Quick & Easy: Brined Pork Chops On The Grill
Pork chops are an easy cut of meat to cook, as long as you do it properly. By properly I mean you have to be careful not to under or over cook it. Timing and temperature are the keys to success. Using a meat thermometer is necessary to achieve the correct internal temperature of the meat.
You can pan sear, bake, braise, or grill pork chops. However, smoking may is also a great option to ensure the chops cook perfectly with little effort. Basically, the smoker does most of the work for you while you sit back and relax with a cold beer.
It is highly recommended that you smoke pork chops that still have the bone in, the fat cap on, and the cut is fairly thick. The bone adds a tremendous amount of flavor. The fat layer adds both moisture and flavor. You can always trim any flabby or non-rendered fat from the cooked chops before serving, if desired. The thickness of the chops should be between 1-1/2 to 2 inches.
Pro tip: When shopping for pork chops pick them out from the butcher’s display case or ask your butcher to cut fresh chops for you so that you definitely get the thickness you want. Most pre-packaged chops are thinner than the ones offered by the butcher.
There are a few types of bone-in pork chops that are cut from different areas of the hog. Any of these cuts will work for this easy pork chop recipe. However, I would recommend the leaner chops for brining and smoking for optimal results.
Shoulder chops are cut from the shoulder of the animal located in the forequarters. Shoulder blade chops have a prominent blade bone. These are nicely marbled with a good amount of fat. The fat ensures that these chops will remain moist and flavorful during the cooking process.
Sirloin chops are cut from below the loin section. This cut contains different textures of meat making it a bit of a challenge to cook evenly so that it is tender. Low and slow cooking is recommended.
Loin rib chops are also referred to as ribeye chops. They are cut from an area toward the lower back portion of the pig. This is the loin portion that still has the rib bones attached. This cut is lean and extremely tender when cooked properly.
Center cut chops are the T-bone portions that include both a steak and a tenderloin section with the bone intact between the two. This is also referred to as the porterhouse. This cut is both tender and delicious.
Loin chops are cut from the upper loin. This is basically the same as the center cut but it lacks the tenderloin portion of the porterhouse. This is a great chop for brining because it is so lean.
Preparing the Chops for the Smoker
In this tutorial we will be incorporating a pork chop brine recipe. Brining the meat can ensure that the pork is moist and can stand up to the smoke without drying out. A brine is basically a bath of salted water that helps to slightly break down the muscle fibers and tenderize the meat.
How long to brine pork chops is a matter of preference and depends on how much time you have to spare. The chops should be brined for not less than 2 hours and no longer than 24 hours. 8 to 12 hours seems to work quite well.
The brine in this recipe includes a few more ingredients than water and salt. The ingredient items are likely things that you already have in your pantry, so this should be fairly easy and economical.
Step-By-Step Recipe for Quick & Easy Brined Pork Chops
This recipe takes a bit of time. But, rest assured that most of that time is simply waiting for the pork to brine and then waiting for it to smoke. To achieve a perfectly cooked pork chop, you really don’t have to do a lot of work. You just need patience for this healthy pork chop recipe. So, let’s get started.
- Paper towels
- Large bowl
- Large glass or plastic container with a lid, or large sealable plastic bags
- Smoker (electric, pellet, charcoal, or gas)
- Apple wood chips or your favorite mild chips
- Digital meat thermometer
- Cutting board
- Aluminum foil
Preparation time: 5 minutes and 10 hours for brining
Smoking time: 90 to 120 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 4 bone-in loin or center cut pork chops, cut 1-1/2” to 2” thick
- 3 cups filtered water at room temperature
- 2 cups apple cider or apple juice at room temperature
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
- Apple cider or apple juice and water for the smoker
- Mustard sauce for serving (recipe follows)
Step 1: In a large glass or plastic bowl, or container with a lid, combine the water, cider, salt, sugar, and peppercorns. Whisk together until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Place the pork chops in the brine, making sure they are completely covered. Cover the dish. Alternatively, place the chops into sealable bags and pour the brine into the bags to cover the pork. Refrigerate the chops for 8 to 12. Do not exceed 24 hours.
