Pork turns up in countless ways on the grill. With an amazing capacity to pair with bold or delicate flavors, tender, succulent pork absorbs fragrant smoke and spices wonderfully and cooks well over both direct and indirect heat.
Spareribs, from the pig's belly, are meaty and succulent. They should have a good amount of meat on them and not be too fatty. Spareribs are best suited for barbecuing. Baby back ribs, which are cut from the loin, have less meat on the bones, but it’s usually tender, lean meat. Baby back ribs are easier to prepare than spareribs and are best suited for smoking over indirect heat.
Rib chops have a substantial eye of meat, with the upper part of the rib bone attached. They have a little more fat (and stay juicier) than loin chops, which have a distinct T-bone and, like their beef counterparts, have some of the loin and tenderloin muscles attached. Both types of chops can be found boneless, though bone-in chops tend to be more flavorful.
Fresh or cured steaks, cut from the shoulder or ham sections, can be found bone-in or boneless.
The best pork "roasts" for grilling include pork loin and tenderloin. Pork loin can be found bone-in or boneless. The bones help the lean meat stay moist and flavorful. A boneless loin can be soaked in a brine to help lock in moisture. Tenderloins are small versions of pork roasts and are quick cooking, perfect for last-minute meals.
Pork shoulder contains two cuts, the Boston butt and picnic shoulder. The bone-in Boston butt is a popular cut for barbecue devotees. The shoulder contains a lot of internal fat that leaves the meat flavorful and juicy after barbecuing. A whole pork shoulder can be found both bone-in and boneless.
Preparing Pork for Grilling
Cut off any excess exterior fat, which could cause flare-ups. On tenderloins, remove the silver skin (the thin membrane covering the length of the tenderloin) with a small, sharp knife. When using roasts, consider brining to add flavor and moisture. A marinade or dry rub makes up for the absence of fat in lean cuts.
Testing Pork for Doneness
Pork chops, loin roasts, and tenderloins should be cooked to a final temperature of 150° to 155° after resting. You can cook larger, fattier cuts, such as Boston butt or shoulder, to 155° to 165° after resting. The fat in these meats will ensure that they stay juicy and flavorful even though cooked to a slightly higher temperature. For perfect tenderness and flavor, ribs should be cooked to 170°. For additional temperatures, please refer to our Meat Guide.