Braciole di maiale alla brace (Grilled Pork Chops)

Franksecondi piatti34 Comments

Braciole di maiale alla brace (Grilled Pork Chops)

I used to love pork chops when I was a kid, but I’ve more or less given up on grilling them even since they started marketing pork as “the other white meat” back in the 1980s. Generally speaking, pork is bred so lean these days that the leaner cuts like the loin—which is where most chops are cut from—are absolutely tasteless if not treated in some way. And if you’re not careful, they can very easily turn out unpleasantly dry as well.

In today’s recipe for braciole di maiale alla brace, Grilled Pork Chops, I’ve devised a “secret” method for dealing with today’s bland, ultra-lean pork. You boost the flavor with a fine mince of rosemary, sage, garlic, pepper and lots of salt—sometimes called salamoia bolognese—in the usual Italian manner. But then, instead of the typical olive oil, you mix this mince with rendered pork fat aka lard, to form a savory paste. You spread the paste on both sides of your chops and let them marinate for at least an hour, or as long as overnight. Slap those chops on the grill—hot but not too hot—until they nice and golden brown on each side. You’ll be enjoying chops that taste like the ones from from back in the day, when pork actually tasted like pork.

I think slathering the pork chops with lard is a neat little trick. It adds back the fat that’s often bred out of modern pigs while deepening the chop’s porky flavor. As regular readers will know, it’s a method used in Rome for grilling the lamb chops they call scottadito, and it works just as well, I think, on pork. But if you blanch at the thought of using lard, then the more typical olive oil will do fine as well.

Ingredients

Per person

  • 1-2 bone-in pork chops (see Notes)

For the marinade:

  • A sprig or two of fresh rosemary, just the leaves
  • A few sage leaves
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • A large pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 Tb leaf lard, brought to room temperature (or olive oil)

Directions

Mince the rosemary and garlic very fine, together with the salt and pepper. Transfer the mince to a small bowl and, with a spatula or wooden spoon, blend in the lard (or oil, if using), turning everything well until it forms an even green and black speckled paste. Taste for seasoning. It should be very savory, if not add more salt and/or pepper.

Dry your pork chop well on both sides. (This ensures that the paste will adhere to the surface of the meat.) Slather the pork chop on both sides with the paste. Cover and let it rest for at least an hour. You can let them rest up to overnight in the fridge; take your chops out of the fridge at least one hour before you’re ready to grill them.

Preheat your barbecue until it’s hot but not superhot, about 200C/400F. On a charcoal grill, let the charcoal burn until they turn ashy white.

Grill your chops, until cooked through and golden brown on both sides. They should take about 3 minutes per side for thin cut chops, 5 minutes per side for chops of moderate thickness.

Let the chops rest for a few minutes before serving.

Braciole di maiale alla brace (Grilled Pork Chops)

Notes on braciole di maiale alla brace

Even if this method for grilling pork chops makes up a bit for the leanness of today’s typical pork chop, you still want to look for chops with as much fat on them as you can find. Finding a nicely marbled pork chop these days isn’t very easy, but even among the rather lean pickings you’re likely to find at your average supermarket, some chops will have more fat on them than others. There’s also the cut to consider. 99.9% of the pork chops sold in my area are from the loin, which is quite a lean cut. If you can manage to find chops cut from the shoulder end or sirloin end, with their lovely fat cap, you’ll be in pig heaven (so to speak…)

And I definitely recommend bone-in pork chops for grilling. Even if the old adage that meat is sweeter on the bone has supposedly been “scientifically” debunked, I know what my taste buds tell me. Bone-in chops take a bit longer, which means they are less likely to overcook and dry out. And then you get that delicious bone to chew on at the end…. Reserve boneless chops for other uses like scaloppine or breaded cutlets.

Thick or thin?

You can make braciole di maiale alla brace with either thin or thick cut pork chops. In Italy itself, pork chops tend to be cut quite thin. But there are some advantages to a thicker chop. Mostly, since it takes a bit longer to cook through, the Maillard reaction will have more time to work its magic to develop a beautifully brown crust without overcooking your chop. You do want your pork fully cooked through, but an overcooked chop will be dry and tough. Personally, though, for this dish I’d avoid those chops cut so thick they resemble steak. The meat is just too thick for the marinade to penetrate, which misses the point of the dish.

I find the sweet spot is a chop that’s about 2.5 cm or one inch thick. At that thickness, the chop will have ample time to develop a nice gold brown crust before it’s cooked through. You’re better off searing chops any thinner than that on a well-preheated griddle rather than on a bare grill. The intense heat of the griddle will give you a nice brown crust quickly, without overcooking your chop.

