We've partnered with Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork to bring you recipes, tips, and tricks for cooking with one of our favorite ingredients: fresh pork loin!
If you like digging into a meaty Sunday pork roast or a juicy center-cut pork chop, chances are you are well acquainted with the versatile, easy-to-cook workhorse, the pork loin. The sizable primal cut—where the ribs meet the back of a pig—is tender, moist, often with a nice fat cap, and is typically carved into center or sirloin cuts.
"It eats well, it cuts well, and what’s more, it’s versatile,” says Colby Garrelts, the James Beard Award-winning chef who runs three restaurants in Kansas City—the barbecue capital of the world—with his wife, Megan. "And it’s one of the more lenient pieces of meat, as long as you don’t overcook it.”
Here, Garrelts shares his three favorite methods for cooking pork loin. (Warning: Hunger will ensue.) He recommends using Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork boneless center cut pork loin.
THE TASTIEST: Grilling
Food52: Which cooking method gets the most flavor out of pork loin?
CG: You get flavors from grilling that you don’t get from roasting. Smokiness, first and foremost. Direct cooking gives a distinct char, and that char adds a lot of taste.
Food52: Does it matter what kind of fuel you use?
CG: You can grill pork loin with charcoal or wood, or gas. Grilling is just really convenient—it’s outside, there’s less mess, and it’s simple. Those are three of the biggest advantages.
Colby's method for grilling pork loin:
Pre-heat the grill to high, then season your fresh pork with salt and pepper. Make sure the grill is super-hot, then grill the meat for 18 to 20 minutes per pound, depending on your fuel and how hot you can get the grill. Flip the meat once halfway through and cook to an internal temperature of 145º, or slightly higher. Remove from the grill and let the meat rest before cutting, about 10 minutes.
Tip: When seasoning pork loin for grilling, stick to salt and pepper—herbs, sugar and rubs that contain them tend to burn.
THE QUICKEST: Pan-Roasting
Food52: Say you don’t have time to cook a whole roast. What’s the fastest way to cook pork loin?
CG: Pan-roasting pork loin chops is hands down the fastest and the simplest way to cook pork loin. It takes 15 to 20 minutes total. After you can serve it with a sauce, baste it with butter, shallots and herbs, or just eat it as is.
Colby’s method for pan-roasting pork loin chops:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. To slice the pork loin into chops, cut against the grain to about 1-inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper, then sear the meat in an oven-proof pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, getting color all the way around. (If you want your pork chop to have a nice little crust, lightly dust it with some flour, corn starch, or potato starch after seasoning.) Leaving the chops in the pan, put them in the oven and cook to 145º, about 7 minutes. Let rest before serving, at least 10 minutes.
Tip: When you cut your pork loin chops, measure them by weight rather than thickness. A good pork chop is anywhere from 8 to 12 ounces.
THE EASIEST: Oven-Roasting
Food52: What’s the best method for cooking a larger pork loin (rather than cutting into chops)?
CG: Roasting is the most natural way to cook a pork loin, and it’s the easiest and the quickest to get into the oven. I like to sear the outside and then roast it, or you can just roast it as is. The indirect method of cooking preserves pork loin's inherent juiciness and tenderness.
Food52: What’s the desired doneness?
CG: I like my pork like I like my lamb—medium.
Colby’s method for oven-roasting pork loin:
Heat oven to 375°F. Season 2 lb. boneless center cut pork loin with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in large cast iron pan over medium-high. Place pork, fat side down, in pan and brown on all sides, turning several times, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Turn pork fat side down and place pan in oven. Roast until internal temperature reaches 145°F for medium doneness, about 20 minutes per pound (in this case, about 40 minutes total). Let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Tip: Instead of searing on the stovetop, you can turn on the broiler, blast the loin from the top, turn the broiler off, then turn the oven on and roast it.
Stay tuned for more tips on cooking fresh pork from Colby—or check out his recipes featuring Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork below in the meantime.
For the pork loin:
- 1 Smithfield Prime Boneless Center Cut Pork Loin
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
For the salad:
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 12 ounces green beans
- 1/2 to 1 cups baby arugula, loosely packed
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces
For the pork loin:
- 2 pounds Smithfield Prime Boneless Center Cut Pork Loin
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1 3/4 cups apple cider
- 1/2 cup apple butter (you can substitute apple sauce in a pinch)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh oregano
For the pickled apples and Brussels sprouts:
- 2 pounds Brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 apples
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, stemmed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Our partner Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork offers several versatile cuts of all-natural, hand-trimmed, fresh pork, ranging from the boneless center cut pork loin you see above to meaty back ribs to bone-in, thick-cut pork chops. Want to try it out for yourself? Follow the methods you see above, or use Colby's recipe for cider-glazed pork loin, which he suggests serving with spaghetti squash.