Grilling Leaner Cuts of Pork

Written By: Owennie Lee, RD

Title: Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

A slab of tender, fall-off-the-bones ribs probably comes to mind when you hear the words “grilling” and “pork.” But did you know that ribs are one of the highest-fat cuts of pork? Lower-fat cuts of pork do exist, and with our tips, you can make healthy grilled pork without sacrificing flavor!

Fat Content in Popular Cuts of Pork

 % Total Calories From Fat

  • Ground Pork Patty, extra lean: 20%
  • Tenderloin: 32%
  • Loin Center Chop: 50%
  • Ground Pork Patty, regular: 63%
  • Shoulder: 63%
  • Country-Style Ribs: 69%
  • Spare Ribs, braised: 69%
  • Baby Back Ribs: 70%

Grilling is a great way to cook meat, as it allows the excess fat to drip off. Here are some secrets to making a piece of lean pork that is still tender, juicy, and big in flavor:


  • Brining is the practice of soaking meat in salt water (about 1 tablespoon of salt to a cup of water) to add moisture. This is particularly helpful for thicker cuts of pork. According to grill expert Elizabeth Karmel, author of Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned, for 1 pound of meat, brine for 30 minutes; for 1-3 pounds, brine for 45 minutes; and you brine an hour for 3-5 pounds of meat.
  • Marinades work wonders for thinner cuts of pork by tenderizing the meat and adding loads of flavor. You only need about 30 minutes to marinate pork.
  • Up the flavor even more by wrapping pork tenderloin with bacon. Or, better yet, Karmel suggested that you try prosciutto, or Canadian bacon, which is 20% to 30% lower in fat than regular bacon.
  • Want to sneak in some veggies? No problem! Make a kabob with cubed, marinated pork, and your favorite vegetables!
  • Don’t forget to preheat the grill to a proper temperature. This ensures the meat surface is seared quickly to lock in meat juice.


Gone are the days of cooking pork to a dry death! The USDA assures us that for all cuts of pork, once you reach an internal temperature of 160°F you are good to go, even if you see a little pink. Grill expert Karmel suggests the following:

Cut of Pork / Best Prep Method / Time Required

  • Center cut pork chop / Direct grill / 7 minutes on each side
  • Wrapped tenderloin / Indirect roast / Until internal temperature reaches 160°F

Finally, resting is an important but often overlooked step for pork. Resting allows the meat to loosen up and the juices to flow through the pork. Derrick Riches, the Guide to Barbecues & Grilling, suggests that once the pork is done to your liking, you should place it on a plate and cover with aluminum foil for 5 to 10 minutes to let it rest.

The Bottom Line

Now that we have shown you the tricks to a delicious, lower-fat piece of grilled pork, you can add them to your grilling repertoire and impress your guests! So go ahead, fire up the grill and try some pork!


bbq, grilling, pork


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