Grilled Pork Chops with Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce are the answer to monotonous dinners.
Like most people, I often find myself stuck in a food-rut. My go-to pork chop recipe involves frying. Not only does my scale hate me for it, my cardiologist is looking to quit me, too. Grilled pork chops are considerably lower in fat than pork chops fried in lard. This I know. But, even those become boring after awhile. In walks my Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce with its fancy, yet, easy-to-make self, and things get live. BBQ sauce is one of the easiest sauces to make in the culinary world. This sweet and savory melange will have you hooked on creating your own version in one go.
What Do I need to Make Grilled Pork Chops and Blueberry BBQ Sauce?
The grilled pork chops are straightforward. At the grocery store, ask your butcher for double-cut (or thick-cut pork chops). Later, you will rub the pork chops with a spice blend made of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. The blueberry balsamic BBQ sauce begins with fresh blueberries, a high-quality balsamic vinegar, fresh garlic, thyme, and red onion. Flavorings: tomato paste, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, spices, and mustard, finish the sauce.
Oh! And there’s a grill involved in these grilled chops.
Towards the end of grilling, that blueberry balsamic glaze is brushed on the grilled chops to seal in the sauce’s flavor.
What are double-cut pork chops?
Again, the first thing you need are double-cut pork chops. Most of the pork chops I buy are a 1/2 – 3/4″ thick; thick-cut pork chops are cut 1 3/4 to 2 inches thick. As a result of how thick they are, thick-cut pork chops require a longer cooking time in order for them to be safe to consume.
I prefer thick-cut chops that are bone-in. The bone keeps the meat from drying out, provides flavor, and acts- somewhat- as a heat conductor. Boneless pork chops have a tendency to dry out no matter how vigilant you are when cooking them.
If you can’t find thick-cut chops, just use regular pork chops. The grill time is shorter because they’re thinner, but I’ll give you that time change in the recipe notes below.
What type of spice rub should I use for pork chops?
Seasoning the pork chops is kept simple because we want the blueberry-balsamic sauce to be the star flavor. While this spice rub is perfect for this recipe, it’s also great for use in other recipes. Because it’s versatile, feel free to sprinkle it on burgers, chicken, or other cuts of pork.
In a small bowl, combine the kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and granulated garlic powder. That’s it!
Feel free to create a little more flair by adding onion powder, cayenne pepper (not too much, though), cumin, or your favorite dried herb.
As with other spice rubs, this one can be stored in a mason jar on the countertop for up to a year. After that, the spices tend to lose their potency.
Season the pork chops
On a parchment paper or foil-lined sheet pan, arrange the pork chops in a single layer. Sprinkle a liberal amount of the seasoning (about 1 teaspoon per chop) on each side of the chops: using your fingers to rub the seasoning into the chops.
Because of the risk of foodborne illness, any seasoning that’s left from this batch should be discarded. Since you’ve touched the raw pork and grabbed the rub from this batch, you must not re-use it later on.
Set the pork chops in the fridge to absorb that seasoning while you preheat your grill.
Since most charcoal grills take at least 30 – 45 minutes to reach temperature, there’s plenty of time to make the blueberry balsamic sauce while the grill heats up. In your grill, pile the charcoal briquets and spray them with lighter fluid. Light the coals immediately and allow them to heat until they are glowing red under an ashy exterior.
Alternatively, if you have a gas grill, you’ll only need a fifteen minute head start on preheating the grill. When you’re ready to grill, simply preheat the grill to medium-high.
How to make Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce
The blueberry balsamic sauce is built upon a solid foundation of aromatics.
In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced red onion and garlic. Sauté these until they are glossy and fragrant- about three minutes. The aromatics will take on a bit of color, however, if they start to brown too much, turn the heat down.
Add some of the fresh (or frozen and thawed) blueberries to the pot. Use a spoon to toss them into the sautéed aromatics. The remaining berries will be added later to give the blueberry sauce a bit of texture.
Did you know that a blueberry is not even “blue”? It’s violet. In fact, there are no blue foods in nature. Very random, obscure fact that you probably don’t care about, but that I needed to share in order to feel special. You’re welcome.
After three minutes of cooking, you should see a blueberry, or two, start popping. Stir the mixture frequently to keep the garlic from burning. Continue to cook the blueberry mixture for a few minutes to give the berries time to soften.
What kind of balsamic vinegar should I use to make a sauce?
It’s important to use a high-quality balsamic vinegar when making recipes like this blueberry BBQ sauce. Sauces are thickened through added thickeners or by reduction. This sauce is the latter- a reduction- which means the water in the recipe is cooked out of the sauce through evaporation. What’s left is a fortified, instensly flavored product. As a result, whatever you began with, will end up tasting more pronounced in the end. If you can’t drink your balsamic without gagging, don’t think you’ll be able to reduce it in a BBQ sauce and love it. I’m just putting that out there.
