Smoking meat, one of the world's oldest preservation techniques, can be used to preserve virtually any protein, including pork. While barbecue, ribs or pulled pork are the usual suspects for smoking, pork chops are a perfectly suited for smoky goodness. You just have to know what you're getting yourself into. The smoke only affects the surface of the meat, so whether you'll have to cook it post-smoke depends on the specific technique used.
Cooking with Cold Smoke
The two most common smoking techniques are cold smoking and hot smoking. The techniques differ in preparation temperature. In a cold smoke preparation, the meat is kept cool -- usually between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit -- while the smoke is applied. Cold smoking won't affect the texture of the meat, only the flavor. This means that if you use a cold smoking technique for pork chops, you'll have to cook your pork chops after smoking. Ensure that they reach an internal temperature of 145 F before eating them.
The Heat Is On
In a hot smoke, heat is applied at the same time as the smoke -- usually between 130 and 180 F. This technique cooks the meat while flavoring it, and the slowness of the cooking can make even the cheapest, fattiest piece of meat taste moist and flavorful. For pork chops, a hot smoke normally cooks the meat thoroughly -- but as always, heat the meat to the appropriate temperature, 145 F, before eating it.
Wet vs Dry Smoke
There are also variations in the moisture used in smoking techniques. While a wet versus dry preparation won’t change the temperature used, it can affect cooking times if you’re using a hot smoke. As a rule of thumb, wet smoking causes more smoke molecules to be applied to the meat, so it has a stronger effect than dry smoking. If you’re using a hot and wet smoke, avoid over-smoking your chops, which can over flavor and over cook them.
It’s Done When It’s Done
Regardless of preparation technique, the best way to tell if a piece of meat is cooked enough is to take its temperature. The middle of the chops should not be red, and the liquid coming from the meat should be clear; note that well-smoked meats have some pinkness inside from the accumulated flavor particles. As long as the meat has reached 145 F, it can be considered done and consumed vigorously.