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The best grilled pork chops are the ones that are tender, juicy and flavorful inside with a delicious crust of seasonings on the outside.
Temperature matters when it comes to juicy pork
Pork chops have come a long way in the past few decades.
If you’re a kid of the 80s or 90s, your parents probably cooked pork until it was beyond well done. USDA recommended that in order to reduce the risk of trichinosis. Unfortunately, that resulted in rather dry meat.
My mom did a great job and made up for the dryness by covering the pork chops with mushroom gravy and a side of egg noodles. It was honestly one of my favorite school night dinners – so long as I got extra gravy.
Fast forward to today, and farm and feeding practices have improved dramatically. So much so that in 2012, the USDA reduced the recommended doneness temperature from 160F to 145F.
This is a game-changer for pork chops!
Now, you can quickly grill up a pork chop dinner that’s juicy, safe and delicious – even if you don’t have any gravy on hand.
Types of pork chops
When looking through the meat case, you’ll find there are a variety of packages marked “pork chops.”
All pork chops are cut from the loin of the hog, which runs along the back between the pork shoulder and the ham.
Bone-in pork chops, which are sometimes called rib chops, include the back rib bone (AKA baby back ribs) along with the loin meat.
Boneless pork chops, are cut from the top loin and the bones are removed.
Center-cut loin chops are shaped more like a porterhouse steak and include loin meat on one side of the bone and tenderloin meat on the other side.
Tomahawk pork chops are bone-in pork chops that have been butchered to leave a long bone for spectacular presentation. You can actually buy bone-in pork chops and french the bones yourself to create this stunning appearance at home.
- Bone-in pork chops: This recipe uses standard bone-in pork chops. Look for chops that are 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. If you cook thinner chops, reduce the marinating and cooking time.
- Marinade ingredients: The liquids I add to the marinade include olive oil, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and water.
- Brown sugar: For color and caramelization add some brown sugar. Either light or dark brown sugar work fine.
- Seasonings: To keep things simple, use two tablespoons of your favorite pork dry rub. My award-winning pork rub from Spiceology is a great option. In the recipe card below I’ve also included ingredients to make a homemade spice rub.
See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.
How to add flavor to pork chops
Pork chops have a very mild flavor, so they can take on all sorts of bold seasonings. When seasoning pork chops, I recommend choosing a rub that has a generous amount of salt, a hint of sugar and a variety of garlic, chiles and herbs. My Pork Rub hits all those notes.
In addition to the rub, great pork chops are seasoned on the inside. The best way to add that flavor is with a pork chop marinade. You can marinate the pork in as little as 30 minutes and as long as overnight. I find the sweet spot to be 2-4 hours.
How to grill pork chops
Pork chops can be grilled up over direct heat. Set your grill up so it reaches a temperature of around 400F degrees.
When using a gas grill, set your dial to medium-high heat. For added smokiness, add apple wood chips to a foil pouch.
I fuel my charcoal grill with Cowboy Hardwood Briquets and use a handful of apple wood chips for added flavor.
For a pellet grill, just fill the hopper with Cowboy Applewood Pellets, set the dial to 400F degrees and let it warm up.
- STEP ONE: Place the pork chops in a zip-top bag. Combine all remaining ingredients (except for the butter) and pour the mixture into the bag. Remove the air, seal the bag and massage the marinade into the pork chops. Marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours.
- STEP TWO: Remove the chops from the marinade.
- STEP THREE: Place the pork chops on the preheated grill grates over direct heat. Cook for 2 minutes. To make grill marks, rotate the chops 90 degrees, without flipping and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
PRO TIP: If you get flareups, move your pork chops to a cooler part of the grill, so they don’t burn.
- STEP FOUR: Flip the pork chops. The first side should have great grill marks. Add a teaspoon of butter on each chop. The butter adds flavor and moisture. Grill for another 5-7 minutes until the internal temperature measures 145F degrees with an instant-read thermometer. That’s the USDA safe-to-eat temp that will guarantee juiciness.
How to serve grilled pork chops
Once the grilled pork chops reach the proper temperature, remove them from the grill and let them rest. You can tent them with aluminum foil to keep them warm.
Serve the chops whole or cut them into slices, removing the bones and serve alongside your favorite side dishes.
Leftover tender pork chops can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. It can also be frozen for up to six months.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- For juicier chops, cook 1 to 1 1/2-inch-thick bone-in chops
- Marinate the chops for 2-4 hours to make them more tender
- Finish with a teaspoon of salted butter for more moisture and flavor
Frequently Asked Questions
Pork chops are rather lean compared to pork shoulder. Each 6-ounce portion contains around 330 calories, 52 grams of protein and is a good source of potassium and vitamin D. They have around 11 grams of fat and no fiber.
Pork chops themselves are keto, but when you add rubs, marinades and sauces you need to make sure there is no sugar added for them to remain keto. For this recipe, you can omit the brown sugar and use a sugar-free rub to keep it keto.
Grilled and fried pork chops both taste great. It really depends on what flavor you’re going for and how many calories you’re okay with eating. Fried pork chops are usually breaded and cooked in oil, which adds a lot of calories. Grilled pork chops are much lower in fat and calories.
Yes. Use the same marinade and heat your grill pan on the stove over medium to medium-high heat. Cook for a few minutes per side, until it reaches 145F degrees.
The ideal thickness for grilled pork chops is 1 to 1 1/2 inches. If you cook thinner chops, they will dry out more quickly. If you grill thicker chops, you’ll need to use an indirect heat zone to make sure they cook through evenly.
No. Pork steaks are cut from the pork shoulder. Pork chops are cut from the pork loin. Pork steaks are delicious because the shoulder has more marbling and fat. They can be smoked or grilled up fast.
What to serve with grilled pork chops
More pork recipes
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Perfectly Juicy Grilled Pork Chops
- 2 bone-in pork chops
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Christie Vanover's Pork Rub*
- 2 tsp salted butter
- Marinate: Remove the pork chops from the packaging and place in a zip-top bag. In a small bowl, combine all remaining ingredients, except for the butter and pour the mixture into the bag. Remove the air, seal the bag and massage the marinade into the pork chops. For the best flavor and tenderness, let them rest in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.
- Heat grill: Heat your grill to 400F degrees with a direct heat zone.
- Grill: Remove the pork chops from the marinade. Place them on the grill over direct heat. Grill for 2 minutes. To make grill marks, rotate the chops 90 degrees. Continue cooking for 3-4 minutes.
- Butter: Flip. Add a teaspoon of butter onto each chop. Continue cooking for 5-7 minutes to an internal temperature of 145F degrees.
- Rest: Remove to a pan. Rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 tsp granulated onion
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.