Braciole di maiale alla brace (Grilled Pork Chops)

1 hour

15 hours

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Braciole di maiale alla brace (Grilled Pork Chops)

Ingredients

    Per person
  • 1-2 bone-in pork chops (see Notes)
  • For the marinade:
  • A sprig or two of fresh rosemary, just the leaves
  • A few sage leaves
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • A large pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 Tb leaf lard, brought to room temperature (or olive oil)

Directions

  1. Mince the rosemary and garlic very fine, together with the salt and pepper. Transfer the mince to a small bowl and, with a spatula or wooden spoon, blend in the lard (or oil, if using), turning everything well until it forms an even green and black speckled paste. Taste for seasoning. It should be very savory, if not add more salt and/or pepper.
  2. Dry your pork chop well on both sides. (This ensures that the paste will adhere to the surface of the meat.) Slather the pork chop on both sides with the paste. Cover and let it rest for at least an hour. You can let them rest up to overnight in the fridge; take your chops out of the fridge at least one hour before you're ready to grill them.
  3. Preheat your barbecue until it's hot but not superhot, about 200C/400F. On a charcoal grill, let the charcoal burn until they turn ashy white.
  4. Grill your chops, until cooked through and golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side for thin cut chops, 5 minutes per side for chops of moderate thickness.
  5. Let the chops rest for a few minutes before serving.
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34 Comments on “Braciole di maiale alla brace (Grilled Pork Chops)”

  1. Yes, even here in Australia, the pork is not the same as when we grew up. Nifty trick to add the flavour back into the pork with lard!

  2. This makes total sense, and I love the herbs. I think the secret to cooking any kind of meat or seafood is to cook it properly. That’s not very profound, but everyone who cooks should know how to cook meat properly. And there are ways to help people cook meat properly, like a good thermometer. I’ve cooked for so long I just go by feel. But no one should have to eat an overcooked pork chop! If I buy pork loin, I sous vide it. But I prefer pork tenderloin. And, I hope you don’t really mean leaf lard? Cause if so I need to learn what the hell that is!

  3. When I go back to my village in Germany there are still some farmers who raise pork the old-fashion way. There is no comparison between that meat and the stuff you buy in the supermarkets. Although I have bought some good pork chops at Whole Foods before Amazon owned it. Your recipe looks good.

    1. Thanks, Gerlinde! Here in the US it’s always quite a “find” when you encounter good old-fashioned pork. Nice to her there are still places in the world where the old ways still survive.

  4. Yep, another thing America has ruined: pork 🙁 It is truly the one meat I would not be able to do without out, mostly because of Italian cured products, but also bacon and other yummy pork things! My mouth started watering as I was reading your recipe! Seriously, I was at a really good butcher last week and told my friend not to let me forget to buy lard, and we both forgot! I just have to go back! Thanks for this recipe!

    1. Ha! Happens to me all the time. Be thankful you have a good butcher to go to. Around here butchers (good or otherwise) are disappearing fast.

  5. Frank, another home run recipe. We tried it last night and my wife andI said the same thing, “Best grilled pork chop recipe ever.” We too like a fattier pork chop with the bone for the taste. Bought extra chops to try your other recipe one day, Maiale Ubriaco. Keep up the good work.

  6. Ciao Frank!! I love your method and we’ll be trying it soon with lard. How people have gotten around to tasteless pork and humongous chickens is to brine them hoping they absorb some moisture and taste. It works sometimes. But the idea of adding that additional fat (lard) is so important. I remember my mamma using chicken fat in her bread. Frank, some time ago you listed a recipe the infused an herbed fat into beef. I can’t remember the name. Can you point me in the right direction? And perhaps we should get some t-shirts with lard lovers on it. Buona giornata!

    1. See Iain’s comment, turns out there are actually lard lover T-shirts on the market, lol!

      As for the beef recipe, hmmm… let me try to remember. Doesn’t actually ring a bell at the moment.

  7. I love pork chops. I don’t know if I’ve ever had one that had been grilled. I love your method of slathering them with lard, though. How interesting! The certainly look delicious.

  8. My Grandma made Braciole differently and she was born in Puglia. The Braciole was a thin sliced meat Pork or Beef stuffed with bread and herbs, then “arrotolate” to look like a sausage and held with a string. She would cook the Braciole in gravy or broth. DELICIOUS 😋

  9. An ingenious way to deal with a common problem. Here in the UK too pork now has much less fat than it used to and, as a direct result, has lost a lot of flavour, I have given up buying loin joints and chops as they are virtually tasteless these days. When I’m in the UK I live in a part of the country where there are still specialist pork butchers but the meat from them is not much better. I asked my local pork butcher if he could get fattier pork (he produces most of what he sells from pigs bought in from local farms) he said he could but he wouldn’t sell any (other than to deviants like me of course). Meanwhile supermarkets and butchers are full of deathly pale pork in ever more fanciful marinades to give it flavour.

