Pork loin isn't a cut of meat that most of us cook as often as we should. It's cheaper per pound than pork tenderloin or pork chops, easily serves a crowd, and can be tender and juicy when cooked right. The problems that plague pork loin roast are often the results of these common mistakes. Here are five roadblocks to perfect pork roast and how to avoid them.
1. Choosing the wrong cut of meat.
How many times have you skimmed a recipe from your phone in the grocery store and then come home with skinny, fast-cooking pork tenderloin when you actually need a pork loin roast?
Don't mistake the two: Pork loin is a large cylindrical roast in the two- to four-pound range. Pork tenderloin is long and thin, coming in around one pound for two loins. Make no mistake — these two cuts are both lean pork, but they don't come from the same area of the animal.
2. Not trimming and tying your roast.
Cooking up a beautiful roast only to find after carving that it's either totally overcooked or covered in a chewy layer of fat is nothing short of disappointing. While a trim and some gravy might hide some of that sadness, it's best to avoid this ending all together.
Ask your butcher: If trimming and tying a pork loin roast is out of your wheelhouse, ask you butcher. It should take them five minutes and it'll save you the disappointment.
3. Going easy on the seasoning.
Pork loin is a deep cut of meat and, like beef tenderloin or prime rib roast, it needs a lot more seasoning than you think to ensure the center slices are as flavorful at the end.
Try this: Create a paste with garlic and salt and rub it on to the pork loin at least 30 minutes before cooking but ideally overnight. This gives the salt time to penetrate the roast so it's seasoned throughout.
4. Not browning before roasting.
The goal of any pork loin roast should be twofold: a crisp crust and a rosy, juicy interior. Skipping a pan sear before roasting all but guarantees you'll miss out on the former.
Sear and roast in the same pan: A cast iron skillet mitigates the "one more pan to wash concern" since you can sear the pork loin roast in it, add some aromatics like onions and apples, and then roast the whole thing in the oven. Brown the roast for two to three minutes on each side.
5. Cooking past the rosy stage.
There was a time when we were told to cook pork to well-done to avoid a common parasite of pork that's all but been bred out of pork. Cooking pork loin to well-done will leave you with a dry, chewy roast.
Try this instead: Cook the pork to 145°F and rest for 20 minutes before slicing. The interior should be a lovely, rosy, pale pink. That's a sign it's going to be juicy and full of flavor.