Keto as a Way of Life
Thick ‘n Tender Smoked Pork Chops
Growing up a southern boy, for me, pork chops were flour breaded and pan fried. That’s just the way it’s done in Tennessee. Often they ended up as these thin slabs of meat that were greasy on the outside and dry in the middle. I even remember several unfortunate chops that could almost have been considered for the Mohs hardness scale.
My theory is that people in previous generations were terrified of food borne illness and parasites that, at one time, could have been ingested via pork products. However, due to safer food practices and regulations for handling livestock these days, it isn’t necessary to cook your pork to a ‘shoe leather’ consistency. If you cook it to the right temperature to kill off the bacteria in there, you can take it off the heat long before you rob the meat of its tender texture and amazing flavor.
For a long time, I wouldn’t eat pork chops because I assumed they were all like the ones I remembered as a boy. Then a friend told me about a little place up in Kentucky that serves two-inch thick pork chops that were tender, full of flavor and juicy. I had to see for myself. So we went to visit Patti’s 1880’s Settlement. (We’re not affiliated with that establishment. Rebecca and I are just really big fans!)
After my first visit, I was sold! I’ve been back several times now, and always look forward to their pork chop. The difficult part of this is that the place is a few hours from home now and it’s tough to get all the way up there when I want a good chop. So I decided to master the art of smoking a thick cut pork chop at home. Of course, now that I’m on the Keto train, I altered my recipe to remove the carbs while maintaining the flavor I’ve now grown to love.
There are a lot of pork chop recipes out there, but I like this one. It’s mine. I hope you like it too!
I start with a bone-in, center-cut pork chop, cut roughly 2 inches thick. The method I’m about to describe will work with nicely for any cut of pork chop really, and with tenderloin as well. If you want the real deal experience, though, ask your butcher to cut these for you if there aren’t already some in the meat case.
A Nashville-based business that sources their meat from select local farmers.
They process all their products themselves and sell those products online to make great meat available nationwide.
We were attracted to them at first because they're local to us.
We continue to support Porter Road because their service and products are amazing!
Take your chops out of the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before you put them on the smoker. The idea is to bring them closer to room temperature. You don’t want to let them sit out much longer than that, though, because you will risk bacteria growth.
Just wash them under cold water and pat them dry with the paper towel. Sometimes, when these are cut, I’ve found there can be small pieces of loose bone left behind. As you do this step, check the meat over for those things.
Now lay them out on some parchment paper, foil, or a large plate. Drizzle them with olive oil and rub it over each chop so there’s a very thin layer of oil.
PRO TIP: Use regular olive oil instead of extra virgin. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a low viscosity. That means it will break down much more easily when you apply heat to it. This will leave an unpleasant, bitter flavor behind. So use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for salad dressings, and use the regular stuff for cooking.
Once you have the meat lightly coated with oil, liberally apply your favorite pork seasoning. I’ve used a lot of different rubs for these, but my favorite is the butt rub I developed. Check out the recipe for my Keto Pork Butt Rub here. You want to be careful using store bought rubs because a lot of them contain sugar and/or starchy additives like maltodextrine. It’s true, pork really pairs well with sweet, but this is Keto. Sugar is bad. My butt rub recipe uses a bit of Truvia to capture a hint of that sweetness.
Next, get your smoker ready. Load it with the wood of your choice. Hickory is a great wood to use for this, but pork takes fruit wood smoke well too. Cherry or apple are good choices. I even like a combination of hickory and apple wood. These woods can increase depth of flavor and even the sweetness in the meat.
Get the fire going and heat the smoker to 225 degrees F.
Traeger Pellet Grill
The smoker/grill I use is the Traeger Texas Elite 34 pellet grill. I can’t tell you enough how much we love this bad boy!
I've cooked everything from cake to ribs on mine. Yes... I said cake! (keto cake, of course)
It makes smoking meats easy, and gets hot enough to grill as well. It's been well worth every penny for us.
