Don’t get me wrong. I love pork chops and make them often. Simple pan fried, or outdoors over the coals, even Panko crusted with pan gravy (the best). But in the end it’s a pork chop. A staple food. But given that there are places called chop houses was the pork chop ever elevated to the expensive status of a steak?
They don’t make pigs like they used to. the pink slabs of pork today are blah. Unless marinated or cooked some special way - blah…I would pay big bucks for a slice of my mother’s Sunday pork roast, just salted, peppered, studded with raw onion rings, and stuck in the oven…
I had a pork knuckle in Oslo that was the best $50 I ever spent on a dish of meat. Beef is pretty ordinary, too. Every cut is available from any cow. Perhaps not all of the same quality but the real difference is in the preparation. That pork knuckle took 6 hours to prepare.
I get thick cut, bone in pork chops from a good butcher. Apply a generous amount of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Then I cook it pretty much the same way you would cook a steak—sear in a cast iron pan on high heat all sides. Then I baste it with a mixture of butter, garlic, and rosemary and finish it in a 375F oven. IMO it’s just as good as any steak.
You can definitely get better qualities of pork. Duroc is fairly well-known and available (and still affordable), but you can get fancier trying some Berkshire/Kurobuta or Mangalica/Mangalitsa, definitely more fat and marbling and flavor than your standard supermarket pork. Those will run you about $20-$30/lb. But even the supermarket Duroc pork (if your local grocery carries it), is a significant step up IMO to battery farmed pork.
I was going to mention Berkshire/Kurobuta as a fine choice if you want a flavorful pork option where the emphasis is on the flavor of the meat rather than the style of cooking, but, as usual, pulykamell beat me to it. It’s probably the only options I’ve had where it’s comparable to beef as a standalone chop.
That’s not to say that other, well prepared pork chops can’t be good, wildabeast’s option is similar to mine although I add sage and a 2 hour brine prior to searing and finishing in the oven. But… IMHO here, I have yet to have a pork chop that at the same price point was as good as a beef steak. Pork seems to go from the super cheap mass market, to the Duroc which is sliiiightly cheaper than beef but still inferior in flavor, to the high end stuff like Berkshire which is -good- but more expensive than a decent Whole Foods steak.
Still, at the costs of all meat these days, I find myself eating quite a bit of cheap, inhumanely raised pork in a lot of dishes. Best option for me seems to be smoking it, because pork takes to smoke incredibly well, and is a flavorful feast on the cheap. Or slow cooking it to render down cheap cuts and maximize the flavor of the add ons.
So, TL;DR - you can have a great pork chop, but it may not be worth the cost depending on preferences.
PS - for the record, I grew up in a Reform Jewish household, that while it didn’t keep kosher, rarely even had pork products other than bacon served, and didn’t really cook or eat pork until I was an adult. So I may be taste-blind to some of the more nuanced flavors.