For decades now, pork in the United States has been healthier with virtually no zoonotic bacteria present. This had been the reason pork was always cooked to such high temperatures. You did not serve pork below 165 degrees internal temp for – legitimate – fear of making people sick. Those days are long gone, and when working with intact muscle meat (ground meat is different) you can cook to your chosen level of doneness at temps significantly below 165.
Again, the sous vide comes to the rescue. The ability to set and hold temperature will let you work through pasteurizing to eliminate other bacteria and keep the meat to the doneness you enjoy. Even without safety concerns many people like their pork at a slightly higher doneness than other meats. This is the function of temperature; additional tenderness will come from time being cooked.
Last item of note is seasoning. For chops, the standard Salt, Pepper, Garlic powder (SPG) is the most common seasoning as you prep for the sous vide process. You can certainly use ribs that you love, coffee rubs, barbecue type rubs, etc. Be aware that pork absorbs salt somewhat better than many meats, so be judicious.
SEE RELATED: Sous Vide Steak & Grilling
Pork doneness by temperature
‘Doneness’ in meat is extremely subjective, and there is room for different opinions. As nice as it would be to say this temperature is the exact one for all medium rare, there is more to it than that. Setting aside that many people have a different expectation of what MR looks like, tastes like, and how much juice should be showing. Just to make it more complex, different cuts of meat show all those characteristics somewhat differently.
That means these are basic guidelines that will generally work, especially since we are focusing on pork chops specifically. This temperature table for pork doneness will certainly give you a reference point for desired internal temperatures for doneness and for cooking temperatures in the sous vide.
|(R) Rare||130ºF (54ºC)|
|(MR) Medium Rare||135ºF (57ºC)|
|(M) Medium||140ºF (60ºC)|
|(MW) Medium Well||150ºF (65ºC)|
|(W) Well Done||160ºF (70ºC)|
Times for sous vide cooking pork chops
The first goal is to reach the internal temperature desired. This is affected by the thickness of the chop. We will assume you are pulling straight from a refrigerator at about 35 degrees to start. Your basic rule of thumb is 75 minutes per inch of thickness to reach temp inside. A nice 2-inch thick chop will need 150 minutes, or 2-1/12 hours of cooking time at 135 or higher, to reach the same internal temperature.
This is where you need health awareness. The USDA rule of thumb is that food should not exceed four hours in the danger zone of over 40 or under140 degrees. So be cognizant of that when calculating your cooking times. Intact muscle meat such as chops is generally safer than many foods, but the risk is there if you are not careful.
Our favorite for pork chops, particularly bone in and loin chops, is 140 degrees. Less than two inches thick and a three hour cook time in the sous vide is just right. The temperature is safer, and it leaves pink and very juicy meat for you to enjoy.
SEE RELATED: Sous Vide Chicken & Grilling
Additional timing considerations
There are two common situations when you will want to use additional time for your sous vide cooking process. Both of these examples will give you better results if ass 30-60 minutes additional cook time to your calculation.
First are the bone in cuts. The additional density of the bone will be slower to take the temperatures. The second is to cook from frozen. Many of us will do meal prepping which includes seasoning and sealing meat for a future sous vide cook. Starting from frozen gives you virtually identical results with the sous vide, which is very handy. Adding the time gets great results.
Pro tip- with the generally thinner size of pork chops it is rare that you will cook longer than 4 hours in the sous vide because that can lead to a texture that is almost too soft. Obviously if the meat is especially tough this can be an asset.
Grilling; Time to Sear
Now the fun begins. We recommend letting the chops cool down slightly, 10-15 minutes after taking them from the sous vide water. Immediately get them form the bath, unwrap them and dry the surfaces of. Let them rest and then you are ready to sear. You can add another layer of seasoning at this step. Remember how much salt you used at the first seasoning step so you do not over do that for your tastes. Feel free to put a light coat of your favorite seasoning blend before searing.
You want the grill smoking hot for the searing process. Either gas or charcoal work fine for this part. The goal is to increase the internal temperature as little as possible while you add great coloring and texture from the searing heat. Using the cool down step gives you a good window for your sear. Try and source over 500 degrees, then you will have the chops in the fire for literally one minute at the most.
Open flames or hot metal grates; both will give that finishing look and taste. Your diners may think you only grilled them, but you will know that the great results you achieved were through an easy, but somewhat lengthier process.