Bye bye, bland, dry pork. These juicy chops bookend a flavorful fruit filling, with a touch of tangy bleu cheese, and they’re so fancy you’ll want to dust off the fine china!
The “other white meat” isn’t the most popular option for home cooks because it’s too easy for it to turn into a dried up mess. There’s not enough gravy in the world to rescue a bone-dry pork chop!
Truth is, the pork industry has been out to get us, raising leaner products over the last few decades, but this Stuffed Pork Chop recipe produces moist and tender results every time thanks to a simple, short brine. It also has a thoughtful, sweet/tart, fruit-laden filling designed to add more juiciness and complementary flavor to the pork.
Although the techniques are simple, there is a little time commitment for executing the recipe for these baked stuffed pork chops, but the payoff is an elegant dish that’s sure to impress (even if you don’t pull out the good dishes).
Stuffing pork isn’t a new concept, but there are so many options that it may seem daunting deciding what to stuff pork chops with.
The most popular mixtures seem to be bread-heavy, things like stuffed pork chops with Stove Top Stuffing or seasoned cornbread. My experience is that stuffed pork chops with stuffing ingredients like these don’t add much flavor. It’s also not necessarily effective to stuff something that already has a tendency toward dryness with something that’s naturally kinda dry.
Other stuffing options take a veggie direction, versions like a mushroom stuffed pork chop or one with spinach and feta cheese. Although these do tend help with the moisture problem, they don’t really pack the flavor punch a good stuffing should. If you’re going to the trouble of stuffing stuff the stuffing should satisfy. Seriously!
The version of stuffed baked pork chops I’m sharing today has a fruit-based filling. Apple stuffed pork chops and pork loins are definitely a fall classic, but I wanted to make the flavors a little more sophisticated in this dish. My stuffing includes sour cherries, orange juice, dates, and a rich, sweet port, with just a hint of thyme, a combination that could not be a better complement for these chops.
There are four cuts of chops to consider: shoulder, loin, rib, and boneless. Shoulder chops have a nice amount of fat but lots of gristly bits. For that reason, they’re generally cut thin and not conducive to using in a stuffed pork chop recipe.
Cuts from the loin, on the other hand, are tender but very lean. They may even have loin on one side and tenderloin on the other making accurate cooking a challenge. Both cuts can have bits of bone extending down into the center of the chop and bisecting our lovely stuffing pocket.
Although I do love boneless chicken wings (to keep my fingers clean for safe beer-holding), I actually don’t recommend boneless pork chops for this recipe. They’re on the less-desirable lean side, and you’ll miss out on all the flavor in the bones if you use stuffed boneless pork chop recipes. Bones also make meat cook more slowly which adds some wiggle room to the otherwise delicate timing of cooking pork.
The best stuffed pork chops are made using rib chops from the center where you can get a thick, uniform cut. The bone is intact, which we want, but it skirts the side of the chop leaving a big “eye” of meat in the center for our stuffing. There’s also plenty of surface area and fat to facilitate the perfect sear and adequate brining.
Brining is really the essential step to ensuring this, and any other pork recipe, produces really moist results. It’s a simple salt/sugar/water ratio that only needs about an hour to work its magic. That’s plenty of time for the solution to break down some of the muscle fibers and add some seasoned water to the chop.
Tender and juicy. Check.
The stuffing’s a breeze to put together (even uses a little help from the microwave!), the majority of the time spent just concentrating all the flavors from the sweet onions, fruit, and port. We’ll balance out the sweetness with a little vinegar and add some toasted pecans for additional flavor and texture. The fresh thyme’s a wonderful addition that adds a slightly minty quality.
Just be sure to let the mixture cool down before the stuffing commences so you can work with it without burning yourself. Once the chops are bulging with flavorful fruit, they’re ready for a good sear before finishing in the oven. The oven is the only option when you’re considering how to cook stuffed pork chops.
Although the brining definitely provides a bit of a crutch, it’s still possible to overcook pork chops, and the oven provides the most consistent heating. Leaving them on the stovetop, even covered, means the majority of heat will be coming from the bottom of the pan and the temperature can waver a bit. If you’re making this or any other stuffed pork chops baked is the way to go.
By the way, my method is to sear the pork chops, then move them to a pre-heated pan in the oven to finish cooking. If you have the right cookware, though, you can sear your stuffed pork chops in oven safe skillets instead and do all the cooking in one pan.
