Do you get dry, chewy pork chops every time you grill them? Knowing how to grill pork chops properly makes all the difference. While pork chops are simple and tasty in general and are ideal for that distinct grilled flavor, they’re not as easy to get right as a nice marbled steak.
I used to make the mistake of treating all meat more or less the same, and I could never understand why the results would vary so much. Eventually, I figured out what makes each cut unique and how to treat it. Therefore, I can now make consistently delicious grilled pork chops.
Pork chops are a lot like chicken; they’re similar in composition and how they respond to cooking. With chicken, people don’t tend to expect too much or care about the texture, so grilling chicken is easy. Pork chops, on the other hand, are something people want a certain way. In a pan or oven, it’s easy, but grilling takes more understanding and preparation. With that said, it’s not too difficult. This guide will teach you how to grill pork chops to perfection every time in a few simple steps.
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Why You Should Know How to Grill Pork Chops
While pork chops are very common cuts and easy to cook in general, grilling them can be a challenge. They’re pretty lean, and boneless ones don’t have any connective tissue. Therefore, you’ll often end up with a tough, dry final product if you don’t know how to grill pork chops properly. Most of us want our chops as rich and juicy as possible, and if you can combine that with that characteristic grilled flavor, you’ll impress your guests. We’ll take you through the steps that’ll get you those ideal results.
Choosing the right cut for your purpose is the key to meat grilling mastery. Pork chops aren’t all the same -- they can differ quite a bit. They all come from the loin of a hog, but there are different sections to pick from. Blade chops come from the front of the loin, and they have a high-fat content. However, this intramuscular fat won’t all render on the grill and make it juicy, but rather give it a rubbery feel. Rib chops have a more appropriate amount of fat and a more grill-friendly flavor.
Center-cut rib chops have the most loin meat, which makes them the best option for grilling. Loin chops aren’t as suitable for the grill because they have a fair amount of tenderloin, which cooks faster and often dries out. Furthermore, bone-in pork chops are better for grilling than boneless ones because the bones and connective tissues contribute to the flavor and smoothness.
As important as the particular cut is, the size is at least as important. An important lesson on how to grill pork chops is that thickness is essential. Thin chops don’t do well over a fire, and they’ll go from half-done to overdone in moments. You’ll want chops at least an inch thick, ideally around one and a half inches. Although almost every big grocery store has pork chops in stock at all times, they won’t always have suitable ones for grilling. Therefore, it’s better to go to a butcher and ask for some thick, juicy slabs of rib chop.
When you have your perfect chop, it’s time to prepare it for grilling. The most basic and versatile method is brining. That means using salt to dissolve muscle proteins and get a softer, tastier piece of meat that retains its moisture better. Some like to make an elaborate brine with water, salt, sugar, and seasoning. However, we recommend dry-brining when it comes to how to grill pork chops. It’s as simple as coating the whole slab in salt and letting it sit for an hour or two. You can leave it longer if you want, but an hour is the minimum.
You’ll get the best results if you keep it uncovered and sitting on a mesh or wire rack for maximum air circulation. The result is a chop with a somewhat air-dried surface that’ll brown perfectly.
Another method when determining how to grill pork chops the best way is marinating them. Using vinegar or another acid such as lemon juice, you’ll denature the protein and open the meat up. Not only does it make the meat more tender, but it also makes it absorb flavors better. When grilling, marinades without oil are easier to use, since the oil will drip and make the flames flare up. Leave your chops in the marinade for a few hours for optimal results. Leaving them all day can make the surface tough and dry.
Now for the main event -- how to grill pork chops! The first thing you should know is that a lean cut like this won’t handle high temperatures too well. You’ll want to use indirect grilling for the main cooking process. First, you’ll want to build a two-zone fire. If you’re new to grilling, this means creating a hot zone and a less hot zone by arranging the coals a certain way. Put all the coal on one side and leave the other one free. If you’re using a gas grill, just light the burners on one side.
We’ll begin by searing the meat over the hot zone. The surface will brown fast, and how long you’ll want it to go is a matter of your preferences and what seasonings you have on your chops. If you’ve piled your coal up, watch out for flare-ups when the rendered fat seeps out of the meat. If that happens, move your chops over to the other side until the flames subside. Once each side of your pork chop has had a go or two over the hot side, move the meat over to the cool zone. That is where it’ll finish cooking through.
