Grilled pork chops make a tasty weeknight meal or the centerpiece of a family cookout. Not only do barbecue grilled pork chops dazzle guests, but they’re an incredibly cheap way to feed a huge group of people, and (best of all) grilling pork chops is super easy.
If grilled pork chops aren’t a part of your BBQ arsenal, it's time to give them a chance. That’s why we’ve strung together this comprehensive guide that will walk you through selecting the perfect pork chop, the best wood for smoking pork chops, why you should brine your chops, how to smoke pork chops on a pellet grill, grilled pork chops recipes, and more.
A lot of people tend to assume there’s only one kind of pork chop. Actually, there a handul of easy-to-find pork chops including those listed below.
The rib chop, cut from the rib section of the loin, have a rib bone attached to a large eye of rib meat. Because they have more fat than other chops, these will be the most tender, which means less chance of drying our on the grill.
A loin chop, comes with a T-shaped bone down its middle, dividing the two cuts of meat on it: the loin and tenderloin. Looks for those that have more of the tenderloin, which, as the name suggests, is the most tender cut of pork.
Both the rib and loin chops also come as boneless chops. Because boneless chop don't have a bone to protect the meat during cooking, and because it has less connective tissue, it can dry out quicker than bone-in chops.
Finally, there’s the shoulder chop, which, perhaps not surprisingly, comes from the shoulder of the pig. Also called a blade chop, it's tougher than both loin and rib chops and a good candidate for low and slow cooking. But, even if they are a bit chewy when grilled, they pack a lot of flavor, so don't rule them out, especially if you brine them first. (Keep readng to learn more about brining pork chops.)
Pork chops have a reputation of being dry, but in almost all cases, that's due to overcooking. With a few safeguards, you can guarantee your grilled chops come out flavorful and juicy.
Start with thick chops. When you have the option, go for the thickest chops you can find. One inch is really the minimum for grilling as the high heat can dry out thin chops in no time. Better still is thicker than an inch.
Brine your chops. One of the surest ways to guarentee a juicy chop is by brining it. The main ingredients in a brine are salt and water, but often sweeteners like brown sugar and aromatics like herbs are added. During brining the muscles in the pork chop absorb the liquid, and hold onto some of it during cooking. The salt also denatures proteins in the pork for a juicier, more tender chop. Unlike brining a turkey, which due to its size, can be a hassle, it's super easy to brine pork chops as they require much less liquid. They also reuiqre less time in the brine, about 4 hours as oppsed to the 12 or 24 a turkey requires. For a delicious exmaple of a brined and grilled pork chop, look here.
Pay attention during cooking and use a meat thermometer. Vigilance is your friend when it comes to cooking pork chops. A leave-in meat thermometer like Meater will keep track of the internal temperature in real time, which is super helpful. You want to take the chops off the heat when they're at 145°F and still pnk inside (even the USDA agrees this is safe).
Wood pellets are the best choice for those who want more control over the grill temperature. They also come in a wide variety of flavors. The blend you go for really depends on what you’re looking for in a grilled pork chop. Apple pellets are always a dependable choice if you’re on the hunt for that light, slightly fruity flavor a lot of your guests naturally associate with grilled pork chops.
If you want to play around a bit, our all-natural pecan hardwood pellets give pork chops a trace of nuttiness, while our signature blend of hickory, maple, and cherry hardwood adds a full-bodied kick of flavor.
If you have brined your pork chops, you need to pat them dry before grilling. The same is true if you have marinated your chops, which is a great way to add flavor. If you like, you can rub the chops with a spice rub; just be careful that it's not too salty if you're grilling brined chops. Traeger Pork & Poultry rub is always a good choice as its honey and apple flavor complements then mild flavored meat. After massaging in your spices you should let your pork chops rest for around 15 minutes before grilling.
High heat, around 450°F, is best for grilling pork chops. At this temperature, they will take between 15 ad 30 minutes to reach 145°F. Off the grill, they only need a brief rest (no more than 5 minutes) before serving.
If you would like more smoke flavor on your chops, you may want to try reverse searing them.
The idea behind reverse searing is to cook a steak or chop low and slow until almost done. Not only will it abpsrb more smoke flavor during that time, but it will cook evenly from the inside out. Then, just before serving, you give the steak or chop a quick sear over very high heat to brown the outside.
For pork chops, you'll want to start them between 225°F and 275°F and cook them until the internal temperature reaches about 130°F, which can take up to 2 hours. Then, either raise the heat of the grill or use a flat top or skillet to sear the outside over high heat and cook it until done.
This garlic and herb grilled pork chop recipes shows you how it's done.
While a brine or a marinade are great ways to add flavor to pork chops, there are other ways to do so, too.
Brush on a sauce or glaze. One of the easiest ways to add flavor is to simply brush on a sauce or glaze toward the end of cooking. This also has the bonus of making the chops feel more juicy.
Finish with a vinaigrette, pesto, or sauce. This rich, creamy mushroom sauce goes well with breaded and grilled chops, for example.
These cuts have got some serious chops. Blackened Saskatchewan Rub, a little salt and pepper, and some hickory wood-fired flavor take these pork chops to the top.
These thick-cut pork chops are surprisingly simple to make, but pack complex flavor into each and every bite. Your weeknight dinner just got an upgrade.
Pig out on these pork chop–they're baked, then seared for a juicy, tender finish.
Put your cooking chops into overdrive with our reverse-seared pork chops. These meaty, bone-in chops get the famous Traeger reverse-sear for serious smokin’ flavor.
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The Traeger Pro Team is a star-studded cast of expert BBQ pit masters, cookbook authors, outdoors experts and recipe developers. Simply put, they're damn good at their jobs. From choosing the right cut of meat to pulling together the perfect gathering, they're sharing their culinary secrets with you.Learn More