New recipes

Tender Grilled Pork Chops

Tender Grilled Pork Chops

Use sauerkraut juice in this recipe for some serious oomph

Sauerkraut goes well with pork and is a traditional accompaniment to pork chops specifically. This recipe is courtesy of Biotta Juices.

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless pork loin chops
  • 1/4 Cup olive oil
  • 1 Cup Biotta sauerkraut juice
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon thyme, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

Servings4

Calories Per Serving1916

Folate equivalent (total)15µg4%


Smoked pork chops, done right, are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Too bad you can’t smell the smoky flavor from this picture, but it’s there.

Cooking a pork chop the right way is not so different than cooking a steak. I used to just throw them on the grille at high heat and wait until the fork test showed no pink in the juices. But that technique has numerous flaws that lead to dry, over-cooked chops.

Here are a few key tips that apply to either grilling or smoking. Ahem . . . I strongly encourage getting a pellet smoker if you want to consistently cook delicious meats, but these techniques work for normal grills as well.

7 tips for tender, juicy pork chops. 1, 3, 5, and 6 are most important:

Select thick cut chops, either bone-in (best) or boneless. The pinker/redder, the better.

If frozen, thaw at least 2 hours before prep.

Dry brine them for 40 minutes or so, then rinse salt off.

Smoke them. If you don’t have a smoker, grill them.

Reverse-sear them when they reach about 120 - 125F.

Pull them at about 140 F internal temperature.

Rest them, covered, for 5 minutes or until they reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

Explanations follow, or else scroll down to see the recipe!

1a) Why use thick cut chops instead of thin cut?

Thicker chops = more time on the smoker (or grill) = more flavor. Although, the thinner chops have a more surface area per bite to pick up smoke or grilled flavor, so there’s a trade-off here.

Much easier to pull them at the right temperature, vs. thinner pieces which change temperature more rapidly.

Less risk of salty chops from the brining process. Thinner pieces pick up more salt (more surface to volume ratio).

If you DO opt for thinner chops, hover over them like a hawk with an instant-read thermometer once they get close to 140F.

1b) Why look for pinker/redder meat when selecting the chops?

I’m not entirely sure (doh!), but that’ what I’ve been reading. Something about our diet crazes in the U.S. leading everyone to produce leaner pork, which is paler and less flavorful, but also healthier. We are now seeing a resurgence of so-called heritage pork, like Duroc, Berkshire, and Mangalitsa, all more flavorful (and fattier). Anyway, the pinker ones taste better:)

2) Why thaw at least two hours in advance?

The meat needs to be at the same temperature throughout if you want it all to cook to a consistent 145 degrees. Otherwise, by the time the coldest spot gets up to 140F, other areas will be higher (over-cooked/tough). Leaving them in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours give the meat time to reach a consistent temperature gradient inside. Also, if you are using a probe, you will be able to trust its reading more when the meat is evenly thawed.

3) Why dry brine them?

Brining them helps to retain moisture while cooking, resulting in juicier pork. It is essential to brine them, but do not brine them for too long or they may become too salty. Always rinse the salt off after brining them. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away.

4) Why is smoking better than grilling? Why are both better than baking or sauteing?

Both smoking and grilling are good choices for flavor and low calories. Smoking gives the best overall flavor, and has no risk of flare-ups. I use a pellet smoker, which has numerous advantages over other smoker types. More info here. Mine is as Green Mountain Grille Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, although there are some new models like Green Mountain Prime Grills and CampChef Woodwind out with great features like “pellet dump” and “fire-pit dump” you should check out.

Grilling gives good flavor as well, definitely better than baking, healthier than sauteing, but not in the same league as a smoker. To grill successfully, you have to be able to control the internal temperature of your grill to reach and hold low temperatures such as 150 to 200F fairly consistently, while also cooking the pork over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups. That means the chops have to be over a burner that is either off, or on low, while the rest of the burners are keeping the grill somewhere in the 150 to 200F range.

5a) Why cook at low heat initially?

Cooking at high heat means the outer layers of meat cook faster than the interior, resulting in the outer edges of the meat on all sides being overcooked by the time the interior reaches a safe temperature. To avoid that, cook the chops at as low a heat as you can handle (in the 150F to 200F range) to bring the entire chop up to temperature evenly, for consistent doneness throughout. Note: you must keep it above 140F to kill bacteria. If you don’t have a pellet smoker that let’s you set it at 150F, it’s best to shoot for 175 or 200F on your grill.

5b) Why reverse-sear at the end?

It puts a nice char on the outside, and does that Maillard reaction thing, browning the exterior to add flavor.

It can look pretty if you add grill marks on each side:)

Adds an extra layer of safety against bacteria. They only exist on the surface of the meat (unless we’re talking about ground meat), so a nice hot sear at the end kills any stubborn bacteria that might have survived the low temperature cooking process.

6) Why pull them at 140, even if they’re a little pink?

They’re still cooking, due to the high heat of the reverse sear. If you rest them five minutes (covered), thick cut chops will typically end up between 145 and 150F.

They taste better, and are more juicy. Anything much above 150F internal temperature starts to dry out. 145F (after resting) is about ideal.

The FDA revised its recommended temperatures for pork from 160 down to 145F back in 2011, although stipulating a 3 minute rest time. You can safely pull them off somewhere in the 140 range, at the lowest internal temperature reading you can find, as long as you rest them for a good five minutes. I tend to monitor mine with an instant read thermometer.

7) Why rest them after cooking?

Keeps them juicier. If you cut into them right away, the juice will end up all over the plate. If you wait five minutes, the meat retains more juice. No, I haven’t figured out why, despite reading up on it:)

Evens out the internal temperature. If there are any cold or hot spots, the will heat or cool each other for a more consistent temperature and doneness level throughout.

Safety. If you do manage to pull the chops right at 145F, this lets the chops keep cooking internally for the minimum 3 minute rest time that the FDA recommends.


Smoked pork chops, done right, are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Too bad you can’t smell the smoky flavor from this picture, but it’s there.

Cooking a pork chop the right way is not so different than cooking a steak. I used to just throw them on the grille at high heat and wait until the fork test showed no pink in the juices. But that technique has numerous flaws that lead to dry, over-cooked chops.

Here are a few key tips that apply to either grilling or smoking. Ahem . . . I strongly encourage getting a pellet smoker if you want to consistently cook delicious meats, but these techniques work for normal grills as well.

7 tips for tender, juicy pork chops. 1, 3, 5, and 6 are most important:

Select thick cut chops, either bone-in (best) or boneless. The pinker/redder, the better.

If frozen, thaw at least 2 hours before prep.

Dry brine them for 40 minutes or so, then rinse salt off.

Smoke them. If you don’t have a smoker, grill them.

Reverse-sear them when they reach about 120 - 125F.

Pull them at about 140 F internal temperature.

