Would you like to cook a pork roast that will make your mother-in-law turn green with envy? Follow these guidelines and you can put dried out and tasteless pork roast behind you forever!
Cooking pork roast is not rocket science. All it takes is heat and time and you'll wind up with cooked pork. However if you want to cook a pork roast that is moist, tender and delicious there are some guidelines to follow.
The first step in the perfect pork roast formula is selecting the type of roast. Next on the agenda is determining the best cooking method for the roast you've selected.
This decision making process also works in reverse. If you know the cooking method you want to use you then decide on the cut of pork.
Probably the most important step in cooking today's pork is brining! This takes a little time planning to allow the roast to absorb the brine but it is well worth the effort.
Selecting the Roast
I'll have to admit that if I'm just hungry for pork roast my decision for the type of roast is whatever is on sale. Then I'll decide how to cook it based on what is best for that type.
If you do not want to use the "whatever is on sale method" then a little knowledge of pork roast is in order.
Most all pork roasts come from the shoulder and loin wholesale cuts. There are fresh ham roasts (the hind leg) but you will rarely see them in groceries. Also pork sirloin roasts are from the hind part of the loin and they fit the shoulder roast category.
Shoulder Pork Roasts
Roasts from the shoulder contain several different muscles along with connective tissue and a good amount of fat.
These roasts benefit from long slow roasting times that allow the connective tissue to break down. They are extremely flavorful due to the amount of fat.
Shoulder roast cuts include the whole shoulder, which is good for a crowd, Boston butt, the top of the shoulder and Picnic roasts from the bottom.
These roasts all might have different names in your grocery according to the cut.
Roasts from the shoulder are the cut of choice for recipes such as pulled pork.
Pork Loin Roasts
Roasts from the pork loin are the best roasts from the pig. They are single muscle roasts without much fat. These muscles are from the center of the back of the pig and get very little usage, which makes them tender.
Basically there are two main roasts from the loin. By far the most tender is the pork tenderloin. The mild pork flavor of the tenderloin lends itself to marinades to impart flavoring.
The pork loin roast has a slightly stronger pork flavor than the tenderloin and is extremely lean. It compares in leanness to chicken breast.
Brining Pork Roasts
Most all meat products will benefit from brining.
Brine is simply a solution of non-iodized salt and water. The meat has a less concentration of salt and water than the solution so Mother Nature takes over to equalize the two.
Basic brine is 1 cup of non-iodized salt to one gallon of water. But it does not stop there. All sorts of flavorings can be added to the brine and will be imparted to the roast.
A brined pork roast increases in weight because of the brining. The weight is all water. As the roast is cooked most of the water is cooked out but some remains resulting in a moist and tender roast.
The shoulder and sirloin roast will benefit from brining but they are just fine without it due to the fat content. For a pork loin roast, however, I consider brining essential because of its low fat content.
Cooking Pork Roast
Pork roasts are a little more forgiving when selecting a cooking method than their beef equivalent.
There are two basic methods for cooking meats. These two are the "moist heat" method and the "dry heat" method.
Moist heat simply means that there is a liquid included along with the roast in the cooking vessel.
The moist heat method is for cuts that are from the less tender sections of the animal. The moist heat assists in breaking down the fibers and tissue of the meat to yield a tenderer product.
Roasting in the oven, the crock-pot or even an electric skillet are ideal methods of applying heat to the roast during moist heat cooking. Either method should include a tight fitting heavy lid.
Pot roasts and braised roasts are examples of the moist heat cooking method.
The dry heat cooking method is the opposite of the moist heat method. No liquid is introduced during the cooking process.
Dry heat cooking should include a searing of some type for a crispy and flavorful exterior. You can sear the roast in a skillet or in an extremely hot oven for a short period of time.
Dry heat can be applied in the oven, on the grill or my favorite the smoker.
Pork Roast Cooking Times
Cooking time is critical for a moist and tender pork roast.
There are many variables to pork roast cooking times. Some of those variables include the type of roast, the size and thickness of the roast and the cooking temperature.
There are some rules of thumb for cooking time for the different roasts but at best they are only a guess.
A two to five pound pork loin roast cooked at 350 degrees f. will require roughly 20 to 30 minutes per pound.
Pork tenderloin in the one to two pound category will require the same 20 to 30 minutes per pound but at 425 degrees F. instead of 350 degrees.
A two to five pound Boston butt roast will require approximately 45 minutes per pound at 350 degrees F. The extra time is to allow the connective tissue to break down and the fat to melt and mingle with the roast.
The only sure way to know when your roast is done is to use a meat thermometer.
If you are roasting in the oven an oven thermometer is also recommended. Oven thermostats are notoriously inaccurate.
Like I said cooking pork roast is not rocket science. Following these guidelines, however, will yield a pork roast so moist and tender it will surely impress your guests and will definitely make your mother-in-law turn green with envy.
Pork Roast Recipes
There are probably as many pork roast recipes as there are cooks. Choosing a recipe for your family will depend on their likes and dislikes.
By brining your roast with herbs and spices you can create your own recipe to include your favorite flavors.