As a baseball player, Frank Thomas was known as the “Big Hurt” because of his size (6’5”, 240-plus) and the damage he could do as a hitter. A two-time AL MVP and Hall of Fame inductee, Thomas, 47, is taking his game from the batter’s box to the backyard grill, with his new cookbook, The Big Hurt’s Guide to BBQ and Grilling. We caught up with Thomas to talk grilling, beer and baseball.
Growing up, who manned the grill at family cookouts?
My dad. He was the master griller. He lived for the weekends. We didn’t have much, but on the weekends we had barbecue one of the days. He was a barbecue fanatic. My dad was the ribs king. Barbecue ribs. He was the master smoker. He could barbecue for 10 straight hours. He would sit in the back, put on his little radio and have fun slow-smoking barbecue all day.
Tell me about your restaurant, Big Hurt Brewhouse.
It started off because I wanted to have my own beer (Big Hurt Beer). Then, I’m a big food guy, so why don’t we give the beer a home at Big Hurt Brewhouse? Chicago is known for a lot of great, different restaurants with sports ties, so that’s how it all started. We have great food and beverages and people love it.
Who is your favorite hitter to watch these days?
(Detroit Tigers first baseman) Miguel Cabrera is my all-time favorite because he reminds me of myself so much. And for him to stay healthy so long, it’s great to watch him.
What’s your favorite baseball memory?
Getting into the Hall of Fame (in 2014). Baseball is such a long grind, and to be able to play 19 seasons in the big leagues is special, but it all comes to that final moment. I’m happy to say my final moment was getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Grilled Lemon-Basil Pork Chops
“They used to call me ‘Pork Chop’ when I played football at Auburn,” says Thomas, a former two-sport star. “Down South, everyone fries their pork chops, but here’s a healthier version I’ve grown to love over the years. Make sure your pork chops are thick enough to stand up to the high heat.”
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp. dried basil
4 thick-cut boneless pork loin chops
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
3/4 tbsp. salt
1. Add lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and basil to a medium bowl, then whisk until blended.
2. Place pork chops in a large resealable bag, then pour in marinade and make sure chops are well covered. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
3. Preheat grill to high.
4. Remove chops from marinade and pat dry, then season with salt and black pepper. Pour remaining marinade in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, then set aside to cool.
5. When your grill is hot, use tongs to dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and run them a dozen times across the grates. Cook pork chops over direct heat, basting frequently with cooled marinade, until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, about 5-7 minutes per side.
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