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By Terri Hahn

A toast to the pork roast


January 5, 2023

National Pork Board

For a crisp surface on your pork loin roast, be sure the oven is fully preheated before putting the meat in and do not cover it while roasting.

There are lots of dishes out there that are considered comfort foods (meatloaf, mac and cheese, chicken and noodles), but in my opinion, roasts - both beef and pork - have to be included on that list.

Roasting is cooking meat or vegetables in the oven (or over a flame, technically) in an uncovered pot with no liquid, according to food writer Daniel Neman. The meat or vegetables are cooked entirely and evenly by the dry heat of the air around them.

I have more experience with beef roasts than I do with pork, but I'm trying to up my game where pork roasts are concerned. But where to start?

The cuts

For the purposes of this column, I'm going to concentrate on two particular cuts: A pork loin roast and the tenderloin.

According to the National Pork Board, the pork loin roast comes from the area of the pig between the shoulder and the beginning of the leg. It is sold either bone-in or deboned - loin roasts with a bone tend to be juicier and more flavorful but you'll need to carve around the bone to serve. Boneless pork loin roast can be rolled and tied for cooking.

Pork loin roast is sometimes confused with tenderloin, but they are not the same. A pork loin roast is typically sold in pieces weighing 2-4 pounds while the tenderloin is a smaller, long cut that usually weighs about a pound.

Pork loin roasts are delicious when brined or rubbed with a spice mixture and barbecued over indirect heat. Pork loin roasts should not be braised or stewed as they have a tendency to fall apart and become a bit tough when cooked using moist heat.

pork tenderloin can be prepared a number of ways and is flavorful, lean and easy to cook.

pork tenderloin can be impressive with simple seasonings and roasted, grilled, sautéed or used as an ingredient in a variety of recipes. It is a mild, lean and tender cut that comes from the full pork loin and typically weighs around 3/4 to 1-1/2 pounds.

Cooking methods

Roasting, very similar to baking, is a method of cooking pork in the oven in a shallow, uncovered pan, and without adding liquid to the pan.

According to the Pork Board, any cut of pork can be roasted at 350 degrees F unless otherwise noted.

Pork can also be grilled, fried, stewed, slow-cooked, air fried, braised, sautéed and smoked.

But since we're sticking to roasts, let's concentrate on that. Since roasting involves cooking with dry heat and no extra liquid, rubs are what give each individual roast its kick. A glaze can also be added for even more flavor.

Here are some great recipes to try.

This roast has both a dry rub and a glaze that is actually jalapeño jelly.

Here, the jelly is thinned with a little balsamic vinegar to create a zesty glaze for pork tenderloin, says food writer Gretchen McKay. It also could be brushed on salmon, steaks or chicken wings, spooned on top of burgers or mixed with cream cheese for a cracker dip.

For a longer cupboard/shelf storage, process the cooked jelly in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Jalapeño-Glazed Pork Roast

For jalapeño jelly:

1 cup seeded and finely chopped red pepper

1 cup seeded and finely chopped green pepper

2 cups seeded and finely chopped jalapeño peppers

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 (1.75-ounce) dry fruit pectin

Dab of butter or margarine

5 cups sugar

For pork roast:

1 tablespoon ancho or regular chili powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/2-or 2-pound pork tenderloin

1/3 cup jalapeño pepper jelly

1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Make jelly: Place peppers in large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add vinegar, then stir in pectin until well combined.

Add butter or margarine to reduce foaming. Turn heat to high, and bring mixture to rolling boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred. Slowly stir in sugar, mixing to combine. Cook, stirring often, until sugar is completely melted and pepper mixture returns to a full rolling boil, about 10 minutes. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then remove from heat and ladle into clean jars. Jelly will set as it cools.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Whisk chili powder, black pepper, cinnamon, cumin and salt together in a small bowl. Using your fingers, rub spice mixture onto all sides of pork tenderloin. Place tenderloin in a shallow roasting pan or jelly roll pan.

Roast tenderloin in the preheated oven until no longer pink in the center, about 30 minutes. (An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 150 degrees.)

Stir pepper jelly and balsamic vinegar together in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until jelly is completely melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Brush pepper jelly mixture over pork tenderloin and continue to bake tenderloin until jelly coating is hot, about 5 minutes more.

Let pork rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with roasted potatoes and a green salad.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from: Gretchen McKay

Daniel Neman roasted a hunk of pork - it happened to be a sirloin, he says, but that doesn't really matter. The best cuts for roasting are the ones that aren't put to better use in other ways, such as chops and ribs. A lot of people like to roast a pork loin because it is of a fairly uniform size, so it cooks all at the same time. Do not confuse it with a tenderloin, which will dry out very quickly if you overcook it at all.

"I cooked my roast in a classic preparation, with sauerkraut and apples. It's also very easy - just the three ingredients, plus salt and pepper," Neman says. "And yet, the flavors blend together in a most miraculous way, with the sweetness of the pork and the apples playing off the salty tanginess of the sauerkraut. It is comfort food that is unusually comforting.

Easy pork roast with Sauerkraut and Apples

1-1/2 pounds pork roast or loin (not chops, ribs or tenderloin)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

2 apples

1 (14.5-ounce) can sauerkraut or 2 cups fresh sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper, and place in roasting pan.