For the best results, you’ll want to stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thickest chop before closing the lid. Once it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s a low medium and safe to eat. If you prefer it a bit more cooked but still juicy, the 150 to 160 range is what you’ll want. Let your pork chops rest for 3 to 10 minutes before serving.
Recipes: How to Grill Pork Chops
If you’re still wondering how to cook pork chops, the best answer is how you like them. You can do many different things with a thick pork chop, anything from a simple salt and pepper mix or BBQ rub to elaborate marinades and glazes. Or why not make use of that thickness and give your chops some stuffing? Now that you know how to grill pork chops like a champion, you can make them in hundreds of different ways with fantastic results. To help get you started, we’ve picked out some easy and delicious recipes for you to try.
Nothing completes grilled meat like a good glaze. An herb dressing with mustard takes it to new levels. Let’s look at how to grill pork chops this way.
Glaze ingredients (for four pork chops)
Mix the glaze ingredients in a bowl or cup, and it's ready. This kind of glaze is best to add toward the end of your grilling. When there are about five minutes left until they’re ready, slather the glaze all over the meat. That will let it cook into the meat a bit without anything burning. That’s all it takes. Now you know how to grill pork chops with and without a glaze.
Herb dressing ingredients
Start by chopping the herbs and mincing or pressing the garlic into a bowl. Next, squeeze the juice out of the lemon into the bowl, add the rest of the dressing ingredients, and stir it thoroughly.
As for what to serve with these chops, you can use almost anything. You could drop some whole corn and chopped vegetables on the grill for a cohesive, flavorful meal. Another simple option is to make some french fries or potato wedges.
Herb marinades are perfect for grilled pork of every kind. This recipe uses a mix of herbs and garlic to produce a lovely, aromatic cooked meat. There are two schools of thought on marinating slabs of meat. Some like to submerge the meat in the acidic mixture for maximal exposure, while others like to coat each side just for the flavor. While this recipe leans more toward the latter, you can add more vinegar if you prefer a good soak.
Marinade ingredients (for four pork chops)
The first step is chopping the herbs and garlic and crushing the peppercorns. You can use a hammer or a meat tenderizer if you don’t have a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Put everything in a small bowl and add the other ingredients. Place your chops in a casserole dish and put some marinade on each. Spread it evenly with a spoon or your fingers, then flip the chops and repeat. Cover, and set in the fridge for a few hours. Cook your marinated meat using your newfound knowledge of how to grill pork chops. You can serve this chops with anything; you can’t go wrong with this recipe.
Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving turkey stuffing? Why not stuff a juicy pork chop with the same kind of stuffing? That makes each chop into a complete, delicious meal. You’ll want to use thicker cuts, at least 1.5 inches thick. It’s a more advanced recipe but still approachable now that you know how to grill pork chops.
Stuffing ingredients (for four pork chops)
First, we’ll mix everything into a bowl. Next, it’s time to cut a pocket into each pork chop. That works just as well with bone-in chops as boneless ones. Fill these pockets with your stuffing. To prevent leaking, you’ll want to seal them with toothpicks before grilling. Once on the grill, it’s pretty straightforward. Brown them, flip them, and move them over to the coal-free zone. Depending on how moist you like your stuffing, you may want to leave them a bit longer on the cooler side before serving.
To complete this meal, pour some gravy or cream of mushroom soup over your stuffed chops. If you want something more on the side, mashed potatoes are an ideal choice.
All You Need to Know
That covers all you need to know about how to grill pork chops. Let’s do a quick summary. You’ll want thick cuts, at least an inch thick, but it doesn’t hurt to go for two inches. Dry-brining will give you a juicier result with a nicer crust. A two-zone fire approach is how to grill pork chops perfectly. You sear them over the hot coals, then cook them slowly with indirect heat until they’re ready to eat. It’s easier to avoid overcooking and undercooking if you use a meat thermometer. Once you’ve got this art down, you can have all sorts of wonderfully grilled pork chops as often as you want.