Juicy, Tender, Grilled Pork Chops

Center cut pork chops, bone-in or boneless, are not usually a choice for grilling on your BBQ. The reason is they do not contain intramuscular fat, they are very lean, and they usually get dried out when they are grilled. That being said, if you understand the structure of a center cut pork chop, you can successfully grill them and serve a tender, juicy, flavorful chop your guests are going to love.

What we have is a bone-in center cut loin chop. If you look at the chop, you will see it looks like a T-bone or porterhouse steak. It comes from the same cut on the pork carcass as on the beef carcass. The difference is the lack of intramuscular fat. The intramuscular fat in the beef cut is due to the muscle getting less exercise causing the marbling to form and the cut to be tender. This is not the case with hogs. This is the third most heavily used muscle because of the physiological structure of the hog.

So, your question might be, “If this is such a heavily used muscle, how can I get it tender?” Normally, this is done by slow roasting, coating, and frying or baking, or braising it. In this case we are also going to use combination cooking, but we are going to grill and then braise it. To braise one on the grill you will need to have the following:

  • Foil pan large enough to hold the chop
  • Aluminum foil to cover the pan
  • Julienned onions and red bell pepper
  • Whole butter
  • Seasonings
  • Ginger ale
  • BBQ grill, gas, charcoal, or pellet
  • ChefsTemp Finaltouch X10 instant read thermometer

First, we need to get our chop and season it and then place it in a Ziploc bag. Let it rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. While it is resting in the refrigerator, take half a large white onion, and one red bell pepper and julienne them, then in your foil pan, place two tablespoons of whole unsalted butter, put in the onions and peppers, and cover.

Gather your ingredients and it is time to head to the grill. Preheat the grill to 350°F (177°C). Place the chop on the grill and get it marked on both sides.

grill chops

Once you have your grill marks on the chop, place the chop on top of the onions and bell peppers and then pour the ginger ale into the pan and cover with foil. The chop should be at just over 100°F (38°C) and it needs to be cooked until it reaches 150°F (66°C) and then pull it from the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes to reach final temperature of 155°F (68°C).

Once you have your chop in the pan and cover, turn the grill down to low, and close the grill. It will take between 20-30 minutes for the chop to finish cooking to pull temp, and then you will want to rest it and then prepare to serve.

Pork is a great meat for the grill or smoker, most of the time we use the pork butts, pork leg, and ribs, but the loin also is fantastic to be smoked, and if you follow a few easy steps, the loin chops are an awesome addition to the meats you will want to grill.

Keep in mind that they contain little to no intramuscular fat, marbling, and because of this it will get tough as the meat cooks, so a couple of extra steps are needed but so worth doing. One of those things is the introduction of a cooking liquid. You can use many different things for the cooking liquid. Apple juice, pineapple juice, ginger ale, seven up, chicken broth. Any of these will produce a satisfying result. I chose to use ginger ale because of the flavor and sweetness. The onions and bell pepper add flavor to the sauce which will be built as the chop cooks.

Now that we have looked at how to make this chop succulent on the grill what other concerns or details are important to keep in mind when grilling chops? Temperature is king. It is everything, and with chops it is critical. Chops, unlike steaks have to be cooked to 155°F (68°C) to be safe to eat, however, with the lack of marbling to get the chop to the target pull temperature of 150°F (66°C) usually results in a dry, tasteless piece of meat and less than favorable dining experience.

chops 2

When doing chops, make sure you take temperature readings often during the cooking process and once you reach a temperature of 105°F (41°C), place the chops into the pan and add the cooking liquid, cover with foil, and then let it cook until it reaches a minimum of 150°F (66°C) and then remove from the grill and leave it covered and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. The carryover cooking will get it to the target temperature of 155°F (68°C) in a matter of minutes and you will have one of the most delicious chops you have ever had the pleasure to eat.

I used ginger ale on purpose, but you can also use ginger beer, regular beer, dark beer, white wine, chicken broth, pineapple juice, apple juice, or other neutral liquid to braises the chop with. The importance of the braising liquid is that it tenderizes the meat as it cooks, which is our goal. We want great tasting cuts of meat, which are tender, moist, and flavorful. Brazing liquid does this for us quite well.

Sides are whatever you choose to serve, for my plate, I chose scalloped potatoes and baked beans. Both are easy sides to prepare, with little advance preparation required. Sides add a complimentary or contrasting component to the dish, and are as varied as your imagination.

In Summary:

Chops can be an amazing meat on the grill when handled with a little thought. Monitor the cooking time and temperature, use a braising liquid and aromatic vegetables to create the sauce and enjoy the flavor of your dish. Keep your ChefsTemp Finaltouch X10 ready and take temperatures often during the process.

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