Thursday, February 11, 2016

How I Grill Veal Chops on the Kamado Grill

I was picking up some things at the store the other day and couldn't pass by some pretty veal loin chops.  I don't do veal chops a lot because they aren't generally available all of the time.  Plus it is pretty pricey when it is available, so it doesn't always fit my budget.

Veal is different in beef in that it is lighter in color because they are fed a low iron diet and no grass, which prevents it from developing myoglobin (McGee 138).  Myoglobin is the red protein that you see as "blood" in packages of meat and forms the smoke ring in BBQ when it binds with nitrogen compounds.  The special diet also prevents their fat from hardening, which makes veal succulent and tender.  Finally, the flavor is also milder than full grown beef steers. 

Types of Veal
There are several types of veal.

Field Guide To Meat

According to Green, what you see in grocery stores and most restaurants is typically grain fed while upper tier restaurants often carry the specially fed veal.  Just like beef, all veal is inspected by a USDA inspector but grading is optional.  Green says that 93% of all graded veal is either Prime or Choice (77).

Ethics of Veal
When I first fell in love with the tender, delicious taste of veal in the mid-1980's, I was told that I shouldn't eat veal because "they" treated the calves terribly.  Sadly this was true of a lot of commercially farmed animals as production attempted to keep up with demand.    

But as with a lot of commercial farming operations, the negative attention has brought about significant changes.  Green writes, "improved animal care and feed practices have evolved; today, calves are raised in well-lit, climate controlled, ventilated barns (76)".  McGee confirms that more humane alternatives are increasingly common (138).  From personal experience, Alexis and I stumbled across a veal program while driving though the back roads of East Tennessee about 3 years ago and the calves were even allowed outside.  They were in small pens that allowed them to move and turn, although not roam.  

So like everything, know your sources and ask questions before buying.  

Types of Veal Chops
The most common veal chops that I see are the rib chop, which is from the same cut that would go on to be a ribeye or prime rib if the steer grew to full maturity.  

You can find rib chops as Kansas City style veal rib chop (left) or a Frenched veal rib chop (right).  These examples are from Catelli Brothers.  [photo credit:  Catelli Brothers]

The chops that I bought are the loin chops, aka T-bone and porterhouse.

Loin chops come from the loin between rib and sirloin primals and are one of the most expensive cuts of veal.  Veal is very lean so that means that dry, high heat cooking methods work best, so grilling is ideal.  Just remember because it is lean, that it will be very easy to over cook.  Check your temps early and often with a quality instant read thermometer (I like Thermapen and Thermopop).

Generally, I cook veal chops just like I would beef steaks of the same thickness except I limit it to direct grilling - about 4-5 minutes per side at 400-450f.  I don't do a sear/roast or reverse sear because the meat is so lean.

Because the meat is milder than steak, veal needs a little help in the flavor department.  Salt and pepper is fine for beef but I like a more robust rub for veal. Things like dried onion or shallots, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, and citrus zest are great to add into your rub.  A bold sauce helps out too but not your typical steak sauces.  I like highly seasoned cream sauces.  Today I used a base of brown butter and brightened it up with juice from a grilled lemon, toasted pine nuts, capers, and garlic.

I served mine with fire roasted garlic potatoes and asparagus, all cooked on my Grill Dome kamado grill.  The chops only take about 10 minutes to cook but the whole meal takes about 1 hour.

Veal Loin Chops with Brown Butter Sauce

Published 02/10/2016


  • 4 veal loin chops
  • lemon cut in half
  • zest from one lemon for garnish
For the rub
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
For the brown butter sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 teaspoon capers
  • juice from 1/2 grilled lemon
  • 1/2 cup browned butter
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. Preheat your grill to 400-450°f.  If using GrillGrates, put them in after your grill has stabilized temperature and then wait 10 more minutes.
  2. Meanwhile make the sauce.  Preheat a medium skillet and then toast the pine nuts in 1 tablespoon of butter.  When toasted and golden, add in the garlic and cook for another minute.  Stir in the capers, browned butter, and remove from heat.
  3. Mix the rub ingredients together and season the chops on both sides with the rub.
  4. Grill the chops over direct heat until they reach an internal temperature of 125-130°f (for medium rare), about 5 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and let rest for 3-5 minutes.
  5. At the same time, grill the lemon halves cut sides down.  Squeeze the juice of one half lemon into the brown butter sauce and stir.  NOTE:  Lemon seeds look awfully similar to pine nuts - be extra careful to keep any from getting into the sauce.
  6. Top the chops with some lemon zest, spoon some of the brown butter sauce over the chop, and serve.
Yield: 4 chops

red bliss potatoes, asparagus, garlic, lemon
I like whole meals cooked on the Grill Dome.

It has been very cold in Knoxville but kamado grills like the Grill Dome are resilient to icy weather.

I did the fire roasted potatoes on the Grill Dome too.  This was indirect heat (roasting) but the usual indirect set ups would require taking out the cooking grate, moving a plate setter or stone/spider combo, and putting the grates back on in order to switch to direct grilling for the veal.

Instead, I use GrillGrates or Grill Dome Sear Grates sitting on the main grate as my indirect piece as shown below. I cooked the potatoes above that on a raised grid and pizza stone.  This does two things.  First, it preheats my GrillGrates so they will be ready to sear.  Second, when it's time to switch to direct grilling, all I have to do is take out the raised grid - minimal handling of hot greasy equipment.

red bliss potatoes, Big Green Egg potatoes, Grill Dome potatoes, Kamado Joe potatoes
I parboil a pound of b-sized new red bliss potatoes for 5 minutes.  Then halve them and toss in a mix of 2 tbsp oil, 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped, 1/2 tsp of dried rosemary, and 1/2 tsp of kosher salt.  Then roast at 400°f until tender and golden, about 40 minutes.

BGE side dish ideas, grill side dish ideas, Grill Dome vegetables
You can use any pan that fits, but I like using a thick pizza stone with parchment paper.  The paper minimizes sticking and makes clean up easy.  It won't burn at these temps as long as the edges aren't exposed to direct flame.

BGE veal, Grill Dome veal, kamado joe veal, primo veal, vision veal
Salt will draw out moisture from the veal so either put it on at the last second like I did or let it sit on for at least an hour so the meat will start to draw the moisture back in.

The Sear Grates not only create defined cross hatch marks, they also help you get more infrared heat from your fire, keeping your meat juicy.

Because veal is paler, don't go by visual cues for doneness - they won't get as dark as steaks.  They will be more like the color of grilled pork chops.

I used the other lemon half to squeeze over the grilled asparagus as soon as the asparagus came off of the grill.  

Grill Dome veal, Big Green Egg veal, Primo veal, kamado joe veal,
The sauce isn't thick, it's more of a vibrant juice.  The brown butter adds lusciousness and the acid brightens the flavor.  

Reader Tip
Jay T. had a great idea for cooking meatloaf on the kamado grill.  Too keep it from getting greasy, I usually form mine in a loaf pan and then invert it on a screen for cooking.  Here is Jay's idea.

"But as you discussed cooking it on mesh, it put mine in a large spring form pan with the bottom removed on top of a grill basket (with holes). It worked like a champ and the wedge shaped slices made it look special."

I love this idea, especially the presentation of a wedge.  Thanks Jay!