Rest them, covered, for 5 minutes or until they reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

Explanations follow, or else scroll down to see the recipe!

1a) Why use thick cut chops instead of thin cut?

Thicker chops = more time on the smoker (or grill) = more flavor. Although, the thinner chops have a more surface area per bite to pick up smoke or grilled flavor, so there’s a trade-off here.

Much easier to pull them at the right temperature, vs. thinner pieces which change temperature more rapidly.

Less risk of salty chops from the brining process. Thinner pieces pick up more salt (more surface to volume ratio).

If you DO opt for thinner chops, hover over them like a hawk with an instant-read thermometer once they get close to 140F.

1b) Why look for pinker/redder meat when selecting the chops?

I’m not entirely sure (doh!), but that’ what I’ve been reading. Something about our diet crazes in the U.S. leading everyone to produce leaner pork, which is paler and less flavorful, but also healthier. We are now seeing a resurgence of so-called heritage pork, like Duroc, Berkshire, and Mangalitsa, all more flavorful (and fattier). Anyway, the pinker ones taste better:)

2) Why thaw at least two hours in advance?

The meat needs to be at the same temperature throughout if you want it all to cook to a consistent 145 degrees. Otherwise, by the time the coldest spot gets up to 140F, other areas will be higher (over-cooked/tough). Leaving them in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours give the meat time to reach a consistent temperature gradient inside. Also, if you are using a probe, you will be able to trust its reading more when the meat is evenly thawed.

3) Why dry brine them?

Brining them helps to retain moisture while cooking, resulting in juicier pork. It is essential to brine them, but do not brine them for too long or they may become too salty. Always rinse the salt off after brining them. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away.

4) Why is smoking better than grilling? Why are both better than baking or sauteing?

Both smoking and grilling are good choices for flavor and low calories. Smoking gives the best overall flavor, and has no risk of flare-ups. I use a pellet smoker, which has numerous advantages over other smoker types. More info here. Mine is as Green Mountain Grille Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, although there are some new models like Green Mountain Prime Grills and CampChef Woodwind out with great features like “pellet dump” and “fire-pit dump” you should check out.

Grilling gives good flavor as well, definitely better than baking, healthier than sauteing, but not in the same league as a smoker. To grill successfully, you have to be able to control the internal temperature of your grill to reach and hold low temperatures such as 150 to 200F fairly consistently, while also cooking the pork over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups. That means the chops have to be over a burner that is either off, or on low, while the rest of the burners are keeping the grill somewhere in the 150 to 200F range.

5a) Why cook at low heat initially?

Cooking at high heat means the outer layers of meat cook faster than the interior, resulting in the outer edges of the meat on all sides being overcooked by the time the interior reaches a safe temperature. To avoid that, cook the chops at as low a heat as you can handle (in the 150F to 200F range) to bring the entire chop up to temperature evenly, for consistent doneness throughout. Note: you must keep it above 140F to kill bacteria. If you don’t have a pellet smoker that let’s you set it at 150F, it’s best to shoot for 175 or 200F on your grill.

5b) Why reverse-sear at the end?

It puts a nice char on the outside, and does that Maillard reaction thing, browning the exterior to add flavor.

It can look pretty if you add grill marks on each side:)

Adds an extra layer of safety against bacteria. They only exist on the surface of the meat (unless we’re talking about ground meat), so a nice hot sear at the end kills any stubborn bacteria that might have survived the low temperature cooking process.

6) Why pull them at 140, even if they’re a little pink?

They’re still cooking, due to the high heat of the reverse sear. If you rest them five minutes (covered), thick cut chops will typically end up between 145 and 150F.

They taste better, and are more juicy. Anything much above 150F internal temperature starts to dry out. 145F (after resting) is about ideal.

The FDA revised its recommended temperatures for pork from 160 down to 145F back in 2011, although stipulating a 3 minute rest time. You can safely pull them off somewhere in the 140 range, at the lowest internal temperature reading you can find, as long as you rest them for a good five minutes. I tend to monitor mine with an instant read thermometer.

7) Why rest them after cooking?

Keeps them juicier. If you cut into them right away, the juice will end up all over the plate. If you wait five minutes, the meat retains more juice. No, I haven’t figured out why, despite reading up on it:)

Evens out the internal temperature. If there are any cold or hot spots, the will heat or cool each other for a more consistent temperature and doneness level throughout.

Safety. If you do manage to pull the chops right at 145F, this lets the chops keep cooking internally for the minimum 3 minute rest time that the FDA recommends.


Smoked pork chops, done right, are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Too bad you can’t smell the smoky flavor from this picture, but it’s there.

Cooking a pork chop the right way is not so different than cooking a steak. I used to just throw them on the grille at high heat and wait until the fork test showed no pink in the juices. But that technique has numerous flaws that lead to dry, over-cooked chops.

Here are a few key tips that apply to either grilling or smoking. Ahem . . . I strongly encourage getting a pellet smoker if you want to consistently cook delicious meats, but these techniques work for normal grills as well.

7 tips for tender, juicy pork chops. 1, 3, 5, and 6 are most important:

Select thick cut chops, either bone-in (best) or boneless. The pinker/redder, the better.

If frozen, thaw at least 2 hours before prep.

Dry brine them for 40 minutes or so, then rinse salt off.

Smoke them. If you don’t have a smoker, grill them.

Reverse-sear them when they reach about 120 - 125F.

Pull them at about 140 F internal temperature.

Rest them, covered, for 5 minutes or until they reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

Explanations follow, or else scroll down to see the recipe!

1a) Why use thick cut chops instead of thin cut?

Thicker chops = more time on the smoker (or grill) = more flavor. Although, the thinner chops have a more surface area per bite to pick up smoke or grilled flavor, so there’s a trade-off here.

Much easier to pull them at the right temperature, vs. thinner pieces which change temperature more rapidly.

Less risk of salty chops from the brining process. Thinner pieces pick up more salt (more surface to volume ratio).

If you DO opt for thinner chops, hover over them like a hawk with an instant-read thermometer once they get close to 140F.

1b) Why look for pinker/redder meat when selecting the chops?

I’m not entirely sure (doh!), but that’ what I’ve been reading. Something about our diet crazes in the U.S. leading everyone to produce leaner pork, which is paler and less flavorful, but also healthier. We are now seeing a resurgence of so-called heritage pork, like Duroc, Berkshire, and Mangalitsa, all more flavorful (and fattier). Anyway, the pinker ones taste better:)

2) Why thaw at least two hours in advance?

The meat needs to be at the same temperature throughout if you want it all to cook to a consistent 145 degrees. Otherwise, by the time the coldest spot gets up to 140F, other areas will be higher (over-cooked/tough). Leaving them in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours give the meat time to reach a consistent temperature gradient inside. Also, if you are using a probe, you will be able to trust its reading more when the meat is evenly thawed.

