Each week this summer, Cara Nicoletti of The Meat Hook is helping us get to know our favorite cuts a little bit better -- and introducing you to a few new ones, too. Read on, study up, then hightail it to your nearest butcher.
Today: We're showing you how to prepare a simple fall staple -- roast pork loin -- for dinner tonight or a sandwich tomorrow.
As soon as the weather starts to cool off, people immediately start showing up to The Meat Hook looking for beef chuck roasts. Beef chuck roasts are delicious, but it seems like people often forget about pork when it comes to buying a simple weeknight roast. We slow-cook and braise pork shoulder for pulling, or buy massive pre-cooked spiral-cut hams for holidays, but our pork loins generally sell quickest in the form of pork chops. We talked about pork chops a couple of weeks ago, so now let’s talk about how to cook pork loin in its entirety.
Lots of people confuse the loin with the tenderloin -- an understandable mistake. While they do come from the same place, the tenderloin is a tiny muscle nestled up inside of the loin at the sirloin end. The pork loin runs along the spine from just after the shoulder to just before the sirloin of a pig. On a cow, we would separate this into two major sections -- the rib loin (where you get ribeyes from), and the strip loin (where you get strips, porterhouses, and t-bones from). On a pig, though, the entire thing is just called the loin. Your loin roast, like your pork chops, will vary slightly depending on which part of the loin its cut from, in the same way that a strip steak differs from a ribeye steak.
More: Grilling your meat? Learn how to achieve perfect grill marks.
Roasts cut from the sirloin end of the loin will be leaner and slightly more tender than a rib-end roast, but also a little bit less flavorful. I prefer the rib-end of the loin (which is pictured here), not only because it’s more flavorful, but also because there is more inter-muscular fat to keep the meat moist through roasting.
This is my favorite way to roast a pork loin -- it is so simple and delicious, not only as a warm roast for dinner, but also cold and sliced thinly for sandwiches the next day.
As always, I recommend buying good quality meat from a source that you trust completely. You will be amazed at how much better well-raised pork tastes. Plus, buying high-quality pork means that you don’t have to cook it to the USDA-recommended internal temperature. Instead, you can pull this roast out at 135° F, while it’s still slightly pink in the middle, which makes all the difference in the world in terms of moisture and flavor.
More: In order to read your pork's internal temperature, you're going to need a meat thermometer.
Serves 6 to 7
5 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup salt
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
4 sprigs rosemary, picked and finely chopped
4 sprigs thyme, picked and finely chopped
One 3-pound boneless pork loin, fat trimmed to 1/4 to 1/2 inch
What's your favorite way to eat roast pork loin? Topped with apple sauce? Tell us in the comments!
Photos by Alpha Smoot