What You Should Know When Grilling Pork
The humble pork chop or pork steak can become a robust, fall-apart-on-the-fork piece of meat when it is grilled to perfection and not a minute longer. Grilling pork can be difficult. It’s not meat that people often reach for when they fire up the grill, and it certainly can get chewy and gross if you don’t cook it right.
In this post, we’re going to redeem the humble pork chop from its position as lesser meat, elevating it to a tasty status that it deserves. Grab from our kick ash selection of grill accessories, and let’s take the best tools to underappreciated meat.
Seasonings for Grilling Pork
Pork brings a less robust, meaty flavor than beef does. It can tolerate stronger flavors on the backend and frontend of cooking to get it to a delicious, complex flavor peak. Experiment with brine, rubs, and BBQ sauces to develop your perfect pork recipe.
Pork steaks and pork chops can be marinated in brine, which helps drive home some flavors and also softens up the edges of the meat. Pork chops are infamous for needing a massive glass of soda or a big bowl of applesauce to give them the moisture to go down. With all due respect to the overcooked pork chops you may have gotten at home—we don’t want to put the heat on our chops until they’re inedible. We want something savory, something that pulls apart at the touch of the fork.
If you want a simple brine that doesn’t change the flavor of the pork chop, soak them in a solution that is a fourth cup of salt for every 4 cups of water. That should be enough to soak a couple of pork chops overnight. You can then dry, season with salt and pepper to crust them, and then grill. From that basic brine, you can add other flavors and seasonings.
Uncommon seasonings like lemongrass, orange peels, juniper berries, and star anise go really well with pork chops. Brown sugar is also a classic and a favorite.
The secret to BBQ sauce for pork chops and pork steaks is simple: make the same kind of sauce that you would use for awesome pulled pork. Pulled pork BBQ sauce usually has a strong tang and subtle sweetness, and adding that kind of sauce will take your pork chops to a different level.
For the BBQ sauce, combine a cup of ketchup with ¾ cup of cider vinegar, a cup of dark brown sugar, 3 minced cloves, a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper, ¾ cup of water, and ¼ cup of spicy brown mustard. Still all the ingredients into a pot with a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until combined, for about 7-8 minutes.
Brown sugar is a classic favorite for pork rubs. If you go for it, combine it with garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, and a touch of cumin.
Alternatively, salt and pepper make an excellent rub for the pork. If you have soaked your chops in brine, you can dry them off with paper towels before using equal parts cracked salt and pepper. The pork chops will retain some moisture so they will soak up the mixture easily.
When you make the rub, don’t be afraid to drop the chops in it and massage the spices around. Pork is a tougher kind of meat and so it will take more work to get the seasonings attached to form a good crust.
Types of Pork for Grilling
Grilling Pork Loin Chops
Grilling pork begins with the pork loin chop. Use a kick ash basket to make coal maneuvers and clean up even easier.
The target temperature for your pork chops is around 145-150 degrees. If it’s properly cooked, it will feel quite firm and will still hold it’s shape when you poke at it. Any juices that come out should be clear when it’s done. If the pork still feels soft and squishy, it needs a little bit more time. Don’t worry if there is a bit of pink inside the chop—this is totally fine.
Cooking time also varies by the thickness of the chop. If they are 1-inch thick, they will take up to 14 minutes to cook. If they are one and a half inch, you might be looking at 20 minutes. A ¾ inch chop should only take about 5 minutes on each side.
It’ll also vary by the temperature of your grill. Cooking pork around 400 degrees is the best way to get it up to those temperatures, but you can also start it at 500 to sear the outside before pulling the temperature down to coast into the 400-degree range.
Grilling Pork Steaks
Pork steaks are best braised with a delicious marinate and crisped until they are practically black on the outside. If you go to a butcher you can get a pork shoulder or butt and ask your butcher to slice it into ¾ inch steaks which can be braised in brine. Make your brine from some brown sugar and garlic, and it will tenderize those steaks overnight.
Fire up the grill until the coals are above 400 degrees. The ideal pork steak is not cooked long and slow until it becomes too dry to enjoy—it’s cooked quickly, seared at the beginning just like a beef steak. After the initial sear on one side, which takes about 10 minutes, you can flip and sear the other side. Now brush with your favorite BBQ sauce, close your vents, and let the steaks inhale the smoke for about 5 minutes before you pull it off to serve.
How To Grill Boneless Pork Chops
Boneless pork chops, just like pork chops that still have the bones in, need to be grilled to an internal temperature of 145. If there are no bones on your pork chops they are probably a little bit smaller and may only take 6 to 8 minutes per side to get to a medium-rare.
Boneless pork chops can be tossed on the grill between 350 and 450 degrees. The hotter the grill, the more quality the sear will be, and the easier it will be to seal in the juices. Make sure the grates are pipping hot, then toss them on and cook for about 6 or 7 minutes before flipping. In total, a boneless pork chop should be cooked 12-16 minutes.
What to Pair with Pork
Pork chops have a slightly more acidic, delicate texture than beef does. It won’t go with the kind of strong red wine in the same way, but a refreshing tangy drink will pair nicely. We’ve already discussed our favorite side dishes to serve at a barbecue, but as a general rule of thumb you should serve a vegetable and a fruit with pork chops. The nice hearty vegetable textures and the softer fruit flavors bring out the robust taste of the pork without leaving your palate dry.
Any sort of skillet brussels sprouts or kale makes a great vegetable. Grilled pineapple or peaches are a lovely fruit to mix with it. If you’d like to get your fruit and vegetable in one, an arugula salad that contains lemon or a different fruit will give the meal a citrusy, sweet kick.
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