When you’re picking out something to throw on the grill, skip the chicken and expensive steaks and head right over to the pork section. This lean meat is versatile, grills up quickly, and won’t be dry as long as you do one step before throwing it on the grill. Slice it up for salad or whip up a quick sauce and dinner is done. Here’s how to grill juicy, flavorful pork chops every single time.
What Cut of Pork Chops Are Best For Grilling?
When buying pork chops, there are a lot of options since chops can be cut from different areas of the loin. The section at the front of the loin near the shoulder, called the blade end, is the fattiest cut. Rib chops are leaner and have a large, smooth section of meat. Bone-in center-cut chops have both the loin and tenderloin, and the sirloin is from the back end and has lots of muscles.
For grilling, I like rib or center-cut chops since they’re tender and don’t have too many chewy muscles. While I personally like bone-in since I like nibbling on the meat attached to the bones, boneless will work too. I always buy pork chops that are at least 1-inch thick, as thinner pork chops tend to cook too quickly before they have a chance to develop a nice crust on the outside.
What’s the Deal with Brining Pork Chops?
It’s a good rule of thumb to always brine pork chops before grilling. Because pork chops are fairly lean, submerging them in a brine does two things. First, it keeps the meat moist by introducing extra moisture, which provides a little insurance in case the meat gets a little overcooked. Second, it evenly seasons the meat beyond just the surface.
The base of this easy brine is just cold water whisked with salt. I like to add some sugar to help with browning on the grill, and you can also throw in aromatics like citrus peel, peppercorns, or bay leaves (or all three!). Diamond Crystal kosher salt is what I use in my brine, but if you want to use another kind of salt, I recommend using an equal weight, not volume, of salt since the size of the salt granules vary greatly across brands and weight is the most accurate measurement.
Brining doesn’t have to be elaborate or take a long time. Since these are chops and not a big bird like a turkey, even brining for 30 minutes does wonders, and that’s about how long it’ll take to heat up the grill. The chops can sit in the brine for up to two hours, but don’t go beyond that or the texture of the meat can get spongy. You can even brine individually frozen pork chops — just put them in the brine for the full two hours. They’ll be defrosted and ready to grill at that point.
How Should I Season My Pork Chops?
After the pork chops are brined, there’s no need to rinse them off with water — simply dry them very well with paper towels. You can sprinkle on some black pepper at this point, or go with your favorite spice or spice rub. Just use a spice rub that doesn’t contain salt, as you’ve already seasoned the chops.
How Long Do Pork Chops Take on the Grill?
When preparing an outdoor grill for pork chops, you’ll need to heat it for two levels of heat. The chops get seared over high heat to get those gorgeous grill marks for about three minutes per side, then moved over to medium heat to finish cooking, which will take anywhere from four to seven minutes depending on the thickness of the chops. This creates a nice crust on the outside and juicy meat inside. And remember to keep the grill covered the whole time so that heat doesn’t escape.
The pork chops are ready when they register 145°F in the thickest chop, but don’t serve them just yet — let them rest for five minutes so that the juices in the meat redistribute themselves and the muscle fibers relax. If you’re feeling saucy, serve your grilled pork chops with some chimichurri or sweet and tangy barbecue sauce on the side.
How To Grill Pork Chops
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:10 minutes to 17 minutes
- 6 cups cold water
- 1/3 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt, or 1 3/4 ounces other kind of salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional)
- Optional brine flavorings: 4 strips citrus peels, 4 smashed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon dried or fresh herbs or whole spices, or 2 bay leaves
- 4 boneless or bone-in pork chops (at least 1-inch thick)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or salt-free spice or dry rub
- Outdoor grill
- Large bowl
- Aluminum foil
- Instant-read thermometer
- Make the brine. Place the water, salt, sugar, and flavorings if using in a large bowl and whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved.
- Brine for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Add the pork chops and make sure they are completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- Heat the grill. About 20 minutes before you’re ready to cook, preheat an outdoor grill. For a charcoal grill, arrange the lit coals over one half of the grill and leave the other side empty. For a gas grill, heat all burners to high (at least 450°F).
- Dry and season the chops. Remove the chops from the brine and discard the brine. Pat the chops very dry with paper towels. Season all over with the pepper or rub.
- Sear the chops over high heat. Scrape the grill grates clean if needed. If using a gas grill, lower one of the burners to medium heat. Place the chops on the hotter side of the grill, cover, and cook until grill marks appear on the bottom, about 3 minutes per side.
- Finish cooking over medium heat. Move the pork chops to the cooler part of the grill. Cover and cook, flipping every few minutes, until the thickest piece registers 145°F on an instant-read thermometer, 4 to 7 minutes more depending on the thickness of the chops.
- Rest the pork chops for 5 minutes. Transfer the pork chops to a serving platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.