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Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops


Serves 4

Bourbon has vanilla notes that pair well with smoky grilled pork; here it's enhanced further by the vanilla extract in the brine. For even more smoky flavor, throw some hardwood chips that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes over the coals before grilling these chops (or, for a gas grill, wrap the soaked chips in foil and place over the burner).

For the brine
  • 1 oz. kosher salt (1/4 cup if using Diamond Crystal; 2 Tbs. if using Morton)
  • 1/4 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
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Brine the pork chops
It's always a good idea to brine pork before grilling it. It’s a mild, lean meat that needs the extra flavor and moisture that brining provides.

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.

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.

Make the spice rub

Combine all of the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl or jar.

Grill the chops

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect cooking over medium-high heat (400°F to 450°F).

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.

Make Ahead Tips

The spice rub will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

Serving Suggestions

For a terrific smoky-sweet side, grill a few halved, pitted, ripe peaches and serve them with the chops.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 350, Fat (kcal): 20, Fat Calories (g): 180, Saturated Fat (g): 7, Protein (g): 36, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8, Carbohydrates (mg): 4, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 3.5, Sodium (g): 730, Cholesterol (g): 100, Fiber (g): 1,

Photo: Scott Phillips

Wow!! This is a must try recipe! We order a whole pig from a farmer, so we will have meat available in our deep freeze all winter long. I am always looking for new ways to cook pork chops and well this was fantastic! The chops were so tender and the rub had just the right amount of spice and complex flavor. It is not often that my family keeps chewing on the bones after a meal, but this was "finger licking" good!

Perfect. Juicy, tender, cooked to perfection. The spice rub complements the hint of bourbon and vanilla perfectly. There were oohs and aahs from everyone that shared the meal. You can read my full review at Taking On Magazines:

YUMMY! I am not a 'kitchen wizard' and am new to grilling - I made this recipe for my parents who gave me the grill, and found it very easy and delicious. The rub has a bit of spice that pairs nicely with the undertones of the bourbon and vanilla. I did not have the 'sweet' Hungarian paprika so used regular paprika instead. I followed the recipe exactly - it took me 30 minutes to make the brine and the rub - quick and easy! The chops were 1 1/2" thick and cooked very quickly (about 4 minutes after the initial searing/marking) You cannot walk away from the grill! I look forward to making this recipe again - a lot of 'bang' for this novice with not a lot of kitchen time or cook time needed. Perfect!

I made this as written for a dinner party and everyone loved it! I am going to make it using a pork tenderloin and serving it as an appetizer at our New Year's Eve party. Can't wait!

AMAZING! Made it exactly as written, though I brined the chops a bit longer than called for because I was out and couldn't get back at 4 hours. Not sure what the complaints are about on other reviews. Yes, it has GREAT flavor and yes you CAN taste the delicious brine as well as the spice rub. My suggestions would be (though it should be obvious) make sure you use high-quality vanilla and bourbon to get the best flavors. I will be making these again and again and again.

Disappointed with this recipe. It sounded so good and the brine smelled yummy. The rub (as written) is so overpowering that you don't get the wonderful brine flavor. I agree with previous posts that the black pepper, cayenne and even the cumin need to be halved. They take over and it is just spicy and we love spicy. I ended up making a homemade smoky BBQ sauce to go with and the combination of spicy and sweet worked in a pinch but not what I was going for :( I may try again with a few modifications.

First: don't shy away from this recipe if you don't have 3-4 hrs for brining. I hate it when people review a recipe they've made changes to without trying the original first, I have to confess that I didn't go exactly by the recipe - but here's why: I really wanted to try it but didn't have 3-4 hrs for brining.I halved the brine since we only had 2 chops and left it in the brine for only about 1.5 hrs. It turned out GREAT!! Not sure if more brining time would have made it better; chops were juicy, tender and flavorful. Definitely a keeper. Only changes I would make: A bit less of the peppers (black & Cayenne)in the rub; it was pretty peppery and we like spicy &/or hot. Second, I have some powdered vanilla so I think adding it to the rub would make the chops even tastier - will try it next time. Cooking time was dead on - my chops were a little thinner so I had them on high heat about 1 min per side and only cooked them 3 1/2-4 minutes over indirect heat. I did tent them with foil for about 4 min. Perfect! I would have a somewhat neutral or "bland" side to offset the spiciness of the chops. Scalloped potatoes, a pilaf, that sort of side. Update 1/23/12 - I have made this many times, including last Saturday. (Served with Mac & Cheese). I've decided this is my go-to pork chop recipe and may never make any other kind. The chops are always tender, juicy, flavorful and the cooking time is perfect.

toooooooooooooooooooooo salty. The brine and spices in the rub overpowered the taste of the pork chop.

A new favorite pork recipe! I served it to co-workers and became a star instantly. Flavors were great and blended well together. I understand some of the comments regarding the amount of pepper but I personally like it spicy. Thank you, FC.

Wow, relatively simple and scrumptious! Just allow enough time to brine because it makes all the difference. All four men... boys in my house fought over them even though they told me to never make chops again. Trying to wean them off pork tenderloin which is so expensive and this recipe delivers. Only note is that I would back off the cayenne by half so it doesn't steal the show next time.I missed the more subtler favors of those other yummy spices.

These were a hit. One big I will change next time though is cutting back on, or cutting out altogether, the salt in the dry rub. With the salt in the brine and salt in the rub, it was a little too salty for us, but very good none-the-less. The flavors in the brine worked wonderfully and the chops came out very juicy and tender. I'm going to save the left-over rub for a pork roast. I think the salt in the rub will be fine on something that hasn't been in a brine.

Made it exactly as written for 19 family members at the beach. It was a huge hit and my boys 13 and 15 pronounced them the best pork chops EVER! Making again this week by popular demand. The vanilla and bourbon notes are a beautiful subtle backdrop to the amazing crunchy rub.

I've made several recipes from this article. This particular recipe sounded interesting. My husband and I loved it. Although, brining time made this recipe a weekend only dish.

This was unique and delicious. I did cut the pepper and cayenne by half because my kids were eating too, but it would be good either way. I served it with butternut squash which was an amazing complement to the nuanced flavor of the pork.

One of Fine Cooking's rare misses. Made no changes and brined for the full amount of time. Flavors never blended; simply unacceptable. Would not make again and given the results, unlikely to try other recipes in the article.

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