Know your meat. Here’s how pork steaks compare to pork chops, and why you should have this conversation with your butcher.
The difference between pork steaks and pork chops may be obvious to experienced butchers or professional chefs. For us home cooks, however, it is not—and thus needs to be explained.
If pork steaks vs. pork chops is the question, be sure to read on. We have scoured the Internet and consulted the most reliable cookbooks in our editorial team’s library to give you the answers you need.
Pork steaks are cut from the pig’s shoulder or butt. Pork chops, on the other hand, come from the loin, the part of the pig that runs from the hip to the shoulder.
Both steaks and chops are primal cuts, which means they’re among the first pork cuts to get separated from the carcass in the butchering process. They’re also cut to a thickness of 1 to 1½ for quick and even cooking.
Pork chops are leaner—they come from a part of the pig that drags more weight and gets more exercise—and so they come out drier when cooked. In contrast, pork steaks have more intramuscular fat (called “marbling”). This fat melts during cooking, making the steaks juicier.
Another key difference is that pork chops can be bone-in or boneless, whereas pork steaks are almost always boneless. The chop is taken perpendicular to the pig’s spine, so the bone is usually the rib of vertebra, those small bones forming from the backbone.
To sate your hunger for knowledge, let us explore those differences in greater detail.
The Price Tag
Compare the price tags of pork chops and pork steaks at the butcher shop or grocery store, and you will quickly come to the conclusion that, unless there’s a sale, chops are typically more expensive than steaks. Why is that?
The answer lies in the butcher’s yield, the amount of usable meat and trim for each cut of meat. Generally, pork butt and shoulder chops yield more steaks per pound of flesh than the loin does.
Considering that steaks are more flavorsome and succulent than chops, this isn’t necessarily bad news for the home cook who, for one reason or another, needs to shop on a budget.
The Cooking Method
Because the pork steak is more succulent and the pork chop is drier, these different cuts of pork taste their best when prepared with different cooking methods.
While we have provided what we believe are the best ways to cook steaks and chops below, there is more than one delicious pork recipe out there, and how exactly you cook them is limited only by your imagination and ingenuity.
Best Way to Cook Pork Steak
Pork steak is best cooked in a skillet on the stove, using a combined cooking method that makes the most of dry and moist heat. To do this, add a dollop or two of cooking oil to the frying pan and heat over medium-high heat.
Season the steaks liberally with salt and pepper, then lightly dust them with all-purpose flour before searing them in the skillet for 2-3 minutes per side. Next, add ½ cup of red wine and crank up the heat all the way to high, bringing the cooking liquid to a vigorous boil.
Cook the steaks for 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until the meat is thoroughly done and the cooking liquid has reduced to a viscous and deeply flavorsome pan sauce. Plate by pouring the pan sauce over the steaks and resting them for at least 3 minutes before serving.
Best Way to Cook Pork Chops
The best way to cook pork chops is quickly, over relatively high heat, whether on the grill or in a roasting pan under the broiler.
Heat your grill or broiler for 15-20 minutes so that, by the time you slide the chops in, the air is hot and the walls are radiating heat. Use that time to remove the pork chops from the fridge, season them generously with kosher salt and black pepper, and let them get up to room temperature on the counter.
Sear the chops for 2-3 minutes per side to give them a crispy and flavorsome crust. The turn down the heat on your grill or broiler (or move them further away from the heat source) and continue cooking for 6-7 minutes, flipping them once halfway.
As a golden rule, boneless chops are easier to cook than bone-in chops. They’re done when the thickest part of the meat has reached an internal temperature of 145°F. Let the chops rest for 3 minutes before bringing them to the table to allow carryover cooking to take place and to let the juices settle.
An Easy Cooking Method for Both
Pan-roasting is a highly versatile cooking method that ameliorates almost any cut of pork. When in doubt, revert to it for steaks or chops, especially if they’re thicker than 1-1½ inches, requiring longer cooking.
Heat your oven to 375°F for 15-20 minutes. Use the time to remove the steaks or chops from the fridge, rub them on all sides with salt and pepper, and rest them on the counter so that they get up to room temperature.
Some 5 minutes before the time is up, add a dollop or two of cooking oil to a cast iron skillet with thick walls and a heavy bottom. Then heat the skillet over medium-high, with the range hood turned on in case the oil starts to give off smoke.
Sear the chops for 2-3 minutes per side, then turn off the burner, pick up the skillet with mittens or a kitchen towel, and slide it in the hot oven. Roast for 8-10 minutes, turning the steaks or chops once halfway through the cooking.
Buying, Storing, Handling
If you have the option, it is better to get your pork from a local farmer or trusted butcher than the grocery store. In case the store is your only option, meat that’s freshly cut or cut to order is better than pre-cut meat that’s sealed in vacuum or wrapped in plastic.
Raw pork, no matter the cut, is a highly perishable food product that must be refrigerated or frozen. It will stay good for 3-4 days in the fridge. Frozen pork stays safe to eat indefinitely, but only keeps its peak quality for up to 1 year.
Never leave pork, raw or cooked, out at room temperature for longer than 1-2 hours. Raw pork should be unpacked from the grocery bags and refrigerated or frozen promptly; leftovers should be cooled to room temperature, transferred to food storage containers, then also stored in the fridge or freezer.
Remember that raw pork can (and very often does) harbor pathogenic bacteria on the surface, the kind that can give you food poisoning. This can happen if the meat is undercooked or if you fail to wash your hands and sanitize the kitchen properly.
To prevent transferring bacteria from raw pork to your hands or food, wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds after handling raw pork. The knife and cutting board must be washed immediately after you’re done cutting, and any countertops that came into contact with the raw pork should be wiped down for sanitization.
Which Is Better?
The answer posed, “Which is better, pork steaks or pork chops,” has a simple and open-ended answer: “Whichever you and the family like the most.”
Chops are leaner, so they will appeal to the eater who likes his or her pork somewhat dry. They cook quickly and tolerate haste in the kitchen, which makes them the easier option for a weeknight dinner for the cook.
With greater fat content and more marbling, steaks will appeal to those who like their pork rich and succulent. They need patience and prudence to cook well—lest they overcook and burn—so it is best to prepare them on weekends, when time is more plentiful.