When you don't want deja vu turkey for another holiday dinner, hit the reset button with an easy-yet-stunning juicy roast pork loin. You won't believe how succulent and savory a slice of roasted pork can be with just a simple garlic paste and sprinkle of pepper.
For any regular day of the week stick to the one-pot preparation, which is delicious on its own, thanks to the apple and onions cooked alongside it. But for the holidays you absolutely have to make the tart green applesauce to spoon over top.
Aren't Pork Loin and Pork Tenderloin the Same Thing?
Chances are you know all about pork tenderloin. This lean, affordable cut of meat often steals the spotlight, thanks to its quick cook time and accessibility at the grocery store. Pork loin roast, on the other hand, is larger, meatier, and, dare I say, actually easier to cook. These roasts are usually between two and four pounds and are uniform in shape.
That uniformity is helpful because you do not have to worry about one part of the roast cooking more quickly than another as you do with pork tenderloin.
Both pork loin and pork tenderloin are lean and have a mild flavor, but pork loin roast is uniquely suited for casual dinner parties or even the fanciest of holidays, thanks to its size and ease. After a quick sear, leave it to cook in the oven for an hour and use the hands-off time to make a salad or pack tomorrow's lunch.
- What's the Difference Between Pork Loin and Pork Tenderloin?
- Everything About Pork Loin Roast: How to Buy It and Cook It to Perfection
For Your Information
- Buy a three- to four-pound boneless pork loin roast from the grocery. Do not substitute a pork tenderloin for this recipe, as that is a different, smaller cut of pork.
- You'll need a total of three apples for the pork and green apple sauce. Choose two sweet-tart apples, like Honeycrisp or Pink Lady, and one tart Granny Smith apple.
- Snip sprigs of rosemary, sage, mint, and parsley from your garden or pick them up from the produce section.
Key Step for Juicy, Tender Roasted Pork Loin
- Make the garlic paste. Smash a few garlic cloves, sprinkle on some salt, then scrape with your knife to a smooth paste. This mellows the garlic flavor and makes it easier to rub all over the pork loin.
- Trim and season the pork loin. Trim visible silverskin or loose pieces of fat, but leave the fat cap in place. Then rub the pork with the garlic paste and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. You can do this up to a day in advance or cook it right away.
- Brown the pork loin. A heavy cast iron pan and a slick of oil makes for a nice golden-brown crust. Wait until you have a deep brown color before turning. If the meat sticks to the pan as you try to turn it, wait another minute or so until it releases easily.
- Arrange apples, onion, and herbs in the pan with maple syrup. Large chunks of apples and onion hold their shape when roasted. Sprigs of rosemary and sage and a drizzle of maple syrup flavor the pork drippings for a quick pan sauce.
- Roast the pork loin for 1 hour. Roast the pork until an instant-read thermometer registers 145°F. The key to juicy pork is not overcooking it.
- Make the green apple sauce. Let a food processor do all the work to turn green apples, lemon, garlic, herbs, salt, and olive oil into a spoonable tart apple sauce.
Apples Are a Must
It's rare that I ever serve pork without some apple accompaniment, whether it is slow-cooked apple sauce spread over thick pork chops, tossing bacon and apples with shredded cabbage for slaw, or rubbing pork shoulder with apple butter before slow cooking for sandwiches. Here, large chunks of onion and apples serve as a bed for a seared pork loin roast.
Choose an all-purpose or eating apple, such as Honeycrisp and Pink Lady apples, because they hold their shape rather than falling apart in the heat of the oven. The apples soften slightly, soak up the juices dripping from the pork, and caramelize in the maple syrup you have drizzled over top. The pork is so savory and the maple syrup so sweet, you'll want something acidic to cut through those caramel-like flavors. Enter: the fresh green apple sauce.
More apple than herb, the tart green apple sauce included here is not quite a chimichurri or gremolata, but it delivers the same fresh flavors as you would expect from one. With a few quick pulses of your food processor, turn Granny Smith apples, a few fistfuls of herbs, and a squeeze of lemon into a sauce that will perk up the flavor of slow-roasted pork.
How to Serve Juicy, Tender Roasted Pork Loin
Once the pork loin roast reaches 145°F on an instant-read thermometer, remove it from the oven. Rest the pork on a cutting board for 20 minutes to give the meat time to reabsorb all its juices. I like cutting thick, 3/4- to 1-inch slices of pork loin, although certainly slice it thinner if that's your preference. Lay a few slices of pork on the plate and scatter some of the cooked apple and onion pieces around. Finish with a drizzle of the sweet herbed-maple pan drippings and a tablespoon of tart green apple sauce.
The juxtaposition of the savory pork, sweet caramelized roasted apples and onion, and tangy, crisp green apple sauce hits all the right notes to satisfy all the hungry mouths around the dinner table.
Juicy & Tender Roasted Pork Loin: The Simplest, Easiest Method
What You Need
For the pork loin:
1 (3- to 4-pound) boneless pork loin roast
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tart-sweet medium apples, such as Honeycrisp or Pink Lady, quartered
1 large onion, cut into eighths
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 fresh sage sprigs
1/4 cup maple syrup
For the green apple sauce:
1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and quartered
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, grated
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Measuring cups and spoons
Knife and cutting board
Kitchen twine, optional
10- to 12-inch cast iron pan or stainless steel straight-sided skillet
Melon baller (optional)
Citrus reamer or juicer
- Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F.
- Make garlic paste. Cut off the stem end of the garlic cloves. Coarsely chop the garlic, then sprinkle with the salt. Hold the blunt side of the knife with both hands, angle the knife slightly, and scrape the pile of garlic and salt to flatten. Use the knife to create a small garlic and salt pile, then press and scrape again. Repeat this process a few more times until you have a smooth paste. Sprinkle the pepper over the paste.
- Trim the silverskin from the pork loin and rub with garlic paste. Trim the silverskin off of the pork loin, but leave the fat cap intact. Rub the garlic paste evenly over all sides of the pork loin. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- Brown the pork loin on all sides. Heat the oil in a 10- to 12-inch cast iron pan or stainless steel straight-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the pork and sear on all sides until it's deep golden-brown and easily releases from the pan, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Once all 4 sides have browned, transfer the pork loin to a plate.
- Add the butter, onion, apples, and herbs to the pan. Turn off the heat, but keep the skillet on the stove. Scatter the apples, onion, butter, rosemary, and sage around the pan. Drizzle with the maple syrup.
- Return the pork loin and any juices to the pan. Nestle the browned pork loin on top of the onion, apples, and herbs, and pour in any accumulated juices from the plate.
- Roast the pork loin for 1 hour. Roast the pork loin until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork reads 145°F, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, make the green apple sauce.
- Make the green apple sauce while the pork roasts. Place the Granny Smith apple, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, mint, sage, parsley, rosemary, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until finely chopped, 12 to 14 pulses, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse again until incorporated.
- Rest the pork loin for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the pork to a clean cutting board. Let the pork loin rest for 20 minutes.
Slice the pork loin and serve with onion, apples, pan sauce, and green apple sauce. Slice the pork loin crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Serve the sliced pork with the onion and apple pieces. Drizzle with some of the pan drippings and the green apple sauce.
- Make ahead: Rub the pork loin with the garlic paste up to 1 day in advance and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator while heating the oven. The green apple sauce can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. Stir the sauce before serving.
- Storage: Refrigerate leftover pork in an airtight container for up to 4 days. The green apple sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.