The Secret to Tender Grilled Pork Chops
If you’ve ever made grilled pork chops and had them turn out dry and tough, you’re not alone. However, deliciously tender, juicy chops are a cinch to make provided you have the right cut of pork and an hour to bathe them in a simple brine before cooking. We also like to coat them with our own homemade barbecue rub. It adds a subtle, smoky flavor and the sugar in it caramelizes on the outside of the chops like a glaze.
These tasty chops turn out perfectly every time when you choose the right cut of pork and brine them for an hour or so in a simple solution of water, kosher salt, and sugar.
- Choosing the right cut of pork chops for brining and grilling: Bone-in rib chops are our number one choice for grilling. Choose chops between 3/4 and 1-inch thick with nice marbling and resist the urge to trim them as the rim of fat around the outside adds extra moisture and flavor. If you can’t get bone-in rib chops, the next best choice would be bone-in, center-cut pork loin chops. These chops are tender and flavorful, but generally have less marbling than rib chops and consequently are not quite as juicy.
- Our easy-to-make brine for pork: A quick and easy brine made with water, kosher salt, sugar, and a couple of cloves of garlic helps to tenderize the pork chops and keep them moist and juicy despite the intense heat of the grill. During grilling season we make up a couple of quarts of this brine (minus the garlic) and keep it refrigerated. It can also be used on pork tenderloin, boneless chicken breasts, and even salmon fillets.
Note: For those of you that are watching your intake of sugar, we’ve been told that a sugar substitute like Splenda can be used in the brine. The key is to cut back on the quantity. Read the comments below for more details.
- A homemade dry rub adds great barbecue flavor: This recipe calls for a coating of our Smoky BBQ Rub to be added to the chops just before grilling. It’s a simple mixture of sweet and smoked paprika, salt, pepper, brown sugar, dry mustard, onion powder, and garlic powder, and it’s the same one we use for our pulled pork recipe. If you don’t want to fuss with making a rub, no worries, it’s not imperative as the brine adds sweet and savory flavor and a hint of garlic.
How to Grill Perfect Juicy Pork Chops
This is an overview of how this dish is made. You’ll find detailed measurements, ingredients, and instructions in the printable version of the recipe below.
- Brine the chops: Combine half of the water with the salt and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved, then remove from the heat and stir in 2 cups of cold water along with 2 cloves of garlic. Set the brine aside to cool, then pour it into a large, heavy-duty zip-top bag and add the pork chops. Remove as much air as possible and seal tightly. Refrigerate the chops for 1 hour, turning the bag over after 30 minutes.
- Prepare the chops for grilling: Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat (about 400°F). Remove the chops from the brine and pat them dry on both sides with paper towels. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of our Smoky BBQ Rub on each side of the chops and rub it into the meat with the back of a spoon. Alternately, you can rub them with a little olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Because of the salt in the brine, be careful when seasoning the outside of the meat.
- Grill the chops: Oil the grill grates thoroughly and add the chops. Grill for 4 minutes on the first side, turn and continue grilling until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes additional. You can check for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of each chop. Remove them from the grill when they reach an internal temperature of 135 to 140°F (for medium). Allow the pork chops to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Brined Pork Chops FAQs
We prefer a water, salt, and sugar brine using the following measurements: 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar to 1 cup water.
We recommend a minimum of 1 hour of brining for pork chops that are 3/4 to 1-inch thick, but they can remain in the brine for up to 4 hours without any harm. Prepare your brine making sure that the sugar and salt dissolve completely, then let it cool before adding the meat. Never put warm brine on raw meat.
For safety, all meat should be refrigerated while being brined and you should always let the brine cool at least to room temperature before adding the meat.
It is not necessary to rinse pork chops after brining, but they should be patted dry with paper towels before cooking. Whether you’re grilling, roasting, broiling, or pan-searing your chops, making sure they are dry on the outside will ensure that they are nicely browned.
More Pork Chop Recipes
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Juicy Grilled Pork Chops
- 4 bone-in pork rib chops 3/4 to 1-inch thick – see notes
- 2-1/2 to 3 tablespoons [Smoky BBQ Rub]
For the brine:
- 4 cups water divided
- 4 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
- Make the brine by combining 2 cups of water with the salt and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until all the salt and sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and stir in 2 cups of cold water along with the garlic. Set aside.
- Once the brine has cooled completely, pour it into a large, heavy-duty zip-top bag and add the pork chops. Remove as much air as possible and seal tightly. Refrigerate the chops for 1 hour, turning the bag over after 30 minutes to ensure even brining.
- Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chops from the brine and pat them dry on both sides with paper towels. Discard the brine.
- If desired, sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of the Smoky BBQ Rub on each side of the chops and rub it into the meat with the back of a spoon. Alternately, you can rub them with a little olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Because of the salt in the brine you'll want to be sure to go easy when seasoning the outside of the meat.
- Oil the grill grates and add the chops. Grill for 4 minutes on the first side, turn and continue grilling until cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes additional. Check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer and remove the chops from the grill when they reach 135 to 140°F (for medium). Allow the chops to rest for 5 minutes before serving.