We recently hosted a barbecue for a group of our friends. On the menu that evening were applewood smoked pork chops with jalapeño apricot chutney to pair with Bush’s Texas Ranchero Grillin’ Beans. Ole’s here to show you how easy it is to transform your everyday charcoal grill into a smoker for the pork chops.
People who know me know that I live for cooking outdoors, and they are usually most curious about the ribs and pulled pork or briskets that I make on my smoker because it’s a technique that can be intimidating and requires specialized equipment. I’ve been asked what type of smoker I work with and how I prepare the meats and what kind of spices or sauces I use.
The bottom line is though, that’s it is not as hard or equipment intensive as you might think. Recently we had a backyard barbecue that illustrated that point perfectly where I smoked pork chops for a large group. This technique could also be used to smoke several different types of smoked meats.
Don’t stop reading! I know you’re thinking, “I don’t have a smoker, so clearly I can’t make this dish.” Not true! If you have a grill, you have a smoker. The only elements you need for smoking are low heat and smoke. We can do that in a plain old kettle grill without any fancy or expensive additions.
Now, these instructions are for a charcoal grill, but you could use a gas grill as well. However, that gets a bit more complicated. We’ll talk about setting up your grill first, and then we’ll get to the meat. It’s very easy:
- 1. Pick up two deep foil buffet (half size) pans.
2. Using a large screwdriver poke about 20 small holes in the bottom of one pan.
3. Place that pan on the charcoal grate of your grill pushing it as far to one side as possible.
4. Fill the pan about 2/3 full of lump charcoal and a few chunks of hardwood (oak, maple, hickory) or fruitwood (apple, cherry), chips work too.
5. Add about 25 pieces of lit, red-hot coals to the other coals and wood chunks.
6. Invert the second pan over the first. You will probably have to manipulate the two to make them fit. A loose fit is fine. I used a dollar store pizza pan to cover mine.
7. Place the cover on the grill and adjust the bottom air vents wide open for about ten minutes and then close them almost completely for about 15 minutes.
You’ll have to play around with the bottom vents to get your temp right, but you are shooting for somewhere between 230 and 250. Now you’re ready to smoke.
It’s time to talk about the pork chops. This recipe takes a bit of forethought, but is not difficult. To enhance the flavor and seal moisture into the chop, we’re going to use a brine. Your brine should be made up about 24 hours ahead of time.
Combine the salt, brown sugar, sage and thyme and four cups of water in a saucepan. Heat until all the salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour the mixture into your brining vessel, a bowl with a lid or a large zip top bag works well. Add in the crushed garlic. Then add ice and cold water to bring the volume up to one gallon. If the brine is not cold, refrigerate it until it is. Add the pork chops to the cold brine and let them sit and keep cold for 24 hours.
When it’s time to cook, prepare your smoker according to the directions above. Rinse and dry the chops and place on the grate on the side without the coals and close the lid. After 30 minutes, flip the chops and let them smoke for another 20 minutes. At this point, check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. Your target temp is 145.
The chops are great on their own and will have a wonderful salty, smoky flavor, and the brine will keep them from drying out. You can up your flavor game with your favorite sauce, glaze or chutney as an accent. We went with a jalapeño apricot chutney made with grilled apricots. Start by grilling your apricots.
The chopped apricots combine with red pepper, purple onion and plenty of jalapeños for heat, as well as white wine vinegar and thyme. Simmer until it thickens and you’re done.
Invite a group of friends over, serve up a buffet brimming with food: chops, chutney, beans, potato salad, chips, cupcakes, vegetables and dip, fruit salad and more. Then sit back and enjoy the company.
These directions will lead to great pork chops, but the smoking technique above is great for other cuts as well, try it with chicken thighs or drumsticks. You can even do it with ribs or more exotic meats. Your imagination is the limit here, and once you harness the power of smoking you’ll really learn the versatility of your plain, old charcoal grill.
If you haven’t yet entered the Bush’s Beans Grilling Kit Prize Pack, you have through the long weekend! Enter for a chance to win an Emile Henry Dutch Oven, $50 GC, Rosle Barbecue Tools and a Bush’s Beans apron and can opener.
4 cups water
275 grams of kosher salt (weight really is the best method here)
250 grams of brown sugar
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon thyme
2 cloves garlic crushed
12 cups of very cold water or ice equivalent
1 1/2 cups jalapeño apricot chutney, recipe below
Heat 4 cups of water in a saucepan and dissolve salt and sugar, adding sage and thyme along the way. Add mixture to a bowl with a lid or a large zip-top bag and add garlic and enough cold water or ice to make one gallon. Refrigerate the brine if necessary so that the mixture is completely cold. Add the pork chops and allow them to soak in the cold brine for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, remove the chops from the brine, rinse with cold water and dry thoroughly. Place on a smoker or modified grill at 230° F for 30 minutes. Flip and allow to continue to smoke until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees (approximately 20-30 minutes). Remove from the grill and allow to rest. Serve with warm chutney.
Jalapeño Apricot Chutney
8 apricots, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
4 jalapeños, seeded and diced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grill apricots over medium heat until golden brown. Cool slightly and dice. In a large skillet, heat olive oil and sauté red pepper, red onion and jalapeños for 2-3 minutes. Add in apricots, white wine vinegar, water, maple syrup, thyme and salt and simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens to a syrup. Keep warm and serve over smoked pork chops.
Makes 4-6 servings.
This post is part of a sponsored series of posts I’m doing for Bush’s Beans.