By Joe Stumpe
Pork loin packs plenty of promise, from great flavor and low price to nutritional makeup and ease of preparation. However, it suffers from a tendency to dry out because it is such a lean cut of meat (the same trait that makes it relatively healthy).
After a little research, experimentation and cooking about 30 pounds of the stuff for a big party recently, I landed on a way to cook a pork loin and keep it in that optimally juicy stage. And yes, it works on much smaller quantities as well.
The keys are temperature and moisture.
First, temperature. About a decade ago, food safety experts lowered the minimum recommended internal cooking temperature for pork loin from 160 to 145 degrees (which some restaurant cooks had already been following). This often produces pork with a pink interior. Unfortunately, that still scares some cooks who believe pork must be cooked until it’s tough and gray to be safe.
It’s frankly amazing how much difference those 15 degrees make. Get a meat thermometer – the cheapest, perfectly adequate models cost about $5 – try it for yourself and I think you’ll agree.
The second part of this method goes against many recipes that call for roasting pork loin uncovered. Too often, that results in a loss through evaporation of juices released by the meat during cooking. Instead, brown the pork loin on a stovetop first, then cook it covered in an oven with a small amount of liquid (such as chicken broth or white wine) poured into the bottom of the pan. Cooking juices from the meat, mixed with the liquid in the pan, can then be ladled over the meat after it’s sliced for additional moistness and flavor. Caterers do something similar by keeping a little liquid in chafing dishes full of meat. It’ll save you the trouble of making a sauce and highlight the pork’s true flavor.
Perfectly Juicy Pork Loin
This recipe works with any rub or seasoning you prefer.
1 boneless pork loin, 3 to 5 lbs. (if you are preparing a larger loin, cut it in half)
Rub: Kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, garlic and fresh rosemary
1 cup chicken broth or white wine
Remove the pork loin from the refrigerator at least one hour before cooking. Wipe any moisture from the meat with paper towels.
Chop the salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary together until a rough paste is formed. Rub this all over the pork loin along with olive oil.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork loin and brown well on all sides. Transfer the pork to a baking pan (or leave it in the skillet if it’s oven proof). Deglaze the skillet with 1 cup broth or wine and pour into the baking pan. Insert a meat thermometer in the center of the loin, cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook in a 350-degree oven about 15 minutes per pound (check the temperature occasionally) or until it reaches 145 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest, covered, at least five minutes. When ready to serve, slice pork and pour over liquid from pan.