IT’S OPEN GRILLING SEASON !
This winter was just the pits, wasn’t it? I don’t know who was more screwed up this year, Mother Nature or that dam groundhog, all I know is that I don’t have to BBQ in my coat anymore.
Winter grilling is mostly steak. It’s quick and easy. No matter how much of a Foodie I am, I’m not freezing my ass off outside for the art of food. Besides, there’s never a bad time for a rib steak.
But now that this amazing weather is here, you gotta enjoy it, Barbecuing is one of the best ways to do that, especially at night. No, wait, lemme take that back, at dusk.
Alright, holding off on the cow for a little while, what else goes great on the grill? Aha! Here Piggy, Piggy…
Grilled Pork Chops
I love pork chops made on the BBQ, the smoky quality that pork picks up is just irresistible to me. I remember when I was a kid, my mom would make the most amazing pork chops, they were golden brown around the edges, juicy in the center and smothered in Saucy Susan. They were the perfect combination of soft, salty and sweet. I can work up a really good drool just thinking about them.
However, no matter how many times I tried to re-create that comfort food from my childhood, something was always off. Way off. First, they were always dry. Then, there was this strange flavor that I just couldn’t put my finger on, maybe it was just, well… more… piggy? I don’t know, either way, not what I was looking for from my childhood fantasy.
I felt so deprived that sometimes I would even dream about my mother’s pork chops. (This is not an uncommon problem among sick and twisted food enthusiasts. Hey, don’t you guys ever dream about boats?) No matter what I tried, I was always left feeling disappointed and ordering in a pizza. I just came to accept that some things are better in our memories than in real life.
Then, one day, luck struck. Funny how things work sometimes, I had just accepted defeat when I read this article about The New Pork. Thank goodness, I wasn’t crazy, pork WAS different. Whew! Now, understanding that age for women is a sensitive subject, I am not going to be specific, but let’s just say that I now understood that mom’s pork chops were far enough back to be referred to as The Old Pork.
Confused? Let me explain.
Several years ago when the good old USA went health crazy, the pork industry took a real hard hit. So, Uncle Sam got together with the pig farmers and decided to re-work Porky and make him a little more appealing to the new health-conscious consumer. Changing the feed and living conditions produced a cleaner/leaner product, hence, what we now know today as ‘the other white meat’. (That never did sounded right to me) The problem was that now the product tasted totally different. Don’t get me wrong, I am always for better quality in food, but let’s be real, if it doesn’t taste good, who cares how healthy it is, I’m not eating it.
Anyway, now I had an explanation, so what was the solution?
First I had to find a way to make pork chops juicy and remove that funky flavor. The answer was right in my cupboard, directly in front of my nose, salt and sugar. What if I made a brine? Hey, it works for chicken and turkey, why not pork? On went my apron, out came my notebook and no one was allowed to bug me until I got it right. After working several combinations and making a huge mess in the kitchen - I finally got it. It was so easy and I could throw the whole thing together that morning and leave it in the fridge until I got home if I wanted to.
Second, size did matter! The other problem I noticed was that supermarket pork chops were traditionally cut kind of thin, this made it a lot harder to cook them without drying them out. So I turned on the charm and asked my friendly supermarket butcher if he would kindly cut some chops extra-thick for me. He was more than happy to do it. I chose rib chops that were 1 ½ inch thick; this made all the difference in the world when cooking them.
Third, the cooking method. My mom cooked everything on the stovetop. However, with the weather finally BBQ appropriate, there was just no other option. I got my grill smoking hot and spankin’ clean for the occasion and whipped out my handy dandy meat thermometer.
Now for the seasonings. I knew just how I wanted my chops to taste, like mom’s but with a little touch of my own, so kosher salt and Magic Oil it was. After brining, I wanted the chops to come close to room temperature so after I coated them with the Magic Oil and sprinkled them with kosher salt, I covered them with plastic wrap and let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes. I was almost ready to go.
But wait! I didn’t have any Saucy Susan in the house…ugh, what to do? I wasn’t running to the store this late at night so I raided my refrigerator, praying to the food gods all the while and low and behold, there it was…. apricot jam!!! Saucy Susan is a combination of peach and apricot preserves so I figured that it couldn’t be that bad. I put some in a bowl and threw it in the microwave it for 20 seconds.
Okay, everything is set, let’s give it a shot. Are you ready?
4 Pork Chops – 1 ½ inch thick (any cut you like)
6 Cups Cold Water
1 Cup Kosher Salt
½ Cup Sugar
Ice Cubes – 1 full tray
3 Tbs. Magic Oil
5 Tbs. Apricot Jam (or Saucy Susan)
Kosher Salt – for sprinkling
In a large bowl combine the water, salt and sugar, stirring until dissolved.
Add the pork chops and the ice cubes and refrigerate for 1 hour. You can put the chops, brine & ice in a large Glad zip freezer bag and set it in a large bowl to avoid spills.
Remove chops from brine, pat dry and coat evenly with Magic Oil and kosher salt. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.
Microwave jam just before grilling and have a brush or spoon handy for coating.
Get your grill piping hot.
Place chops in the grill and don’t move them for at least three to five minutes – you want nice grill marks. The meat will release easily when it’s ready to be flipped. Then flip it.
Brush the topside of the chop with the melted apricot jam and wait until it starts bubbling. Don’t use all the jam.
Wait another solid 5 minutes and give the chop a little yank. If it gives, insert your digital probe meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chop - without touching any bone or the grill itself. I go right into the side.
Your goal internal temperature is 135°. Once the chops hit that, take them off and leave the thermometer probe inserted.
Let the chops rest, covered with tin foil for at least 5 to 10 minutes so that the internal temperature has the chance to rise to 145° and the juices have a chance to redistribute.
Place them on a serving platter jam side down and give ‘em a final brush with the remaining jam on top. They will be so deliciously smoky and juicy, you’ll thank me.