Before getting into some great pork chop recipes and how to cook the perfect pork chop, it is important to know that there are many cuts labeled "pork chops." Whether it's bone-in or boneless, loin or rib chops, the most important factor to consider when grilling a pork chop is its thickness.
Thin-cut chops (under 3/4-inch thickness) need to be handled differently from thick-cut pork chops (anything over 3/4-inch thickness). Thin chops will dry out faster, so they need to be cooked hotter, while thicker chops need time to get cooked through the middle without drying out the surface and need to be cooked slower. It might sound backward, but it works. Before we get grilling pork chops, though, let's make sure we maximize their moisture, tenderness, and flavor.
Brining is a great way to add moisture to any meat and is particularly beneficial with pork. The real benefit, however, is going to be with thicker cuts of meat. When grilling thick-cut chops, a good brine will certainly help.
A brine is a saltwater mixture (about 1 tablespoon table salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar to 1 cup of water) that the meat soaks in to add moisture. Brining thick-cut pork chops should take 2 to 4 hours. Remember to thoroughly rinse the chops after brining to remove the excess salt.
For thinner chops, a good marinade is the best way to go. Marinades cannot sink into the meat as a brine will, but they add a protective layer to the chops while injecting loads of flavor. A good example of a basic marinade is a good quality Italian dressing. It contains oil, vinegar, and water as well as herbs and spices. Thin chops can be sufficiently marinated in as little as 30 minutes. The marinade will tenderize the meat and protect it from the intense heat of the grill.
You can always skip the brines and marinades and season the surface of your pork chops with herbs and spices (or simply salt and pepper). This will not add moisture or help to tenderize the chops, but it will add a lot of flavors. This method is recommended only if you are going to grill your chops to medium or lower doneness. Overcooking will leave you with a chop that is too dry and tough.
Combining Preparation Methods
Brines contain salt, so nothing else you do to the chop should have salt in it. You can brine and dry rub, but make sure to choose a rub without salt. Brining and marinating in combination is not recommended because the processes counteract each other. Similarly, if you are marinating, then you're already adding the rub, you are just putting it on with the marinade.
Grilling Thin Pork Chops
Thin chops should be grilled hot and fast. Don't step away from the grill because thinner pork chops will cook very fast. The trick is to grill them like you would a steak—over intense heat, flipping as little as possible.
Preheat your grill to as hot a temperature as it will go. Place the chops on the grill and close the lid for 1 minute. Open the lid and rotate the chops 45 degrees without flipping. Close the lid for another minute. Flip the chops over, and close the lid again. After a minute, rotate the chops 45 degrees and finish them off. With an ultra-hot grill and thin chops, you should be ready to eat in 4 to 5 minutes.
Grilling Thick Pork Chops
Thick chops need slower heat to get them cooked without drying them out. What you want to do is sear the surface to get them cooking. Preheat your grill as high as it will go (if you are using charcoal, build your fire hotter on one side for searing and leave a cooler side for finishing them off). Put the chops on the grill and close the lid. After one minute, open the grill and flip the chops. Close the lid for one minute. Then turn down the heat to medium (or move the chops to the cooler side of your charcoal grill). Rotate the chops to get your cross hatch marks, and let them cook for about 3 minutes with the lid down. Then flip the chops over and continue cooking for about 4 more minutes. It is best at this point to turn your grill down to its lowest setting (or close the vents on your charcoal grill). Allow pork chops to continue cooking until the center reaches 145 F/65 C.
Resting Your Pork Chops
Once the chops are cooked the way, you like them get them off the grill. Place on a warm plate and cover with aluminum foil for 5 to 10 minutes to let them rest. This recovery period lets the meat loosen up, and the juices flow through the pork chop. This is the most important part of the whole process.