A recent survey by National Family Opinion, Inc., a consumer research organization, reported 93% of the 1,304 consumers polled believed that pork must be cooked well done to be wholesome. Apparently this conviction is based on the age-old fear that eating undercooked pork causes the illness trichinosis.
According to the National Pork Producers Council, concern over becoming infected with this disease from eating pork is no longer justified. Even if present, trichinae is killed at 137 degrees, well below the doneness recommended for pork.
Today's modern feeding practices are producing pork that is 50% leaner than the meat available 20 years ago. "In the past it was possible to overcook pork and still have a fairly tender product with good flavor," says Robin Kline, a registered dietitian, NPPC director of consumer affairs. "However, that's not the case today."
The council now recommends cooking pork to 160 degrees, or medium, in order to retain more of the meat's natural juices and tenderness. For many pork cuts, this means it is properly cooked when still slightly pink at the center. A meat thermometer will ensure the meat is cooked to the proper temperature and is especially easy to use in larger cuts such as roasts and stuffed pork chops.
When purchasing pork chops for stuffing, select those that are double-cut, about an inch thick. Use a sharp paring knife to trim any fat in excess of 1/4-inch from the edge of the chops. Then make a horizontal slit 1 1/2 to 2 inches long through the fat. Insert the knife into the slit and draw it from side to side to form a pocket (Step 1).
Lightly spoon about 1/4 cup stuffing into the pocket of each pork chop (Step 2). Securely close the pocket opening by inserting two wood picks (Step 3). Snip off the picks level with the surface (Step 4) before browning the chops on both sides in a small amount of oil (Step 5).
Add enough chicken broth to the pan (Step 6) to prevent the chops from sticking. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer the chops 30 minutes or until tender and the desired degree of doneness, adding more broth as needed.
Remove the chops and keep warm. Dissolve a tablespoon of cornstarch with a small amount of water and add to the remaining pan juices. Cook, stirring, until thickened. Serve the sauce over the chops.
STUFFED PORK CHOPS
1 cup stale bread cubes
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh chopped sage
1/4 cup milk
6 pork chops, cut about 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons oil
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth, about
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Combine bread cubes, celery, onion, thyme, sage and salt and pepper to taste. Moisten mixture with milk. Set aside.
Use sharp paring knife to trim any fat in excess of 1/4-inch from edge of chops. Cut horizontal slit 1 1/2 to 2 inches long through fat, then insert knife into slit and draw from side to side to form pocket. Repeat for each chop.
Lightly spoon about 1/4 cup stuffing into pocket of each pork chop. Securely close pocket opening by inserting 2 wood picks. Snip off picks level with surface.
Saute chops in oil over medium heat until browned on both sides. Add enough broth to keep chops from sticking, reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes, adding more broth as needed.
Remove chops and keep warm. Dissolve cornstarch in small amount of water. Stir into pan juices and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Serve over chops. Makes 6 servings.
Note: Remove wood picks before serving.