Grilling Thick Pork Chops - Bourbon and Brown Sugar Pork Chops
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Cook your pork chops like a steak. That was the message of one of the pork marketing boards years ago but it still rings true with me. When you take the same techniques and care with a pork chop that you do with a steak, the result is fantastic like these chops. I use the reverse sear method and apply layers of flavor to make these Bourbon and Brown Sugar Pork Chops smoky, sweet, and luscious - fit for a king.
Bourbon and Brown Sugar Pork Chop with BBQ Beans and Collard Greens wtih Bacon
Grill You Pork Chops Like A Steak
So what do I mean by grilling your pork chops like a steak? I don't mean the same time and temps. I'm talking about taking the same types of steps you do with a quality steak, starting from the selection to plating. Here are some examples from this cook.
Selection of quality meat - Why is it that people are super picky about which steak they buy but then will buy the first package of top of the pork chops? Here's what I look for in descending order:
Color - I look for chops that are nicely pink-reddish. I'm avoiding chops that are pale, dark red, or that weird "I'm ready for the discount rack" shade of grey-green. Blech!
Marbling - It's not as easy to spot marbling in pork as it is beef, but it is there if you look carefully. Look for fine strands of white fat evenly distributed throughout the eye of the chop.
Thickness - For thick chops, I'm looking for chops that are at LEAST 1" but preferably more like 1.5". I am also looking for even thickness, although I will also deal with that in prep.
Brand - When all things are equal or if I'm sending someone else to buy my meat, I'll tell them to look for Cheshire or Smithfield. I've used them for years with consistent results.
Preparation - Again, people use all sorts of tricks on their steaks, but many people tend to just season chops and throw them on the grill without any kind of forethought or care.
Trimming - I French-trim these rib chops in part because I like the presentation but it also helps prevent overcooking the narrow bits of meat on the bone end.
Tying - Once trimmed, I use my hands to compress the eye of the pork chop and tie kitchen twine around each to keep them as even in thickness as possible.
Dry brine - I use the dry brine method to impart flavor and help retain the juiciness of the pork chop.
Reverse sear - Direct grilling a thick pork chop can work but it is more likely to overcook the exterior or undercook the center. Going low and slow or using the reverse sear lets the entire chop get up to temp and evenly cooked through.
Temp, not times - Use a quality thermometer to cook by temp, not time.
Butter me up! Finish the chops with the brown sugar butter adds a final layer of flavor and makes sure that flavor gets on every bit.
So let's get into the recipe...
Resting after the sear, with brown sugar butter melting its goodness all over these delicious pork chops.
Thick, bone-in pork chops reverse-seared on the grill and dripping with the sweet and smoky flavors of bourbon and brown sugar. If dry-brining the pork chops, you will need to prepare that step 8-12 hours ahead of time.
3 ounces quality apple juice (not the kids' stuff)
4 tablespoons unsalted, leave at room temperature for 1 hour to soften
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
food safe spray bottle
2 fourteen-inch pieces of kitchen twine [optional]
remote probe cooking thermometer
Prep the pork chops. French-trim the pork chops if desired. Compress each chop for even thickness and tie a piece of kitchen twine around the pork chop. Pat the chops dry, then lightly coat them with the oil. Season each chop all over with 1 teaspoon of the rub. If dry brining, place the chops on a wire rack on a tray to allow air to circulate, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 8-12 hours.
Prep the brown sugar butter. Place the sugar and butter in a bowl and use a fork to smash the butter until the sugar is evenly mixed in. Add a pinch or two of kosher salt, to taste. Set aside.
Prep the bourbon-apple juice spritz. Mix together in a food-safe spray bottle.
Set up the grill and preheat to 250-300f°. The reverse-sear technique starts with indirect cooking and finishes with a direct sear.
Kamado grill (Big Green Egg) - Several options here. 1) Use a ConvEggtor and standard grate, removing the ConvEggtor after the indirect cook. 2) You could also use a Kick-Ash Basket with an adjustable divider and cook like on a kettle grill. 3) Use a multi-tier rack system such as the Adjustable Rig or Eggspander. I have used all 3 methods.
Kettle grill (Weber Performer, etc) - Bank your coals to one side. Cook over the empty side for indirect and then cook directly over the coals for the sear.
Gas grill (Charbroil, Weber) - Heat the grill using just one of the burners. Cook over the unlit burners for the indirect portion and then crank the heat on the lit burner, to sear directly over the heat.
Smoke the pork chops. Ten minutes before starting the cook, I add one fist-sized wood chunk or a Mojobricks Bourbon Blend Bar-B-Qube (compressed woodblock) on the lit coals. Once the smoke goes from heavy to a steady thin, almost clear, flow, place the chops on the grill and monitor the chop's internal temperature. You are going to smoke them until they reach an internal temperature of 140f°, which will take anywhere from 45 minutes to over an hour.
Spritz the pork chops. Use your spray bottle to lightly mist the pork chops when they first go on and every 15 minutes.
Flip the pork chop at 30 minutes into the cook.
Butter the pork chops. When the pork chops hit an internal temperature of 130°f, top them with about 1 tablespoon of brown sugar butter.
Remove when the pork chops reach an internal temperature of 140°f.
Rest the chops. Resting is perhaps the most overlooked/skipped part of the reverse-sear technique. Rest the chops on a wire rack to keep from trapping the heat on the bottom. Use the remote probe thermometer to watch the temperature rise after the chops come off the grill. When the temperature maxes out and begins to fall by a degree or two, it is time to sear the chops. Meanwhile, switch your grill to direct heat (if needed, depending on your setup) and raise the cooking temperature to 450-500°f.
Sear the chops. Sear the pork chops over direct heat for 2 minutes, flipping and spritzing the top size every 30 seconds or so.
Dress and serve the chops. Remove the chops from the grill and immediately top them with the rest of the brown sugar butter. Serve.
Yield: 2 pork chops
Prep Time: 8 hrs. 30 mins.
Cook time: 1 hrs. 30 mins.
Total time: 2 hours (hands-on)
Tags: pork, reverse-sear
I'm lucky enough to have a local independent market that carries a limited selection of Cheshire Pork products. If you zoom in, you can see the white flecks of marbling that I was talking about.
Compressing and tying the pork chop helps to make it evenly thick. I use a surgeons knot which keeps the twine from slipping when I go to make the second loop.
I trimmed the meat off of the bones for appearance sake and it makes it easier to tie the chops. I don't always do it, it just depends on my mood.
Here's a shot of the set up that I used for the smoking portion of that cook - Big Green Egg with an Adjustable Rig, spider rig, heat stone, and drip pan.
The cubes are the ends of a pork belly that we cured and smoked for bacon. I have to trim the smoked pork belly to fit on the slicer so we save the cubes for seasoning bacon. I put them in the smoker for another kiss of smoke and the tray captures the rendered fat which also goes into the collards and beans.
I hit the pork chops with brown sugar butter twice - once during the smoke and once after the sear.
Double smoked bacon cubes turn this simple canned collard greens into something wonderful.
Coating these smoked chops with the mouthwatering brown sugar butter.
Spritzing the chops during the sear part of the cook adds another layer of flavor. As you can see, I have taken out the heat stone and drip pan. I am using the BGE cast iron grate from my Mini-Max.
Getting that final kiss of yummy butter.
We don't always have the time to make Alexis' First Place beans. Here we just doctored up canned beans with the double smoked seasoning bacon.
These easy greens were magnificient.
This is one of my favorite ways to prepare a thick pork chop. Simple and powerfully delicious.
That butter hanging out on top gets all over the pork chop once you start cutting into the meaty chop.