Essential Pork Grilling Tips
We’re firing up the grill and sharing some tips for grilling pork to perfection.
Pork is a prime candidate for grilling. It cooks through quickly and takes on plenty of smoky flavor. And with a fresh salsa or a light herb sauce, it’s the perfect protein for warm summer evenings.
Follow these steps for great grilling results!
Pick Your Pork for Grilling
Grillers have plenty of options to choose from when picking their proteins. Pork chops are delicious on the grill, and they cook quickly. Look for chops cut at least 1” thick, so they don’t cook too quickly and dry out. Bone-in or boneless pork chops are both great on the grill.
Pork tenderloin is another cut that’s ideal for grilling. Tenderloins are thicker in the middle, which helps them to stay nice and juicy on the grill while achieving a crisp crust.
For a real showstopper, try grilling pork shoulder or pork butt. These big cuts have to be cooked slowly over indirect heat. It could take up to 6 hours, but this ultra-tender pork makes a wonderful weekend meal.
Even pork sausages from Coleman Natural are delicious on the grill. Serve them in a bun, or slice them up and add them to small foil packets with veggies for a quick, mess-free grilled dinner. Get our recipe for Personal Foil Packet Dinner here.
First, season your meat. Don’t skimp on the salt! Pre-salting your pork will draw internal water to the surface. The liquid will then dissolve the salt and reabsorb back into the pork. This method helps distribute salt throughout the cut. The larger the piece of meat, the earlier you should salt it. For small pork chops, 30 minutes to 2 hours before cooking will be enough. For a big pork shoulder, salt well and let it rest overnight on a wire rack in the refrigerator.
Another option is to brine your pork. A brine is a salty liquid that helps introduce moisture and salt into the meat. Three cups of water with ¼ cup of salt is a good water-to-salt ratio. The amount of finished brine to make will vary depending on the size of your cut. You just need enough to cover the meat completely.
Heat the water over medium heat, and add salt when it reaches a simmer. Then, you can add aromatics if you choose, like citrus, bay leaves, peppercorn, or rosemary. Chill the brine in the refrigerator before adding the pork.
Pork chops only need about 30 minutes to brine — about as long as it takes to heat up the grill. Don’t brine chops for more than four hours, or they can get too salty, and the meat can grow mushy. A pork tenderloin will need more time, so aim for two to four hours of brine time. And a large pork shoulder can brine overnight.
Marinades with less salt can stay on your pork for much longer — like the marinade in these delicious Balsamic and Rosemary Grilled Pork Chops. Unlike a brine which adds moisture, a marinade’s purpose is to bring more flavor to your meat. Marinades often include an acid, like vinegar or citrus, to help bring brightness to the dish.
After brining or salting, pat your meat dry and add additional spices and flavorings like garlic, onion, BBQ seasoning, fresh herbs…there’s no limit! Just don’t add more salt.
If you plan to brush your pork with a high-sugar sauce, wait to apply until the last few minutes of grilling to avoid burning.
Finally, before you start your coals, brush your grill grate clean and apply a light coating of cooking oil to prevent sticking.
When your pork is prepped and the grill is hot, it’s time to get started! Grill your pork chops for just 3-4 minutes on each side. With a thicker pork tenderloin, grill for 12-15 minutes, turning every 2 minutes.
Opt for flipping more times on a cooler part of the grill, rather than searing on a hot spot. High heat will cause the outside to cook too quickly, and it will dry out before the inside can reach its finished temperature.
Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Pork should reach a minimum internal temperature of 145°F for medium rare and a maximum of 160°F for well done.
To cook a pork shoulder or butt over the grill, keep the temperature low, between 200 and 250°F. Low and slow cooking requires cooking your meat over indirect heat. On a gas grill, you’ll want to place your pork away from the burner. On a charcoal grill, you can stack your white-hot briquettes on one side, and position the pork on the other side of the grill. Place a pan of water beneath the pork to keep it moist.
The pork will need to reach at least 190°F to be tender enough to pull apart. This method can take a long time — up to 6 hours, depending on the side of your cut. But the resulting meat will be tender enough to pull apart with a fork!
When your pork chops have reached the appropriate temperature, remove them from the heat and let them rest on a plate, uncut, for at least 3 minutes. This preserves juices and ensures optimum flavor!
Let your pork tenderloin rest a little longer — 10 minutes should do. You can tent aluminum foil over the plate to help retain heat. And for a pork butt or shoulder, you’ll need to let it rest much longer — at least an hour.
While the meat is resting, you can grill veggies to enjoy as a side, or whip up a quick island salsa or sauce to pour over the top.
Serve and enjoy!
Ready to get your grill on? Try one of these recipes: