With each passing day, I seem to find myself in the minority of people who actually like to cook. By cook, I mean bake, grill, cook, bartend, host…anything that involves food- I love. But, more often than not, the response I get is, “It’s just too much work,” or, “There’s too many steps.” It really pulls at my heartstrings. I get sad when I read or hear those statements. Hopefully, there are still people out there who enjoy this culinary journey I’m trying to take them on. These Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauced Grilled Pork Chops are my answer to the same boring pork chops day after day.
In our family, we eat pork. When I met my husband, I was coming out of a three-year vegan trip. “Trip” being the operative word because I was so malnourished, I was hallucinating. I still had yet to reintroduce pork and beef into my diet. Even chicken was a struggle because my constitution was weakened by the years I’d gone without it. My new fiancé wasn’t too impressed my with lack of pork consumption, though.
One day, while at a friend’s house, he asked her mother to fry up some pork chops. I was indignant! How dare he ask another woman to make him some food?!?!? So what if she was much older grand-mother figure- I’m sitting right-freakin’-here, Bro! I told him- well, I whispered to him (because I’m afraid of disrespecting adults),
“Let her make you a pork chop. I dare your behind to eat it!!”
“But, you don’t even touch pork!”
“You never asked me to! You’re over there asking her!”
“Well, will you make me pork chops?”
“Yes! You get on my nerves with your disloyal behind!”
…and that, ladies and gentleman, is a sign that the person you are engaged to be married to may, in fact, be a psychopath. Hector was either too oblivious or too in love to care so he didn’t heed the warning signs and here we are- twenty years later. GOT EM!!! Oh! I ended up breaking my three-year, no pork-eating streak that same afternoon. I haven’t turned back since, either.
For a long while, the only pork chops I would make were fried, Puerto Rican-style. These thick, grilled pork chops coated in this tangy-sweet blueberry sauce were created in an attempt to shake things up a bit. I’m glad I’m never content with the status quo. These work out perfectly for Sunday dinners, BBQs with the friends, or for Father’s Day when you want something special, but not too labor-intensive.
The first thing you need are thick-cut pork chops. I’m talking one-and-half to two inches thick thick. I prefer mine bone-in because that bone helps keep the meat from drying out, and it provides flavor. If you can’t find thick-cut chops, just use regular pork chops. The grill time will be reduced because they’re thinner, but I’ll address that in the recipe notes below.
On a parchment paper or foil-lined sheet pan, arrange the pork chops in a single layer so you can season them all at once.
Seasoning the pork chops will be simple because we want that blueberry-balsamic sauce to be the star flavor. In a small bowl, combine kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and granulated garlic powder.
Sprinkle a liberal amount of the seasoning on each side of the chops and use your fingers to rub the seasoning into the chops. Set these in the fridge while you heat the grill, and make the Blueberry-Balsamic BBQ Sauce.
Most charcoal grills take at least thirty to forty-five minutes to heat properly. This means we have time to start the coals, and make the sauce while they heat up. Pile up your charcoal briquets and spray them with lighter fluid. Light the coals immediately and allow them to heat until they are ashy and glowing red.
While that’s happening, head back into the kitchen to make your sauce.
In a medium-sized sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced red onion and the garlic. Minced is important because we’re not going to puree this sauce. The smaller the original cut of the aromatics, the more they’ll disintegrate while cooking- which is what we want. Sauté the onion and garlic until they are glossy and fragrant- about three minutes.
Add the fresh, or frozen, blueberries to the pot (reserving some for stirring in later) and toss them into the sautéed veg.
Did you know that a blueberry is not even “blue”? It’s violet. In fact, there are no naturally blue foods in nature. Very random, obscure fact that you probably don’t care about, but that I need to share in order to feel special. You’re welcome.
After about three minutes you should see a blueberry, or two, start popping. Stir frequently during this process to prevent the garlic from burning. You want to start getting those blueberries to soften and break up.
After the first few blueberries start to pop, add the balsamic vinegar. Use a high-quality vinegar. Find an olive oil and vinegar that are the best quality for the budget you’re working with. If you can’t drink it without gagging, don’t think you’ll be able to reduce it to a BBQ sauce and love it. Just putting that out there.
Add the tomato paste, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce (first time spelling go!), salt and pepper, chili powder, and dijon mustard. Stir all of this into the blueberry-balsamic sauce to combine. Bring this mixture up to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow all of that liquid (the blueberry juice and the vinegar) to evaporate. While you’re reducing your sauce, use the back of your spoon to smash some of the whole berries. Don’t get too anal about this, you still want some whole blueberries. This first reduction should take about eight minutes.
Once the sauce has reduced by half, add some sprigs of fresh thyme. Stir them in and continue reducing the sauce until you have about two cups in the pot. Don’t forget to stir and squish as you go. This part of the reduction should take about seven minutes, tops.
You can see the line from where it started and where it’s ended up.
A properly reduced sauce is thick and has a concentrated flavor of whatever you mixed in there- hence, the need for high-quality ingredients. Remove the sauce from the heat and remove the thyme stems. Divide the sauce in half: transfer one portion to a bowl for brushing on the grilled chops, and leave the remainder in the pot for reheating later and serving with the cooked chops at the table.