    Fatty pork is easier to find in Italy (although pork joints of any kind are increasingly rare in France) but in the UK has become an endangered (and expensive) species despite all the palaver about rare and heritage breeds. My solution to this is to buy instead shoulder or spare rib chops (the latter come from the front ribs directly below the loin) as they tend to have more fat actually in the meat rather than just around it. You can also find fattier pork in shops or markets that cater mostly to the Chinese or Korean communities.

    And to those who decry eating fatty meat, I say ‘Moderation in everything!’. As part of a balanced diet it will do you no harm, indeed a proper intake of fat is essential for health. It’s a interesting comment on unintended consequences that the incidence of obesity has increased substantially at the same time as production of low fat meats has come to dominate the market. Perhaps fattier meat is more intrinsically satisfying so one tends to eat less of it tha ultra lean meat.

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Iain, in particular about fatty meat. I eat it in moderation myself, and have no health troubles. As you say, you can eat less of it and feel perfectly satisfied. As mentioned in the notes, shoulder and rib chops are fabulous, but where I live currently very hard to source. (Roasts yes, but not chops.)

      I do wonder about that butcher of yours. Is he sure that he wouldn’t sell fattier pork, or is he just assuming that’s the case? Here in the US, anyway, pork belly and other fatty cuts are all the rage.

  10. *big smile* As a still studying nutritionist of over 30 years I sit on the other side of the fence to most commenters naturally ! We can work around some loss in taste say for a pork chop to achieve a longer drug- and illness-free old age ! In Australia pork is now the second best meat on offer . . .I use it often in a plethora of Asian, SE Asian, African and Middle-Eastern recipes . . . plenty of taste and no loss of succulence . . . If I do use a barbecue the chops will have a thick cut and have been bathed in a marinade awhile ,. ., .

    1. I’m not a nutritionist by any means, but I understand that animal fat isn’t quite the villain it was once seen as, especially eaten in moderation. Anyway, having good quality pork available to you is quite a privilege. Enjoy.

    1. Depends. The rind tends to get quite hard after cooking, but I do leave it on and then cut it away while eating. But if you’re making your chops for company or special occasions, you might want to trim it off beforehand.

  11. I rarely eat mammalian meat for environmental and health reasons (more fish and poultry) but when I do, I’m careful to look for pork that isn’t ultra-lean. Some good butchers at nearby Jean-Talon market, also Chez Vito south of here in Mile-End, and farther east in newer Italian areas such as Saint-Léonard. And PA nature, the “natural” branch of a local Greek chain with just a few markets, for some great bargains on good pork, lamb and beef that would be very costly elsewhere. I don’t have a true grill – not allowed in my building – just a T-fal electric one, so I think I’ll do your porco ubriaco instead.

    j

  12. Thank’s for the recipe. The key problem is the bad quality of the porc meat, the missing taste and missing fat. Here in Germany, since a few years some farmers try to produce a better quality. More taste, more fat. They are on the right way.

  13. great trucco Frank (btw: out of curiosity like a portiera romana: were u baptised Frank or Frances or Francesco?)
    did not know that
    here in the UK we r lucky and we can now get hold of excellent pork , not in every single butcher or course, and often on-line only- I actually bough the most amazing lardo few months ago from Mangalitza pigs)
    great reading the serious eats (myself I would cook on the bone – less hassle)
    stef

    1. The name of my birth certificate is Frank. I actually don’t remember by what name I was baptised. I imagine it must have been Francis, since there is no Saint Frank, as far as I know. And in day to day life, I do remember being called Francesco by the older generation, especially the eponymous Angelina. How’s that for a confusing picture?

      You are lucky to be able to get excellent pork. There are ways to do it, here as well, at farmer’s markets or at specialty butcher shops (where they still exist) or online, of course. But for most of us, supermarket pork has to do.

  14. This is such a smart way to cook pork chops! I almost never buy them these days because they’re so flavor-challenged, as you describe. And kinda hard to cook because of that. The lard paste you use solves so many problems — adds a lot of flavor and makes them easier to cook. Really like this method and will be using it — thanks for a superb recipe.

  15. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Frank. Today’s pork lacks flavor because all the fat (and flavor) has been bred out of it. When I am lucky enough to find pork chops at the farmers market, they are so much better! I look forward to trying your method — anything slathered with lard get my seal of approval!

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