Like others among her generation, my mother was raised with a fear of undercooked pork. The culprit, of course, was trichinosis, the food-borne illness caused by undercooked meat. To avoid the risk, folks were encouraged to cook pork to a temperature that eliminated risk of illness--as well as any porky joy at the table.
Mercifully, trichinosis (and a generation of dry, chewy meat) is extremely rare these days, and we’re able to choose from different varieties of pork, including heavily marbled heritage breeds like Berkshire (known as Korabuta in Japan) that are less likely to dry out and offer a rich, deeply satisfying pork flavor. You still need to cook meat to a safe internal temperature, but with the tricks, you don’t have to sacrifice texture.
Five Secrets to Perfectly Grilled Chops:
- Start with great pork (preferably center-cut chops from heritage breed)
- Lock in moisture with seasoning
- Flip frequently over the fire
- Finish over indirect cooking
- Allow for carryover cooking
If seasoned at least an hour in advance, spice blends that contain salt dissolve muscle proteins, allowing meat to retain more moisture as it cooks. When you’re cooking with specialty meat like Waygu beef or Berkshire pork, the goal is enhancing the meat’s character without masking it. For that reason, my go-to for splurge cuts (like a whopping bone-in porterhouse chop or Tomahawk steak) is The Usual. Coarse salt, cracked black pepper, garlic and rosemary bring out the best in these cuts, without overpowering their distinct character.
Berkshire Chops with The Usual
- 4 thick (1 to 1 ½-inch) boneless Berkshire pork chops
- Olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons of The Usual
Place the pork chops on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, and season both sides of the chops with The Usual. Use your hands to evenly coat the pork with spices and oil. Refrigerate the meat for an hour or up to 24 hours, and then it from the refrigerator an hour before cooking. (Place the meat on a plate for a shorter brine, for a longer brine place it on a wire rack inserted into a baking sheet so the meat will develop a dry exterior.
Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire. Clean and oil the grill grates. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, place the pork chops over direct heat, close the grill, vent for smoking, and cook for about 3 minutes. Flip the chops and rotate them around the heat as needed for even browning, and close the grill.
Continue to cook, flipping the chops every 3 minutes or so, until both sides are nicely browned (8-10 minutes total, depending on the thickness of chop). Use tongs to transfer the chops to indirect heat and cook until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chop reads 135 F (just beyond medium-rare).
Remove from heat and allow the chops to rest for 10 minutes, allowing carryover heat to bring the meat to a luscious and juicy 145 F.
Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe.
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