3) Why dry brine them?

Brining them helps to retain moisture while cooking, resulting in juicier pork. It is essential to brine them, but do not brine them for too long or they may become too salty. Always rinse the salt off after brining them. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away.

4) Why is smoking better than grilling? Why are both better than baking or sauteing?

Both smoking and grilling are good choices for flavor and low calories. Smoking gives the best overall flavor, and has no risk of flare-ups. I use a pellet smoker, which has numerous advantages over other smoker types. More info here. Mine is as Green Mountain Grille Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, although there are some new models like Green Mountain Prime Grills and CampChef Woodwind out with great features like “pellet dump” and “fire-pit dump” you should check out.

Grilling gives good flavor as well, definitely better than baking, healthier than sauteing, but not in the same league as a smoker. To grill successfully, you have to be able to control the internal temperature of your grill to reach and hold low temperatures such as 150 to 200F fairly consistently, while also cooking the pork over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups. That means the chops have to be over a burner that is either off, or on low, while the rest of the burners are keeping the grill somewhere in the 150 to 200F range.

5a) Why cook at low heat initially?

Cooking at high heat means the outer layers of meat cook faster than the interior, resulting in the outer edges of the meat on all sides being overcooked by the time the interior reaches a safe temperature. To avoid that, cook the chops at as low a heat as you can handle (in the 150F to 200F range) to bring the entire chop up to temperature evenly, for consistent doneness throughout. Note: you must keep it above 140F to kill bacteria. If you don’t have a pellet smoker that let’s you set it at 150F, it’s best to shoot for 175 or 200F on your grill.

5b) Why reverse-sear at the end?

It puts a nice char on the outside, and does that Maillard reaction thing, browning the exterior to add flavor.

It can look pretty if you add grill marks on each side:)

Adds an extra layer of safety against bacteria. They only exist on the surface of the meat (unless we’re talking about ground meat), so a nice hot sear at the end kills any stubborn bacteria that might have survived the low temperature cooking process.

6) Why pull them at 140, even if they’re a little pink?

They’re still cooking, due to the high heat of the reverse sear. If you rest them five minutes (covered), thick cut chops will typically end up between 145 and 150F.

They taste better, and are more juicy. Anything much above 150F internal temperature starts to dry out. 145F (after resting) is about ideal.

The FDA revised its recommended temperatures for pork from 160 down to 145F back in 2011, although stipulating a 3 minute rest time. You can safely pull them off somewhere in the 140 range, at the lowest internal temperature reading you can find, as long as you rest them for a good five minutes. I tend to monitor mine with an instant read thermometer.

7) Why rest them after cooking?

Keeps them juicier. If you cut into them right away, the juice will end up all over the plate. If you wait five minutes, the meat retains more juice. No, I haven’t figured out why, despite reading up on it:)

Evens out the internal temperature. If there are any cold or hot spots, the will heat or cool each other for a more consistent temperature and doneness level throughout.

Safety. If you do manage to pull the chops right at 145F, this lets the chops keep cooking internally for the minimum 3 minute rest time that the FDA recommends.


Smoked pork chops, done right, are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Too bad you can’t smell the smoky flavor from this picture, but it’s there.

Cooking a pork chop the right way is not so different than cooking a steak. I used to just throw them on the grille at high heat and wait until the fork test showed no pink in the juices. But that technique has numerous flaws that lead to dry, over-cooked chops.

Here are a few key tips that apply to either grilling or smoking. Ahem . . . I strongly encourage getting a pellet smoker if you want to consistently cook delicious meats, but these techniques work for normal grills as well.

7 tips for tender, juicy pork chops. 1, 3, 5, and 6 are most important:

Select thick cut chops, either bone-in (best) or boneless. The pinker/redder, the better.

If frozen, thaw at least 2 hours before prep.

Dry brine them for 40 minutes or so, then rinse salt off.

Smoke them. If you don’t have a smoker, grill them.

Reverse-sear them when they reach about 120 - 125F.

Pull them at about 140 F internal temperature.

Rest them, covered, for 5 minutes or until they reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

Explanations follow, or else scroll down to see the recipe!

1a) Why use thick cut chops instead of thin cut?

Thicker chops = more time on the smoker (or grill) = more flavor. Although, the thinner chops have a more surface area per bite to pick up smoke or grilled flavor, so there’s a trade-off here.

Much easier to pull them at the right temperature, vs. thinner pieces which change temperature more rapidly.

Less risk of salty chops from the brining process. Thinner pieces pick up more salt (more surface to volume ratio).

If you DO opt for thinner chops, hover over them like a hawk with an instant-read thermometer once they get close to 140F.

1b) Why look for pinker/redder meat when selecting the chops?

I’m not entirely sure (doh!), but that’ what I’ve been reading. Something about our diet crazes in the U.S. leading everyone to produce leaner pork, which is paler and less flavorful, but also healthier. We are now seeing a resurgence of so-called heritage pork, like Duroc, Berkshire, and Mangalitsa, all more flavorful (and fattier). Anyway, the pinker ones taste better:)

2) Why thaw at least two hours in advance?

The meat needs to be at the same temperature throughout if you want it all to cook to a consistent 145 degrees. Otherwise, by the time the coldest spot gets up to 140F, other areas will be higher (over-cooked/tough). Leaving them in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours give the meat time to reach a consistent temperature gradient inside. Also, if you are using a probe, you will be able to trust its reading more when the meat is evenly thawed.

3) Why dry brine them?

Brining them helps to retain moisture while cooking, resulting in juicier pork. It is essential to brine them, but do not brine them for too long or they may become too salty. Always rinse the salt off after brining them. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away.

4) Why is smoking better than grilling? Why are both better than baking or sauteing?

Both smoking and grilling are good choices for flavor and low calories. Smoking gives the best overall flavor, and has no risk of flare-ups. I use a pellet smoker, which has numerous advantages over other smoker types. More info here. Mine is as Green Mountain Grille Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, although there are some new models like Green Mountain Prime Grills and CampChef Woodwind out with great features like “pellet dump” and “fire-pit dump” you should check out.

Grilling gives good flavor as well, definitely better than baking, healthier than sauteing, but not in the same league as a smoker. To grill successfully, you have to be able to control the internal temperature of your grill to reach and hold low temperatures such as 150 to 200F fairly consistently, while also cooking the pork over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups. That means the chops have to be over a burner that is either off, or on low, while the rest of the burners are keeping the grill somewhere in the 150 to 200F range.

5a) Why cook at low heat initially?

Cooking at high heat means the outer layers of meat cook faster than the interior, resulting in the outer edges of the meat on all sides being overcooked by the time the interior reaches a safe temperature. To avoid that, cook the chops at as low a heat as you can handle (in the 150F to 200F range) to bring the entire chop up to temperature evenly, for consistent doneness throughout. Note: you must keep it above 140F to kill bacteria. If you don’t have a pellet smoker that let’s you set it at 150F, it’s best to shoot for 175 or 200F on your grill.

