Chops Ahoy


GUESTS: Customer

AB: Ain't nothin' like a pork chop, huh?
CUSTOMER: [nods head]
AB: You know, depending on the exact cut, a pork chop is analogous to a steak on a cow, like a T-bone, or in your case, a rib-eye. [to waitress with coffee] Oh, please.
WAITRESS: [pours AB coffee]
AB: Yep, nothin' like a pork chop. You know that back before the Civil War, pork was king of meat in this country and the richer you were the higher off the animal you ate. And since that pork chop came from the loin or back, you're technically eating high on the hog. Of course, firing up a pork chop today is kind of risky business, you know. That's because the modern American hog is like a supermodel—it's lean and clean and potentially as dry as a James Bond martini [laughs]. Guess you already discovered that, huh?
C: [nods head]
AB: But it doesn't mean that we have to steer clear of Chopsville altogether, okay? I mean, with a few decent tools, and a little food science, a little know-how, even that chop could have been good eats. [to waitress] I'll just have the cereal, okay?

Harry's / Whole Foods: Alpharetta, GA - 8:58 am

GUEST: Eddie Cifu, Butcher

    Unlike the beef critter which has three primary cuts along the back, the hog has but one, the loin. And it is from this region that all pork chops are chopped. Now as you might expect, the chops cut from here [front of loin] are very different from those cut from here [back of loin] or even here [middle of loin]. Truth is, if you want to travel in this neighborhood, you're gonna need a guide. I've got one. His name's Eddie.

AB: Hey Eddie.

    Eddie here is from New York City and he's been a butcher for, ...

AB: ... how long's it been?
EDDIE CIFU: About thirty years.

    Thirty years. I think he should be able to help us get to the perfect pork chop.

AB: Eddie, I'm going to assume that that is a pork loin.

EC: That's right. This is a whole pork loin. We'd have the head up at this end, we'd have the tail down here. We've got our shoulder chops, our rib chops, we have the tenderloin here. These would be the loin chops if we cut through the tenderloin, and the sirloin chops.

[starting from head end]
Shoulder Chops
Rib Chops
Loin Chops
Sirloin Chops

AB: Ah, now something that I see a lot on signage in stores are the words "center cut". What gives?
EC: Center cut would basically be between about here and here, once we took off the shoulder and the sirloin chops.
AB: Ah, so a rib chop is automatically a center cut and a loin chop is automatically a center cut.
EC: Pretty much so.
AB: What's next?
EC: Off to the saw.

    The saw.
    Like the hat?

AB: Take your time.

    [voice over] The first thing Eddie takes off is a shoulder chop. Now, this is an economy cut that contains pieces of a lot of different muscles and a good bit of connective tissue, so it's good for braising, but not grilling or pan-frying.

Shoulder Chop

EC: Now we take the sirloin chop.

    [voice over] From the other end comes the sirloin chop, which is just like a shoulder chop, only more so. Definitely a wet-method cut, but cheap.

Sirloin Chop

    Next up, the loin chops, the T-bones and porterhouses of the pork world. Now since they contain two muscles, the loin and the tenderloin, and they cook so differently, I'm not a big fan.


EC: How thick do you want them?
AB: Say, ... [indicates]

    [voice over] Eddie asks me how thick I want my rib chops and I tell him nice and thick. The rib is my favorite chop for fast, dry heat cooking. And since it's composed almost entirely of one muscle, it's ideal for stuffing.

Rib Chop

    Next stop for these, the brine bag. That's right. With the possible exception of tenderloin, I brine every hunk of pork I cook. Why? Well, from the 1860's to the early 1960's, American hogs were fat. In fact, most American hogs were called 'lard hogs,' because they were raised as much for their fat as their meat. Which was indeed juicy, succulent, and flavorful. Of course, with the advent of the fitness craze, consumers turned from pigs to poultry. Undaunted, the pork industry set out to design the hog anew. They cross-bred American lard hogs with various strains of long-bodied bacon hogs. Then they put them on a real special diet, which promoted fast growth of lean meat. As a result, today's pork chop's about 60 percent leaner than yesterday's pork chop. And if you cook it just so, it tastes like chicken!

In musicians' lingo, to have great "chops" means you are a great player.

The Kitchen

    Exacerbating pork's low-fat status is the fact that pork's just plain dry. A lot dryer than chicken, beef, or even lamb. That's why pork is so good for curing, you know bacon, ham, sausage. By brining our pork, not only can we add flavor, which we need, but we can inject moisture.

    Like all brines, this one starts with salt. One cup, to be exact. Combine this salt with an equal portion—that's one cup—of brown sugar, dark brown sugar. That looks about right. Now a tablespoon of black peppercorns, whole black peppercorns, and a tablespoon of mustard powder, dry mustard powder. Now remember, that's three teaspoons: one, two, three. Good. That all gets dissolved in two cups of very, very hot apple cider vinegar. There. I'm gonna put a lid on this and shake to dissolve. There. Now since we want to give the flavors a little time to open up and develop, we will let that sit for five to ten minutes. 

1 Cup Salt
1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tbs. Black Peppercorns
1 Tbs. Dry Mustard Powder
2 Cups Hot Apple Cider

    Now, time to cool things down by adding two cups of water, otherwise known as a pound of ice. Again, we shake until the ice is almost completely melted. It's definitely cool enough for meat insertion. The pork chops go in. Try to make sure you arrange them so that they are covered on all sides. There. And this goes into the refrigerator, for we'll say, two hours.

2 Cups Water (1 lb. Ice)

    Now since you are a loyal viewer, I am not gonna bore you with yet another long-winded lecture about brines, and osmosis, and proteins and ... okay, but just one more time.

Outside Looking Down on a Big Pig Sketch

GUESTS: Kids—H2O and Salt

    If this was a real pig, it'd be full of lots of stuff, but right now, we only really care about two things, water and salt. [whistles]

KIDS: [three kids, 2 with round "H2O" hats and 1 with a square "S" hat, enter and sit on the pig sketch]
AB: Excellent, water and salt.

    Now, let's say that we stuck this pig into a brine ... [whistles again]

K: [3 more with "H2O" hats and 5 more "S" with hats enter and sit]

... all of a sudden there'd be a lot of water on the inside and on the outside of the pig, but a lot more salt on the outside. Well, eventually the cell membranes, yearning for equilibrium, would pull in a lot more of the salt and then we'd end up with super-charged cells, more water, more salt, more flavor. Now, how long this would take would depend completely on how big the meat was. For our little chops, one to two hours will be fine.

AB: Okay, kids, if you wanna keep your hat, it's a quarter.
K: [all of the kids take off hats and throw them down]
AB: Hey, I worked hard on those.
K: [a kid giggles]

London chophouses were popular as early as the 17th century.

The Kitchen


    Ah, our chops are now ready to meet the heat. Of course, if we wanted to add some extra flavors, we could stuff 'em.
PAUL: What?! No, no, no, no. You said stuffing was evil.
AB: I said stuffing turkeys was evil.
P: Well, what's the difference? Meat is meat. Stuffing is stuffing. You can't change physics. Who do you think you are, Steven Hawking?
AB: Paul.
P: What?
AB: Get a frozen turkey.
P: Okay. [bends down, opens lower freezer drawer which hits AB in the shin]
AB: [grimaces] Paul.
P: Yes?
AB: That hurt.
P: I'm sorry.

    Big mass [turkey]. Little mass [pork chop]. Lots of stuffing [turkey]. Wee little bit of stuffing [pork chop]. And because this [turkey] cavity is exposed during processing, we've gotta cook the stuffing that goes into it to 165 degrees in order to avoid the dread salmonella. That means a longer cooking time and that means ...

P: ... dry meat.
AB: Exactly. Here [pork] we have a high surface to mass ratio and because we're gonna carve the pocket for the stuffing ourselves, cross-contamination is of little concern.
P: Well, then, stuffing's not evil.
AB: I never said stuffing's evil.
P: Yes, you did. [ed: Paul's right. He did. See link from Romancing The Bird]
AB: Paul. Turkey.
P: [returns and retrieves turkey]

    Here's the thing. If you're gonna compose a successful stuffing, you need to remember that the meat is the melody and the stuffing is the harmony.

[adds dried cherries to crumbled cornbread, then golden raisins, walnuts, sage, pepper, and salt. Then pours buttermilk over mixture and mixes ingredients together with his hand]

1 1/2 Cups Cornbread, Crumbled Fine
1/4 Cup Dried Cherries, Halved
2 Tbs. Golden Raisins
1/4 Cup Walnuts, Roughly Chopped
2 tsp. Fresh Sage, Thinly Sliced
1/2 tsp. Freshly Ground Pepper
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup Buttermilk

    In order to get our stuffing to its ultimate destination, we're gonna have to do a little bit of careful surgery. That will, of course, require a knife. I prefer a boning knife, because it has a very thin blade and a curve at the end, which is gonna help us to make a clean insertion. Don't try to do this with a paring knife, and definitely don't try it with a chef's knife. You'll just make a mess of things.
    Now it would be very nice to have a stable chop. So, I like to place mine inside this bagel slicer. That's right, it's a multi-tasker. Remember, there's only one uni-tasker in the kitchen, a fire extinguisher. That's right. Oh, and don't worry. We're gonna wash this before we cut bagels with it.
    So, start with your knife straight down and push all the way through until you hit bone. Then sweep the blade up one side while not making the hole any larger and turn the knife around, go back in the same hole until you hit the bone and move upward. There. I want to make sure the hole's just a little bit bigger. There.
    Now in order to get the stuffing in there we could use a funnel, if we had a big enough nozzle, we could use a piping bag, but that's another show, or we could cut the end off of one of those fancy marinade injectors you get down at the kitchen store. I don't know if it's really good for marinating, but I do know it is good for stuffing. Just stick it in the bowl until it fills up to about two tablespoons ... [taps the injector like a syringe] ... like those medical shows, and insert into the hole. There. Always did have a bloated opinion of himself. Now we could take this straight to a pan for pan-roasting, but it would be a real shame not to grill it.

The Back Porch

    The great thing about grilling pork, is that it's always ... [gasps] Ahh! Fireball! [camera pans back to a pile of charcoal with note, AB picks up note and reads]
    Fireball's been grill-napped. "If you ever want to see your grill again, you better give efficient, affordable, clean-burning propane equal air time. Signed, The Grill-napper." Well, this is just wrong, I ... [thinks] Alright, maybe I have been a little bit of a charcoal snob, but ... [thinks some more] Yeah. Maybe it's time that I reach out and embrace that flickering, blue flame. Hey, that means I get to buy a new grill.

Barbeques Galore: Marietta*, GA - 3:18 pm

GUEST: Chuck, Propane Proponent

AB: Ahem, excuse me.
CHUCK: Hello, Mr. Brown.
AB: Chuck, what are you doing here?
C: Providing the world with an efficient, affordable, and clean-burning hydrocarbon.
AB: Meaning, natural gas?
C: Whoa! That's the gas company. Here, we're all about the propane.

AB: Ah, ha. What exactly is the difference?
C: Natural gas is an amalgam of gaseous hydrocarbons found underground in very close proximity to petroleum. Propane is refined from petroleum. Jeez, Mr. Brown, for a guy on TV you don't know very much.
AB: Ah, well, you know, I know a few things and I ...
C: [rolls chair and knocks AB into it]
AB: Hey! Heeey! Oof.
C: Relax, Mr. Brown.
AB: Okay.
C: This is for your own good.
AB: Somehow, I don't think that's true.
C: [places "media helmet" with light, View-Master and earphones attached onto AB's head]
AB: Oh, what in the world?
C: Now try not to move.
AB: I can't see anything! There's nothing there!
C: [turns on the light]
AB: Oh.

C: The clean-burning efficient fuel we know as propane is born of petroleum, oil, that is, black gold, Texas tea.

Propane and you!
great for the grill!

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographic Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection

Western History / Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library

(Picture permission requested)

Petroleum is composed of Hydrogen and Carbon atoms linked together to form chains of varying lengths and molecular weights, each possessing unique characteristics. Since they have different boiling points, these chains can be distilled at a building called a refinery.

AB: Hey, I've been to one of those.


Giant Industries, Inc.

C: The shortest of these chains is methane, next comes ethane, butane, and propane. When burned in the presence of oxygen, a mere cubic foot of propane, or LP-Gas, can generate a whopping 2,500 BTU's.

Wonderful Propane

    That's British Thermal Unit, the amount of energy it takes to increase the temperature of a pound of water by one degree.

  C: Compare that to natural gas, which can only manage 1,000 BTU's.

    Oh, so that's why when you install a grill, you gotta have a bigger gas hose than you would for a propane. I think I get it.

C: Hydrocarbon chains ranging from C7H16 through C11H24 are blended into gasoline, while kerosene is blended into C28910 plus XP7 ...
AB: [stops C and takes off helmet] You know, this is all just great Chuck, and I really appreciate the show, but I'm just not to give up my charcoal yet. [notices Fireball covered up in the corner] What is that?!
C: Oh ...
AB: What is that?!
C: You're gonna love it. [places propane tank in AB's lap]
AB: That looks just like my grill! What do ...
C: Here you go. [wheels AB out the door] This propane tank holds 20 pounds of propane.
AB: 20 Pounds?
C: That's enough for 12 to 18 hours of cooking.
AB: 12 to 18 hours? That's not bad. Grill, I need a grill.
C: [rolls a grill out to AB] Have fun cooking with good, clean propane.
AB: Okey, dokey.

The up and down arm movement of Atlanta
Braves' baseball fans is called "the chop."

The Back Porch


    The worst thing that can happen in any grill session is for your grill to go cold in the middle of things, so you wanna check your fuel before you fire up. Now, this grill actually has a fuel gauge, which weighs the tank to see what's left in it. If your grill is not so equipped, no problem. Just pour about a cup of boiling water down the side of the tank, ...

