Chef and cookbook author Bruce Aidells knows and loves pork as evidenced by his book, Bruce Aidells's Complete Book of Pork: A Guide to Buying, Storing, and Cooking the World's Favorite Meat. Here are a couple of his tips for preparing grilled pork chops, followed by his recipe for Grilled, Brined, Fresh Herb-Coated Pork Chops.
Grilling pork chops:
For best results, I grill with a covered kettle-type charcoal grill or a covered gas-fired grill. Covered grills allow for better heat regulation and flare-ups are damped when the cover is on.
How to put flavor and juiciness into grilled pork chops:
Grilled pork chops need a little help to make them flavorful and juicy. The simplest way to ensure juicy chops and boost flavor is with a "flavor brine," which is nothing more than a solution of water, salt, and a sweetener such as brown sugar or molasses and sometimes herbs and spices. By bathing chops for 4 hours or more in a brine solution, the meat soaks up liquid and muscle fibers swell and become firmer. The result is juicy pork even when slightly overcooked. More flavor can be added to brined chops by then coating them in a spice rub. Even unbrined pork chops are improved by rubbing with salt, pepper, and various spices.
- 4 bone-in rib pork chops (each 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick; about 3 pounds total)
- Brown Sugar and Molasses Flavor Brine
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon dark unsulphured molasses
- 1 cup ice cubes
- Fennel Seed and Fresh Herb Rub
- 1 tablespoon crushed fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
To make the brine: Pour the water into a large bowl or plastic storage tub. Stir in the salt and continue stirring until the salt dissolves. Stir in the brown sugar and molasses and continue stirring until they dissolve. Add the ice cubes and stir to chill the mixture down. It should be 45°F or colder on an instant-read thermometer. Add the pork chops, cover, and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Remove the pork chops and discard the brine. Pat them dry with paper towels.
To make the fennel and herb rub: Fit a food processor with the small bowl and add all ingredients. Pulse several times to blend well. Scrape the rub mixture into a small bowl. Coat each brined chop generously on both sides with the rub. Set the chops aside while you prepare your fire.
To grill the chops: Build a charcoal fire but spread the coals on only half of the grill. Heat to medium-high. Lay the chops directly over the hot coals. If flaming occurs, move the chops to an area without coals. Sear the chops over the hottest fire for 1 1/2 minutes per side. Then transfer the chops to an area without coals. Cover the grill and continue cooking for 8 to 10 minutes more. The chops are done when they are firm to the touch and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 140° to 145° F.
Transfer the chops to a warm platter and let them rest for 5 minutes so that the juices can be reabsorbed and the chops complete their cooking.