5b) Why reverse-sear at the end?

It puts a nice char on the outside, and does that Maillard reaction thing, browning the exterior to add flavor.

It can look pretty if you add grill marks on each side:)

Adds an extra layer of safety against bacteria. They only exist on the surface of the meat (unless we’re talking about ground meat), so a nice hot sear at the end kills any stubborn bacteria that might have survived the low temperature cooking process.

6) Why pull them at 140, even if they’re a little pink?

They’re still cooking, due to the high heat of the reverse sear. If you rest them five minutes (covered), thick cut chops will typically end up between 145 and 150F.

They taste better, and are more juicy. Anything much above 150F internal temperature starts to dry out. 145F (after resting) is about ideal.

The FDA revised its recommended temperatures for pork from 160 down to 145F back in 2011, although stipulating a 3 minute rest time. You can safely pull them off somewhere in the 140 range, at the lowest internal temperature reading you can find, as long as you rest them for a good five minutes. I tend to monitor mine with an instant read thermometer.

7) Why rest them after cooking?

Keeps them juicier. If you cut into them right away, the juice will end up all over the plate. If you wait five minutes, the meat retains more juice. No, I haven’t figured out why, despite reading up on it:)

Evens out the internal temperature. If there are any cold or hot spots, the will heat or cool each other for a more consistent temperature and doneness level throughout.

Safety. If you do manage to pull the chops right at 145F, this lets the chops keep cooking internally for the minimum 3 minute rest time that the FDA recommends.


Smoked pork chops, done right, are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Too bad you can’t smell the smoky flavor from this picture, but it’s there.

Cooking a pork chop the right way is not so different than cooking a steak. I used to just throw them on the grille at high heat and wait until the fork test showed no pink in the juices. But that technique has numerous flaws that lead to dry, over-cooked chops.

Here are a few key tips that apply to either grilling or smoking. Ahem . . . I strongly encourage getting a pellet smoker if you want to consistently cook delicious meats, but these techniques work for normal grills as well.

7 tips for tender, juicy pork chops. 1, 3, 5, and 6 are most important:

Select thick cut chops, either bone-in (best) or boneless. The pinker/redder, the better.

If frozen, thaw at least 2 hours before prep.

Dry brine them for 40 minutes or so, then rinse salt off.

Smoke them. If you don’t have a smoker, grill them.

Reverse-sear them when they reach about 120 - 125F.

Pull them at about 140 F internal temperature.

Rest them, covered, for 5 minutes or until they reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

Explanations follow, or else scroll down to see the recipe!

1a) Why use thick cut chops instead of thin cut?

Thicker chops = more time on the smoker (or grill) = more flavor. Although, the thinner chops have a more surface area per bite to pick up smoke or grilled flavor, so there’s a trade-off here.

Much easier to pull them at the right temperature, vs. thinner pieces which change temperature more rapidly.

Less risk of salty chops from the brining process. Thinner pieces pick up more salt (more surface to volume ratio).

If you DO opt for thinner chops, hover over them like a hawk with an instant-read thermometer once they get close to 140F.

1b) Why look for pinker/redder meat when selecting the chops?

I’m not entirely sure (doh!), but that’ what I’ve been reading. Something about our diet crazes in the U.S. leading everyone to produce leaner pork, which is paler and less flavorful, but also healthier. We are now seeing a resurgence of so-called heritage pork, like Duroc, Berkshire, and Mangalitsa, all more flavorful (and fattier). Anyway, the pinker ones taste better:)

2) Why thaw at least two hours in advance?

The meat needs to be at the same temperature throughout if you want it all to cook to a consistent 145 degrees. Otherwise, by the time the coldest spot gets up to 140F, other areas will be higher (over-cooked/tough). Leaving them in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours give the meat time to reach a consistent temperature gradient inside. Also, if you are using a probe, you will be able to trust its reading more when the meat is evenly thawed.

3) Why dry brine them?

Brining them helps to retain moisture while cooking, resulting in juicier pork. It is essential to brine them, but do not brine them for too long or they may become too salty. Always rinse the salt off after brining them. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away.

4) Why is smoking better than grilling? Why are both better than baking or sauteing?

Both smoking and grilling are good choices for flavor and low calories. Smoking gives the best overall flavor, and has no risk of flare-ups. I use a pellet smoker, which has numerous advantages over other smoker types. More info here. Mine is as Green Mountain Grille Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, although there are some new models like Green Mountain Prime Grills and CampChef Woodwind out with great features like “pellet dump” and “fire-pit dump” you should check out.

Grilling gives good flavor as well, definitely better than baking, healthier than sauteing, but not in the same league as a smoker. To grill successfully, you have to be able to control the internal temperature of your grill to reach and hold low temperatures such as 150 to 200F fairly consistently, while also cooking the pork over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups. That means the chops have to be over a burner that is either off, or on low, while the rest of the burners are keeping the grill somewhere in the 150 to 200F range.

5a) Why cook at low heat initially?

Cooking at high heat means the outer layers of meat cook faster than the interior, resulting in the outer edges of the meat on all sides being overcooked by the time the interior reaches a safe temperature. To avoid that, cook the chops at as low a heat as you can handle (in the 150F to 200F range) to bring the entire chop up to temperature evenly, for consistent doneness throughout. Note: you must keep it above 140F to kill bacteria. If you don’t have a pellet smoker that let’s you set it at 150F, it’s best to shoot for 175 or 200F on your grill.

5b) Why reverse-sear at the end?

It puts a nice char on the outside, and does that Maillard reaction thing, browning the exterior to add flavor.

It can look pretty if you add grill marks on each side:)

Adds an extra layer of safety against bacteria. They only exist on the surface of the meat (unless we’re talking about ground meat), so a nice hot sear at the end kills any stubborn bacteria that might have survived the low temperature cooking process.

6) Why pull them at 140, even if they’re a little pink?

They’re still cooking, due to the high heat of the reverse sear. If you rest them five minutes (covered), thick cut chops will typically end up between 145 and 150F.

They taste better, and are more juicy. Anything much above 150F internal temperature starts to dry out. 145F (after resting) is about ideal.

The FDA revised its recommended temperatures for pork from 160 down to 145F back in 2011, although stipulating a 3 minute rest time. You can safely pull them off somewhere in the 140 range, at the lowest internal temperature reading you can find, as long as you rest them for a good five minutes. I tend to monitor mine with an instant read thermometer.

7) Why rest them after cooking?

Keeps them juicier. If you cut into them right away, the juice will end up all over the plate. If you wait five minutes, the meat retains more juice. No, I haven’t figured out why, despite reading up on it:)

Evens out the internal temperature. If there are any cold or hot spots, the will heat or cool each other for a more consistent temperature and doneness level throughout.

