Occasionally called the “other” white meat, pork has always had an identity issue. Whether being perceived as too fatty, too dry, too tough or in need of cooking to “well done” for health purposes, pork, like a multiple-choice test, is really “none of the above.”
If you stop for a moment and think about it, pork is one of the most versatile meats. From bacon in the morning, shaved ham on a sandwich at lunch and perhaps a slab of baby back ribs or a delicious pork roast, pork has got you covered from sunup till sundown.
This time of the year, however, at least in the cold-weather states, most of us hang up the barbecue tools and reach for the roasting pan when it comes to how we like our pork prepared. There’s nothing quite like a slice or two of succulent roasted pork with one of our favorite starch or vegetable side dishes.
The most common cuts of pork to roast are pork loins (including the chops that come from this area), butts and tenderloins. At Nino’s, the butchers also tell me that based on sales, our customers’ preference is exactly in that order.
So what makes a great pork roast?
Generally speaking, most “recipes” are about flavor, but their “methods” (that is, how they’re prepared and then cooked) are all about how moist, how tender, and to some degree, how appealing the roast on your dinner table will be. Recipes and their corresponding methods are essential to one another. However, I find that while many cooks are religious about following the proportions of recipe ingredients (by measuring each ingredient precisely), they are much less vigilant about the method by which a recipe is cooked.
And THAT can make ALL the difference.
Regardless of which cut of meat you choose, I can give you a few tips to help you enjoy your roast more than ever before and get the MOST out of your recipes.
Fat is not a bad thing. If your roast has a ⅛” to ¼” layer of fat on it, don’t trim it off until AFTER it has roasted. It will help keep your meat juicy and flavorful. It’s also why you see so many pork recipes with bacon wrapped on the outside. It’s as much for the fat that protects the interior juices as it is for the flavor.
Consider a rub on the outside surface of your roast. A rub will help create a “flavor seal” that will do two things:
Lock in the interior juices
Give the surface an additional delicious flavor
Sear your roast (on all sides) in a hot, non-stick skillet, with a very small bit of vegetable oil, before roasting. This will do a number of things, all of them good, including:
Help lock in those juices
Give the roast a GREAT color and taste
Allow you to roast at a low temperature since you already have great exterior color
Give you a moister and more tender meat
Roast the meat on a rack (off the pan’s surface) and at 325 F. The lower temperature gives you a juicer, moister meat with a greater yield and edge-to-edge “doneness” without over-roasting the crust.
Never cover the roast with a lid or foil. This creates steam, which does two bad things:
Prevents the meat from browning properly
Makes the meat tougher
After you remove the roast from the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes to help the interior juices re-hydrate evenly throughout the meat. Now, you’ll get edge-to-edge juiciness.
Perhaps most importantly, consider roasting your pork to a “doneness” less than 165 F (or well done). This last point can make a huge difference. Not to fear, however, even the USDA has come to see the light and finally re-issued its “doneness” recommendations for pork.