Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grilled Pork Chops

Serves 4

Brining is an easy step that really gives these chops some extra moisture, which goes a long way towards making them a real hit.  That and cooking them to the right temperature. You do not want to overcook these guys. In fact, if I can convince you to try it, err on the side of undercooking.  I always pull them out at about 138-14o°F, and let them come up to temp as they rest on the countertop for a few minutes. This way they’re juicy and a lovely blushing shade of pink.

It’s never fun being stuck at the grill, away from the guests.  So what I usually do is this:  Just before the guests arrive, I give the chops a quick grill, just a few minutes on each side, just long enough to give them some good grill marks and a nice smoky aroma, but not long enough to cook them through.  Then I transfer the chops to a wire rack placed over a baking sheet.  About fifteen minutes before we’re ready to eat, I pop them in a hot oven to finish cooking.  It’s a little trick that frees me up a lot and lets me be a more sociable hostess. 

Grilled Pork Chops with Orange-Tarragon Butter

For the brine :
2 quarts water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 pork chops (about 8 oz each)
vegetable oil, for grilling

Combine 2 cups water with the rest of the brine ingredients in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil, stirring, in order to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat, add the remaining 6 cups cold water and cool completely.  Add pork chops, cover and refrigerate at least six hours and up to 1 day.

About an hour before your guests arrive, pre-heat the grill.  Here’s a way to tell if your grill is at the right temperature.  Hold your hand right over it.  If you you can keep it there for five seconds, it’s not hot enough.  If you can’t hold it there for even a second, it's too hot.  Lightly oil the grill rack.

When the grill is hot, pat the pork chops dry with paper towels.  Place the chops presentation-side down on the grill.  Grill until well-browned on the first side, about 2-3 minutes.  Flip the chops over and grill 2 minutes longer.  Remove the chops from the grill and place on a wire rack arranged over a baking sheet.  Reserve until needed.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  (Start preheating the oven right about when the guests arrive.  It will come to temperature as you eat hors d’oeuvres.)  About 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, place the pan of pre-grilled pork chops in the oven.  Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 138-140°F, about 10 minutes or so.  The internal temperature is a really important indicator of how tender and juicy the meat will be.  So really try not to overcook the pork!  Here’s another trick that I highly recommend…  Get yourself a ‘leave-in’ thermometer.  (I know you can find them here.)  Here’s how they work – You insert a metal thermometer probe into the meat, then put it in the oven.  The probe is connected by an oven-safe wire to a digital temperature monitor that you keep outside of the oven.  You can program the temperature you’re after, and the thermometer will beep when your meat hits that mark.  It’s all too easy, and a bit of a cheat, but oh well, it ensures perfectly cooked meat every time!

Transfer the pork chops to a platter, cover them with a loose tent of tin foil, and allow them to rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving.   (The temperature of the meat will rise a few degrees even once it’s out of the oven, bringing the pork chops to the perfect doneness.  If you don’t rest them for a few minutes, they may be a little undercooked.  So don’t forget about this important step!)




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