When people ask me what the hardest thing to barbecue, I almost always say brisket. The stall on a brisket is maddening. And while brisket is probably the hardest, grilling the perfect pork chop is a close second. There is a perfect storm of reasons for this. First, the pork chop is generally from the pork loin, which is very lean and thus there is a small window for getting them right. Second is the myth that pork has to be cooked to well done. Not the case anymore. The USDA has decided that pork only has to be taken to medium rare. That’s right, 135–140 degrees. Now that we have those two things out of the way, time to get grilling.
How to Grill the Perfect Pork Chop
3 massive pork chops (these are 2 inches thick)
1 qt apple cider (substitute apple juice)
1/4 cup salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 turns black pepper
10 turns white pepper
Your favorite BBQ rub
Stubb’s Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce
There are 7 steps to this process for grilling the perfect pork chop.
- Smoke some more
Brine — What is brining? It’s soaking meat in a salt water solution. I take it to the next level and brine in apple cider if I can find it and apple juice when I can’t. The salt pushed the liquid into the meat making it juicier. It also adds flavor (remember, it’s apple juice and garlic), and the salt also tenderizes. Brining is absolutely necessary for the perfect pork chop. Remember when I said pork chops dry out really quick. Well brining expands that window so it makes it harder to dry them out. Brining adds liquid, flavor and tenderizes the meat. So basically it makes meat juicier, tastier and more tender. Uh, hello. Win, win, win!
Here’s what you will need for the brine:
Combine the apple cider or juice with the salt and pepper in a resealable plastic bag and swish around until the salt is dissolved. Add the garlic and the pork chops and place in the fridge for 2–12 hours. I don’t like to brine more than 12 hours as it can start to cure the meat and it will be more like ham.
After the pork chops come out of the brine bath it’s time to season or rub them
Season/Rub - There’s nothing to this. Pat the chops dry with paper towels and coat one side of the pork chops with your favorite rub. No need to add any salt. The pork chops are essentially salted from the brine so all they need is a dusting of rub:
Only season/rub one side while on the cutting board. If these chops were flipped over to season the other side, most of the rub on the bottom will stick to the cutting board. Season the other side on the grill.
Smoke - Some of you are wondering why I didn’t say sear first. Yes, searing browns the pork chops which caramelizes the proteins and adds a ton of flavor to any meat. The problem is, if the chop is seared first, it won’t take on much smoke flavor. So smoke THEN sear which is the best of both worlds. It’s called the reverse sear method.
I cranked up my pellet smoker to 225 and added my monster pork chops, seasoned side down and applied the rub to the top:
Notice that probe inserted into the pork chop? It’s vital that you have some way of checking the temp of the chops. Once they hit about 115–120, you’re going to want to sear them.
Sear - Luckily, my pellet smoker has a sear station on the side. Time to caramelize some proteins. Nothing to this. Just crank up the heat to as hot as it will go and put some grill marks on both sides of the chops:
Once the chops have grill marks on both sides, back to the smoker to sauce:
Sauce - I hit these soon to be perfect pork chops with some Stubb’s Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce which has an outstanding balance of sweetness and spice.
Now make sure to slather it on good on both sides:
Time to smoke some more.
Smoke again - I know, I know. I said that once pork chops are seared they don’t take on any more smoke flavor. The chops won’t but the sauce will! Extra layer of flavor, coming up! When the the perfect pork chops reach an internal temp between 135 and 150, pull them from the grill to serve. I pulled these at around 148 simply because some people are still a little freaked out about pork with too much pink.
Serve - Put them on a platter:
Might as well serve sides on a separate plates as these perfect pork chops practically fill a dinner plate:
Time to and dive in with tines and blade. How did I do?
Let’s see if we’ve achieved the perfect pork chop. We have the extra sweetness from the brine as well as added tenderness and juiciness. We have rub that melded into the outside of the chops as they smoked. We have that smoke ring. We have the caramelized proteins from the sear and the sweet and spicy Stubb’s Sweet Heat BBQ Sauce also infused with smoke. That my friends is layer upon layer upon layer of flavor perfection! Just remember — BSSSSSS:
- Smoke again
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below or send me an email.
Stubb’s BBQ Sauce compensated me for this post
- 3 massive pork chops (these are 2 inches thick)
- 1 qt apple cider (substitute apple juice)
- ¼ cup salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 turns black pepper
- 10 turns white pepper
- Your favorite BBQ rub
- Stubb’s BBQ Sauce
- Combine the cider or juice in a plastic bag with the salt, garlic and pepper
- When the salt is dissolved, add the pork chops and brine for 2–12 hours
- Remove from the brine and pat dry with paper towels
- Season one side with your favorite BBQ rub
- Place the pork chops, seasoned side down, on a smoker or grill set up to smoke with an internal temp of 225
- Season the other side and close the lid
- Remove the pork chops from the smoker when they reach an internal temp of 115–120 and sear them on another grill or a side burner
- Once they have good grill marks on both sides, place them back on the smoker and sauce them with the Stubb’s BBQ sauce
- Close the lid and smoke them until they reach between 135–150 degrees