One of the greatest cuts of pork for grilling is the loin. It starts at the shoulder and continues along the backbone and provides a solid strip of tender meat.
When the loin is left on the bone, it is called a Pork Rib Roast or Rack of Pork. The bones add an additional layer of flavor and a beautiful presentation.
I like to cook a rack of pork over an open fire of pecan wood and oak lump charcoal to give it an extra layer of smoky flavor that really takes it to the next level.
You can’t beat cooking over an open fire
You can cook this recipe on a regular grill and it will taste just fine, but since my husband had just gifted me a Big Horn Ranch Fire Pit (he’s a keeper) I decided to cook it over an open fire.
Cooking pork over an open fire is fairly easy. I set up the grate about 10″ from the coals so the pork cooks a little slower and retains the maximum amount of juice and flavor.
I recommend using charcoal if you have a charcoal grill accessible, as the flavor that the smoke imparts really enhances the pork flavor, but this recipe would work on a propane/gas grill as well.
The key is to not overcook your pork. Gone are the days of overcooked pork because the USDA now recommends pork be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F.
This will keep your pork tender, juicy, and full of flavor.
How to make an open-fire rack of pork
1. Choosing your rack
You may not find a rack of pork readily available at your local grocery store, but you can just ask your butcher and they’ll be able to get you one with no issue.
As I mentioned before, a rack of pork is simply a pork loin with the bones still attached so it’s not a difficult cut to procure. Here are some tips for picking the perfect rack of pork:
- You do not want to pick a rack that is overly fatty, but you want a good layer of fat to provide flavor so don’t pick the leanest rack either.
- Decide if you need a full rack or a half rack. Butchers will often give you the option of a half rack (3 to 4 bones) or a full fack (7 bones). If you are feeding a small group of 2 to 4 people, then opt for a half-rack (unless of course you want leftovers!).
I grabbed a 4-bone Natural Pork Rack from Porter & York. They have both a 4-bone and 7-bone option, so you can pick the size that works best for the crowd you are serving.
Another great thing about Porter and York is that the meat is always delivered fresh and never frozen. They cut the meat to order on the day it ships, so you can be sure that you are getting the absolute freshest meat around.
2. Prepping your pork
You will notice that one side of the loin has a layer of fat on it about ¼” thick. While you could opt to trim off this fat, I like to leave it intact to add additional flavor to the meat.
Simply take a sharp knife and score the fat in a crisscross pattern.
After you’ve scored the fat, it’s time to season your pork. You can use any seasoning blend that you prefer based on what you want the end result to taste. For this recipe, I used the PS Seasoning Notorious P.I.G. Rub.
Season your pork generously on all sides, including the fat cap and the meat between the bones. Then let it rest for about 10 to 15 minutes to let the seasoning set.
After it has rested, the pork should look like it’s starting to sweat and become a bit moist.
3. Fire up the pit
When it comes to pork I usually stick to Oak and Pecan wood. I find that the light, smoky flavor of pecan really compliments pork nicely and doesn’t overpower the flavor of the meat. For this recipe, I used B&B Oak Lump Charcoal and Pecan Wood Chunks.
I find that the easiest way to get an even fire started is to use a charcoal chimney. Simply fill the chimney with your lump charcoal and use a couple of fire starters to light it from the bottom. It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get a whole basket of flaming hot coals.
Once the coals are about 75% covered in ash and you see a red glow coming from the inside they are ready to use.
Pour your lump charcoal into the basket of your fire pit and top it with 4 to 5 chunks of pecan wood.
4. Cooking your pork
Once your charcoal is hot and the pecan wood has begun to catch fire, you are ready to grill your pork. Simply place the rack of pork with the fat cap facing down directly on the grates of your grill.
The roast will take about an hour to cook, The goal is to maintain a steady temperature for the pork to cook evenly, so you may need to add additional wood throughout the cooking process. add additional wood chunks as they burn out.
You are going to let it cook for about 45 minutes with the fat cap facing down, then flip it over to get a nice crust on the meat side of the roast.
Let it cook until an instant-read thermometer reads 145°F in the center of the roast. Pull it off the fire and let it rest.
I like to tent my meat in foil while it rests to keep the meat as hot as possible.
You want to let it rest for about 15 to 20 minutes to let the juices in the pork redistribute.
Once the pork is rested, you can slice between the bones and enjoy a perfectly cooked open-fire rack of pork.
Great sides for rack of pork
Pork goes great with a variety of side dishes. Its mild flavor and versatility make it a perfect pair for whatever you’re craving. Here is a list of great sides to accompany your rack of pork:
- Smoked Mac & Cheese
- Creamy Coleslaw
- Apple & Beet Slaw
- Celery & Parmesan Salad
- Smoky Garlic Butter Mushrooms
Open-fire Rack of Pork
- 1 rack of pork 4 bones
- 4 tbsp BBQ Pork Rub
- Place your charcoal in a charcoal chimney and light it from the bottom.
- While the coals are heating up, prep your rack of pork.
- Start by scoring the fat on the bottom of your rack in a crisscross pattern.
- Season generously with a BBQ Pork Rub.
- Let the seasoned rack of pork rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes to let the seasoning set. Once the pork looks moist, it’s ready to go onto the grill.
- Once your charcoal is 75% covered in ash, pour it into the charcoal basket of your grill.
- Top the charcoal with 5 to 6 chunks of pecan wood.
- Place your rack of pork directly on the grate over the open flame with the fat cap facing down.
- After 45 minutes, flip the rack over to let the meat side get a better crust.
- Cook for another 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F.
- Pull the pork off, tent it in foil, and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Slice the pork between the bones and serve immediately alongside your favorite side dishes.