These easy Lemon Pepper Pork Chops are a healthy and simple weeknight meal. Juicy and tender pork chops made in under 25-minutes. Top with a light lemon butter sauce for extra flavor!
Pork chops are underestimated as a super affordable, tasty and lean protein! It’s a great alternative to chicken and lean turkey recipes when looking for something on the healthy side!
Pork is such a delicious meat to use, especially to break apart all of the beef meals I typically make. Plus, there are so many ways to prepare pork from roasts of pork tenderloin to sausage broccolini pasta!
- Pork Chops - either boneless or bone-in pork chops can be used for this recipe. I highly suggest boneless pork chops as a leaner cut of pork and to reduce cooking time.
- Lemon - to ramp up the lemon flavor, we use the zest of lemon peels, where the strongest tartness and flavor lives.
- Spices - to make our own lemon pepper seasoning, use garlic salt and onion powder. Both can be substituted with only salt instead, or substitute onion powder for garlic powder.
Make Your Own Lemon Pepper Seasoning
For these lemon pepper pork chops, you can purchase store-made lemon pepper seasoning, but I don’t like the additives and preservatives they have. Store-bought lemon pepper seasoning has: lemon peel, onion powder, garlic salt or powder, ground peppercorns, and citric acid.
Citric acid is technically what comes from citrus and makes it the tart flavor we love. But the citric acid added into foods is manufactured.
To ramp up the tart lemon flavor without using these preservatives, we use the zest of lemon!
Optional Sauce Ingredients
Instead of gravy, I love adding a light butter sauce with garlic, fresh lemon juice and thyme to top these pork chops. It’s a sauce that comes together while the pork is resting and is delicious on any sides you may pair the pork with!
Boneless or Bone-In?
There’s a ton of ways to purchase pork chops, whether that be bone-in or boneless. It’s all a personal preference. I typically go with boneless chops to lessen cooking time and because this cut of meat is leaner.
So what’s the difference between a bone-in and boneless?
Bones add a lot of flavor and look really beautiful when presented. It also can be cheaper if not butcher prepared.
However, bone-in pork chops have more fat (not as much a lean cut anymore), meaning less meat per pound. It also requires a much longer cooking time, meaning that this becomes less of a quick weeknight meal.
Boneless pork chops are extremely convenient and cook much faster than bone-in pork chops. There’s also a lot more meat and a leaner cut, which is why I prefer it! They’re also way easier to find in grocery stores.
However, people find that with less fat in boneless pork chops it’s easier to dry them out. This is why we pan sear and broil the pork chops, to reduce the dryness! Some people also find that boneless pork chops have less flavor due to having less fat.
Season pork chops
First, season the pork chops well with the seasoning. This will help create the lemon pepper flavor.
Sear pork chops
The best way to cook most meats is to do a hard sear. To do this, heat the pan or cast iron for a few minutes prior to placing the pork chops down. Make sure to pat dry the pork chops, and let the pan heat up enough.
Cook to fully done
Depending on the thickness of your pork chops, you may have to put them in the oven to cook through without drying out. This is typically recommended for pork chops thicker than 1”. Otherwise, you can sear per instructions until cooked to desired temperature.
Make garlicky lemon pepper sauce
When the pork chops are resting, this is the perfect time to start your sauce. You’ll melt down unsalted butter and then add the flavorings of garlic and lemon. Let it simmer down to create a thick garlic lemon sauce and place pork chops to coat.
How long to sear pork chops?
Make sure to bring your pork chops to room temperature (about 30-minutes prior to cooking). This will ensure the best cook. From there, the thickness of the pork determines how long to sear. (Keep in mind that how hot your pan is and other factors will weigh in as well)
Pork Chops 1” thick: about 5 minutes each side
Pork Chops ¾” thick: 5 minutes side 1, 3 minutes side 2
Pork Chops ½” thick: about 3 minutes each side
For thicker chops (thicker than 1”), I recommend searing for 5 minutes each side and then bake in the oven at 375ºF for 5-10 minutes, or until it reaches proper internal temperature.
Cooking Temperature for Pork
Cook pork chops (or any kind of pork) to an internal temperature of 145ºF. This will result in a medium cook, or where there’s a slight pink in the middle. The USDA recommends pork temperature anywhere between 145ºF to 160ºF, but removing the pork at 145ºF will typically result in the juiciest meat.
Always use a meat thermometer when cooking meat (whether that’s beef, pork, etc.) A thermometer is your best friend when cooking proteins. I have tried over and over to do that trick where you feel the bounce of the protein to see if it feels bouncy (undercooked) or hard (overcooked). The one tried and true method is finding the temperature.
No matter what the recipe says for timing, everyone's stove-tops and ovens are different and it's the safest bet to use the thermometer as much as possible to know how far along your cook is.