Aged balsamics will have deeper flavors, so look for a vinegar that’s been aged about 15-18 years. That’s the sweet spot. Vinegars labeled IGP or DOP are surefire bets. The latter- DOP or Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin)- is more strictly regulated. The former- IGP or Indicazione Geografica Protetta (Indication of Geographic Protection)- means it’s linked to a specific region, which is usually indicated on the bottle.
While I don’t want you to skimp out on balsamic, I am a practical woman. I know you don’t want to spend your child’s college tuition on a bottle of vinegar. Since most of us are shopping at the grocery store (and not a boutique vinegar shop), grab a bottle of Colavita or something similar.
After the first few blueberries start to pop, add the balsamic vinegar.
How do I create Flavor in this Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce
The aromatics create the foundation of the sauce, but the flavorings are the sauce’s frame.
Add the tomato paste, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce (first time spelling gooooooo), salt, pepper, chili powder, and dijon mustard. Stir these into the blueberry-balsamic mixture, then bring this mixture up to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow all of the liquid- the blueberry juice and the vinegar- to partially evaporate. This is that reduction step I mentioned earlier.
As the sauce is reducing, use the back of your spoon to smash some of the whole berries. Don’t overthink this step, if some of the blueberries are left whole, it’s fine. This first reduction should take about eight minutes.
How long should I cook blueberry balsamic sauce?
Once the sauce has reduced by half, stir in the fresh thyme. Continue to cook- reducing the sauce- until you have two cups remaining in the pot. Don’t forget to stir and squish as you go.
This part of the reduction should take about seven minutes, tops.
Notice the line in the pot indicating where the sauce started. Now that’s a reduction. A properly reduced sauce is thick and has the concentrated flavor of whatever you mixed in there. Again, that’s why beginning with high-quality ingredients is so important.
Remove the sauce from the heat, then take out and discard the thyme stems.
Separate the blueberry bbq sauce by transferring a third of it to a bowl for brushing on the grilled chops. Leave the remainder of the sauce in the pot for reheating later with the whole blueberries.
How do I grill double-cut pork chops?
Now it’s time to tie these two components- the chops and the BBQ sauce- together.
By now, your grill is ready to go. Oil the grill grate to prevent the chops from sticking to it during cooking. If you have a smaller grill that lacks an adjustable grate (one that rises and lowers) create two heat zones. Arrange the ashy, glowing coals in a pile- this will act as your direct-heat zone. The side without the coals is your indirect cooking zone. Now you are able to place the chops over the coal section to sear them, then move them to the non-coal side for finishing the cooking process.
If your grill is capable of lowering and raising the grate or the coals- as mine does- you needn’t worry about this step.
Pat the pork chops to remove excess moisture from the surface of the meat. This step allows the meat to sear evenly. Place your chops onto the grill on the high-heat/direct-cooking side. Grill the chops for 4-5 minutes before turning.
*If you absolutely must 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 said imaginary clock. This will give you those overrated grill marks. Seriously, no one’s grading you on the marks.*
What should the internal temp of my cooked pork be?
After flipping over the chops, brush their surfaces with the Blueberry-Balsamic BBQ Sauce using a silicone grill brush. Natural bristle brushes have a tendency to melt. Cloth brushes also work well here.
Grill the chops on the second side for 4 more minutes. Flip them, then brush sauce onto the second side, before 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.
How long should grilled pork chops rest?
Remove the chops from the grill to sheet pan or platter and allow them to rest for at least five minutes before serving.
This resting time allows the meat’s juices to redistribute throughout the chop, which is what gives us that juicy bite we all covet. Simultaneously, the pork chop continues to cook. Carryover cooking occurs after food is removed from the heat source that cooked it. The residual heat that remains in the food continues to cook it, which is why we pull it from the grill right at 145°F instead of at 165°F.
While the meat is resting, stir the reserved blueberries into the finished sauce and reheat it over a low flame: just until it’s warmed through and steaming. Once heated through, transfer the blueberry balsamic BBQ sauce to a serving bowl.
What to serve with Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Glazed Pork Chops
After you’ve allowed the meat to rest, serve the chops with your choice of side dishes. Here are my favorite sides to serve them with:
Spoon the Blueberry-Balsamic BBQ sauce over your Grilled Pork Chops to your heart’s content. Or, let your diners serve themselves.
Can I freeze Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce?
You absolutely can make this Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce ahead and freeze it for later. Make sure to cool it completely before you transfer it to a freezer storage bag. For space-saving sake, freeze the bag flat. The bag stands up with a lower profile when frozen this way. Just thaw it completely in the fridge before separating and proceeding with the recipe as instructed above. The sauce freezes beautifully for two months.
You can also store the BBQ sauce in the fridge for a week.
Hopefully, this recipe supplies an alternative to the same boring dinner night after night. Pin this recipe for those days when you need to switch things up, then share with your world.
