Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops

Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops

These Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops may be the highlight of my summer grilling (and summer hasn’t even started yet). They’re absolutely amazing.

Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops | | These Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops may be the highlight of my summer grilling (and summer hasn't even started yet). They're absolutely amazing.

Be still my heart, the grilling issues are beginning to appear. So far I’ve only seen two, but considering that we’re still just dipping our toes in the beginnings of May, I know that there are many more magazines dedicated to my favorite method of cooking to come.

I saw this recipe in Fine Cooking’s newest release on my grocery store’s shelf last week. As I joined a few other people in paging through a publication, the title caught my eye before I even glanced at the photo.

Honestly, though, I didn’t buy that magazine because I knew I had still the issue in which the recipe originally appeared in 2011. So, I went home headed to the file cabinets in the basement and rifled through my stash until I found what I needed (thank you, Fine Cooking, for making your index so incredibly easy to search through).

This amazing dish comes from Bruce Aidells, one of my culinary heroes. The man knows meat like no one else. When the issue first came out, I made the Bacon Burgers with Bacon-Onion-Balsamic Jam and the Five-Spice Chicken with Hoisin-Maple Glaze (both of which I definitely need to revisit) from the same article. I’m glad that Fine Cooking reminded me that I wasn’t finished yet.

The Process

Chef Aidells says that he always brines pork before grilling to provide it with extra moisture and flavor. I gotta say, he made a convert out of me with this recipe.

I used a four-cup measure to whisk together the brine ingredients, then just plopped it in the fridge to cool down. When ready, I put the chops in a dish (I used center-cut bone-in chops, not the rib chops called for in the recipe), poured the brine over them, covered it all in plastic wrap and refrigerated everything for four hours.

When it was time to grill, I mixed together all the spice rub ingredients, removed the pork from the brine, patted it dry and covered it with rub. Following Chef Aidells’ instructions, I set my grill for indirect head, but put the pork chops directly over the coals for the first five minutes, turning them once.

I moved them to the cooler side, covered them and let them cook for another 12 minutes before removing them to a plate, covering them and letting them rest for a few minutes before we ate.

The Verdict

You’ve probably already figured out that these are really good. I mean really, really good.  The bourbon and vanilla are there, complemented perfectly by the touch of heat from the spice rub. It’s an incredible combination.

The chops? Perfect. Juicy, tender, cooked to perfection. The recipe’s a keeper and will be re-visited again and again … and again.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

Don’t mess with a perfect thing.

Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops Recipe

Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Reviewed by:
Recipe type: Grilling
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
For the brine
  • 1 oz. kosher salt (1/4 cup if using Diamond Crystal; 2 Tbs. if using Morton)
  • ¼ cup bourbon
  • 3 T bs. dark brown sugar
  • 2 T bs. unsulfured molasses
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 4 bone-in pork rib chops (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches thick; 2 to 3 lb. total)

For the spice rub
  • 1 Tbs. sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 1 Tbs. dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground dried sage
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. ground cayenne
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp. ground ginger
  • ⅛ tsp. ground cinnamon
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups warm water with the brine ingredients; stir until dissolved. Add 1 cup ice to the bowl and stir to quickly cool the brine to at least 45°F.
  2. Put the chops in a 9x9-inch (or similar size) baking dish and pour the brine over the chops. They should be submerged. Cover with plastic wrap and put on a tray (in case of spills); refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours (3 hours for thinner chops, 4 hours for thicker ones). Remove the chops from the brine (discard the brine), and pat them dry.
  3. Make the spice rub
  4. Combine all of the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl or jar.
  5. Grill the chops
  6. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect cooking over medium-high heat (400°F to 450°F).
  7. Sprinkle 2 to 3 Tbs. total of the spice rub generously over all sides of the chops. Grill the chops over direct heat, flipping once, until dark brown grill marks form on both sides, about 2 minutes per side (move them to indirect heat if any flare-ups occur). Once the chops are well marked, move them to the cooler side of the grill, cover, and cook until their internal temperature registers 140°F to 145°F on an instant-read thermometer, 4 to 6 minutes more per side. Transfer the chops to a serving platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.