If you’re like us, you might have grown up eating pork chops that were about as thin as a piece of cardboard, cooked in a frying pan until every last bit of life-giving moisture was driven out of them, and “topped” with some sort of canned fruit or grits or something to add edible flavors and textures back to an otherwise suitable substitute for a hockey puck. Well, as much as we love nostalgic foods here in the shoe box, we don’t mind the abandonment of tradition every now and then. (Editor’s Note: Okay, so my mom called after reading this – OOOPS! I admit, I may have exaggerated juuuust a bit – they weren’t THAT bad. Love you, momma! Your mac’n'cheese is still the best in town!!)
We like to buy center-cut pork loin chops that are at least 1.5″ thick. Bone-in are preferable, but sometimes harder to find unless you have a kind butcher.
We let these chops sit on the counter for an hour or so to come closer to room temperature, then we coat them with olive oil and a dry rub. For the rub, we often reach for our favorite Dizzy Pig variety, supplemented with an equal portion of turbinado sugar. Alternatively, we might go with our “pork rub mixture” of turbinado sugar, kosher salt, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, and allspice. Experiment and figure out what you like – it’s a lot of fun. Just remember – in our opinion, anyway – pork always benefits from a little something sweet.
We let our chops sit with the rub for at least 15 minutes while we prepare our Big Green Egg for the cook. During this time the rub mixes with the olive oil to start working magic on what will become the delicious crust of your pork chop.
A brief tangent here is appropriate, just to explain our approach to grilling thick cut (at least 1.5″) pork or beef steaks. We use a method made popular by a good friend who goes by “TRex” in the Big Green Egg Forum community. His “TRex Method” calls for a high temperature sear, followed by a 20 minute “rest” at room temperature, followed by a “roast” at 400 degrees until the meat reaches your desired temperature. The rest period allows for the meat to relax after the intense sear, thereby resulting in a more tender steak. We’ve had consistently good results using this method for thick steaks.
For the searing step, we like to get our Green Egg up to at least 750 degrees, then we throw the chops on for about 90 seconds per side, giving them a 45 degree turn at the 45 second mark, which gives the chops those nice cross-hatch grill marks.
After searing the chops we simply put them on a plate and let them rest for 20 minutes, during which time we idle our Green Egg back to 400 degrees. But before putting them back on for the roasting period, we invite a special friend to the party.
This is a chunk of guava wood, cut and shipped straight from a tropical guava forest on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. For just $28 bucks, the really kind folks at Guava Wood Farms will send you a very well packed flat-rate box containing 12 pounds of hand-split fist-sized guava wood chunks. We just love the subtle and sweet aroma of guava wood; the light smoke from guava works very nicely to season highly-smoke-absorbent meats like pork, fish, and chicken. And it’s the secret flavor that makes these chops stand from what you’re used to.
We never soak our smoking wood (and hey, the folks in this month’s issue of Cook’s Illustrated agree with us!!). For just a 10 – 12 minute roasting period, one fist-sized chunk placed on the perimeter of the fire will work beautifully. After the Egg has been idling down for about 15 minutes, we throw in the guava chunk, and about 5 minutes later we typically see the smoke rising. Oh, and look for a translucent blue smoke – that’s the good stuff. White smoke is typically bad.
As when cooking any meat – but especially with pork – internal temperature is key. We take our pork chops to 135 degrees, which takes roughly 6 minutes per side for a 1.5″ chop in a 400 degree cooking atmosphere. (We like to use a Thermapen to measure internal temperatures because of its fast response time and small, unobtrusive tip.) Let the chops rest for another 3-5 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to settle back into the interior of the meat. During this time the internal temperature will coast to about 140 degrees, which should give you just the slightest pink in the center*. You want your pork to be a little pink – it will be more tender, more juicy, and therefore much more flavorful this way. If you take it above 145 degrees, you will quickly approach shoe leather.
*THIS IS OKAY! If you buy your pork from a trusted place, you have nothing to fear. Trichinosis was a legitimate concern in the U.S. when our parents were growing up, but not anymore.
We served these chops alongside a spinach salad with feta and fresh strawberries and some roasted broccoli with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yum.
(Editor’s note: We noticed that this post was full of plugs, so we thought we should make the disclaimer that TheshoeboxKitchen is neither endorsed by nor receives free stuff from any of the folks that were plugged in this post. We just think that folks who do things well should be recognized and recommended to others. It is our hope that these recommendations will help make your experience in the kitchen more enjoyable.)