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How to make juicy Smoked Pork Chops
You don’t have to choose between juiciness in your pork and smoke flavor – you can have it all! These juicy smoked pork chops have the best of both worlds.
Dry pork. Dry Turkey. Dry, sad chicken. It’s not uncommon to hear horror stories of attempts to cook leaner cuts and proteins on a smoker. The nature of the dry heat of the smoker can often wreak havoc on more delicate meats. Until now, it’s been a choice between wanting the smoke flavor, but also dealing with a dry result. But NO MORE! This recipe give you everything you could hope for in a smoked pork chop. Epic meat appearance. Juicy, moist flesh. Delicate smoke flavor. Rendered fat cap. Trust me when I tell you that these juicy smoked pork chops have it all. But, the success of this recipe is dependent on a few key principles and details:
The pork chops need to be double cut.
What is a double cut pork chop? Basically, it just means a chop that has two bones in it. So while traditionally a pork chop only has one bone per chop, these big mama jamas have two. This is great news for your smoking interests. See, the other thing that determines a successful smoke is the physical size of the cut you are putting in there. That’s why big chunky whole muscle cuts like brisket or pork shoulder do so well – the sheer size of them can stand up to the smoke bath. By the same logic, a thicker mega-chop has an even better chance of getting smoke kissed without taking on some jerky-like qualities of dryness. You can ask your butcher to double cut your chops for you, or there are some great online options like Porter Road where you can order them pre-cut like that.
You need to brine the meat.
It doesn’t matter if you have the thickest pork chop known to man, you need to brine it. The loin meat (thats the big part of the chop) is wayyyyy leaner than other pork cuts. The loin chop is even more susceptible to drying out, because it doesn’t have all those lovely seams of fat to keep it “internally basted” as something like a pork butt does. And so brining is essential. When you cook meat, water is always lost during the cooking process. In fact, the meat is made up of around 70% water! Brining basically forces extra water into the meat BEFORE cooking, so that when you do lose water during the cook, the final result should be as juicy as if you’d never lost any in the first place. Confused? Hopefully not. But just in case, all you need to know is this: brining is the step that is going to make your meat moist. Moist. Yeah, I said it.
The actual cooking part is going to be a two step process.
Now, you COULD make it a one part process if you’re feeling like you wanna be lazy or keep things simple. Lord knows we’ve all been there. And if you wanted to take that shortcut, simply serve them after the smoking stage – they will be cooked and safe to eat. BUT, if you want to really take things to the next level, you might want to consider searing your pork chop after the smoke stage. Contrary to popular belief, searing meat does not lock in any juices. What it does bring is an incredible depth of flavors and aromas. Not to mention a lovely seared crust. Perhaps most importantly, the sear lets you render out some of the chop fat cap, which will transform into golden, crispy edges.
The one essential tool you need for safety AND meat perfection.
Pork needs to be cooked to a “safe” temperature to help avoid illnesses like trichinosis. Though trichinella is rarely found these days, it is certainly better to be safe than sorry. This is most easily done by using a meat thermometer to measure the finished internal temperature of your pork chop. You can use an instant read thermometer or you may choose to use a probe style thermometer which remains lodged in the meat during cooking. Aside from safety, the main advantage of knowing the precise temperature of your pork chop is that you will not overcook it. THIS is the key to avoiding dry pork! A note of caution – when using your thermometer, make sure you are only temping the meat, and not accidentally touching the bone or pushing through to the grate, as this will give you a false reading.
Options for the searing stage.
To add the final flavor layer to this dish, a charcoal grill is recommended, and my preferred fuel is Kingsford briquettes. If you wanted to avoid lighting a whole grill, you could use the chimney sear method. Or, opt for the searing (pun fully intended) hot surface of a cast iron pan.
The right seasoning is crucial.
With all the effort you’ve made with the perfect brine, selecting the wood, smoking AND searing the chop, it would be a shame to use anything less than the perfect seasoning. Hardcore Carnivore Red is what I used to get the incredible color on the pork chops you see below. It’s all-natural, MSG free, Gluten free and WAY lower in sugar than other pork rubs. In fact, it’s actually keto friendly. Perhaps more importantly, it tastes great. Chunky flecks of Texas-style coarse black pepper, garlic and just a few other spices to even out the magic.
How to make the juiciest Smoked Pork Chops
- 2 x double cut pork chops, about 1.5lb each
- For the brine: 1/2 cup kosher salt, 1 cup brown sugar, 5 x 12 oz cans of peach nectar, 2 quarts cold water
- 3-4 tablespoons Hardcore Carnivore Red seasoning
- For the spritz: 1 cup water, 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- Start by making the brine. Pour one of the nectar cans into a small saucepan with the sugar and salt. Place over low heat, stirring frequently until dissolved. Allow mixture to cool, then combine with remaining water and nectar. Submerge pork chops in the brine solution and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
- Preheat a smoker, pellet grill or indirect heat grill to 250f.
- Drain the brine and pat each chop with a paper towel making sure to dry the surface well. Season generously on all sides with Hardcore Carnivore Red rub.
- Place the chops into the smoker and allow to cook until internal temperature reaches 138f. This will take about 1-2 hours depending on thickness. Spritz the pork chops with the water/cider mixture every 20 minutes.
- Once at temperature, remove the pork chops and cover with foil to rest. At this stage, they are still slightly below 'safe' temperature, and will finish cooking during the sear process. If you prefer to smoke only, remove the chops once they reach 140-145f.
- Heat a charcoal grill to high heat (500f+) and get ready to sear the chops (see text above for searing options). Place the chops meat side down to sear, about 1-2 minutes, then flip and sear the other side. Finish by searing the fat cap side for 1-2 minutes, but be cautious of flareups.
- Serve immediately.
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