Grate apples (not the core) on the large holes of a grater or chop finely with a knife. If you get tired of grating or chopping, you can cut one of the apples into wedges. Mix the apples and sauerkraut together in a medium bowl and spread around the pork.

Cook 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the meat registers 145 degrees.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe from: Mary Anne Pikrone, via Daniel Neman

Food writer Dana Cizmas got the inspiration for the pork loin dish from Ina Garten's Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast recipe in "Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That," where she rubs a rosemary-sage-thyme-dry mustard mixture over and under the skin of a turkey breast and roasts the meat for about two hours in the oven.

Cizmas adapted the recipe for a pork loin tasty enough for a guests. "Criminally easy to whip up, the pork turns out tender and moist."

Herb-Crusted Pork Loin

1 (3 to 3-1/2 pounds) boneless pork loin

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons dry mustard

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from about 1 lemon

1 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pat meat dry with paper towels if necessary.

In a small bowl, combine garlic, dry mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons olive oil and lemon juice to make a paste. Smear paste evenly over the pork. Allow the meat to sit for about 15 minutes at room temperature.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add pork and sear until brown on all sides and a nice crust has formed, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of a roasting pan. Transfer pork loin to the roasting pan and place it skin side up. Pour juices and oil from the skillet over the meat. Pour wine into the bottom of the roasting pan. Cover pan with foil.

Roast pork for 1 hour. Remove foil and roast the meat for 15 minutes longer or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest and meatiest areas of the pork, and juices are clear.

When pork is done, transfer meat to a carving board, cover loosely with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with pan juices spooned over the meat.

Makes 12 to 14 servings.

Recipe adapted from: "Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips" by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2010)

Food writer J.M. Hirsch says coffee has become a favorite ingredient when roasting meat.

"It's an effortless way to add gobs of flavor to whatever I am making," he says. "All I do is add whole coffee beans to whatever spice blend I am using as a wet or dry rub, then grind it to a powder and apply to the meat. The coffee provides deep, rich flavors with just a hint of acid. It's a combination that works wonders for roasted meat."

If you're looking for a simple and speedy dinner, Hirschs suggests making the roasted pork tenderloin in this recipe and serve it as is with a side salad or some roasted vegetables. Or for something party-worthy, slice it, slap it on rounds of baguette, then top with a dollop of cherry jam. For the latter variation, the pork can be served warm or room temperature.

An electric spice grinder (or coffee grinder) is the easiest way to make the spice rub for this recipe. If you don't have one, Hirsch says, substitute an equal amount of ground coffee for the beans, then use a mortar and pestle or food processor to grind everything together.

Cherry-Topped Coffee-Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Start to finish: 35 minutes

1 tablespoon coffee beans

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 pounds pork tenderloins

1 baguette, thinly sliced into 36 rounds

Olive oil

10-ounce jar cherry jam

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.

In a spice grinder, combine the coffee beans, garlic powder, fennel seeds, paprika, peppercorns and salt. Grind until the beans and seeds are finely ground. Rub the spice-coffee blend evenly and liberally over the pork tenderloins. Set the tenderloins on the prepared baking sheet, then roast for 20 minutes, or until they reach 145 degrees F at the center. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, brush the baguette slices with olive oil, then arrange on a baking sheet and toast for 2 minutes, or until just barely browned.

When the pork is ready, cut it into thin slices. To serve, place one slice of pork on each piece of baguette, then top with a small dollop of cherry jam.

Makes 36 appetizers.

Recipe from: J.M. Hirsch

The pork tenderloin is a small roast (about 1 to 2 pounds per roast), which also means it cooks quickly, adding to its weekday convenience, says cookbook author and Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian.

"As a bonus, the pork tenderloin is incredibly low in fat, making it comparable to a boneless, skinless chicken breast," she says. " A 4-ounce serving of pork tenderloin offers up over 20 grams of protein and less than 3 grams of fat! That's the good news."

But, she cautions, the lower fat content can result in a bland roast and can be easily overcooked. To deal with that, d'Arabian suggests letting the roast sit in a dry or wet rub in the refrigerator for a day or two.

"Two days in a mustard and herb mixture works magic on the tenderloin's flavor," she says. "Try my 48-hour mustard-marinated pork tenderloin roast as proof. Second, don't overcook the roast. A light shade of pink says that the roast is cooked, but still juicy. Aim for an internal temperature of 150 degrees F, then allow the roast to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. The result will be a perfectly-cooked and flavorful roast worthy of company and a holiday meal."

Mustard-Marinated pork tenderloin Roast

Start to finish: 35 minutes, plus marinating

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 pork tenderloin roasts (about 1-1/2 pounds each)

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, orange zest, paprika, thyme, rosemary, cumin, olive oil, salt and pepper. Rub into the flesh of both pork tenderloins. Place the tenderloins in a large zip-close plastic bag, pressing to remove excess air before closing. Refrigerate for 48 hours.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Let the tenderloin rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, arrange the roasts on a rack set into a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Roast until the pork reaches 155 degrees F to 160 degrees F, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the roasts from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from: Melissa d'Arabian

Terri Hahn of Osceola has worked in food media for more than 30 years and has won numerous state and national awards for her writing. Email her at [email protected]


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