Safety. If you do manage to pull the chops right at 145F, this lets the chops keep cooking internally for the minimum 3 minute rest time that the FDA recommends.


Smoked pork chops, done right, are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Too bad you can’t smell the smoky flavor from this picture, but it’s there.

Cooking a pork chop the right way is not so different than cooking a steak. I used to just throw them on the grille at high heat and wait until the fork test showed no pink in the juices. But that technique has numerous flaws that lead to dry, over-cooked chops.

Here are a few key tips that apply to either grilling or smoking. Ahem . . . I strongly encourage getting a pellet smoker if you want to consistently cook delicious meats, but these techniques work for normal grills as well.

7 tips for tender, juicy pork chops. 1, 3, 5, and 6 are most important:

Select thick cut chops, either bone-in (best) or boneless. The pinker/redder, the better.

If frozen, thaw at least 2 hours before prep.

Dry brine them for 40 minutes or so, then rinse salt off.

Smoke them. If you don’t have a smoker, grill them.

Reverse-sear them when they reach about 120 - 125F.

Pull them at about 140 F internal temperature.

Rest them, covered, for 5 minutes or until they reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

Explanations follow, or else scroll down to see the recipe!

1a) Why use thick cut chops instead of thin cut?

Thicker chops = more time on the smoker (or grill) = more flavor. Although, the thinner chops have a more surface area per bite to pick up smoke or grilled flavor, so there’s a trade-off here.

Much easier to pull them at the right temperature, vs. thinner pieces which change temperature more rapidly.

Less risk of salty chops from the brining process. Thinner pieces pick up more salt (more surface to volume ratio).

If you DO opt for thinner chops, hover over them like a hawk with an instant-read thermometer once they get close to 140F.

1b) Why look for pinker/redder meat when selecting the chops?

I’m not entirely sure (doh!), but that’ what I’ve been reading. Something about our diet crazes in the U.S. leading everyone to produce leaner pork, which is paler and less flavorful, but also healthier. We are now seeing a resurgence of so-called heritage pork, like Duroc, Berkshire, and Mangalitsa, all more flavorful (and fattier). Anyway, the pinker ones taste better:)

2) Why thaw at least two hours in advance?

The meat needs to be at the same temperature throughout if you want it all to cook to a consistent 145 degrees. Otherwise, by the time the coldest spot gets up to 140F, other areas will be higher (over-cooked/tough). Leaving them in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours give the meat time to reach a consistent temperature gradient inside. Also, if you are using a probe, you will be able to trust its reading more when the meat is evenly thawed.

3) Why dry brine them?

Brining them helps to retain moisture while cooking, resulting in juicier pork. It is essential to brine them, but do not brine them for too long or they may become too salty. Always rinse the salt off after brining them. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away.

4) Why is smoking better than grilling? Why are both better than baking or sauteing?

Both smoking and grilling are good choices for flavor and low calories. Smoking gives the best overall flavor, and has no risk of flare-ups. I use a pellet smoker, which has numerous advantages over other smoker types. More info here. Mine is as Green Mountain Grille Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, although there are some new models like Green Mountain Prime Grills and CampChef Woodwind out with great features like “pellet dump” and “fire-pit dump” you should check out.

Grilling gives good flavor as well, definitely better than baking, healthier than sauteing, but not in the same league as a smoker. To grill successfully, you have to be able to control the internal temperature of your grill to reach and hold low temperatures such as 150 to 200F fairly consistently, while also cooking the pork over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups. That means the chops have to be over a burner that is either off, or on low, while the rest of the burners are keeping the grill somewhere in the 150 to 200F range.

5a) Why cook at low heat initially?

Cooking at high heat means the outer layers of meat cook faster than the interior, resulting in the outer edges of the meat on all sides being overcooked by the time the interior reaches a safe temperature. To avoid that, cook the chops at as low a heat as you can handle (in the 150F to 200F range) to bring the entire chop up to temperature evenly, for consistent doneness throughout. Note: you must keep it above 140F to kill bacteria. If you don’t have a pellet smoker that let’s you set it at 150F, it’s best to shoot for 175 or 200F on your grill.

5b) Why reverse-sear at the end?

It puts a nice char on the outside, and does that Maillard reaction thing, browning the exterior to add flavor.

It can look pretty if you add grill marks on each side:)

Adds an extra layer of safety against bacteria. They only exist on the surface of the meat (unless we’re talking about ground meat), so a nice hot sear at the end kills any stubborn bacteria that might have survived the low temperature cooking process.

6) Why pull them at 140, even if they’re a little pink?

They’re still cooking, due to the high heat of the reverse sear. If you rest them five minutes (covered), thick cut chops will typically end up between 145 and 150F.

They taste better, and are more juicy. Anything much above 150F internal temperature starts to dry out. 145F (after resting) is about ideal.

The FDA revised its recommended temperatures for pork from 160 down to 145F back in 2011, although stipulating a 3 minute rest time. You can safely pull them off somewhere in the 140 range, at the lowest internal temperature reading you can find, as long as you rest them for a good five minutes. I tend to monitor mine with an instant read thermometer.

7) Why rest them after cooking?

Keeps them juicier. If you cut into them right away, the juice will end up all over the plate. If you wait five minutes, the meat retains more juice. No, I haven’t figured out why, despite reading up on it:)

Evens out the internal temperature. If there are any cold or hot spots, the will heat or cool each other for a more consistent temperature and doneness level throughout.

Safety. If you do manage to pull the chops right at 145F, this lets the chops keep cooking internally for the minimum 3 minute rest time that the FDA recommends.


Smoked pork chops, done right, are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Too bad you can’t smell the smoky flavor from this picture, but it’s there.

Cooking a pork chop the right way is not so different than cooking a steak. I used to just throw them on the grille at high heat and wait until the fork test showed no pink in the juices. But that technique has numerous flaws that lead to dry, over-cooked chops.

Here are a few key tips that apply to either grilling or smoking. Ahem . . . I strongly encourage getting a pellet smoker if you want to consistently cook delicious meats, but these techniques work for normal grills as well.

7 tips for tender, juicy pork chops. 1, 3, 5, and 6 are most important:

Select thick cut chops, either bone-in (best) or boneless. The pinker/redder, the better.

If frozen, thaw at least 2 hours before prep.

Dry brine them for 40 minutes or so, then rinse salt off.

Smoke them. If you don’t have a smoker, grill them.

Reverse-sear them when they reach about 120 - 125F.

Pull them at about 140 F internal temperature.

Rest them, covered, for 5 minutes or until they reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

Explanations follow, or else scroll down to see the recipe!

1a) Why use thick cut chops instead of thin cut?

Thicker chops = more time on the smoker (or grill) = more flavor. Although, the thinner chops have a more surface area per bite to pick up smoke or grilled flavor, so there’s a trade-off here.