A few crumbles of bleu cheese finishes off these easy Stuffed Pork Chops perfectly, and you’ll definitely want to drizzle the tops with any juices that might be left on the resting dish. This is one of those dishes I like to serve on special occasions when we have guests to impress or family to celebrate. You can even stuff the chops the night before if you need to pull off an epic dinner party.
I like to serve these impressive pork chops with cheddar-loaded mashed potatoes or Parmesan-sprinkled polenta and a simple steamed veggie. My Stuffed Pork Chops is the perfect dish to bring pork back to your dinner table.
More stuffing stuff – Take your time cutting the pockets in the pork chops since it’ll make the stuffing process quick and easy. I recommend using a shorter, thinner blade since it’s easier to control than a big chef’s knife.
Lots of stuffing recipes need toothpicks or even twine to restrain the bulky chops. This stuffing’s a bit sticky, though, so it likes to stay in the chop, and the orange skins (from the wedges you cut and juiced) will tuck right into the opening and work like colorful little caps to hold everything in while you’re cooking.
Perfecting the pork – Make sure to pull the pork chops out of the brine and let them warm up for about 30 minutes before you get ready to stuff and sear them. This is particularly true if you stuff them the night before.
Also, don’t skip the resting step. Yes, we’ve brined and cooked these chops carefully to keep them as juicy as possible, but cutting into them before the juices have had a chance to settle down after the cooking process can undo all that work.
Check out these Recipes!
Crock Pot Pork Chops – Mushroom gravy layered on top of tender moist pork chops.
Porcupine Meatballs ~ These super easy meatballs are made with beef and rice then simmered in a delicious tomato sauce. Always a family favorite!
Beefaroni ~ Easy Homemade Beefaroni is perfect for the simplified flavor palates of kids. So much better than anything from a can! Quick and Easy–Ready in less than 30 minutes!
Stuffed Pork Chops
- Light Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed - 3/4 Cup
- Table Salt - 1/4 Cup
- Water - 6 Cups
- Center Cut Rib Chop, Bone In, 1 1/2 Inch Thick - 4
- Vegetable Oil - 1 Tablespoons
- Red Onion, Halved and Sliced 1/8 Inch thick - 1 Large
- Granulated Sugar - 1 Tablespoon
- Port - 3/4 Cup
- Pitted Dates, Chopped - 1/3 Cup
- Dried Sour Cherries - 1/3 Cup
- Orange, Cut Into 4 Wedges - 1
- White Wine Vinegar - 3 Tablespoon
- Fresh Thyme, Minced - 2 Teaspoons
- Table Salt - 1/4 Teaspoon
- Pecans, Toasted, Chopped - 1/3 Cup
- To Cook and Topping:
- Vegetable Oil - 2 Tablesppon
- Blue Cheese, Crumbled - 3/4 Cup
Make Brine and Prepare Chop:
- In a large bowl or container that can acccommodate all the water and pork chops, dissolve brown sugar and salt in water.
- Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket, on the fatty side of the pork chop, almost to the other side but not through. Submerge pork chops in brine, cover and redfigerate 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Add onions and granulated sugar and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and browned, about 20-25 minutes.
- As the onions cook, mix the port, dates and cherries in a microwave safe bowl. Cover top with plastic wrap and microwave on high until the mixture is simmering, about 1 minute. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, squeeze the oranges to yeild 1/4 cup of juice. Reserve juiced wedges (this recipe will use them again in a later step).
- When the onions are browned, add in the simmered fruit mixture, the orange juice, 2 tablespoons of the vinegar, and thyme. Continue to cook the mixture until it becomes thick and jamlike, about 10-12 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of vinegar and pecans and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow mixture to sit until it's just warm, about 10-15 minutes.
Stuff and Cook the Chop:
- Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and place a rimmed baking sheet on rack. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Remove chop from brine and rinse with water. Dry chop well with paper towels. Place 1/4 of the filling in the pocket of each chop. Trim orange wedge, as needed, to fit into the outside opening of porkchop to contain the filling. Season chops with salt and pepper.
- In a 12 inch, heavy bottom skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil until just beginning to smoke. Carefully place chops in hot skillet and brown well, about 3 minutes. Flip chops and brown well on second side, about 2-3 minutes. (don't move chops until its time to flip them or they won't develop a nice brown crust).
- Using tongs, move browned chops to preheat baking sheet in oven. Cook chops, flipping halfway through, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the stuffing reads 135 degrees, about 15 minutes. Transfer chops to a plate and loosely cover with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with blue cheese and serve immediately.