You NEED one of these in your backyard.
Natural Hardwood Pellets for the Traeger Pellet Grill
Amazon has several types of Traeger pellets, so check them all out; Alder, Apple, Cherry, Hickory, Maple, Mesquite, Oak, Pecan, Texas Beef Blend, and Turkey.
They're conveniently all listed on this one page on Amazon.
There's nothing like the flavor that hardwood smoke adds to food. They all have their own character, and I love every. single. one.
I smoked these chops at 225 degrees F. for about 2 hours. Low and slow is best to get that tender, juiciness we’re looking for. The longer cook time also imparts a bit more of the smoke flavor to the meat. You want to bring these to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F before you pull them off.
To be honest, I cook by temperature more than time. I use an internal thermal probe. That way I don’t have to lift the lid of the smoker to temp these out. Hell, I don’t even have to go back outside until they’re done (which is nice if it’s raining like it was when I made these). The internal temperature of each of my chops is sent to my phone via blue tooth. Man, I freakin’ love technology! Click the picture below to get one of these thermometers for yourself. I’m telling you, this thing was a game changer for me.
This bluetooth digital meat thermometer by Solis completely changed my smoking/grilling game.
I no longer cook meat by time, but by temperature. You can set alerts when one of the 6 probes reaches specific temps or temperature ranges. Since it connects to an app on your phone via bluetooth, you can even put on a 6 hour brisket and go take a nap! The alarm will let you know when the meat hits the right temp.
That takes a lot of guesswork out of longer cooks.
Meat turns out perfect every time!
NOTE: You probably know this, but try not to lift the lid of your smoker too much so you don’t lose heat. If you’re using an instant read thermometer, you have to lift it at least a couple times. I recommend temping your chops around an hour and a half, and then every ten minutes thereafter.
Cook time will vary depending on lots of factors like how often you open the lid of your smoker, the thickness of the chops, the type of smoker you use, and the atmospheric temperature on the day you’re smoking. Just be patient. These bad boys are well worth the wait!
Pull ‘Em & Let ‘Em Rest
At 145 degrees F, these chops can come off the smoker. I like to put them on a parchment-lined sheet pan and cover them with foil on my kitchen counter for 15-20 minutes while I finish prepping whatever meal I’m cooking at the time. This rest time lets the juices redistribute through the meat and lets the meat actually finish cooking. When you take them off the grill, the temperature will continue to rise a few degrees. All of that needs to settle down before you cut into these.
If all goes according to plan, you should now have some juicy, tender pork chops, filled with smoky goodness and covered in a sweet spice that will make your tongue want to dance. There’s no shame in gnawing on the bone when you run out of meat. I do it. Every. Damn. Time.
Thanks for Reading
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Thick 'n Tender Smoked Pork Chops
- 2 2 inch Center Cut, Bone-In Pork Chops
- 4 tbsp Olive Oil
- 8 tbsp Pork Butt Rub / Spice Rub
Take chops out of the refrigerator and let them sit at room temp 1-2 hours before smoking
Wash chops and pat dry with paper towel
Coat chops with a thin layer of Olive Oil, making sure to cover all of the meat
Coat chops thoroughly with Butt Rub / Spice Rub
Prepare smoker - heat up to 225 degrees F using Hickory, Apple or Cherry wood. Or some combination of those. Your preference.
Smoke chops approximately 2 hours, until internal temp is 145 degrees F.
Pull chops and loosely cover with foil. Let rest on kitchen counter for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Cooking times will vary depending on various things like the type of smoker you use, the ambient temperature of the air on the day you're smoking, how many times you raise the lid of your smoker, etc.
This is the blood ketone meter we use. We like it because it lets us check blood ketones as well as glucose.
Here's the text right from the Amazon page, and I think it's pretty spot on:
"Blood testing is the most accurate way to test for ketone and glucose levels. The Keto-Mojo Testing Kit exceeds strict FDA and International standards ensuring you get the best measurement results possible."
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