Much easier to pull them at the right temperature, vs. thinner pieces which change temperature more rapidly.

Less risk of salty chops from the brining process. Thinner pieces pick up more salt (more surface to volume ratio).

If you DO opt for thinner chops, hover over them like a hawk with an instant-read thermometer once they get close to 140F.

1b) Why look for pinker/redder meat when selecting the chops?

I’m not entirely sure (doh!), but that’ what I’ve been reading. Something about our diet crazes in the U.S. leading everyone to produce leaner pork, which is paler and less flavorful, but also healthier. We are now seeing a resurgence of so-called heritage pork, like Duroc, Berkshire, and Mangalitsa, all more flavorful (and fattier). Anyway, the pinker ones taste better:)

2) Why thaw at least two hours in advance?

The meat needs to be at the same temperature throughout if you want it all to cook to a consistent 145 degrees. Otherwise, by the time the coldest spot gets up to 140F, other areas will be higher (over-cooked/tough). Leaving them in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours give the meat time to reach a consistent temperature gradient inside. Also, if you are using a probe, you will be able to trust its reading more when the meat is evenly thawed.

3) Why dry brine them?

Brining them helps to retain moisture while cooking, resulting in juicier pork. It is essential to brine them, but do not brine them for too long or they may become too salty. Always rinse the salt off after brining them. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away.

4) Why is smoking better than grilling? Why are both better than baking or sauteing?

Both smoking and grilling are good choices for flavor and low calories. Smoking gives the best overall flavor, and has no risk of flare-ups. I use a pellet smoker, which has numerous advantages over other smoker types. More info here. Mine is as Green Mountain Grille Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, although there are some new models like Green Mountain Prime Grills and CampChef Woodwind out with great features like “pellet dump” and “fire-pit dump” you should check out.

Grilling gives good flavor as well, definitely better than baking, healthier than sauteing, but not in the same league as a smoker. To grill successfully, you have to be able to control the internal temperature of your grill to reach and hold low temperatures such as 150 to 200F fairly consistently, while also cooking the pork over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups. That means the chops have to be over a burner that is either off, or on low, while the rest of the burners are keeping the grill somewhere in the 150 to 200F range.

5a) Why cook at low heat initially?

Cooking at high heat means the outer layers of meat cook faster than the interior, resulting in the outer edges of the meat on all sides being overcooked by the time the interior reaches a safe temperature. To avoid that, cook the chops at as low a heat as you can handle (in the 150F to 200F range) to bring the entire chop up to temperature evenly, for consistent doneness throughout. Note: you must keep it above 140F to kill bacteria. If you don’t have a pellet smoker that let’s you set it at 150F, it’s best to shoot for 175 or 200F on your grill.

5b) Why reverse-sear at the end?

It puts a nice char on the outside, and does that Maillard reaction thing, browning the exterior to add flavor.

It can look pretty if you add grill marks on each side:)

Adds an extra layer of safety against bacteria. They only exist on the surface of the meat (unless we’re talking about ground meat), so a nice hot sear at the end kills any stubborn bacteria that might have survived the low temperature cooking process.

6) Why pull them at 140, even if they’re a little pink?

They’re still cooking, due to the high heat of the reverse sear. If you rest them five minutes (covered), thick cut chops will typically end up between 145 and 150F.

They taste better, and are more juicy. Anything much above 150F internal temperature starts to dry out. 145F (after resting) is about ideal.

The FDA revised its recommended temperatures for pork from 160 down to 145F back in 2011, although stipulating a 3 minute rest time. You can safely pull them off somewhere in the 140 range, at the lowest internal temperature reading you can find, as long as you rest them for a good five minutes. I tend to monitor mine with an instant read thermometer.

7) Why rest them after cooking?

Keeps them juicier. If you cut into them right away, the juice will end up all over the plate. If you wait five minutes, the meat retains more juice. No, I haven’t figured out why, despite reading up on it:)

Evens out the internal temperature. If there are any cold or hot spots, the will heat or cool each other for a more consistent temperature and doneness level throughout.

Safety. If you do manage to pull the chops right at 145F, this lets the chops keep cooking internally for the minimum 3 minute rest time that the FDA recommends.


Smoked pork chops, done right, are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Too bad you can’t smell the smoky flavor from this picture, but it’s there.

Cooking a pork chop the right way is not so different than cooking a steak. I used to just throw them on the grille at high heat and wait until the fork test showed no pink in the juices. But that technique has numerous flaws that lead to dry, over-cooked chops.

Here are a few key tips that apply to either grilling or smoking. Ahem . . . I strongly encourage getting a pellet smoker if you want to consistently cook delicious meats, but these techniques work for normal grills as well.

7 tips for tender, juicy pork chops. 1, 3, 5, and 6 are most important:

Select thick cut chops, either bone-in (best) or boneless. The pinker/redder, the better.

If frozen, thaw at least 2 hours before prep.

Dry brine them for 40 minutes or so, then rinse salt off.

Smoke them. If you don’t have a smoker, grill them.

Reverse-sear them when they reach about 120 - 125F.

Pull them at about 140 F internal temperature.

Rest them, covered, for 5 minutes or until they reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

Explanations follow, or else scroll down to see the recipe!

1a) Why use thick cut chops instead of thin cut?

Thicker chops = more time on the smoker (or grill) = more flavor. Although, the thinner chops have a more surface area per bite to pick up smoke or grilled flavor, so there’s a trade-off here.

Much easier to pull them at the right temperature, vs. thinner pieces which change temperature more rapidly.

Less risk of salty chops from the brining process. Thinner pieces pick up more salt (more surface to volume ratio).

If you DO opt for thinner chops, hover over them like a hawk with an instant-read thermometer once they get close to 140F.

1b) Why look for pinker/redder meat when selecting the chops?

I’m not entirely sure (doh!), but that’ what I’ve been reading. Something about our diet crazes in the U.S. leading everyone to produce leaner pork, which is paler and less flavorful, but also healthier. We are now seeing a resurgence of so-called heritage pork, like Duroc, Berkshire, and Mangalitsa, all more flavorful (and fattier). Anyway, the pinker ones taste better:)

2) Why thaw at least two hours in advance?

The meat needs to be at the same temperature throughout if you want it all to cook to a consistent 145 degrees. Otherwise, by the time the coldest spot gets up to 140F, other areas will be higher (over-cooked/tough). Leaving them in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours give the meat time to reach a consistent temperature gradient inside. Also, if you are using a probe, you will be able to trust its reading more when the meat is evenly thawed.

3) Why dry brine them?

Brining them helps to retain moisture while cooking, resulting in juicier pork. It is essential to brine them, but do not brine them for too long or they may become too salty. Always rinse the salt off after brining them. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away.

4) Why is smoking better than grilling? Why are both better than baking or sauteing?

