Why This Recipe Is a Summer Favorite
Today’s pork is mild-flavored and relatively lean, and when exposed to the intense heat of a grill, it can end up being less than spectacular unless you give it a little help before cooking. Fortunately, it only takes two simple steps to prepare your chops for the grill and get great results: brining and seasoning.
Brining pork chops adds flavor and keeps them moist and tender, a tasty pork rub boosts the flavor even more, and the grill’s heat pulls everything together to make a delectable main dish that’s one of our favorite summer meals.
What You’ll Need
All you need to make great grilled pork chops is the right cut of pork, a few ingredients for the brine, and a tasty rub or seasoning blend to add just before grilling. Read on for advice on what kind of chops to buy, what you need for the brine, and tips on boosting flavor with a homemade pork rub you can keep in the pantry and use all summer.
The Best Pork Chops for Grilling
Choosing the right cut of pork is an important first step to making deliciously tender grilled pork chops. We always buy a bone-in cut because the bone protects one side of the chop from the hot grill, helping to keep them moist. Here are the two cuts we recommend:
- Rib Chops: Bone-in rib chops (pictured) are our number one choice for grilling. Choose medium-thick chops (between 3/4 and 1 inch), look for some nice marbling, and resist the urge to trim them, as the rim of fat around the outside of the chop adds extra moisture and flavor.
- Center-Cut Loin Chops: The next best choice is center-cut pork loin chops. This cut of pork chops is tender and flavorful but generally has less marbling than rib chops and therefore may not be quite as juicy.
Pork Chop Brine Ingredients
The basic ingredients for making pork chop brine are water, granulated sugar, and kosher salt. The brine ratio is one (1) tablespoon of kosher salt and two (2) tablespoons of granulated sugar to one (1) cup of water. Plan on preparing one (1) cup of brine per chop. We always add a couple of slightly crushed garlic cloves for added flavor.
Pork Chop Seasoning Rub
A little extra care should be taken when seasoning brined pork chops. Although our brine recipe uses a lower proportion of salt to sugar than some, it does infuse some salt into the meat. Still, we recommend a little extra seasoning. To keep it simple, rub both sides of the chops with olive oil, then season them with freshly ground black pepper and a light sprinkling of garlic or onion powder.
We prefer to give our chops a classic barbecue flavor with an easy-to-make homemade rub. Made with brown sugar, spices, and a small amount of salt, it’s perfect for seasoning brined chops and other cuts of pork, including ribs, tenderloin, and pork butt for pulled pork. It’s tasty on chicken, salmon, and shrimp, too.
Brining Pork Chops FAQs
Here are the answers to a few common questions about how to brine pork chops.
How Long Should You Brine Pork Chops For?
We recommend a minimum of 1 hour of brining for 3/4 to 1-inch thick pork chops, but they can safely remain in the brine for up to 2 hours. Prepare your brine and let it cool completely. Arrange the chops in a container that will accommodate them in a single layer without too much extra space, pour the brine over them, cover, and refrigerate.
Can You Brine Frozen Pork Chops?
If your pork chops are individually frozen, you can defrost them in the brine in the refrigerator. The minimum time for brining frozen chops is two hours.
To Rinse or Not to Rinse
There is no need to rinse your pork chops when they are done brining, but you do want to pat them dry. This will ensure that you get a nice sear on the grill and help any seasoning you use on the outside of the chops to adhere.
Can You Make the Brine Ahead and Store It?
Every time we make brine during grilling season, we mix up a couple of quarts at once (minus the garlic). We then store it in the refrigerator in glass jars with tight-fitting lids for up to two weeks. In addition to pork chops, we use it for pork tenderloin, boneless chicken breasts, and turkey tenderloins.
Important Brining Safety Tips
- Never pour warm brine over raw meat: Always let your brining solution cool completely (chilled is even better) before adding the meat.
- Always refrigerate meat while brining: For safety reasons, keeping meat refrigerated during the brining process is important.
- Never reuse pork chop brine: You should never reuse brine or marinade as you could transfer dangerous bacteria to your food.
How to Grill Pork Chops (Step-By-Step)
This is an overview of how this dish is made. You’ll find all the details (ingredients, quantities, and instructions) in the printable version of the recipe below.
Step 1: Brine the Chops
Combine half 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 the remaining cold water along with lightly crushed garlic cloves. Set the brine aside to cool completely, then arrange the chops in a container large enough to fit them in a single layer.
Pour the brine over the top and move the chops around a little to ensure the brine touches all surfaces. Alternatively, you can brine your chops in a zip-top freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible, and seal it tightly. Refrigerate the chops for at least 1 hour (up to 2 hours), turning them once midway through the brining time.
Step 2: Season the Pork Chops
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. Season both sides of the chops, if desired, with some of our homemade Pork Chop Rub. Alternatively, you can rub them with olive oil and season them with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Important note: Because of the salt in the brine, be careful how much additional salt you use.
Step 3: Grill the Pork Chops
Oil the grill grates thoroughly and add the chops. Grill them for 4 minutes on the first side, turn them, and continue grilling for 2 minutes longer. Check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer and remove the chops from the grill when they reach 135 to 140°F (for medium). Don’t overcook! Always allow the pork chops to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
How to Grill Pork Chops
- 4 bone-in pork rib chops, 3/4 to 1-inch thick – see notes
- 2-1/2 to 3 tablespoons [Pork Chop Rub], see notes for substitutions
For the brine:
- 4 cups water, divided
- 4 tablespoons kosher salt, (1/4 cup)
- 8 tablespoons granulated sugar, (1/2 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
Brine the pork chops:
- Make the brine by combining 2 cups of water with the salt and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 cups of cold water along with the garlic and refrigerate to cool at least to room temperature. If you have the time, make the brine ahead and chill it.
- Arrange the pork chops in a container large enough to fit them in a single layer without too much extra space, and pour the brine over the top. Move the chops around a little to ensure the brine touches all surfaces.
- You can also brine your chops in a zip-top freezer bag. Remove as much air as possible, and seal it tightly.
- Refrigerate the chops for at least 1 hour (up to 2 hours), turning them once midway through the brining time.
- As the end of the brining time approaches, preheat your gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat (about 400°F).
Season the pork chops:
- Remove the chops from the brine and pat them dry on both sides with paper towels. Discard the brine.
- Sprinkle about one (1) teaspoon of Pork Chop Rub on each side of the chops and rub it into the meat with your fingertips or the back of a spoon (see recipe notes for substitutions).
Grill the chops:
- Oil the grill grates and add your pork chops. Grill them for 4 minutes on the first side, turn them, and continue grilling for 2 minutes longer. Check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer and remove the chops from the grill when they reach 135 to 140°F (for medium). Don't overcook!
- Allow the chops to rest for 5 minutes before serving.