HAND: [pours water on tank]

... there, now wait a couple of seconds, and then feel. Wherever the metal goes from warm to cold, that's where the gas line is. Hey, this thing's only half full. I think Chuck ripped me off. While you're down here, go ahead and open up the gas valve. You want to be sure you close this after every grilling session. There.
    Now my legal department tells me that I have to remind you to read your manufacturer's instruction manual before firing your grill for the first time. Go ahead, go ahead, I'll wait. [pauses, impatiently] Okay, got it? Good.
    Alright, let's fire this guy up. Turn your main burner to start, and hit the igniter three times. Wait ... [burner ignites] Hear it? The woof ... that means that everything is fine. Go ahead and fire the second burner. Listen. [burner ignites] Woof. I like to leave the lid closed, you can actually hear it better that way. Then go for the third burner. [burner ignites] Woof. Love that sound. Why wait a few seconds between turning on each burner? Because you've gotta give time for the gas to move down through the manifold. I'm gonna let this come to full heat, it's gonna take about ten minutes. In the meantime, there's more pork to stuff.

The 16th century term "chops" meant mouth or lips.

    The secret to grilling pork chops is ... [gasps as before] UH! Just joking ... to actually cook them on two different levels of heat. Sear them over high heat, and then finish them over low heat, so that the meat doesn't dry out and the stuffing doesn't dry out. First, we've gotta give them a little wipe-down with oil, so that they make better contact with the grill, without sticking to the grill. You just wanna barely mop each side. Any more than that and we could get flame-ups, although flame-ups on gas are nothing like they are on charcoal. There.
    Now, you wanna check the grill. Take a look your thermometer. You see that we have actually gone all the way around, and this is about as hot as it gets. So, time to open. I always turn my head away, just so there are no surprises. Whew, yep, that's hot. Take a look. Even the metal bars, see how they're glowing red? Now every grill has got its own characteristic and personality, but I generally, when I want high heat, I'm gonna lay the meat right in line with the middle burner. That's where most of the heat's gonna be. Here goes.
    Now, time is important, so I am going to set my timer for two minutes before we give the meat a twist. That's right, not a turn, a twist.

2 mins. Later

    Now, take each piece and give it a 45-degree twist. There. 45 degrees, 45 degrees, and go for another two minutes.

2 mins. Later

    Time to flip. And that, is what the twist gives you, the little hash marks which makes everybody say "Ooh, grilled food". Another two minutes.

2 mins. Later

    Time for another twist. Forty-five degrees only. Not 90. That's right, another two minutes.

In soccer, the "basic chop" is a movement
to stop the ball quickly to reverse its direction.

The Back Porch

    Now we're going to pull one of these good-looking guys, and take its temperature. We're gonna go right into the middle into where the stuffing is. [inserts instant-read thermometer into chop] A little over 140 degrees. That's pretty much medium once it rests. And since I like my meat medium, I'm gonna go ahead and pull two of these now. If you prefer your meat a little bit more well done, and some folks do, then just move two of these up to the top rack, and most grills have these, and close the lid. I'm gonna turn the back burner all the way off, and turn the other two burners all the way down. We'll let this cook another, heh, that's right, two minutes.

To "bust someone's chops" means to "harass
by forcible exertion of one's authority."

The Kitchen

GUEST: Granny Shadow

    Mmm-mmm. Juicy and just a little bit pink. What? Oh, let me guess. Your grandmother told you, "You'd better cook that pork 'til it's good and done, or you'll be good and done, you wretch." Well, back when she was young, much of America's porcine population was fed table scraps, or were simply left to scrounge around. More times than not, they picked up trichinella spiralis along the way. [picks up Jack-in-the-box and begins cranking] Now, the eggs of this nasty little worm, had the ugly habit of getting into your bloodstream and lodging into your muscle tissue. Then you'd sit there for a while, sometimes a long while and then ... [Jack pops up] ... kinda reminds you of Alien, huh? Heck, who can blame Grandmom for turning this [pork chop] into toast?
    Today, thanks to carefully formulated hog chows, America's pigs are as clean as they are lean. Even if you were to run into the rare t-spiralis, they can't survive beyond 137 degrees, and that is way under medium. So relax and enjoy your chops. Just be sure you buy them thick, you brine them, stuff them conservatively, and then cook them at two temperatures: sear 'em hot, finish 'em a little bit cooler, let 'em rest, and enjoy. See you next time, on Good Eats.

AB: Better than that diner, huh?
C: Very juicy.
AB: Hey, you can talk and eat at the same time.

Barbeques Galore

GUEST: Daniel Pettrow (Chuck)

C: [puts the helmet's Viewmaster askew on AB's face]
AB: [laughing] That's great. That's up my nose, Daniel. That's up my nose. Let's cut.

horizontal rule

Transcribed by Jonathan Huffines
Proofreading help by Sue Libretti

*It's actually in Atlanta, GA


Trichinella Spiralis

Domain    Eukaryote
Kingdom    Animalia
Phylum    Nematoda
Class    Enoplea
Order    Trichurida
Family    Trichinellidae
Genus    Trichinella
Species    spiralis

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010