For this, the final installment of my summer grilling series, I saved my favorite meat for last–pork. Pork is not always an easy meat to cook, and it can be especially tricky on the grill. A thick chop might get tough if you don’t have the time to brine it beforehand, and ultra-lean tenderloin dries out in a flash.
My strategy for grilling pork is simple: keep the cooking time short and sweet, so the meat gets that irresistible smoky flavor but stays moist and tender. I ask my butcher for super-thin, ¼-inch-slices of pork loin still wrapped in a one-inch layer of fat–make sure you ask for pork loin, not tenderloin–then I marinate them for an entire day in a sweet, salty, fiery Korean barbecue marinade of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, Korean chile paste and sesame oil. Those flavors penetrate deeply in the meat, which only needs about three minutes per side on a hot grill to render that fat to a bacon-y crispness that provides a wonderful textural contrast to the soft, pliant lettuce leaves the pork slices get folded in to make Korean lettuce wraps. A topping of crunchy cabbage kimchi and a sprinkling of bright fresh cilantro bring together this impressive meal that only takes about 15 minutes to prepare.
Korean Pork Lettuce Wraps
– 1 lb. boneless pork loin (not tenderloin), cut into ¼”-thick slices, with fat cap left intact
– ½ cup soy sauce
– ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
– 2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chile paste)
– 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
– ½”-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated
– 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
– ¼ cup brown sugar
– 1 large head Boston or Bibb lettuce, leaves separated and laid out on a platter
– ½ cup Korean cabbage kimchi, drained and sliced into slivers
– ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1. Prepare the marinade: In a large shallow bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, chile paste, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and brown sugar. Add pork slices and turn to coat thoroughly. Cover pork and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
2. When ready to grill, light ½ chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, about 20 minutes, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, preheat a gas grill to high, covered, for at least 10 minutes.
3. Using tongs, remove pork slices from marinade, allowing excess to drip off, then place on hot grill. Grill pork until meat is well-browned and most of the fat has rendered, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer pork to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.
4. Using tongs, place one slice of pork on each piece of lettuce. Divide sliced kimchi between lettuce wraps, heaping it on top of each slice of pork. Garnish each wrap with cilantro and serve immediately.