The Best Pork Chop Seasoning
By its very nature, pork lends itself well to a multitude of flavors. Pork chops, which contain just enough fat to impart a richness to the otherwise lean meat, provide an especially exciting template for the home griller.
This versatile cut is well-suited to many occasions, from backyard barbecues to elegant plated holiday suppers. Bone-in pork chops can be braised, roasted, smoked, or grilled, with each technique yielding a different flavor and texture. Their boneless counterparts are better suited to the grill or the stovetop, as the meat is leaner and therefore takes less time to cook. In either case, however, you'll want to start with the perfect pork chop rub. That's where we come in.
The Best Pork Chop Seasoning Recipe
A pork chop dry rub consists of dried herbs and spices that are added to the meat before cooking. The first step toward success is to make sure your spices haven't been sitting on the rack for too long—most seasonings start to lose their potency after six months or so.
Pro Tip: Once you've prepared your pork chop rub, be sure to date the storage container and discard the contents if you haven't used them up within a six-month window. Additionally, you'll want to discard any spice rub that's come into contact with raw meat. Otherwise, you're putting yourself at risk for dangerous food-borne illnesses.
Perfect Seasoning Blend for Grilled Pork Chops
This is our favorite recipe for pork chops dry rub. The flavors are an excellent foil for the smoky flavor of the grill, but the mixture works well no matter which cooking method you use. As a bonus, this can be made entirely out of spice-rack staples that are suitable for a variety of other foods.
What You'll Need For This Rub
- 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Yield: About 1/2 cup, enough to season 6 pork chops
- Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Whisk with a fork to break up any clumps and to fully combine all ingredients.
- Sprinkle a liberal amount onto pork chops, pressing to make the spices adhere to the flesh.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to six months.
Pro Tip: Make sure the meat has been washed and patted dry, then coat both sides of the chops with olive oil before adding the seasoning rub. Don't go overboard with the oil, as this could cause flare-ups during grilling.
How to Grill Pork Chops Like a Pro
As mentioned above, grilling is the preferred method for this pork chop seasoning. Read on to learn how to turn out perfectly cooked chops on the grill every time.
Understanding the Different Types of Pork Chops
Did you know that the term pork chop actually refers to four different cuts of meat? Here's a primer on the terms you're most likely to come across.
Rib Chop—A tender cut, and by far the most sought-after for grilling, this chop comes from the rib section of the animal. You'll be able to distinguish it from the rest by the large bone that runs along the side, an attribute that contributes highly to its succulent pork flavor.
Boneless Chop—While some home cooks might appreciate the fact that this cut contains no bones and very little fat (particularly in households with picky younger children), this lean cut is very easy to overcook. When this happens, the lean meat becomes dry and unappetizing, which is why it's important not to leave these chops on the grill for too long. Fun fact: the boneless chop is the most commonly sold pork chop in the United States.
Loin Chop—The porcine equivalent of the T-bone, pork chop cut features a small piece of tenderloin meat on one side and loin meat on the other. As the tenderloin cooks far more quickly than the regular loin, it can be tricky to get this one right, particularly on the grill.
Shoulder Chop—As this cut is difficult to find in American supermarkets, you're unlikely to stumble across it by accident. This is all to the good, as the chop is highly unsuitable for grilling. Full of fat, gristle, and bones, the meat is very flavorful when braised, but it's best to avoid preparing a shoulder chop any other way.
Pro Tip:For these purposes, the bone-in center cut rib chop is likely your best bet. Meaty and tender, it has a succulent flavor that pairs excellently with the spice of the pork chop rub. Ask your butcher to cut the chops 1 to 1-/2 inches thick for a chop that will turn out perfectly charred on the outside, and tender and juicy on the inside.
Grilling the Pork Chops
After seasoning the chops, follow these grilling instructions to give them the best flavor and texture.
1. Heat the grill.
If you have a gas grill, turn the heat to high. If using a charcoal grill (our preferred method), build a multi-level fire by banking your coals so that they're about three times as high on one side as on the other. Leave roughly one-fourth of the bottom of the grill free of coals, so you'll have a designated "safe zone" in case the chops begin to scorch during cooking.
2. Set out your grilling utensils.
You'll need a sturdy pair of grilling tongs, the plate you're using to hold the raw pork chops, a clean plate or cutting board for holding the grilled chops, and a clean rag or supply of paper towels. If you have a meat thermometer, set it out beside the grill as well.
3. Grill the meat.
Sear pork chops for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side over high heat, then transfer them to the spot where the coals are lowest to finish cooking. Cover the grill and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes more, checking every few minutes. If the meat begins to scorch, move it over to the "safe zone" for the rest of the cooking time.
If using a gas grill, transfer the chops to the lower section of the grill after searing them over the high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cover the grill to finish cooking.
4. Remove the meat from the grill.
Once the pork chops have cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, they're ready to be removed. Use tongs to transfer them to the clean plate or cutting board, and cover them with foil to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with your favorite sides, and don't plan on having any leftovers—these chops will be good to the last bite.
Pro Tip: If you're pressed for time, or if you just can't find suitable center-cut bone-in rib chops for your gathering, go ahead and substitute boneless chops instead. These will only need to be cooked for 2 minutes per side over the medium-hot coals, and removed to the lower heat to cook, covered, for 5 minutes more. Be careful not to overcook them—these chops will get unappealingly dry and tough if the internal temperature rises over 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pork chops may not be difficult to make, but they can be difficult to make well. An outstanding chop is only as good as its seasoning blend, which is why it's important to start with ingredients that are in their prime. If you follow these instructions for storage and execution, you're well on your way to turning out perfectly seasoned and grilled pork chops that are destined to be the talk of the town.
Frequently Asked Questions
What temperature should you cook pork chops?
The USDA recommends a safe cooking temperature for pork chops, roasts, loins, and tenderloins of 145 degrees F. This pork will be slightly pink in the middle, so you should continue cooking it another 10 degrees if you prefer a more well-done pork chop. For ground pork, the safest minimum cooking temperature is 165 degrees F.
Do you have to marinate pork chops?
Brining is always recommended with pork chops because they are very lean. Since they have little to no fat on the meat, they can dry out easily if they’re overcooked. Placing them in a brine solution before cooking is an easy way to increase the moisture content. That being said, this pork chop seasoning contains salt. If you put the seasoning on the pork chops at least an hour before cooking, you will effectively dry brine the pork chops.
How can you tell if pork chops are done?
The best way to tell if your pork chops are finished cooking is to use an instant read thermometer. When the pork reaches 140 degrees F, it is done. The meat will continue to rise an additional 5 degrees as it rests, reaching the USDA’s safe recommended cooking temperature of 145 degrees F. You can also slice into a pork chop to see if it’s finished cooking - it will be done when there is just a little layer of pink inside the chops. Slicing pork chops before they rest, however, is not recommended because it can lead to a dry piece of meat.
What flavor goes well with pork?
Pork is an extremely versatile meat, and it goes well with a variety of flavors. We love this pork seasoning recipe because it’s smoky, spicy, and sweet. You could also use green herbs like rosemary, sage, fennel, or thyme with your pork.
How long does it take to grill pork chops?
Depending on how thick your pork chops are, it shouldn’t take long at all to cook them. Thin (less than 1-inch) pork chops should only take about 4 minutes a side. Thicker, bone-in pork chops should be moved to the indirect heat side of the grill after searing each side. They can take an additional 15 minutes after the initial sear.