Both smoking and grilling are good choices for flavor and low calories. Smoking gives the best overall flavor, and has no risk of flare-ups. I use a pellet smoker, which has numerous advantages over other smoker types. More info here. Mine is as Green Mountain Grille Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, although there are some new models like Green Mountain Prime Grills and CampChef Woodwind out with great features like “pellet dump” and “fire-pit dump” you should check out.

Grilling gives good flavor as well, definitely better than baking, healthier than sauteing, but not in the same league as a smoker. To grill successfully, you have to be able to control the internal temperature of your grill to reach and hold low temperatures such as 150 to 200F fairly consistently, while also cooking the pork over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups. That means the chops have to be over a burner that is either off, or on low, while the rest of the burners are keeping the grill somewhere in the 150 to 200F range.

5a) Why cook at low heat initially?

Cooking at high heat means the outer layers of meat cook faster than the interior, resulting in the outer edges of the meat on all sides being overcooked by the time the interior reaches a safe temperature. To avoid that, cook the chops at as low a heat as you can handle (in the 150F to 200F range) to bring the entire chop up to temperature evenly, for consistent doneness throughout. Note: you must keep it above 140F to kill bacteria. If you don’t have a pellet smoker that let’s you set it at 150F, it’s best to shoot for 175 or 200F on your grill.

5b) Why reverse-sear at the end?

It puts a nice char on the outside, and does that Maillard reaction thing, browning the exterior to add flavor.

It can look pretty if you add grill marks on each side:)

Adds an extra layer of safety against bacteria. They only exist on the surface of the meat (unless we’re talking about ground meat), so a nice hot sear at the end kills any stubborn bacteria that might have survived the low temperature cooking process.

6) Why pull them at 140, even if they’re a little pink?

They’re still cooking, due to the high heat of the reverse sear. If you rest them five minutes (covered), thick cut chops will typically end up between 145 and 150F.

They taste better, and are more juicy. Anything much above 150F internal temperature starts to dry out. 145F (after resting) is about ideal.

The FDA revised its recommended temperatures for pork from 160 down to 145F back in 2011, although stipulating a 3 minute rest time. You can safely pull them off somewhere in the 140 range, at the lowest internal temperature reading you can find, as long as you rest them for a good five minutes. I tend to monitor mine with an instant read thermometer.

7) Why rest them after cooking?

Keeps them juicier. If you cut into them right away, the juice will end up all over the plate. If you wait five minutes, the meat retains more juice. No, I haven’t figured out why, despite reading up on it:)

Evens out the internal temperature. If there are any cold or hot spots, the will heat or cool each other for a more consistent temperature and doneness level throughout.

Safety. If you do manage to pull the chops right at 145F, this lets the chops keep cooking internally for the minimum 3 minute rest time that the FDA recommends.


Smoked pork chops, done right, are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Too bad you can’t smell the smoky flavor from this picture, but it’s there.

Cooking a pork chop the right way is not so different than cooking a steak. I used to just throw them on the grille at high heat and wait until the fork test showed no pink in the juices. But that technique has numerous flaws that lead to dry, over-cooked chops.

Here are a few key tips that apply to either grilling or smoking. Ahem . . . I strongly encourage getting a pellet smoker if you want to consistently cook delicious meats, but these techniques work for normal grills as well.

7 tips for tender, juicy pork chops. 1, 3, 5, and 6 are most important:

Select thick cut chops, either bone-in (best) or boneless. The pinker/redder, the better.

If frozen, thaw at least 2 hours before prep.

Dry brine them for 40 minutes or so, then rinse salt off.

Smoke them. If you don’t have a smoker, grill them.

Reverse-sear them when they reach about 120 - 125F.

Pull them at about 140 F internal temperature.

Rest them, covered, for 5 minutes or until they reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

Explanations follow, or else scroll down to see the recipe!

1a) Why use thick cut chops instead of thin cut?

Thicker chops = more time on the smoker (or grill) = more flavor. Although, the thinner chops have a more surface area per bite to pick up smoke or grilled flavor, so there’s a trade-off here.

Much easier to pull them at the right temperature, vs. thinner pieces which change temperature more rapidly.

Less risk of salty chops from the brining process. Thinner pieces pick up more salt (more surface to volume ratio).

If you DO opt for thinner chops, hover over them like a hawk with an instant-read thermometer once they get close to 140F.

1b) Why look for pinker/redder meat when selecting the chops?

I’m not entirely sure (doh!), but that’ what I’ve been reading. Something about our diet crazes in the U.S. leading everyone to produce leaner pork, which is paler and less flavorful, but also healthier. We are now seeing a resurgence of so-called heritage pork, like Duroc, Berkshire, and Mangalitsa, all more flavorful (and fattier). Anyway, the pinker ones taste better:)

2) Why thaw at least two hours in advance?

The meat needs to be at the same temperature throughout if you want it all to cook to a consistent 145 degrees. Otherwise, by the time the coldest spot gets up to 140F, other areas will be higher (over-cooked/tough). Leaving them in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours give the meat time to reach a consistent temperature gradient inside. Also, if you are using a probe, you will be able to trust its reading more when the meat is evenly thawed.

3) Why dry brine them?

Brining them helps to retain moisture while cooking, resulting in juicier pork. It is essential to brine them, but do not brine them for too long or they may become too salty. Always rinse the salt off after brining them. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away.

4) Why is smoking better than grilling? Why are both better than baking or sauteing?

Both smoking and grilling are good choices for flavor and low calories. Smoking gives the best overall flavor, and has no risk of flare-ups. I use a pellet smoker, which has numerous advantages over other smoker types. More info here. Mine is as Green Mountain Grille Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, although there are some new models like Green Mountain Prime Grills and CampChef Woodwind out with great features like “pellet dump” and “fire-pit dump” you should check out.

Grilling gives good flavor as well, definitely better than baking, healthier than sauteing, but not in the same league as a smoker. To grill successfully, you have to be able to control the internal temperature of your grill to reach and hold low temperatures such as 150 to 200F fairly consistently, while also cooking the pork over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups. That means the chops have to be over a burner that is either off, or on low, while the rest of the burners are keeping the grill somewhere in the 150 to 200F range.

5a) Why cook at low heat initially?

Cooking at high heat means the outer layers of meat cook faster than the interior, resulting in the outer edges of the meat on all sides being overcooked by the time the interior reaches a safe temperature. To avoid that, cook the chops at as low a heat as you can handle (in the 150F to 200F range) to bring the entire chop up to temperature evenly, for consistent doneness throughout. Note: you must keep it above 140F to kill bacteria. If you don’t have a pellet smoker that let’s you set it at 150F, it’s best to shoot for 175 or 200F on your grill.

5b) Why reverse-sear at the end?

It puts a nice char on the outside, and does that Maillard reaction thing, browning the exterior to add flavor.