Pro tip: When brining in sealed bags, be sure to place the bags inside a large baking dish that can collect any brine that might potentially leak if the bag breaks or isn’t properly sealed.
Step 2: Take a grill rack from your smoker. Take the pork chops out of the brine and rinse well under cold running water. Dry off the chops by blotting them with clean paper towels. Place the pork chops on the smoker rack and set them aside for 45 to 60 minutes. You want the meat to be at room temperature before placing the chops in the smoker. Discard any leftover brine.
Step 3: Set up and preheat your smoker according to the manufacturer’s directions. If the smoker has a water bowl, fill that half way with equal parts water and apple cider or juice. Fill the tray or hopper with wood chips or pellets, depending on the type of smoker you are using. If using charcoal, light the coals in a chimney to get them hot. Preheat the smoker to between 225˚F and 250˚F with the door or lid closed and the vent open, if there is a vent.
Step 4: Place the rack with the pork chops inside the preheated smoker. If your smoker has a probe thermometer, place it in the thickest part of one of the chops. Cook for 90 minutes. Check the internal temperature of the meat. You are looking for 145˚F. Continue smoking and checking the temperature at 15 to 30 minute intervals if the temperature is below 145˚F.
Pro tip: Check the wood chips and liquid supply every 45 minutes. Replenish both if necessary.
Step 5: When the pork chops are fully cooked, place them on a clean cutting board. Cover them loosely with aluminum foil. Allow the pork to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving or slicing to ensure that the meat retains its natural juices. Make the sauce while the pork is resting.
Step 6: Serve the pork chops with creamy mustard sauce (recipe follows) or vinegar based BBQ sauce.
Creamy Mustard Sauce Recipe
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
Step 1: In a large sauté pan, bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium-high heat.
Step 2: Turn the broth down to a simmer and whisk in the cream, mustard, and lemon juice. Simmer the sauce uncovered for 5 or 6 minutes until it has slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Step 3: Spoon the sauce over the plated pork chops.
You don’t need to be a pit master to nail this easy brined and smoked pork chops recipe. The process takes some time, but the brine and the smoker are doing the bulk of the work for you. The result is a healthy pork chop recipe that is extremely tasty and worth the small effort you put into it. Serve these smoked pork chops with your favorite sides, such as smoked corn on the cob and a crisp, sweet cabbage slaw to round out the meal.
Pro tip: When smoking vegetables and other sides with protein, place the meat on the rack below the other foods to prevent dripping of raw juices on to the vegetables. This prevents cross-contamination.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to brine pork chops?
We always recommend brining lean meat like pork chops or chicken breasts. The brine isn’t strictly necessary, but it helps the pork chops cook up juicy and moist, every time. If you don’t brine the pork chops, they can turn out dry and dense if you accidentally overcook them. A brined pork chop is almost always juicy, no matter what!
Do you rinse pork chops after brining them?
Some people like to rinse off the pork chops after soaking them in a brine solution. If you did a short brine (30 minutes to four hours), you shouldn’t need to rinse them off at all. A simple pat with a paper towel to dry the outside is all you need. If you brined overnight or as long as 24 hours, you may want to consider rinsing them if you’re sensitive to salty flavors.
How long can you brine pork?
We recommend a maximum brining time of 24 hours. If you brine your pork chops for longer than this period of time, they can turn out super salty. The meat can also become mushy if it’s in contact with salt or acidic ingredients for longer than 24 hours, too. If you accidentally overbrine your pork chops, you can soak them in cold water for 6 hours to try to pull out some of the excess salts.
Do you have to cook pork chops immediately after brining them?
You will want to remove the pork chops from the brine before they hit the 24-hour mark, but you don’t have to cook them right away. If you’re not ready, you can store them in the refrigerator for 12 hours uncovered. Or, cover the chops with plastic wrap if you’re keeping them in the fridge for more than 12 hours.
What temperature do you cook brined pork chops?
Like other cuts of pork, the National Pork Board recommends cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t like seeing any pink in your pork, you can continue cooking it for an additional 10 degrees. We don’t recommend cooking pork to 165 degrees because they can taste dry (even when brined). But, that temperature is acceptable if you like a well-done pork chop without any color at all in the meat.