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Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops

Scott Phillips

Servings: 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

Nutritional Information

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


Brine the pork chops

  • 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 9×9-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.

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


Rate or Review

Reviews (18 reviews)

  • choffman | 07/25/2017

    Fantastic recipe! I served this over a bed of arugula with grilled peaches. I also made a side of grilled corn on the cob with compound butter made with extra spice rub from the recipe. Everyone loved it. Some very minor changes: I have vanilla flavored bourbon which I substituted in equal measure for the bourbon and vanilla. I also eliminated the salt from the spice rub (but not the brine) and slightly reduced the amount of cayenne due to other comments (but this was probably not necessary).

  • LArcher | 05/14/2016

    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!

  • User avater
    TheMomChef | 05/05/2016

    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: http://www.takingonmagazines.com/bourbon-and-vanilla-brined-pork-chops/

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