It can look pretty if you add grill marks on each side:)

Adds an extra layer of safety against bacteria. They only exist on the surface of the meat (unless we’re talking about ground meat), so a nice hot sear at the end kills any stubborn bacteria that might have survived the low temperature cooking process.

6) Why pull them at 140, even if they’re a little pink?

They’re still cooking, due to the high heat of the reverse sear. If you rest them five minutes (covered), thick cut chops will typically end up between 145 and 150F.

They taste better, and are more juicy. Anything much above 150F internal temperature starts to dry out. 145F (after resting) is about ideal.

The FDA revised its recommended temperatures for pork from 160 down to 145F back in 2011, although stipulating a 3 minute rest time. You can safely pull them off somewhere in the 140 range, at the lowest internal temperature reading you can find, as long as you rest them for a good five minutes. I tend to monitor mine with an instant read thermometer.

7) Why rest them after cooking?

Keeps them juicier. If you cut into them right away, the juice will end up all over the plate. If you wait five minutes, the meat retains more juice. No, I haven’t figured out why, despite reading up on it:)

Evens out the internal temperature. If there are any cold or hot spots, the will heat or cool each other for a more consistent temperature and doneness level throughout.

Safety. If you do manage to pull the chops right at 145F, this lets the chops keep cooking internally for the minimum 3 minute rest time that the FDA recommends.


Smoked pork chops, done right, are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Too bad you can’t smell the smoky flavor from this picture, but it’s there.

Cooking a pork chop the right way is not so different than cooking a steak. I used to just throw them on the grille at high heat and wait until the fork test showed no pink in the juices. But that technique has numerous flaws that lead to dry, over-cooked chops.

Here are a few key tips that apply to either grilling or smoking. Ahem . . . I strongly encourage getting a pellet smoker if you want to consistently cook delicious meats, but these techniques work for normal grills as well.

7 tips for tender, juicy pork chops. 1, 3, 5, and 6 are most important:

Select thick cut chops, either bone-in (best) or boneless. The pinker/redder, the better.

If frozen, thaw at least 2 hours before prep.

Dry brine them for 40 minutes or so, then rinse salt off.

Smoke them. If you don’t have a smoker, grill them.

Reverse-sear them when they reach about 120 - 125F.

Pull them at about 140 F internal temperature.

Rest them, covered, for 5 minutes or until they reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 F.

Explanations follow, or else scroll down to see the recipe!

1a) Why use thick cut chops instead of thin cut?

Thicker chops = more time on the smoker (or grill) = more flavor. Although, the thinner chops have a more surface area per bite to pick up smoke or grilled flavor, so there’s a trade-off here.

Much easier to pull them at the right temperature, vs. thinner pieces which change temperature more rapidly.

Less risk of salty chops from the brining process. Thinner pieces pick up more salt (more surface to volume ratio).

If you DO opt for thinner chops, hover over them like a hawk with an instant-read thermometer once they get close to 140F.

1b) Why look for pinker/redder meat when selecting the chops?

I’m not entirely sure (doh!), but that’ what I’ve been reading. Something about our diet crazes in the U.S. leading everyone to produce leaner pork, which is paler and less flavorful, but also healthier. We are now seeing a resurgence of so-called heritage pork, like Duroc, Berkshire, and Mangalitsa, all more flavorful (and fattier). Anyway, the pinker ones taste better:)

2) Why thaw at least two hours in advance?

The meat needs to be at the same temperature throughout if you want it all to cook to a consistent 145 degrees. Otherwise, by the time the coldest spot gets up to 140F, other areas will be higher (over-cooked/tough). Leaving them in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours give the meat time to reach a consistent temperature gradient inside. Also, if you are using a probe, you will be able to trust its reading more when the meat is evenly thawed.

3) Why dry brine them?

Brining them helps to retain moisture while cooking, resulting in juicier pork. It is essential to brine them, but do not brine them for too long or they may become too salty. Always rinse the salt off after brining them. You can always add more salt, but you can’t take it away.

4) Why is smoking better than grilling? Why are both better than baking or sauteing?

Both smoking and grilling are good choices for flavor and low calories. Smoking gives the best overall flavor, and has no risk of flare-ups. I use a pellet smoker, which has numerous advantages over other smoker types. More info here. Mine is as Green Mountain Grille Daniel Boone Pellet Grill, although there are some new models like Green Mountain Prime Grills and CampChef Woodwind out with great features like “pellet dump” and “fire-pit dump” you should check out.

Grilling gives good flavor as well, definitely better than baking, healthier than sauteing, but not in the same league as a smoker. To grill successfully, you have to be able to control the internal temperature of your grill to reach and hold low temperatures such as 150 to 200F fairly consistently, while also cooking the pork over indirect heat to avoid flare-ups. That means the chops have to be over a burner that is either off, or on low, while the rest of the burners are keeping the grill somewhere in the 150 to 200F range.

5a) Why cook at low heat initially?

Cooking at high heat means the outer layers of meat cook faster than the interior, resulting in the outer edges of the meat on all sides being overcooked by the time the interior reaches a safe temperature. To avoid that, cook the chops at as low a heat as you can handle (in the 150F to 200F range) to bring the entire chop up to temperature evenly, for consistent doneness throughout. Note: you must keep it above 140F to kill bacteria. If you don’t have a pellet smoker that let’s you set it at 150F, it’s best to shoot for 175 or 200F on your grill.

5b) Why reverse-sear at the end?

It puts a nice char on the outside, and does that Maillard reaction thing, browning the exterior to add flavor.

It can look pretty if you add grill marks on each side:)

Adds an extra layer of safety against bacteria. They only exist on the surface of the meat (unless we’re talking about ground meat), so a nice hot sear at the end kills any stubborn bacteria that might have survived the low temperature cooking process.

6) Why pull them at 140, even if they’re a little pink?

They’re still cooking, due to the high heat of the reverse sear. If you rest them five minutes (covered), thick cut chops will typically end up between 145 and 150F.

They taste better, and are more juicy. Anything much above 150F internal temperature starts to dry out. 145F (after resting) is about ideal.

The FDA revised its recommended temperatures for pork from 160 down to 145F back in 2011, although stipulating a 3 minute rest time. You can safely pull them off somewhere in the 140 range, at the lowest internal temperature reading you can find, as long as you rest them for a good five minutes. I tend to monitor mine with an instant read thermometer.

7) Why rest them after cooking?

Keeps them juicier. If you cut into them right away, the juice will end up all over the plate. If you wait five minutes, the meat retains more juice. No, I haven’t figured out why, despite reading up on it:)

Evens out the internal temperature. If there are any cold or hot spots, the will heat or cool each other for a more consistent temperature and doneness level throughout.

Safety. If you do manage to pull the chops right at 145F, this lets the chops keep cooking internally for the minimum 3 minute rest time that the FDA recommends.