Grilled Pork Chops
Pork Chops Grilling
You’ve probably heard the slogan “Pork—The Other White Meat.” I think the pork industry should revamp that and say, “Pork—The Other Grill Meat.” Though pork has long been a favorite for smoking, more expensive cuts of the pig are terrific cooked quick with direct heat on the home barbecue grill.
Start with the Right Cut and Thickness
Most folks who grill know that cheap cuts of beef like round steak do not fare well on the grill. The same holds true when considering pork. You’ve got to invest in high quality meat to have a good final product.
Look for loin chops in the ¾ to 1 inch range on thickness. Thin cut chops will be too dry—more like stringy jerky when done. Though some people do like the really thick pork cuts, those tend to stay pink in the middle when grilled. This really isn’t a problem these days. The “rule of thumb” to always cook pork until white through to prevent diseases was linked to the days when pigs foraged or ate table scraps. Today, pigs are fed balanced, bagged feeds. Personally, I still prefer pork cooked done—but not dry.
If selecting pork is confusing, then ask the butcher for help or order online. Omaha Steaks has a nice selection of grilling meats, and the chops are just perfect for the grill.
Getting the Chops Ready for the Grill
It’s fine to put pork chops directly on the grill though it’s a good idea to rub a little cooking oil on both sides to prevent sticking. Pork has less fat than beef, so chops can stick to the grate.
For tastier chops, let them sit in a marinade for an hour or so before grilling.
There are a host or recipes for pork marinades in cookbooks and online. Many of these include honey, molasses or tomato based sauces. This complicates the grilling, since the heavy sauces tend to burn and leave the meat looking rather blackened. I’d recommend using heavier sauces only during the last few minutes of the cooking time.
A good pre-grilling marinade is Italian dressing. This works well for beef too. With pork, just be sure to get the oil based and not the “light” version. That little bit of oil helps with the sticking problem. Our favorite is Kraft Zesty Italian, but any thin Italian will work including homemade.
Before pouring the Italian dressing over the chops, rub them with your favorite seasonings. We especially like lemon-pepper or orange-pepper. Most any sprinkle seasoning is fine. Just don’t overdo it and overpower the taste of the meat. Once the seasonings are rubbed and pressed in, pour enough dressing over the chops so that they’re covered. Then, cover the container with a lid or Saran Wrap and put in the refrigerator for an hour or even overnight.
Time to Fire Up the Grill
With pork, you want the grill hot—in the medium high range. With a gas grill, this just means turning the dial to medium hot. With charcoal, have a good bed of reddish gray coals. You should hear a sizzle when you put the chops on.
With chops in the 1 inch range, expect to cook each side about 5-7 minutes. Look for black stripes on each side. At this point, the chops are ready to eat, but they’re better if you let them slow cook just a bit longer. With a gas grill, let them rest on a high rack for another 5 minutes or so. On charcoal, slide them over to a cooler spot on the grill for 5 minutes or place the chops in a warmed cast iron pan with a lid for 10 minutes.
If you are adding a thick style of barbecue sauce, then brush that on the last couple of minutes of the hot cooking time and add an extra flip to heat the sauce on both sides of the chop. This sears the sauce and makes it stay on better. The extra indirect heating time should not char the sauce. If you see the sauce turning black, then you’ve got the meat over too much heat.
Ready to Eat Those Loin Chops
Pork cooks quick, so if you are grilling sides, then be sure to put those on before cooking the chops. The “sitting” time that makes the pork more tender gives a little leeway, but hard vegetables like potatoes and corn do take quite a bit longer to cook than pork. For a really quick company meal, cold sides prepared ahead and then a few minutes of grill time make pork a good bet.