Of all the different cuts of pork, the pork chop is the most popular, according to the National Pork Board. But not every pork chop is the same (1).
In fact, pork chops have a variety of names — loin, rib, sirloin, top loin, or blade chops — but they all come from the loin meat that runs from a pig’s shoulder to its hip.
Of course, how you cook your pork chop influences its overall nutrition profile. But the fat content also varies slightly depending on which specific part of the pig the chop came from.
For instance, a sirloin pork chop is one of the leaner cuts, and tenderloin is the leanest.
Other pork chop cuts, such as the New York pork chop, Porterhouse pork chop, and Ribeye pork chop, have more total fat than a sirloin pork chop, but there’s really only a small amount of additional saturated fat (1).
This article explores whether pork chops are nutritious and how to cook them to best support your nutritional needs.
Overall — regardless of cooking method — pork chops are a very rich source of selenium. This is a mineral involved in your immune and endocrine systems, and it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (
Pork chops are also high in zinc, and they offer good amounts of:
However, the cooking method does influence how many calories, fat, and sodium they have. Fried pork chops, for example, are higher in all three of those categories.
That said, fried pork chops may still fit into your diet, as long as the extra calories, fat, and sodium are accounted for.
Here’s a comparison of a boiled or baked pork chop and one that’s breaded and fried:
Pork chops are inherently a lean source of protein, but how they’re cooked can significantly influence their nutrition. More on the various cooking methods below.
A complete source of high quality protein
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and protein is essential for so many bodily functions, from building muscle to assisting in the production of hormones that keep our mood up.
Each of us needs a group of so-called essential amino acids because they’re something our bodies can’t make on their own — and pork chops contain all of them.
Pork chops are also a very rich source of protein. A large one delivers more than a third of your daily protein needs.
Another reason that protein is so valuable is because it’s very filling — more so than the other macronutrients (carbohydrates and fat). It’s a nutrient that gives you the staying power you need between meals (
Supports weight loss and body fat loss
Because protein is so filling, people who add higher amounts of protein to their diet are more successful at cutting back on calories and ultimately losing weight (
Plus, newer research shows that people who add pork specifically to their diet — and especially to a weight loss diet — successfully lose weight and body fat.
In a recent review, researchers suggest that pork’s weight and fat loss benefits happen because pork boosts fullness. This increases the amount of energy the body burns and supports better blood sugar control (6).
Delivers key nutrients
Here are some nutrients found in pork:
- Selenium. The research is limited, but having adequate levels of selenium is associated with lower rates of some types of cancer, heart disease, thyroid disease, and age-related cognitive decline (
- Zinc. Consuming animal proteins is a great way to get zinc into your diet because they’re a fairly concentrated source. In fact, pork chops are one of the richer food sources of zinc. Zinc plays a key role in immune function and skin integrity (
- Iron. Iron plays a key role in cell function, hormone synthesis, muscle metabolism, and more. It’s also needed to shuttle oxygen throughout the body. There are two types of iron — one that’s in plants and one that’s in animal products. The kind of iron that’s in animal products, called heme iron, is better absorbed by your body (
One of the more significant downsides of pork, including pork chops, is that it is a red meat — despite the once-popular marketing phrase, “the other white meat” (9).
And dietary guidance for a healthy diet (like the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans) encourages limiting red meat.
That’s because a 2020 study including 29,682 adults showed that for every 2 additional servings of unprocessed red meat, risk of cardiovascular disease incidence rose slightly (by 6%) and risk of “all-cause” mortality went up by 3%.
According to the study, the association between eating red meat and risk of cardiovascular disease (e.g., heart disease, stroke, heart failure, death from cardiovascular disease) and death in general increased with age (
Pork chops are incredibly versatile — both in terms of how you cook them (think: grilling, baking, roasting, etc.) and what you cook them with (seasoned, with a fruit sauce or salsa, etc.).
Here are some of the most common methods of cooking pork chops, according to The National Pork Board’s website (11):
- Sautéed or stir-fried. This high heat, quick cooking method yields the tastiest pork if your first cut the chop into small pieces or thin strips. This helps keep the pork from overcooking and drying out. Your pork chop can be cooked as is, or you could flour, bread, or batter it, which would further protect it from drying out but would add calories (12).
- Baked or roasted. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) and bake or roast your pork chop until the internal temperature reaches your desired doneness, at least 145°F (13, 14).
- Smoked. Before smoking your pork chop, you’ll want to grill-mark each chop. Then smoke it at 225–250°F (107–121°C)for 45 minutes to an hour and the internal temperature is at least 145°F (63°C) (14).
- Grilled. Once the grill is hot, cooking pork chops is quick — each side usually takes only 4–6 minutes for the internal temperature to reach 145°F (63°C).
- In an Instant pot. For pork chops, you’ll want to first cook them on sauté in the instant pot and remove them. Then once the other ingredients in your dish are underway, add the pork chops back into the Instant pot to pressure-cook them.
- Broiled. Cooking directly under the heat source adds a nice crispy crust to a pork chop. Depending on the size of the chop, broil time can range from 3–18 minutes (15).
How long it takes to cook a pork chop depends on how thick it is. A pork chop can be as thin as a 1/2 inch or as thick as 2 inches.
Regardless of thickness, a tender, tasty, and food-safe pork chop is one that’s cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), which is medium-rare. Then let it rest for 3 minutes (16).
If you prefer a more well-done chop, cook it until the internal temperature reaches 150–155°F (66–68°C) for medium, 155–160°F (68–71°C) for medium-well, and 160°F (71°C) for well-done (16).
It’s important that your pork chop is cooked to a safe temperature because eating raw or undercooked pork can give you a foodborne illness, such as hepatitis E virus (HEV) or Trichinellosis, a parasitic infection (
Be sure to always cook pork chops to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) to lessen your risk of foodborne illness. Cook your chop to higher temperatures for a more well-done piece of meat.
Pork chops are an easy-to-cook lean red meat. They offer important nutrients like protein, selenium, zinc, and iron that support everyday body functions and can be helpful in losing weight.
Because pork chops are considered a red meat, you should be mindful of how frequently you eat them. And when you do eat pork chops, be sure to cook them fully. Undercooked or raw pork can lead to foodborne illness.