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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

The Best Way to Prepare Pork Chops for the Grill



pork steak and veggies on white plate with sauce
Grill your pork steak to perfection by preparing it correctly beforehand.

You’ve got to be loving it: the sweet smell of grilling pork chops, the tender, juicy, mouth-watering taste when they’re piled on the plate in front of you.

But there’s a lot of you who are afraid to grill pork chops, and that’s just not right. Grilling pork chops is no more difficult than grilling steak, but there are some secret, and some not-so-secret tips that you can follow to get that perfect cook and taste.

Selecting your chops

If your pork chop is heading to the grill, it needs to be thick, not thin. There’s a lot of history behind that statement, so let’s digress a minute and talk about pigs.

Pigs: then and now

Fifty years ago, pigs were fatter. Today’s pigs weigh the same, but they are lean. Very lean. This evolution was noticeable in the early 1950s, when households were demanding less fat, and lard was giving way to vegetable shortening. Consumers associated pigs with fat. As a result, the rich, fat-marbled pork chop started to disappear from the meat aisle.

Today’s hog is leaner, generally raised inside because that rich layer of fat was not only flavorful, it also provided insulation for the animal. Modern pigs are bred to grow big, fast, and lean. That’s great for the hog farmer, but what does this mean for us consumers?

You, the cook on the prowl for a beautiful pork chop, must adjust to this new standard in pork. Leaner meat is less fatty, but it is also easier to overcook. The lean pork chop you find in your grocery today can overcook quickly.

Buying your chops

The perfect cut!
The perfect cut!

The first secret to a good grilled pork chop is to buy thick, not thin.

If you go to the butcher shop, you’ll notice that pork chops are now labeled in the same way that steaks are: rib chop, sirloin chop, and so forth. The rib chop is a good chop for the grill.

Brining your chop

You may have brined chicken or turkey, but have you tried brining pork? If not, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised when you do. Brining helps to break down the thick muscle meat and allow the meat to stay moist, even when grilling.

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A basic brine recipe for pork is a quart of water, a quarter cup of salt, and a quarter cup of brown sugar. You can add spices, chopped garlic or onion, or even a dash of molasses or brandy. It’s up to you how you want to flavor your chops.

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Put the water and other ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about five minutes, then remove from the heat to cool.

Add a couple cups of ice to bring the temperature of the brine down to about 45° F. Put the brine in a plastic bag and add your meat, shake if you have spices added, then put the bag into a bowl in case of leakage. The bowl then goes in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.

Preparing your grill

Prepare your grill with a side for indirect heat. Aim for a temperature of 350° to 375°F inside the grill. You can check the temperature with an infrared thermometer.

Cooking pork all the way through on high heat will cause the meat to lose all the tenderness and moisture you so carefully brined in. If you’re using a charcoal grill, you can prevent this by piling the charcoal higher on one side than the other, so the meat can start close to the heat and then move to the other side to finish.

The hotter side of the grill should be at a medium-high temperature. Let your grill grate heat before putting the pork chops on the grill.

Do you have a Big Green Egg? Find out all about the best lump charcoal for this excellent grill.

Preparing your chop

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Remove the chops from the bag of brine and use a paper towel to dry them. You can season it with salt and pepper both sides, if you prefer to keep things simple. For a more complex flavor profile, consider using use a good dry rub.

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Get grilling!

Place the chops on the hotter side of the grill for about 3 minutes per side. Then move to the cooler side for 3 minutes per side. However, when you move them, cover them with foil or a disposable aluminum pan. If you have a grill basket, roast up some tasty veggies while the coals are hot.

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Pork is done at 145° F. However, grilling them with the cover will cause them to continue cooking for a few minutes after removing them from the grill, especially if you keep the foil or the pan over them on the plate while the meat is resting.

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Some experts advise removing the meat when the internal temperature is 135° F. Doing this usually produces a medium rare cook. If you want your pork chops medium well, remove at about 140° F. Please use a reliable meat thermometer to always ensure your meats are cooked to a safe temperature.

Remember to recheck the temperature at 5 minutes after removing the chops from the grill to ensure they have reached a minimum of 145° F. Pork is done between 145° and 160° F.

Some great tips

  • Save some of your brine, and when you turn the chops on the cooler side of the grill, brush the meat with the sugary, salty brine. It will give you a slightly darker pork chop.
  • When you turn your meat on the grill, turn the meat at right angles to achieve the crisscross grilling marks.
  • When checking the temperature of pork chops, insert the meat thermometer from the side, being careful not to place the tip of the thermometer against the bone.
  • Watch out for flare-ups! Dripping fat can cause flaming!

Tip: Keep your grill clean with a good quality porcelain grill brush.

Chop, chop!

See? Grilling the perfect pork chop is easier than you thought! You are now an expert pork chop griller. Go forth and make me proud!

What’s a barbecue without some amazing appetizers to go with the meal? Check out this post for some quick and easy (but super tasty) BBQ side appetizers.

Make the party even better with some cold beer! Learn all about how to pack a cooler with dry ice, and serve up some frosty brewskis to wash all that great food down. And for the best coolers for the beach, check out this post.

Are you as big a fan of pork as I am? Then you’ll definitely want to read this post on how to cook a pig in the ground. It’s a seriously cool and traditional way to cook pork.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Bryce Heitman

Bryce is not a real professor, but he's real nerdy in the kitchen. He's been barbecuing, chopping, and generally blazing food for many decades. He thinks there's definitely a better spatula or utensil out there that hasn't been invented yet.

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