Brined Pork Chops with Grilled Stone Fruit
The grilled pork chop is a classic. It pairs well with lots of different flavors and has plenty of flavor on its own. But it can also be the most leathery piece of meat you have ever tried to eat. That’s because pork is generally bred to be fairly lean and is often overcooked. To do it right, buy thick chops and brine them, then grill them over indirect heat.
For the basic pork brine:
- 6 cups water
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. juniper berries (optional)
- 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbs. kosher salt
- 1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
- 6 bone-in pork chops, each at least 1 inch thick
- 6 ripe but slightly firm plums, peaches or nectarines, halved and pitted
- Canola oil for brushing
To make the brine, in a large bowl, combine the water, vinegar, brown sugar, thyme, juniper berries, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper and stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Use immediately.
Place the pork chops in a large sealable plastic bag and pour in the brine. Seal the bag closed, squish the brine around the chops and refrigerate overnight.
At least 30 minutes before you plan to begin grilling, remove the chops from the refrigerator and remove them from the brine. Discard the brine, rinse the chops briefly in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
Prepare a grill for indirect grilling over medium heat; the internal grill temperature should be 350º to 375ºF. If using charcoal, bank the lit coals on either side of the grill bed, leaving a strip in the center without heat, and place a drip pan in the center. If using gas, preheat the burners, then turn off 1 or more of the burners to create a cooler zone. Brush and oil the grill grate.
Place the pork chops on the grill over the direct-heat area and sear, turning once, until nicely grill-marked on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Move the chops to the indirect-heat area, cover the grill and cook until the chops are somewhat firm to the touch, about 15 minutes for medium, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the center of a chop, away from the bone, registers 145ºF.
Transfer the chops to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, brush both sides of the fruit halves with oil and grill over the direct-heat area, turning once, until nicely grill-marked, about 2 minutes per side. Serve the pork chops immediately with the grilled fruit on the side. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Grill Master, by Fred Thompson (Weldon Owen, 2011).