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Pork Loin vs. Pork Chop: Differences to Know Before Cooking

If you are planning to cook a celebratory dinner, then looking at specialty cuts of meats for the main course is a great idea.

When debating between pork loin vs pork chop, it is essential to have a clear understanding of what kind of cut each option is, how long each one might take to cook, and how to season each piece of meat properly.

What is Pork Loin?

pork loin

The pork loin is a portion of meat that butchers cut from the side of a pig near the rib cage which makes it a lean cut of meat.

A pork loin might have a layer of fat, called the fat cap, which improves its taste when seasoned and cooked correctly.

Pork loin is distinct from both a pork chop and a pork tenderloin. It has less of a strong flavor and is generally lighter in color.

And it tends to weigh between two and four pounds. Sometimes butchers or chefs will call the pork loin a pork loin roast.

How to Cook Pork Loin

For a savory pork loin, it is vital to properly season and cook the loin to remain tender and taste flavorful.

Using a combination of seasonings improves the flavor of a pork loin. Try rosemary and garlic or paprika and time. Alternatively, many brands offer pre-mixed seasons that are intentionally tailored to be used on pork.

After seasoning, brown each side of the pork loin by heating some oil or butter in a pan and searing the meat for approximately five minutes. Browning the exterior holds in juices so that the meat remains moist while cooking. Place the browned pork loin on a baking sheet that has been lined with foil and finish cooking in an oven.

A pork loin needs to be baked in the oven for about twenty-five minutes at a temperature of about 375 degrees. The internal temperature needs to reach 145 degrees to ensure that it is finished cooking.

Let the meat rest for about ten minutes after it comes out of the oven, then you can slice and present your main entree!

What is a Pork Chop?

pork chop

Pork chop is different from pork tenderloin.

Pork chops are a butcher’s cut taken from the pig’s back, near the spine. The cut of the meat comes from the shoulder and hip and is called a pork tenderloin when sold whole. Pork chops are sections cut from the larger pork tenderloin. Generally, pork chops are lean and are easy to prepare.

Pork chops are sold in various cuts, some with the bone in and some without the bone, such as the New York-style cut, so there is a decent amount of variety with them.

How to Cook Pork Chops

A pork chop has a mild flavor, so various recipes allow chefs to impose intense flavors with the meat.

While there are many ways to cook a pork chop, the cut tastes best when cooked to medium rare with an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Cooking time can vary depending on the size and thickness of the pork chop.

When initially selecting a pork chop, it is best to choose a thicker cut of meat because there is a lower risk of overcooking the pork. Pork chops can absorb liquid flavor well, so letting your pork chop sit in a marinade for a few hours or overnight can enhance the flavor.

Additionally, many cooks believe that preparing a bone-in pork chop helps prevent overcooking and dryness, but some prefer a boneless cut of meat, which is perfectly acceptable.

Generally, if cooking a pork chop in the oven, bake for about fifteen minutes. If cooking your pork chop on the stovetop, cook each side for about five minutes. Always check the internal temperature before serving since cooking times vary based on the thickness of the pork chop.

Is Pork Loin the Same as Pork Chops?

The principal difference between pork chop vs pork loin is the thickness.

The cuts are distinctive for recipe purposes and cannot be used interchangeably. Since pork chops can be pretty thick, a chop can handle a higher cooking temperature. In contrast, a loin requires some finesse and cooks better using low to medium heat.

If you are a new home cook, then trying a pork chop first is a good idea. As long as you properly season the meat and make sure the internal temperature [1] reaches 145 degrees, you will be successful.

A meat thermometer takes the internal temperature of meats and can be used to gauge pork, beef, or poultry – all of which have a different internal temperature for food safety.

Butchers use a variety of cuts to produce various types of meat. To start, a meat packaging specialist will section a pig into four quarters: shoulder, loin, leg, and side. Then more specific cuts occur, like producing a “Blade Chop,” which is a pork chop cut from the shoulder end of the loin.

A blade chop is most often found in a butcher’s store or small grocery business rather than commercial markets. The rib chop and center cut chop are more readily available.

Whole pork loins may have a layer of fat that covers the top called the fat cap. Butchers leave this fat cap attached to the loin because it is beneficial in the cooking process. Importantly, if ordering a pork loin from a Butcher or meat counter, be sure to say “pork loin” because a pork tenderloin is a different cut of meat.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for dinner can be stressful, but understanding different cuts of meat and how to properly prepare each can reduce anxiety and help you successfully serve a delicious meal.

A pork loin requires more dedicated time to season and slowly cook, while a pork chop, depending on its thickness, is relatively faster to cook and can absorb flavors in a marinade before cooking.

Either option is an excellent choice for a weeknight dinner or a celebratory meal!

I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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