By now, your grill should be ready to use. Once the coals are ashy and glowing, arrange some in a pile (your direct-heat zone) and a shallow layer for your indirect cooking zone. If your grill has the ability to lower and raise the grate or the coal- as mine does- you needn’t worry about this step. Make sure your grill’s grate is oiled nicely to prevent the chops from sticking.
Place your chops onto the grill on the high-heat/direct-cooking side. Grill the chops for five or six minutes before turning. If you absolutely have to create cross-hatch marks on the meat, visualize your meat as a hands on a clock. After about three or four minutes, turn your meat from two o’clock to ten o’clock on your imaginary clock. That will give you those overrated grill marks. Seriously, no one’s grading you on the marks.
After flipping over the chops, brush their surfaces with the Blueberry-Balsamic BBQ Sauce using a silicone grill brush. Allow the chops to pick up some grill marks on the second side (this usually takes an additional four minutes), before flipping, saucing, and moving them to the indirect-heat part of the grill. If you have an adjustable grill, raise the grill’s grate or lower the coals to accomplish this. Cook the chops, with the cover closed for five minutes longer, or until a meat thermometer reads an internal temp of at least 145°F.
Remove the chops from the grill and allow them to rest for at least five minutes before serving. This rest time allows the meat’s juices to redistribute throughout the chop and keep that juicy bite we all covet. While you’re allowing the meat to rest, stir the reserved blueberries into the finished sauce and reheat over a low flame, just until hot. Once heated through, transfer to a serving bowl.
After you’ve allowed the meat to rest, serve the chops.
Spoon the Blueberry-Balsamic BBQ sauce over your Grilled Pork Chops to your heart’s content.
Hopefully, you won’t ever have to threaten bodily harm to your significant other for their lack of pork-loyalty. But if you do, at least you’ll have this recipe in your arsenal to revive them. Pin this recipe for those days when you need to switch things up, then share with your world.
Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauced Grilled Pork Chops
This blueberry and balsamic BBQ sauce is the perfect way to top any grilled protein. Try these thick cut pork chops, for starters!
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp kosher salt divided
- 1/2 tbsp granulated garlic
- 1 tsp + a pinch freshly ground black pepper divided
- 6 thick-cut 1 1/2"-2", bone-in pork chops (see note if using thin cut chops)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red onion minced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries separated
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- pinch of chili powder
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- grill or oven- see note for cooking instructions
In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp of kosher salt, the granulated garlic, and 1 tsp of black pepper. On a parchment paper or foil-lined sheet pan, arrange the pork chops in a single layer and season the chops liberally on each side with the spice mix. Use your fingers to rub the seasoning into the chops. Set these in the fridge until ready to grill.
Prepare your grill by arranging the charcoal in a pyramid, or pile. Spray the coals with lighter fluid and light the coals immediately. Let the coals heat until they are ashy and glowing red.
In a medium-sized sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and the garlic. Sauté until glossy and fragrant- about 3 minutes.
Add 2 cups of blueberries to the pot and toss them into the sautéed veg, stirring frequently. After the first few blueberries start to pop, add the balsamic vinegar, followed by the tomato paste, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, chili powder and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir all of this into the blueberry-balsamic blend to combine. Bring this mixture up to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the sauce for 8 minutes, using the back of your spoon to smash some of the whole berries during the cooking time.
Once the sauce has reduced by half, add the fresh sprigs of thyme. Stir that in and continue reducing until you have about 2 cups of sauce (about 7 minutes more). This process should take about 15 minutes.
Remove the sauce from the heat and remove the thyme stems. Divide the sauce in half: transfer one portion to a bowl for brushing onto the grilled chops, and leave the remainder in the pot for reheating serving with the cooked chops at the table.
Once the coals are glowing in your grill, arrange some of the coals in a pile (your direct-heat zone) and create a shallower layer for your indirect cooking zone. If your grill has the ability to lower and raise the grate or the coal- as mine does- you needn't worry about this step. Make sure your grill's grate is oiled nicely to prevent the chops from sticking.
Remove the pork chops from the fridge to allow them to warm up prior to placing them on the grill (about 10 min). Place your chops onto the grill on the high-heat/direct-cooking side. Grill the chops for five to six minutes before flipping over. After your first flip, brush the surface of the chops with the Blueberry-Balsamic BBQ Sauce using a silicone grill brush. Allow the chops to pick up some grill marks on the second side (this usually takes an additional four minutes), before flipping, saucing, then moving to the indirect-heat part of the grill. If you have an adjustable grill raise the grill's grate or lower the coals to accomplish this. Cook the chops, with the lid closed, for five minutes more, or until a meat thermometer reads an internal temp of at least 145°F.
Remove the chops from the grill and allow them to rest for at least five minutes before serving.
While you're allowing the meat to rest, stir the reserved blueberries into the finished sauce and reheat over a low flame, just until hot. Once heated through, transfer the sauce to a serving bowl.
Once the meat has rested, serve the chops. Spoon the Blueberry-Balsamic BBQ sauce over your Grilled Pork Chops to your heart's content and enjoy!
For thin-cut pork chops:
Reduce grilling time to 3 minutes on the first side and 4 minutes on the second side. Rest as instructed.
For oven cooking:
Brush with the sauce and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 10 minutes. Flip, brush with the remaining sauce, and bake for an additional 15 minutes; or until internal temp reaches 145°F. Rest as instructed.
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