Best Charcoal Grill-Smoked Pork Chops from Cook’s Illustrated Summer Grilling 2011

All hail the pork chop. I’m not a Simpson’s fan, but I do stand with Homer in his love for chops. I love a good pork chop and it’s one of the meats that I can eat any way it’s made. Skillet-fry it, I’m happy. Throw it on the George Foreman, no problem. Grill it, nirvana. 
I’d have been disappointed with Cook’s Illustrated if they hadn’t included pork chops in their issue dedicated to  grilling. But, they didn’t let me down.  In fact, this is a two-fold win because not only is there a recipe for a sauce for pork chops, but there’s a technique taught that I’ll use over and over again.
One reason I have to use the technique at least once more is so I can give it a try with the right kind of chops. It requires skewering the chops so they stand upright while smoking but the kind I had were too skinny and floppy and it was, well, a flop. Literally and figuratively. I can’t show you the technique, but there’s a great diagram of it in the magazine (hint, hint).
So, to make this work, the coals need to be started first so they have a nice red glow going. Hubby does that. He hates doing it, but he’s nice enough to do it nonetheless. (Thanks Hubby.) While that’s happening, make the sauce, which is a combination of ketchup, molasses, onion, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, cider vinegar and brown sugar. Yes, it’s a lot like a barbecue sauce. It will sit and simmer on the stove and reduce a good bit. 
Salt and pepper the pork chops, put them on the skewers and wait for the coals to get pretty. Pile half along the back side of the grill and half along the front side, leaving the center clear. The standing up skewered ribs go in the middle, off the direct heat. Close the lid and let them smoke for 30 minutes or so. Oh, I said smoke. Don’t forget to put some soaked hickory chips on both piles of coals before adding the chops. It’s hard to smoke something without wet wood.
After 30 minutes, the skewers can be removed and each pork chop gets one side slathered with the sauce and then is laid sauce-side down over the coals, two on each side. While the saucy side is sizzling and browning, brush some sauce on the top side so when it’s time to flip, that side can get nice and crispy too.
Even with the wrong pork chops, you can see how well this method worked. They were perfectly cooked (I did reduce the smoking time since my chops were thinner). The smoke flavor worked its way into the meat just like it was supposed to. We enjoyed the sauce (Dudette said it was too spicy but we both noticed that she ate every bite on her plate), but honestly, I’m looking forward to giving these a try with just salt and pepper. I love plain ole’ smoked pork chops. 
It’s another winner of a recipe and a keeper from Cook’s Illustrated.
Best Charcoal Grill-Smoked Pork Chops
Sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup light or mild molasses
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Chops
2 cups wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes
4 bone-in rib loin chops (12 ounces each), 1 1/2 inches thick
4 teaspoons kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons table salt)
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for cooking grate
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to around one cup and thickens, approximately 5-7 minutes. Set aside 1/2 cup sauce in a small bowl.
Light charcoal. When covered with a thin layer of ash and glowing, create two piles on either side of the grill. Add half of the wood chips to each side and heat the grate until hot, with the cover down. Scrape hot grates with a metal brush and oil the grates with paper towels dipped in vegetable and held with tongs.
Dry the chops with paper towels and make cuts around the edge of the chops to prevent them from buckling. Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper to taste. Put chops side by side with the curved rib bone facing down. Push two skewers through the  meat of each chop, close to the bone, approximately 1 inch from each end. After the chops have been threaded on the skewers, pull them apart so there is one inch of space between each.
Place the row of chops, bone side down, in the center of the grill. Cover the grill and cook until center of chops read 120 degrees; approximately 30 minutes.
Pull the skewers out of the chops, lay them flat and brush one side of each with sauce. Move the chops, sauced side down over the coals and cook, uncovered, until they brown and sizzle 2-4 minutes. Repeat brushing on the top of the chops and flip them over.  Chops should read 145 before removing them from the grill.
When removed, allow to rest, tented with foil, for 5 minutes or so. Serve with the reserved sauce.

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