Pork Chops With Carolina Barbecue Sauce, Smoked Butter, And Braised Onions

A one-of-a-kind Carolina barbecue recipe.

Pork Chops with Carolina Barbecue Sauce, Smoked Butter, and Braised Onions on a platter to serve

Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Christina Daley; Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

Active Time:
1 hrs 25 mins
Marinate Time:
12 hrs
Total Time:
14 hrs 40 mins

Infused with sorghum syrup, apple cider vinegar, and crushed red pepper, the tangy Carolina barbecue sauce in this recipe penetrates the pork chops for a flavorful piece of meat throughout. On its own, the sauce packs a super tangy punch, so while it may not serve as a standalone condiment, a light brush of it on the chops after grilling is perfect.

The braised onions served alongside are slightly sweet and peppery, balancing the savory pork and rounding out the smoked butter. Speaking of smoked butter, it might be a fancy touch, but its deep, savory flavor is well worth the effort.

Before you fire up the grill, here are a few helpful pointers.

  • Because the barbecue sauce contains sugar, you need to be mindful about it burning.
  • It’s important to position the pork with the bones facing the coals, protecting the meat from the direct heat.
  • When you check the pork halfway through cooking, you may need to rotate the pork chops along the edges of the grill to cook evenly.

Serve With: Millet Salad With Butter Beans, Okra, And Garlicky Marinated Tomatoes


  • 2 Tbsp. black peppercorns

  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup whole-grain mustard

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, divided

  • 3/4 cup sorghum syrup or light brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup ketchup or tomato paste

  • 2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper

  • 5 (5-inch) thyme sprigs

  • 1 fresh bay leaf

  • 1 large shallot, grated (1 1/2 Tbsp.)

  • 1/4 tsp. grated garlic

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt, divided

  • 4 (1-lb., 2-inch-thick) double-cut bone-in pork chops

  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

  • 1/2 cup hickory chips

  • Braised Onions (recipe follows)


  1. Toast peppercorns:

    Heat a medium saucepan over medium. Add black peppercorns; cook, shaking pan occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder, and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Process peppercorns until finely ground, about 15 seconds.

  2. Make barbecue sauce:

    Return ground pepper to pan. Add vinegar, mustard, and 1/4 cup of the butter. Bring vinegar mixture to a simmer over medium, whisking occasionally. Whisk in sorghum syrup, ketchup, crushed red pepper, thyme, bay leaf, shallot, garlic, and 1 tablespoon of the salt. Cook over medium, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Uncover; remove from heat. Let sauce cool to room temperature. Reserve 1/2 cup barbecue sauce in a small bowl for basting. Refrigerate sauce until ready to use.

  3. Marinate pork chops:

    Place pork chops in a baking dish, and add remaining cooled barbecue sauce from pan; turn to coat. Cover; marinate in refrigerator for 12 hours.

  4. Remove pork from marinade; discard remaining marinade. Rinse pork under cold water; pat dry, and place on a large plate. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with black pepper and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

  5. Prepare grill:

    While pork stands, open bottom vent of charcoal grill completely. Light charcoal chimney starter filled with briquettes. When the briquettes are covered with gray ash, pour them onto the bottom grate of the grill, and then push to 1 side of the grill. Coat top grate with oil; place on grill. Cover, and preheat grill for 10 minutes.

  6. Grill pork:

    Place pork chops on oiled grates directly over coals. Grill, uncovered, until pork just begins to brown around edges and along the bones, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer pork to oiled grates over the side without the coals; arrange pork along edges of grill with bones facing coals. Grill, covered, until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion of pork registers 140°F, 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through cook time. During final 5 minutes of cook time, baste pork with reserved barbecue sauce. Transfer pork to a cutting board, and brush with any remaining barbecue sauce. Loosely tent pork with aluminum foil, and let rest 10 minutes. Temperature will continue to rise to 145°F.

  7. Smoke butter:

    While pork rests, sprinkle hickory chips over coals. (Chips will flare up for a few minutes.) Place remaining 1/2 cup butter in a small cast-iron skillet. Place skillet on the grates over the side without the coals. Grill, covered, until butter is melted, foamy, and perfumed with smoke, about 10 minutes. Carefully pour smoked butter into a small heatproof bowl. Serve pork chops with smoked butter and Braised Onions.

Braised Onions

Braised Onions in a small bowl to serve

Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Christina Daley; Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall

Heat a small Dutch oven over medium. Add 3 large Vidalia onions (trimmed and quartered), 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 tsp. kosher salt, 1 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg, and 1 tsp. black pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until nutmeg is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 3/4 cups muscadine wine, 1 Tbsp. fish sauce, and 1 Tbsp. dark molasses. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and wine mixture is reduced and glazes onions, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat. Store, covered, in refrigerator up to 3 days.

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