We tested 3 different grilling techniques to grill some pork chops to test what is actually the best way to grill them. Every recipe we had found called for searing the pork chop then finishing it over indirect heat. Since this is the way I grill almost any small item we never called into question weather or not it was right or not. Chops grilled using this technique tend to turn out with a texture and taste similar to a beef strip steak.
It is important to note here that the pork chops used here were 3/4 to 1 inch thick and from the same package. A larger pork chop may grill up differently for you.
The three techniques we used were: grilling it directly over the flame from start to finish, searing the outside then moving to indirect heat, and indirect heat from start to finish. All of the chops were grilled until the internal temperature was 155 then they were placed on a plate and tented with tinfoil for about 5 minutes, so that they would reach the USDA recommended 160 degrees.
The pork chops used were all about 1 inch thick and marinated in basically an Italian salad dressing and spice mixture for 24 hours before grilling. At the end of the grilling process they were all coated with a barbecue sauce type mixture.
Direct Heat: The chops that were cooked directly over the flame the entire time obviously were the first ones done. During the grilling process you could see them shrink, they took to the finishing sauce well sucking it up almost as fast as I could brush it on. The finished product was the toughest and driest of the three variations and also the blandest of the bunch.
Direct then Indirect: These cooked in a very similar way to the chops cooked over direct heat from start to finish. These chops did not shrink as much, the shrinking looked like it stopped when they were moved to the indirect heat. They also sucked up the sauce well. These were a little more tender, flavorful and juicy then the chops grilled over direct heat from start to finish, however the difference in all three aspects was minor at best.
Grilled over Indirect Heat: I placed these onto the upper rack of my grill for the entire cooking process, turning once. They only took about 5 minutes longer to cook then the other chops. When grilling with this technique the pork chops actually swelled up instead of shrinking they grew approximately 25 to 30% in size. The finishing sauce would not stick to these at all; I had to apply several coats of sauce just so you could tell it was sauced. These by far, turned out to be the best of the three variations. They were tender, juicy and we could actually taste the spices from the marinade along with the sauce.
The Bottom Line:
Everything you have read about grilling pork chops until now is wrong! The only advantage that I can see to grilling them over direct heat is the grill marks. While the overall presentation of your dinner may suffer the additional flavors will make up for it.
Spices and sauces can really become the star of the show when they are not cooked out of the pork.
One Final Note: I really have to give the wife props for coming up with this idea. Pork chops are not something that we grill often because frankly, they never turned out that well. This little experiment may have changed that.
About the author: Mike is the owner of 4thegrill.com, a Certified Food Safety Professional and KCBS member.
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