When cooked properly, pork chops can be a juicy, flavorful protein choice. Unfortunately, pork can dry out and overcook easily, especially when cut into thin chops. Searing and breading are both excellent techniques for keeping pork chops tasty. However, you must choose between cooking techniques early on, as you can't successfully bread pork chops that have already been seared.
Searing is the act of exposing the surface of meat to high temperatures to form a "crust." Contrary to popular belief, searing does not seal juices into meat. Instead, it evaporates the thin layer of water present on the meat's surface. At lower temperatures, this layer of water would boil, causing the meat to steam and become soft and colorless. Removing the water instantly allows direct contact between the meat's surface and the heat source. This contact allows the sugars and amino acids to chemically react with one another, creating complex flavors, rich brown coloring and a smooth surface.
While searing doesn't seal in juices, breading does. When flour or bread crumbs are exposed to high heat, they form a crust around the meat's surface. Water is trapped inside, where it cooks with the meat, keeping it tender and juicy.
Why Searing and Breading Don't Mix
Once meat is seared, the surface area shrinks, toughens and becomes smooth. Small particles, such as those found in breading, can't adhere to this kind of surface. If you have already seared your chops but are looking for added texture, choose a topping such as crumbled fried onion straws or bread crumbs toasted with butter, garlic and herbs.
Finishing Off your Chops
Finish your nicely crusted pork chops, whether breaded or unbreaded, in a variety of ways. You may lower the temperature in the skillet and allow them to finish cooking there. This is a bit risky, especially if the pork chops are thin, as the chances of overcooking them are quite high. A better option is to finish the chops in a medium- to low-heat oven. If your pork chops are breaded, place them on a rack so that the bottom stays crispy and doesn't steam. A third option is to set the seared chops aside, add a sauce to the skillet, then replace the chops and simmer them on low heat in the sauce until they're cooked through.