Grilled Coffee-Molasses Brined Pork Chops with a Coffee Rub Recipe

Uncooked pork chop with dry rub. Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara MiklasevicsLooking for something a little different to cook as we are in the thick of grilling season? Pork is a versatile meat and goes well with many different flavorings and spices. And brining, soaking meat in a saltwater solution, is the modern trick for making today’s lean pork firm and juicy. Adding sweeteners, such as brown sugar and molasses, helps to bring out the sweet flavors of pork and balances the salt in the brine, notes meat expert and author of The Great Meat Cookbook Bruce Aidells, who contributed this recipe to Real Food. Coffee complements some of the caramel-bitter tones of the molasses to give the pork a mysterious flavor without knocking you over the head with a strong flavor, he adds. It also complements the smoky overtones from grilling these pork chops. Plan ahead as soaking in the brine for a few hours is recommended—but you can either grill after that or up to two days later, making this an easy do-ahead dinner.

Even uncooked, the pork chop’s color and texture contrasts pleasingly with the earthy tones of the dry rub, giving a hint of the delicious meal to come. Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

Grilled Coffee-Molasses Brined Pork Chops with a Coffee Rub 

Makes 4 Servings

4 1¼ to 1½-inch thick rib pork chops, on the bone (about 8-10 ounces each)

2 cups brewed and chilled strong black coffee
2 cups water
¼ cup kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup ice cubes

2 teaspoons finely ground coffee, freshly ground
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1. For the Brine: Combine the coffee, water, and salt and stir until dissolved. Stir in the pepper, brown sugar, and molasses until dissolved. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and ice to cool the mixture to about 40°F. 

2. Place chops in a large zipper lock bag and pour in the brine. Place the bag in a bowl in case there is a leak and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Remove chops from brine and proceed with the recipe or store wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 2 days until ready to grill.

3. For the Rub: In a small bowl, combine the coffee, brown sugar, pepper, and rosemary. Sprinkle generously over the chops. 

4. Grill over medium-hot coals for about 2 to 4 minutes, flip and grill 3 to 4 minutes more or until the internal temperature registers 140-145°F. Transfer to a warmed platter and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Chef’s Note: Another way to grill chops is to use a covered grill and indirect heat. First, sear the chops for 1½ minutes per side over high heat, then transfer to a part of the grill that has no coals or fire underneath. Cover the grill and cook indirectly for 8 to 10 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 140-145°F. Rest 5 minutes then serve.

Nutrition Info (Per Serving): CALORIES 243 (96 From Fat); FAT 11g (Sat. 4g); CHOL 87mg; SODIUM 81mg; CAR B 5g; FIBER 0g; PROTEIN 30g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.