Once you get those lovely grill marks on the exterior of your pork chops, it can be hard to tell whether they’re cooked through in the center. You don’t want to take them off the heat before they’re ready, but with lean meat like pork, overcooking is a real hazard. Let’s find out how to tell if pork chops are done to perfection, or if they need more time on the grill.
How To Tell If Pork Chops Are Done
When a thermometer probe inserted into the thickest portion of the pork chop holds at 145 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat is fully cooked. At this temperature, the pork should have a springy, firm texture. The meat should be mostly white throughout, with only a slight tinge of pink, and the juices should run clear when you cut into it.
A Word About Food Safety
Pork chops need to cook to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit before they’re safe to eat. That’s true of all pork products, despite earlier recommendations that cited a safe cooking temperature of 160 degrees or above.
Some tough, fatty cuts, like pork butt and smoked ribs, need to cook longer in order to render out the fat. However, that’s not true of pork chops. The meat is cut from the loin area, perpendicular to the animal’s spine. Therefore, it has a lean texture that will dry out if it cooks too far past the 145-degree mark.
Most of us have suffered the indignity of consuming pork chops that were dry and tough as a result of overcooking. That’s what we’re here to help you avoid.
How Long To Grill Pork Chops
How long does it take to cook pork chops on the grill? The answer depends on a number of factors:
- Grill temperature: Over high heat, the chops will cook through more quickly
- Type of Pork Chop: You can expect bone-in chops to take longer than their boneless counterparts
- Thickness: Obviously, a razor-thin chop will be done sooner than one that measures a couple of inches thick
In order to help you get the best results from each type of chop, we’ve outlined their average cooking times below.
We recommend grilling boneless pork chops over medium-high heat, or 400 degrees if you’re using a pellet smoker. At this temperature, expect the pork chops to cook for about 7 minutes per half-inch of thickness, flipping the meat halfway through the grilling time.
For example, if your pork chops are only 1/2 inch thick, they should cook for 3-1/2 minutes per side for a total cooking time of 7 minutes. Chops that measure 2 inches thick should stay on the grill for roughly 28 minutes total.
Grilling bone-in pork chops takes longer, but when the job is done right, the meat should be extra flavorful.
For bone-in chops, add 5 minutes to the total cooking time, using the same calculations listed above. Therefore, a bone-in pork chop that measures 1 inch thick should cook for 9-10 minutes per side.
A grill temperature of 400 degrees works well in most cases. If the pork chops are super thick, consider turning the temperature down to 350-375 after searing (see Tips On Grilling Perfect Pork Chops, below) to avoid excessive charring.
Tips On Grilling Perfect Pork Chops
Choose Thicker Chops
Thin pork chops will cook through fast–so fast that they can turn from an appetizing meal into shoe leather in a heartbeat. Whenever possible, aim for pork chops that measure 1 to 2 inches thick. These will hold up better to the high heat of the grill, remaining nice and juicy throughout.
Sear The Meat
Consider ramping up the grill temperature to 450 degrees and searing the chops for 2 minutes per side right away. This will sear in the juices and give you impressive grill marks to boot. If you want your grill marks to form a grid pattern, rotate the chops by 90 degrees after the first minute for each side.
Bonus Tip: If you’ve seared the meat for 4 minutes beforehand, remember to deduct those minutes from the total estimated cooking time.
Switch To Indirect Heat
Should you decide to sear the chops at the outset, move them to a cooler section of the grill to finish cooking. Otherwise, they might dry out. Thicker chops might even burn on the outside before the insides have cooked to a safe temperature, especially if they’re bone-in.
Brine The Meat
Adding the pork chops to a brine solution for 30 minutes prior to cooking will tenderize the meat and help it retain moisture.
For each 1- to 2-inch chop, use a solution of 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. If you’d like a sweeter brine, add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar to this formula. Don’t brine the chops for longer than 12 hours, or they’ll be too salty.
Bonus Tip: If you elect to skip the brine, remember to add a generous amount of kosher salt to the pork chops before adding them to the grill, along with whatever other seasonings you prefer. Lawry’s Seasoned Salt is another good choice.
If the pork chops are excessively damp to the touch, they won’t sear properly. Pat the meat dry with paper towels before adding them to the grill. This is especially important if you’ve brined the chops beforehand.
Watch The Temperature
Every grill is different, and the temperature may fluctuate as you cook the pork. Remember to check the grill thermometer periodically to make sure the temp isn’t dipping too low or rising too high.
Let Them Rest
The resting period is the key to perfectly cooked meat. Since pork chops are a small cut, they don’t need to rest long. 3 to 5 minutes should be sufficient, depending on size.
How To Tell If Pork Chops Are Done: 3 Simple Techniques
1. The Temperature Test
The only way to be certain that pork chops are perfectly cooked is to check the internal temperature using an instant-read thermometer.
Insert the thermometer probe into the center of the pork chop, taking care to avoid any bone. Hold it in place for a few seconds. When the numbers hold steady at 145 degrees, the chops are ready to come off the grill.
2. The Touch Test
If you’ve ever pressed your finger against a raw pork chop, then repeated the process with a fully cooked chop, you’ll know that there’s a noticeable difference in the texture. Raw meat is softer and yields beneath gentle pressure, whereas cooked meat is firm and springy to the touch.
You can apply this knowledge to help gauge the doneness of grilled pork chops, using parts of your own face as a guide. The area below the cheekbone feels like rare meat, while the divot between the lip and chin feels more like medium-rare. The tip of the nose has the same texture as medium-cooked meat, and well-done meat feels more like the forehead.
When you press your finger into the center of the grilled chop, it should have a texture similar to the tip of your nose. At this point, it should be fully cooked, yet not so well-done that it resembles the hard bone of your forehead.
Note that you should always wash your hands–or at least apply a liberal dose of hand sanitizer–if you’ve touched your face before handling the cooked meat.
3. The Nick-and-Peek Test
This is our least favorite method, as it requires cutting into the meat before you can be sure that it’s done. If you decide to use it, try to limit the damage to just one pork chop.
When you’re approaching the end of your estimated cooking time, take one of the pork chops off the grill. Use a sharp small knife to make a tiny incision in the center of the meat and peek inside. If the meat looks mostly white and opaque, with only a hint of pink (see the section below), then it’s probably done.
What If The Pork Chops Are Still Pink In The Middle?
Don’t worry if you cut into the pork chops and see a little bit of pink. As long as the meat has cooked to the correct internal temperature, it’s safe to consume. If you wait for the meat to be white throughout, there’s a good chance it will be too dry when it’s time to eat it.
Note that while a slight pinkish hue is acceptable, the juices should run clear when you cut into the meat. If you see pink liquid running out onto the plate, you should return the chops to the heat to finish cooking.
The Bottom Line
While there’s no substitute for a well-calibrated meat thermometer, you might be able to tell when your chops are done by look and feel alone. The more practice you have, the easier it will be to estimate cooking times and serve flavorful, juicy pork chops every time.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!