Today’s recipe is a combination of two recent events in our house. First, I recently bought a remote grill thermometer, and I was itching to try it out. The thermometer has has two probes: one that goes in the meat and one to gauge the overall grill temperature. It’s an easy way to keep an eye on both the grill temp and your food without having to open the grill lid. Plus, it has a wireless receiver so I can keep an eye on the temperatures from afar, perfect for some wintertime grilling.
Second, we recently came across a beautiful French Rack of Pork at our local market, which is a shoulder pork loin still attached to the ribs; basically, it’s a rack of center cut pork chops. As luck would have it, the rack was on sale; my guess is that it intimidated customers and the store was having a hard time selling it. Either way, we couldn’t turn down the price, so I dragged the big hunk of meat home and the rest is history.
I decided to smoke the rack on my gas grill, which would allow me to give it a flavorful crust without overcooking the tender meat inside. Just to be safe, I brined the pork overnight to keep it from drying out, which was also a good call. The end result was crisp on the outside, and ridiculously juicy and flavorful on the inside.
for the brine:
1 French Rack of Pork (8-10 lbs)
1/2 cup each kosher salt and honey
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp allspice berries
for the rub:
2 tbsp each black pepper, coconut palm sugar, paprika
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp each cayenne or chipotle powder, garlic powder, onion powder
Pour 1 quart water into a stockpot, add the kosher salt, honey, peppercorns and allspice berries. Heat the stockpot on high heat and stir everything together with a wooden spoon until the salt and honey are dissolved. Remove from heat, pour in a bunch of ice and stir everything around until the ice melts and the water turns cold, or at least room temperature. Place the rack of pork in a 2-gallon resealable plastic bag and add the brine, then fill with enough water to fully submerge the pork. Seal the bag and put it in the fridge overnight, up to 12 hours. If you have room in your fridge, you can put the rack of pork directly in the stockpot and brine it in there (be sure to cover the stockpot when you put it in the fridge).
The next day, remove the pork from the brine and dry with paper towels. Place it on a wire rack on a baking sheet to air dry for 10 minutes; as it dries, combine the remaining ingredients. Spread the rub all over the pork (you’ll probably end up with a little leftover rub, which is fine), then let sit for another 20 minutes while you prep your grill.
In a small aluminum pan, place 3-4 mild wood chunks, like cherry or apple. Put the pan over a burner under the grates, then turn on your grill to high heat on all burners for 10 minutes. Turn off all burners but the one that’s under the wood chunks, and adjust the temperature as needed to get to 300-325 degrees. If you’re using a charcoal grill, the setup will be similar, with your charcoal and wood chunks on one side.
When you have a stable grill temperature, add the pork rib-side-down, with the bones facing the hot part of the grill.
Smoke the rack until it pork reaches an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees (about 1.5 hours). If you don’t have a fancy thermometer, you can use a quick-read thermometer to easily check your progress. Once it reaches temperature, remove it from the grill, allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then slice into chops.
I enjoyed the simple flavors of the pork chops with just a little garnish of fresh dill, but something like applesauce would be just as tasty.