Pork Chops

By Cook's Illustrated Published January 2012

Here's what you need to know to buy the right chop for the job.

Many recipes calling for pork chops simply specify “loin” chops—a vague and unhelpful term, since all pork chops are cut from the loin of the pig. Butchers further break down the loin into four different types of chop—blade, rib, center cut, and sirloin—each of which cooks differently, depending on the muscles they contain. Here’s what you need to know to buy the right chop for the job.

"Loin" chops could come from four different cuts.

1. BLADE Cut near the fatty shoulder end, this chop’s high proportion of marbled dark meat and connective tissue makes it ideal for braising.

 

2. RIB Featuring one large eye of loin muscle, this chop is very tender as well as ­flavorful and a good choice for grilling and pan-searing.

 

3. CENTER CUT Because the loin and tenderloin muscles in these chops are bisected by bulky bone or cartilage, they don’t lie flat and thus make a poor choice for pan-searing. Save them for the grill, but position the ultra-lean tenderloin away from the fire to keep it from drying out.

 

4. SIRLOIN These muscle mosaics contain the loin, the tenderloin, and part of the hip section. Because they’re generally tough and dry, we don’t recommend them.