One of the best values in the meat case at your grocery store is likely to be the American pork, and one of my favorite cuts to grill is a pork loin, bone-in chop. Pork producers have developed efficient systems that produce lean pork and it is inexpensively priced. Even so, I generally purchase a ‘Family Pack” of a dozen or so chops because it represents a good price value – separating the chops into pairs and vacu-sealing them before freezing. This portion control is a good way to save money and always have something that is ready-to-cook for a quick and tasty dinner.
Two packs can be thawed fairly quickly. It’s best to thaw it overnight in the refrigerator, and always remember when cooking that the USDA new standard for cooking pork is a finished temperature of 145°F.
Step 1: Dry off the surface of the thawed pork chop and season lightly on both sides of the chop with kosher or sea salt; rub it in. And, because you want brown-seared marks on the meat, my motto to remember is: “Dry browns and wet steams.” Any surface moisture from the package or from marinade, etc. will simply turn to steam upon hitting the hot grates – that steams the meat. When the liquid evaporates, residual sugars in the marinade will burn and while they look like sear marks, I can assure you that burnt sugar is not the same wonderful flavor of seared meat!
Step 2: Preheat the grill to a grate temperature of at least 450°F degrees to 500°F. Prior to starting the fire, make sure the grate is clean and free of debris because this will burn and impart a nasty flavor to the meat you are about to cook. If the grates are bare metal like cast iron or stainless steel (not chrome- or porcelain-coated), season the cold grates with a bit of grape seed, safflower, canola or peanut oil. Seasoning bare metal improves the quality of the grates by darkening over time and that improves its ability to radiate and/or conduct heat and also helps to preserve the grate by preventing rust. Note: If the grates are hot enough to grill on, then they are too hot to season. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the oil does not make the grates slippery, it helps to conduct heat from the relatively smooth, even surface of the grates to the relatively uneven surface of the meat.
Step 3. Take the temperature of the meat to determine the internal temperature because this informs you how much cooking needs to happen to raise the internal temperature to about 140°F before removing from any heat. Knowing the temperature where you begin helps you to do a better job of cooking to get to the temperature you want at the end.
Step 4. Where it hits ~ it sits. Leave the meat alone. Let the hot grates do their job of searing the meat – essentially browning the proteins and natural sugars. When the browning is complete, the meat will release from the grates. If you attempt to turn it too soon before the browning occurs, it will stick to the grate surface. Grate temperature plays an important role in this process so knowing what it is will help you understand how long to grill. (There are inexpensive grate thermometers available at many outdoor cooking departments and/or restaurant supply stores, usually for under $5). You can test the searing by visually checking the edges of the meat to see if any browning is occurring where the meat touches the grate. You can also use the tips of your tongs to gently lift the meat to check if it is sticking…a little resistance means it needs a bit more time.
Step 5. Lift the chops with your tongs and while holding them tightly in the grip of the tongs, insert an instant-read thermometer into the side of the chop (through a fat strip seems to be a good route) and see how much cooking has occurred. This will give you an idea of how much grill time you need to mark the other side of the meat. If it’s above 100°F, you haven’t much time and may want to skip the sear marks on the other side and go immediately to the next step.
Step 6. HOLD the partially-cooked chop in a foil tray or foil-lined pan that is set to one side of the grill grates away from any direct heat. Allow the meat in the pan to finish cooking off of direct heat until the internal temperature of the chops reaches just under 140°F. At that temperature, you can remove and place on a serving platter or individual plates. If you plan to group several chops on a platter and pile them on top of each other – you may want to remove from the pan at an internal temperature under 140°F because the collective heat will continue to cook the meat. There may be some juices from the rendered fat and meat in the tray, drizzle this liquid over the chops. Resting meat after cooking allows the muscle fibers to untwist and reabsorb moisture squeezed out during cooking. By resting and not immediately cutting the meat more juices will be retained.
- 4 bone-in pork loin chops
- sea salt or kosher salt
- black pepper if desired
- spray on canola oil or cooking spray
- Dry off pork and rub with pinch or two of salt on both sides
- Spritz with cooking spray
- Place on hot clean grates and leave until sides of meat begin to show browning where the grates and meat touch
- Turn to the other side
- Remove from grates when both sides are sear marked and place in holding tray away from direct Heat until pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F and is ready to serve
Use an instant read thermometer to check the temperature of the pork prior to cooking and mid-way thru - knowing the temperature helps you to understand how much direct and indirect cooking you need to do to finish the chops to the USDA recommend temperature of 145°F.