Monday, September 27, 2010

Grilled pork chops

Over the past ten years or so I've been an avid user of our gas grill. I tried cooking all the standard staples of the barbecue: seafood, steak, skewers, chicken, burgers, hot dogs and polenta. With little question, though, my biggest challenge over the years has been the unassuming pork chop. Unlike, say, for drumsticks, an unforgiving minute or two with chops on the grill can take you from being underdone (and posing a health risk) to chewy. Having grilled chops scores of times over the years, here's my best known method.

1) Use chops that have never been frozen or are thoroughly thawed. A frozen core compromises temperature uniformity throughout the meat. Cooking the center properly forces the exterior to be overdone.

2) Apply your favorite seasoning or rub. As for resting time before cooking, consult your recipe. I've found that giving at least four hours for a rub to settle enhances flavor. Our family favorite, the mustard seed rub, is pictured below and is taken from Weber's Big Book of Grilling:
-1 teaspoon each of mustard seeds, celery seeds, thyme
-1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
-1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper and cayenne (we used chili powder instead)

3) Drop your chops onto the grill, directly over a medium flame. Close the hood. After about four minutes, check to see that the surface is completely cooked (that is, nothing raw showing). If not, give the chops another 60 seconds and look again. Once the surface is free of any pink, it's time to flip. Again, after about four minutes, check the surface for doneness.
4) With both sides browned, you're now ready for indirect heating (two photos below). Keeping the flame at the same level, move your chops to a section of the grill that isn't directly over a flame. Flip after about four minutes.

5) Check for doneness. This is the hard part, even with the cheating that I'm about to recommend. Find your thickest chop. Make an incision, about a half an inch long, midway down the thickness of the chop. If you see juice that's at all red or pink, you need more time. Flip the chop over to let the incision heal up (for aesthetics). Check every 90 seconds or so, making sure that both sides of the chops get equal time facing the grill. Once the juices are clear, you're done!