*this post, originally published in 2018, has been updated to get with the times*
Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauced Grilled Pork Chops
- Outdoor Grill (Gas or Charcoal)
- Charcoal for grilling (if needed)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt separated
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoon black pepper separated
- 6 double-cut pork chops bone-in (cut 1 1/2"-2" thick)
Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup (half of a small onion) red onion minced
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and minced
- 3 cups (1 1/2 dry pints) fresh blueberries separated (if using frozen berries, thaw, reserve the liquid)
- 3/4 cups balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup, packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon prepared dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves)
Mix the Spice Rub (up to a month in advance)
- In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon of the kosher salt, the garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon of the black pepper. Store the spice rub in a mason jar on the countertop for up to a year or use immediately.
Season and Marinate the Pork Chops (may be done 30 minutes- 24 hours before cooking)
- On a parchment paper or foil-lined sheet pan, arrange the pork chops in a single layer. Sprinkle a generous pinch of the spice rubs onto each side of the chops. Be sure to rub the seasoning into the chops with your fingers. Discard any remaining spice rub*.
- Put the sheet pan of pork chops in the refrigerator to absorb the seasoning while you preheat your grill.
Preheat the Grill (Charcoal)
- Pile the charcoal briquets in your grill's bottom and cover them with lighter fluid. Light the coals immediately and allow them to heat until they are glowing red under an ashy exterior.Alternatively, if you have a gas grill, you'll only need a fifteen minute head start on preheating the grill. When you're ready to grill, simply preheat the grill to medium-high.
- While you're waiting for your grill to heat. Prepare the BBQ Sauce.
Make the Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce (up to one week in advance)
- In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer in the pan, add the red onion and garlic. Sauté these until they are glossy and fragrant or about 3 minutes. The aromatics should take on a bit of color, however, if they start to brown too much, lower the temperature.
- Add 2 cups of the fresh (or frozen and thawed) blueberries to the pot. Stir to toss the berries into the sautéed aromatics.
- After 3 minutes the blueberries should start popping. Continue to cook the blueberry mixture, stirring frequently, for a few minutes longer to give the berries time to soften.
- After 1-2 minutes, add the balsamic vinegar to the pot, followed by the tomato paste, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, chili powder, and the remaining salt and pepper. Bring this mixture up to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer and reduce for 7-8 minutes.
- While the sauce is reducing, use the back of your spoon to smash some of the whole berries. If some of the blueberries are left whole, it's fine, but try to smash the majority of them. Once the sauce has reduced by half, add the fresh thyme. Continue simmering until you have two cups of sauce remaining in the pot- stirring and squishing berries as the sauce cooks- or for 7 minutes more.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and remove and discard the thyme stems.Transfer a third of the sauce to a bowl for brushing on the grilled chops. Leave the remainder of the sauce in the pot for reheating later with the remaining blueberries.
- Remove the pork chops from the fridge and allow them to warm up a bit at room temperature.
Create Cooking Zones in the Grill
- Oil the grill grate to prevent the chops from sticking.If you have a smaller grill that lacks an adjustable grate (one that rises and lowers) create two heat zones. Arrange the ashy, glowing coals in a pile- this will act as your direct-heat zone. The side without the coals is your indirect cooking zone.
- Now you are able to place the chops over the coal section to sear them, then move them to the non-coal side for finishing the cooking process.
- If your grill is capable of lowering and raising the grate or the coals- as mine does- you needn't worry about this step.
Grill and Glaze the Pork Chops
- Pat the surface of your pork chops with a paper towel to dry them. This will help you achieve a nice sear on the surface.Place your chops onto the grill on the high-heat/direct-cooking side. Grill the chops for 4-5 minutes before flipping them over. The meat should be crisp and caramelized.
- Flip the chops one last time. Brush sauce onto the second side, then move them to the indirect-heat side 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, or until a meat thermometer reads 145°F.
- Transfer the chops to a clean sheet pan or platter and allow them to rest for at least five minutes- under a tented piece of foil- before serving.
- While the meat is resting, stir the reserved blueberries into the finished sauce and reheat it over a low flame- just until it's warmed through and steaming. Once heated through, transfer the blueberry balsamic BBQ sauce to a serving bowl.
- Spoon more of the Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce over the rested chops.Serve while hot. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for 3 days.
*Because of the risk of foodborne illness, any seasoning that's left from this batch should be discarded. Since you've touched the raw pork and grabbed the rub from this batch, you must not re-use it later on.
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. To Freeze the BBQ Sauce: Cool the Blueberry Balsamic BBQ Sauce completely before transferring it to a freezer storage bag. For space-saving sake, freeze the bag flat as the bag stands up with a lower profile when frozen this way.
When ready to use, thaw the completely in the fridge before separating and proceeding with the recipe as instructed above. The sauce freezes beautifully for two months. The BBQ sauce can also be stored in the fridge for one week.
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