Spice Rubbed Cowboy Chops


While rebuilding the rotten old slug infested deck in our backyard, Mike has been spending a lot of time with my father.  This is good, right?  You know, some man to man time where they can bond over testosterone fueled demolition and manual labor?  Yeah.  So they’ve been bonding, all right.  Maybe bonding a little bit too much.  It appears that Mike has decided to harness this situation as an opportunity for raising the bar on familial pressure, to his own malevolent ends.

For example, the conversation a few days ago:

Mike: “Oooh, you’re bringing food?  Food like meat?  That’s great!  Tina doesn’t let me eat meat very often…..”

Father: “What?  She restricts your meat?  When you need the strength, right now, more than ever?  Doesn’t she know that men NEED meat?  Because we’re MEN.”

Mike, looking as sorrowful as possible: “Well, she lets me have meat once in a while but only when she says I deserve it.  The rest of the time, chickpeas….beans…..” He leans in conspiratorially.  “….and she keeps trying to trick me into eating TOFU.”

Father: “Oh no!  No, she doesn’t!!  *Bleeeech*  Her mother does the same thing, I have to keep a CONSTANT EYE on what she’s doing in my kitchen.  Don’t worry, I’ll talk some sense into her.  BETTINA! ”  <-note:  there are four people who can get away with calling me Bettina, and two of them provided me with a full complement of chromosomes.  I strongly suggest that you don’t pick up on this habit.  “Bettina, you need to cook Mike more meat.  What you’re doing just isn’t fair to the poor man.”

Are you kidding me?  Seriously?  You’re going to sic my FATHER on me every time I make a vegetarian entree?  I don’t think so.   As a result, in a spiteful and vindictive monkey’s paw fashion, I gave him what he wanted.  I made meat.  Specifically, pork chops.

Mr. Carnivore has a number of fine food foibles, and one of them is a mistrust of anything porcine beyond sausages and bacon.  He says that it’s a ‘texture thing’, referencing fatty gobbets of pork chop with that alarmingly distasteful chew-chew-chewing of the fat. It was ages before I was able to trick him into eating pork tenderloin, and after just one good roast he was convinced that it was the only pork that he’d enjoy. I’ve let this ridiculous charade lie fallow for the last couple of years, focussing my culinary rail-roading on tofu and squid instead, but not anymore!  Oh, no.  The time had come for him to look this piggy in the face and tell me, honest and truly, if he didn’t like a good spice rubbed pork chop.

Spoiler alert:  He liked them.  A lot. Even cold as lunch time leftovers the next day, he liked them.

I love a simple spice rubbed meat because it’s so fuss free.  Really, you have minimal prep time and those 2 minutes of ‘work’ yield a devilishly delicious seasoned dinner.  This Southwestern cowboy style rub is a slightly sweet, slightly hot, punch packed spice blend that I find utterly addictive.  It’s just another take on the pervasive cocoa and chili rubbed pork that’s been doing the rounds for the last year or two, and if you haven’t tried some variation of this rub…well, you should.  The rich burnt sweetness from the brown sugar tangoes right up to smoky paprika, cumin and coriander.  They dance well into the night through a hazy, heady cloud of cocoa and cinnamon.  If that’s not a recipe for romance, I just don’t know what is.

Spice Rubbed Cowboy Chops

Serves 6-8 using 1/2 of the spice rub mixture

  • 6-8 pork loin chops (each 3/4 – 1″ thick, about 2.5 lbs)

Cowboy spice rub:

  • 1.5 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper *
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste *

* Spice rubs are a quick way to add a lot of savory flavor to your favorite protein, but don’t forget that you’re seasoning the meat at the same time.  You could season the chops with salt and pepper before rubbing them down, but I like to build the salt and pepper right into the mix.  How much salt you add will, as always, depend on your personal taste and preference as well as how salty your garlic salt is.  You might want to start with less salt in the rub, taste it (don’t worry, a quick lick o’ dry spice won’t hurt you.  I promise) and add more salt as you see fit.


Put the salt, pepper, sugar and spices into a bowl.  Whisk them together until they’re combined in a uniform powder.


Generously sprinkle the spice rub all over your chops, rubbing it in with your clean hands until each piece is well coated on all sides.  Let the meat sit in the spice rub for about 30-45 minutes before you cook it.

To make the chops you’ll only use about 1/2 of the spice rub mixture, but don’t even think about throwing the rest away!!  This blend is delicious on chicken, brined turkey breast, and firm tofu among other things.

(Yeah, you heard me Mike?  FIRM TOFU.  I challenge you to goad me again.)


Grill the chops however you see fit.  Because pork loin chops tend to be quite lean with just a bit of fat cap, I do my best not to overcook them.  Or, should I say, I stand by like a harpy with my hands on my hips as Mike grills them, and I maintain a constant stream of queries, fretting and unnecessary advice until he gets cranky and makes me finish them myself.  So!  This is how I grill lean chops:

Make sure that your meat is at room temperature.  Turn your grill on to moderate heat and then turn off the burners on one side.  Grill the chops above the lit burner for about 3 minutes per side before scooting them to the cool half of your grill.  Cover the chops with a heatproof tray (like an aluminum baking pan) and let them stay there for another 6-8 minutes, or until they’re firm and cooked through.  If you were to be all technical about things, you want the pork to reach an internal temperature of about 135º, so I take it off when it’s just shy of that (the temperature will rise another few degrees as it rests).  When you take the pork off your grill, tent it with aluminum foil and let it rest for roughly 10 minutes before serving so that the juices can redistribute themselves.


