With their lean meat and tender texture, pork chops are a great choice for the grill. However, these qualities are also a liability: They don’t contribute much in the way of flavor. That’s where smoked pork chops come in.
You can purchase pre-packaged smoked pork chops, which are quick and convenient. However, it’s not that difficult to smoke them yourself. Here’s how to cook smoked pork chops so that the meat tastes even better than the farmers intended.
How To Cook Smoked Pork Chops
You can find smoked pork chops at the supermarket, where they’re usually sold with the bone in. If the chops have been hot-smoked, they’re fully cooked and just need to be heated through, whereas cold-smoked chops require more cooking time. It’s also possible to make smoked pork chops at home using fresh raw pork.
Smoked Pork Chops: A Beginner’s Guide
Like regular pork chops, the smoked ones come from the loin of the pig. After butchering, they’re either hot- or cold-smoked to give them a much-needed flavor boost.
While hot-smoked pork chops are fully cooked, the cold-smoked ones are not. If you’re not sure which ones you’re buying, check the texture. The hot-smoked ones will be firm to the touch, but cold-smoked chops have more in common with raw ones.
Our guide is divided into two categories. In the first one, we’ll describe how to prepare the cold-smoked pork chops that you can buy from the supermarket. Next, we’ll dive a little deeper to explain how you can smoke the meat yourselves.
Smoked pork chops are usually sold on the bone, but it’s possible to buy boneless ones. For the methods listed below, we’ve assumed the use of bone-in chops. If the meat is boneless, the chops will cook more quickly.
How To Cook Smoked Pork Chops: 3 Easy Techniques
These techniques assume that the meat has been cold-smoked, but not fully cooked. If your pork chops have been hot-smoked, you only need to warm the meat until it’s heated through.
On the Grill
It should come as no surprise that this recipe for grilled smoked pork chops is our favorite of all the ones listed here. It’s just as easy as the rest, and it has the added benefit of delivering excellent grill marks to the smoked meat.
Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill. Alternatively, you can set a gas grill to medium heat, or set the temperature on a pellet grill to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil the cooking grates.
When the grill is ready, place the smoked pork chops on the cooking grate so that they’re about 5 inches away from the heat source. Let them cook for about 5 minutes per side. For pork chops that are more than 1/2 inch thick, give them 7 minutes per side.
After the pork chops have reached an internal temp of 145 degrees and the outsides are lightly charred, remove them from the heat. Serve at once with whatever sides you prefer.
On The Stovetop
This is another quick and easy method, and one that works well if the weather is too cold or rainy for grilling.
Set a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and wait for the pan to heat up. The oil should be shimmering, but not so hot that it gives off smoke.
Add the pork chops to the skillet and let the meat cook for 2-3 minutes. When the oil begins to smoke, it’s time to turn the pork chops. Let them cook for 2 minutes on the other side, until the meat is nicely browned.
Extra-thick pork chops might require a little extra cooking time. If they measure more than 3/4-inch thick, you should cover the pan after you turn the chops and allow them to cook to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this point, the meat should be fully cooked with a lovely crust on the exterior. Serve immediately.
In The Oven
Oven roasting is a largely hands-free method, which makes it almost foolproof. Use the oven if your side dishes are taking up too much room on the stovetop.
Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While it’s heating up, set an oven-safe skillet on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil.
When the oil begins to shimmer, set the pork chops in the pan and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on one side. When the cooked sides turn brown and crisp, turn off the heat and flip the meat to the other side.
Transfer the pan to the oven. Let the pork chops roast for 20 minutes, until they’re fully cooked and golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve at once.
How To Smoke Pork Chops at Home
If you have the time and the equipment, you can buy fresh raw pork chops and smoke them yourself. We prefer this method because it allows you to control the seasonings, not to mention the amount of smoke flavor and the type of wood chips that you prefer. The end result will also be lower in sodium than the store-bought type.
Selecting Pork Chops for the Smoker
First of all, choose the nicest bone-in center-cut pork chops that you can find. Ask your butcher to cut them about 1 inch thick. When buying pre-packaged pork chops, look for the thickest ones on the shelf.
When you’re smoking pork chops at home, boneless ones aren’t an adequate substitute because they’ll overcook before they can absorb all that lovely smoke flavor. If you want to try smoking boneless pork chops at home, make sure to adjust the smoking times accordingly, and pay close attention to avoid overcooking the meat.
While you’re shopping, consider stocking up on a fresh supply of wood chips or pellets. We like to use oak for smoked pork chops, but you can experiment with whatever flavors you prefer. Maple is a nice alternative, especially if you’ll be serving the chops with sweet potatoes or roasted vegetables.
A Word About Brining
Brining the pork chops is an optional step, but it’s well worth the effort. Soaking the pork chops in a brine solution will help them retain their moisture, resulting in meat that’s both flavorful and juicy.
To make a brine, combine 16 ounces of apple juice with 2 ounces of apple cider vinegar. Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. From here, you can experiment with the seasonings. Toss in a handful of whole peppercorns, a sprig or two of fresh herbs, or a few tablespoons of brown sugar.
Put all the ingredients in a sturdy zip-top bag, then add the pork chops. Make sure the meat is completely submerged in the liquid when you seal the bag.
Set the bag on a plate and place it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Don’t place it directly on the shelf, and make sure it’s on the bottom level. Otherwise, the brine could leak out and contaminate other ingredients you have stored in the fridge.
Preparing the Pork
Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. For pellet grills, you’ll need to fill the hopper with pellets in advance. Otherwise, add the wood chips according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Remove the pork chops from the brine and pat them dry with paper towels. Trim off any excess fat. If you’ve decided not to use a brine, you might want to add a thin layer of prepared yellow mustard to the chops to help the spice rub adhere.
In a small bowl, combine kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. Rub this mixture all over the prepared pork chops. Set the meat aside until the smoker is ready to do its work.
Cooking the Chops
Place the pork chops on the cooking grate and close the lid of the smoker. Let them cook until the internal temperature registers 110 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. For pork chops measuring 1 inch thick, this usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.
At this point, remove the pork chops to a clean plate and tent them with foil. Increase the smoker’s temperature to 450 degrees.
Once it hits the target temp, return the pork chops to the smoker and continue to cook until their internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. Flip them and let them cook until the instant-read thermometer registers 145 degrees. Remove the chops from the heat.
As an alternative, you can sear the smoked chops in a skillet. After you increase the smoker temp to 450 degrees, add a cast iron skillet to the cooking grate. When the smoker is hot enough, add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet. Add the pork chops and cook as directed above.
Let the pork chops rest for 10 minutes before enjoying. You can serve the pork with a side of applesauce or your favorite barbecue sauce, but we prefer to savor them without any further adulteration. If the smoker has done its work properly, the meat will have a delightful smoky-sweet taste.
Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours.
If you love the savory taste of smoked foods, these recipes can be a game-changer. While regular chops serve as a broad canvas for an array of different flavors, smoked pork chops have their own distinctive character. What’s more, when you buy the pre-cooked variety, it’s virtually impossible to mess them up.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!