Food & Drink

Cajun-Style Grilled Pork Chops

Boiled sugarcane juice adds sweet and smoky flavor to wild pork chops in this recipe from New Orleans chef Isaac Toups

Photo: Johnny autry | Food Styling by Charlotte Autry

A few years ago, Isaac Toups drove into his father’s deer camp on the Louisiana-Mississippi line to find that his dad had shot and skinned a wild hog, rubbed down the whole carcass with salt, pepper, and Creole mustard, and had it waiting for him in a giant cooler. “The only chef’s tool I had was my pocketknife,” Toups recalls, “but we went to work.” Toups wrapped the hog in chicken wire, threaded two lengths of rebar through the carcass for handles, and slow-roasted it over wood from an oak that had fallen nearby. “That was some rudimentary shit,” he says, laughing. “But now they beg me to come back every year.”

Not all of Toups’s efforts are so elemental. He spent a decade working the stoves of Emeril Lagasse’s kitchens, and as chef and owner of the acclaimed Toups’ Meatery in New Orleans, the proud Cajun—his family has been in Louisiana for three hundred years—has been a James Beard Award semifinalist three times. Wild hog, he says, “has a definite role in the Cajun repertoire.” While he often uses healthy doses of aromatics such as cumin and coriander, this pork chop relies on a tangy sweet gastrique. “It’s simple, just syrup, butter, and vinegar,” Toups explains. “But the first time I put it in my mouth, jack, it close to knocked me down.” His version is characteristically hyperlocal, an alchemical brew of Louisiana-born Steen’s cane syrup and cane vinegar.

The domesticated-pig version of this recipe is a Toups’ Meatery staple he serves over his signature dirty rice. But using wild hog deepens the taste—and the experience. “The brine helps keep the chop juicy since you have to go with a little higher temperature on the wild boar,” he says. “It’s intense and earthy, and the more you eat, the more you get that wild goodness just ingrained in you.”


  • Double-Cut Pork Chops with Cane Syrup Gastrique

  • For the pork chops and brine:

    • 1 gal. water

    • 1 cup dark brown sugar

    • 1 cup kosher salt

    • 2 tbsp. whole black peppercorns

    • 4 bay leaves

    • 2 (20-oz.) bone-in double-cut pork chops (not frenched)

    • Ice (lots of it)

    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter (½ stick)

    • Dirty rice, for serving*

    • Sliced green onions, for garnish

  • For the cane syrup gastrique:

    • 1 cup cane syrup (or molasses)

    • 1 cup cane vinegar (or cider vinegar)


  1. Brine the chops: Combine water, brown sugar, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, then give it a good stir to make sure all the salt and sugar are dissolved. In a 3-gallon food-safe bucket, add the brine and enough ice until you have exactly 1½ gallons of brine. Once the brine is cold, place the pork chops in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Remove chops from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Season heavily with more salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

  2. Make the gastrique: In a saucepan, combine cane syrup and cane vinegar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the liquid has reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. There’s no need to stir, but watch closely, as it likes to burn. You can make this in larger batches, and the shelf life is pretty much infinite. Store in a sealed jar (does not need refrigeration).

  3. Grill the chops: Preheat grill to high. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grill pork chop (even bone side) for 2 to 3 minutes on each side to get really hard grill marks. Put chops in a roasting pan and top each with 2 tbsp. butter. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, until it reaches at least 145°F internal temperature. Allow chops to rest for 3 minutes in the pan. Before serving, dip them on all sides in the juices and butter that remain in the pan.

  4. To serve: Place pork chops on top of dirty rice, and drizzle ¼ cup gastrique over each. Garnish with green onions.