Room Temperature Pork
With any protein, I like to take it out of the fridge about 20-minutes prior so that it can come close to room temperature. This also helps prevent the pork chop from drying out.
As aforementioned, use your meat thermometer to make sure it reaches the temperature you prefer. For pork chops: 145ºF is Medium, 160ºF is Medium-Well and 175ºF is Well Done.
Cast Iron Skillet
Want to achieve that perfect browned crispy edge for your pork tenderloin? Use a cast iron skillet. It also means less dishes - you can put it straight in the oven once your pork tenderloin is seared! If you don't have a cast iron (I highly suggest one, it's probably my favorite kitchen utensil!) then a dutch oven does the same trick too! You can always sear the pork tenderloin in a pan on the stove then transfer to a baking dish for the oven.
Let it Rest
Once your pork chop reaches the temperature you are looking for, take it immediately out of the oven and LET IT REST. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes (preference of 10!) before you slice. This helps the chops re-absorb the juices, keeping it tender and moist.
I cannot stress enough to make sure you season well on all sides. Since pork chops are mild alone, making sure that there’s plenty seasoning will help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can pork tenderloin be entirely cooked on the stovetop?
Yes, you can cook the entire pork tenderloin on the stove. However, it will be very cooked on the outside by the time the inside center is cooked through.
What is the best temperature for pork tenderloin?
For pork tenderloin: 145ºF is Medium, 160ºF is Medium-Well and 175ºF is Well Done.
Removing the pork tenderloin from the oven at 145ºF will result in the juiciest pork tenderloin.
How do you keep pork tenderloin from drying out?
To keep pork tenderloin from drying out, remove it from the oven once it reaches the temperature of 145ºF. Let it sit for at least 5-minutes prior to cutting. Overcooking pork tenderloin is a huge reason why it dries out.
Can pork tenderloin be a little pink on the inside?
A little pink in the center of the pork tenderloin is okay. At medium (cooking until 145ºF internal temperature) may leave the inside cooked with a tiny bit of pink.
How long do you cook a pork tenderloin per pound?
Cook pork tenderloin until it reaches an internal temperature of 145ºF, which takes about 20-minutes per pound in a 375ºF oven.
What to Do With Leftover Pork Chops
The inevitable question is what on earth to do with pork chop leftovers.
- Add in corn tortillas to make tacos.
- With fried rice.
- On top of a grain or rice bowl.
- Dice into small pieces and add to a quesadilla.
- Pair with cheese for a filling grilled cheese.
- Add to soup.
- Top a salad.
- Make a wrap with added veggies and sauces.
- Add to pizza (whether it’s plain cheese or with other toppings!) for added protein.
- Make a sandwich!
What to Serve with Pork Chops
The great thing about pork chops is that almost all side dishes work well! I always love pairing pork chops with roasted potatoes (or mashed potatoes work great too!). Glazed Carrots or a Kale Fig Salad are a delicious veggie-loaded side to pair with as well.
Pork chops really taste great with anything!
- Rice Pilaf or Mexican Rice
- Sweet Potato Mash
- Roasted Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash
Lemon Pepper Pork Chops
- Cast iron skillet or large skillet
- 4 Pork Chops boneless
- 1 TSP Salt
- 2 TSP Black Pepper
- ½ TSP Onion Powder
- ½ TSP Garlic Salt
- 2 TBSP Neutral Oil
- Fresh Parsley or Thyme for topping optional
Lemon Garlic Sauce
- 2 TBSP Lemon Juice juice from 1 lemon
- 2 TBSP Unsalted Butter
- 3 Garlic Cloves finely chopped
- Zest from 1 Lemon
- ¼ TSP Salt
- ¼ TSP Black Pepper
Cook Pork Chops
- If pork chops are 1” thick or thicker, preheat oven to 375ºF.
- Bring pork chops to room temperature 20-minutes prior to cooking.
- Season pork chops generously with seasoning on both sides.
- Heat a cast iron or regular pan on high heat for 2-3 minutes, until hot. Cover with the neutral oil.
- Add pork chops (don’t overcrowd pan) and sear the first side for 5-minutes (unless less than ½” thick, then sear for 3 minutes).
- Flip to the other side and sear for 5 additional minutes if over 1” thick, 3 minutes if ¾” thick or thinner.
- Check that internal temperature of pork chop is at 145ºF.
- If internal temperature is lower than 145ºF, place pork chops in oven for 5-10 minutes, until reaching proper internal temperature.
- Remove pork chops from pan and place on cutting board or plate.
- Add butter into the pan that pork chops were in, and let melt at medium-low heat.
- Once melted, stir and add in freshly squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic cloves, and salt and pepper.
- Stir all ingredients together and let cook for another 2-3 minutes, until all ingredients combine and creates a thicker buttery sauce.
- Add pork chops back into the pan and flip in sauce for 1 minute, until covered.
- Top with fresh parsley or thyme and serve hot!