In classic cowboy fashion, we chowed down with an old fashioned dilly potato salad and some freshly boiled corn on the cob.


The sugar adds just enough sweetness to the blend and encourages the chops to caramelize on the grill in a most tantalizing way.


My cowboy certainly liked these chops, eating two for dinner and another two for lunch the next day before asking me if there was any spice rub left so I could make them again…sometime soon.  Really soon.   Like tomorrow?

Pfffft.  Doesn’t like pork chops indeed.


  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com kristie

    Ooooohhhh, that’s a low blow, Mike. Tina, I suggest you go to his mom and tell her he’s been complaining about your cooking, even though you slave over a stove after working full-time all day. It’s the narc equivalent of telling your father he doesn’t get enough meat.

    Unless Mike’s mom doesn’t cook, in which case I’d recommend telling his dad, who’ll be like “My son is rejecting a good meal? I’d be GRATEFUL for such a thing!”

    I like your spice rub combination. A lot. Props to you for not fearing the sweet spices. Pork comes from the same animal as bacon, and bacon loves it some sweetness. Kind of like I love me some bacon. Sadly, I usually just feed it to Chris and watch hopefully while he eats it…sometimes snaking a morsel because there are no calories if it’s eaten off of someone else’s plate.

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo

    Well, well, well.
    That’s some good meats, if I ever saw ’em. 🙂 I’m with Kristie on the sweet spices — so much a marriage made in heaven for pork.

    Now I’m just going to throw this out there… bet this would be a smashing preparation for tofu. Srsly.

  • kate

    I was thinking something like this would be awesome on tempeh. I could put half on pork chops for the hubby and half on tempeh for me, and everybody would be happy. (My husband grew up in Iowa and loves him some pork.) But I have an allergy to chocolate — should I sub unsweetened carob powder, or just skip it, or sub something else?

    I may have mentioned it before, but your site is awesome.

    • kate

      And I don’t normally use the term “awesome” that often. Hrm. I need more coffee.

  • Madge

    I love that your revenge is… cooking him delicious food. That’ll show him! 😀

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    Oh, don’t you make any mistake. By cooking delicious food that I greedily eat, she is winning. And my girl, she likes to win.

    I think I need to be airing my side of the story more often.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Kristie – I also love how the bacon at the edges get crispier and sometimes break, because half a rasher totally doesn’t count as eating it at all…..even if you have three halves…..

    Lo! – I’ve been threatening him with exactly that…..

    Kate – awwww, you make me blush! No, really, I’m blushing which is embarrassing and I don’t like it. If you have a chocolate allergy you could absolutely sub in the unsweetened carob powder! However, if you don’t have that at home, don’t feel the need to make a separate trip to ye olde healthe foode staure. If you left it out there wouldn’t be a gaping void to the rub. A second alternative that you could use is very finely ground coffee or espresso, but drop down from 2 tsp to just 1 as the flavor can be….bold.

    Madge – I know!! I loved yesterday when we was woofing through one of the tofu based plum popsicles, muttering all the while about ‘tofu’ and ‘poison’ while he licked the stick down to a nub.

    Mike – don’t worry, you say PLENTY as it is.

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  • bazil

    You did a very wise thing, Bettina (may I?) and I am happy for Mike, you and me, because I’m going to do the same, asap. Looks mouth watering and I count the hours to the dinner.
    Thanks a lot!

  • http://facebook.com/mommachefcherie Cherie

    Ok I’m trying this tomorrow! Right now I haven’t got any unsweetened cocoa so I’m going to substitute the cocoa/brown sugar/cinnamon for what I DO have…hot cocoa mix with chili and cinnamon. Then I’ll taste the rub and add sugar or cinnamon if needed. I got the mix at Whole Foods recently and it has quite the kick! It’s very yum.

    I’ll report back to say if it sucks. or if it’s amazing. 🙂

    Thanks for the great ideas!!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      And….? AND…? I’m dying to hear how the hot chocolate mix substitute worked out for you, Nosy Nelly that I am!

  • http://facebook.com/mommachefcherie Cherie

    It was AWESOME!! Anyone near a Whole Foods go buy a can of the Spicy Hot Cocoa with chili and cinnamon. I used an equal amount of cocoa but cut down on the sugar and eliminated the cinnamon. I tasted the rub without added brown sugar and added a tiny bit to taste. Hubby love it. I mean he love-loved it. 🙂 Thank you Tina!!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Cherie – so glad that this recipe was a hit, and good call on finding an awesome shortcut which sounds delicious!!! Thanks again for trying it out, and we’re so glad that your fam liked the meal!

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