Tips for Juicy Grilled Pork Chops
One of my biggest pet peeves (in my quiet voice) is dry meat. Given the opportunity for a delicious, juicy meal, I find it difficult to enjoy when the meat is chewy, grainy and just dry. Some cuts like pork loin or chicken breast are partial to drying out, so what can be done to ensure the most delicious and satisfying experience?
- Utilize cuts of meat with higher fat content (preferably) marbling to retain moisture. Fat takes longer to render and release moisture than muscle fibers. Thus, with more fat marbling, the more moisture that can be retained.
- Pick your pork chop cuts:
– Rib End or Rib Eye Chop is the ribeye of pork. There’s more fat and tender loin in this cut, often with a rib bone
– Center Cut Chop is like the T-bone of pork including the loin and tenderloin. Even though the tenderloin is part of this cut, the muscles tend NOT to cut evenly, so while a great dinner choice, takes extra attention
– Loin Chop – all loin, so leaner muscle and more prone to drying out
– Shoulder Chop – As a cross-section of the pork shoulder, these giant chops has fat and collagen running through the meat, often providing a juicy chop
- If possible, use pork chops with the bone still attached. Bones don’t seem to heat up as quickly as the meat itself, so while it takes longer to cook, the bone provides a buffer to allow the meat to slowly.
- When selecting pork chops, ideally cook chops that are about 1″ thick. Thicker pork chops forces a slower cook as thin pork chops are more prone to overcooking.
- Brine your pork chops if you have 2 hours of time ahead. Brining allows for the absorption of salt and sugar that will retain during the cooking process and will also season the meat. See below for a simple recipe.
- Grill pork chops on lower temperature to start and finish or sear on high heat. Similar to reverse searing steaks, the concept is the same. Lower heat allows the pork chops to cook slowly and allowing for moisture retention as the chops cook. If you grill on too high of a temperature, the moisture in the pork chop squeezes out too quickly. With thicker cut pork chops
- Utilize a meat thermometer to know when your meat is done. Instant read thermometers are excellent to take the guesswork out of when food is actually done. One of the more economic versions, I recommend is Thermoworks TheroPop – reliable, accurate and quick!
- Grill or cook to the right temperature. Start cooking on lower temperature and sear the pork and finishing at 140F temperature. This enables the pork to carry over cook to145F medium rare for pork. USDA now recommends cooking pork to 145F. <Historically, the recommendation was to cook pork to 160F to kill the parasitic worm, trichinella, which caused trichinosis. Turns out the temperature recommendation is overkill and trichinella perishes at 137F. Thus, cooking to 145F will ensure the elimination of trichinosis.>
- Resting pork chops for at least 10 minutes allows the meat to carryover cooking where the fibers to relax, gently release juices and reabsorb them again.
For those following along Supper Challenge, this week’s theme was “chop.” Love a good grilled pork chop, don’t you?
Pork Chop Brine
This brine recipe may be doubled or tripled according to the amount required for your pork chops.
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- Mix all ingredients into a large container.
- Brine pork chops in brine container for 2 hours, remove, pat dry with paper towel before cooking.