If you are like many a back yard chef out there who has yet to attempt pork chops on a gas grill because you think it is too hard, then this article is for you. Many people are inclined to shy away from grilling pork chops because they haven’t mastered the technique for cooking them. In all actuality, pork chops are one of the easier meats to cook on a gas grill. The most common problem most grillers have is overcooking their pork chops so all that’s left is a tough, tasteless, leathery piece of meat. An easy way to solve this problem is by paying attention to your timing and having an excellent grilling thermometer on hand. This may sound overly simplistic, but if you learn to nail the timing and the temperature, you will be in for some great results. So come with me as I reveal how to grill pork chops on a gas grill for the perfect chop every time.
Because as you are about to learn, pork and a grill are a match made in heaven!
Why Should You Choose Pork Chops?
Even though most people think of chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks as some of the most common and traditional meats to be barbecued, there are plenty of other meats that can be thrown on the grill as well. Flavor-packed pork chops are a great alternative for those who may not want the usual barbecue fare. When cooked properly, a bone in pork chop can be one of the tastiest things you have ever cooked on a grill. So, for those of you who are interested in adding grilled pork chops to your next cookout, here are some great tips on how to grill them.
Pork Chops And Choosing The Right Cut Of Meat For The Grill
Pork chops are a preferred and favorite meat for many. Because they are available in different thicknesses, it is important that you know how to select the best cut for the occasion, as well as for the best flavor. Here’s where understanding which cut is the best for grilling comes into play.
When grilling pork chops the golden rule is to go thick, not thin. Thin chops can be great but are better saved for the frying pan after breading them. Thin chops on a gas grill? They will cook too fast. The reason for this is that pork is bred to be leaner than in the past making them extremely easy to overcook. You want a chop that is at least ¾ to an inch in thickness when grilling. The thicker the better so if you can find them thicker, it will increase your odds of the meat being cooked evenly. My personal choice is about 1.5” thick.
One last note on size. Try to find the chops that have the most uniform thickness and do your best to avoid ones that are thicker around the bones. These two factors will raise the chance of the meat being cooked unevenly.
The next thing to look for when selecting the perfect pork chop is the freshness of the meat. If they smell a little funky, move on to the next one. Uncooked pork chops should have little to no odor to them. The outer surface should be slightly moist, but definitely not slimy or sticky. The meat should be a reddish pinkish color and finely grained. The noticeable fat should be creamy white in color with no blemishes or dark spots. Pork that is grayish, soft or mushy, pale or overly wet is a sign of inferior product or advanced age.
Bone In Or Bone Out Pork Chops?
Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference but I personally enjoy them both. Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with cutting around a bone though. After reading well known “Science Of Barbecue, Grilling, And Outdoor Cooking” legend Meathead Goldwyn’s article on “Mythbusting: Does The Bone Make The Meat Better?”, I tend to focus on finding the best quality piece of meat rather than worrying about whether it has a bone or not.
The two cuts of pork chops we are looking for here are:
The bone-in loin chop: This is the piece of meat that runs along the backbone of the pig. This is the loin muscle and is very lean. There is a bone running along one side and usually a thin strip of fat on the other. It is a tenderer cut because this muscle does not get a lot of use.
The boneless loin chop: This piece of meat comes from the same cut as the bone in chop except the bone has been removed. The boneless chop is tender, lean and should be cooked similar to a chicken breast.
Brine, Brine, Brine
If you want the perfect pork chop, then brining isn’t an option, it is a must. It will take the meat from a dry, tasteless chop to the best pork chop you have ever devoured. Brining works best for meats that have little fat and pork chops fit that bill perfectly.
Brining is where you bathe your meat in a salt solution for a period of time before cooking or grilling. It helps to add flavor and moisture to your meat and works especially well for leaner meats.
There are two methods of brining but I prefer the dry brine version, though wet brining will produce the juicier meat. This is because of the extra water that has soaked into the meat. But because of the extra water moisture, it is harder to get that browned crusty sear on the outside and your chops will usually come out less flavorful. Either method will work though.
The agreed upon rule for dry brining is a ½ teaspoon of kosher salt for every pound of meat, plus your preferred seasoning. It is a good idea to brine your meat for at least an hour before grilling. Placing the brined meat uncovered in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours before grilling (if you have the time) works best.
Before you put your chops on the grill, rinse the excess salt off the surface and pat dry with a paper towel so you can get a good sear. Too much exterior moisture will only result in a good steam and you don’t want that.
You can learn more about the concept of brining and how it is done by reading How To Brine Meat – An Intro And Guide To Brining.
Setting Up Your Gas Grill For Cooking Pork Chops
Getting the grill ready and knowing how you are going to cook is always a significant part of any cookout. For thicker pork chops, you will be setting up your gas grill for indirect grilling. Preheat your burners so the inside temp is anywhere from 250°F to 350°F depending on how much time and patience you have. Unless you’re frying bacon, pork cooks best at lower heat. Cooking chops low and slow will help keep them moist and tender.
Once the inside temperature is where you want it, turn off one or more of the burners to create a 2-zone cooking area. If your grill only has one burner, perhaps it is time for a gas grill upgrade.
How To Grill Pork Chops On A Gas Grill
Once your grill is set up for 2-zone cooking and you have the heat just right, it is time to put the meat on. You will want to slow cook the chop on the indirect side of the grill that is not directly over the fire. This is where the before mentioned excellent grilling thermometer comes into play.
With the grilling thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat, shoot for 140°F as your target temperature. Remove the chop from the heat and cover with tin foil for 15 minutes. Turn the burners up to high and return the meat to the grill for a quick sear on both sides. Turn every one minute so as to not let too much heat penetrate below the surface of each side. You’re just going for a surface sear at this point. You should not have to flip more than two times. Your pork chop is ready to eat immediately.
Conversely, you can reverse the process and sear the meat over high heat first, then finish on indirect heat until the chop is between 135°F and 145°F depending on your doneness preference. Remember that the inside temperature can rise as much as 10°F while it is resting. Let it rest for 10 minutes before eating.
A little pale pink is ok with pork according to the USDA and this is when it is at its pinnacle of juicy tenderness.
Recommended cooking times for pork chops. Your times may vary depending on the cut and thickness and temperature used to cook.
Pork Chop Cut Cooking Time
Boneless ¾” (2 cm) 8-12 minutes
Boneless 1½” (4cm) 12-20 minutes
Bone-in ¾” (2 cm) 8-12 minutes
Bone-in 1½” (4 cm) 20-30 minutes
Pork chops can be a real crowd pleaser, especially if you nail the gas grilling technique outlined above. Grilling pork chops requires diligence. By paying close attention to the heat and mastering the trick of quickly searing the outside without over cooking the inside, you are on your way to perfection.
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