Seeking Secrets to a Successful Pork Loin
In efforts to be somewhat economical, I purchase 10-lb. pork loins from our local warehouse club. Note: Pork LOIN, that thick and lean leg of pink meat, not to be confused with its smaller, tender but higher-priced cousin, the pork TENDERloin, often sold in stores swimming in marinade. (Many cooks online seem to use the terms interchangeably.)
I am interested to learn tricks and techniques to achieving with my cheaper loin results as comparable as possible to that of its pricier cousin; tender, succulent slabs of meat.
My methods thus far: Hours after purchase I convert my kitchen counter into an operating table and amputate the "leg" into sections, typically 2 3-lb. pieces for slowcooking and the remainder I slice 1-2" thick (A no-no?) for braising in a skillet 1-2 hrs. -- with only 2.5 mouths to feed currently, these individual cuts (frozen 4 to a package) allow for more suitably-sized meals/less uneaten leftovers. I have had success in braising the 1-2" cuts in a skillet, but even submerged in liquid they are fished from the slowcooker tough as leather. Slowcooking the larger cuts (6-8 hrs. on low in 1 c. water or broth) has also been hit-and-miss...which suggests I'm missing something, probably know-how.
Here's my brain; please fill it. :)
We do the same - a whole loin, usually cut into a couple of small roasts, and the rest little boneless chops. I usually roast the roasts - my husband likes to brine it first. There's virtually no fat, and braising or slow cooking seems to turn it to sawdust.
Marinating the chops and grilling works nicely.
Cut into small chunks. Marinate in soy, sugar, salt. Pat dry. Stir fry. Add vegetables, etc.. and whatever asian sauce you like. I sometimes go with standard stock, ginger, garlic, soy, and add some marmalade and chile (thai peppers, if you have them).
I like to do a sort of bulgogi with it. It's not authentic, I'm sure, but it's darn good. Very thinly slice your loin then toss into marinade of red chili paste, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, and ginger. Let it marinade for a while, at least and hour but preferably more, then quickly grill or saute (in batches so the meat is flat) until the meat is just cooked. You can toss the cooked meat into a foil-covered pan in a warm oven to keep it warm and moist.
I'd think you could similarly thinly slice the loin and then bread and pan-fry as a sort of pork scalloppine.
I roast pork loin all the time - it's one of DH's favorite meals. What I've found is that a larger fat cap goes a long way to ensuring moist meat, so if it's got a decent fat cap, don't trim it. For 2 adults, I buy a 1.5 to 2 pound roast, which gives us two meals, so for 2.5 adults (0.5 adult is a child?), you want maybe 2.5 pounds. Season it with whatever herbs and spices you like - I use thyme, rosemary, black pepper - and roast it in a 350 degree oven. Start checking the temperature with a meat thermometer at 45 minutes, but it may take longer, probably will if it's larger than 2 pounds. Target temperature is 145 degrees, which will still be slightly pink in the center but will be juicy and tender. Remove meat to a cutting board, cover with foil, and make a pan sauce from the stuff left in the pan. I've never had a failure with this method except when I forgot to monitor the internal temperature. Hope this is helpful!
*braising in a skillet for 1-2 hrs.......even submerged in liquid they are fished from the slowcooker tough as leather*. No wonder. They are overcooked and cooked inappropriately. Pork loin has no connective tissue and very little fat within the meat, so by braising for up to 2 hours you are cooking out what little moisture the meat contains. A quick saute followed by a ten to 20 minute (the longer time for the thicker cut) cooking/simmer, covered, at a lower heat (assuming stovetop cooking) is the most you should cook these. Adding liquid is really not necessary, save it for deglazing the pan to create a pan sauce.
By cutting the loin into 1 to 2 inch thick slices you've made boneless pork loin pork chops. The remainder that you leave in 3-poind pieces should be roasted at 350 to 375 degrees--I roast at 365--for about an hour, until the internal temp reaches 150 degrees. I start checking the temperature after 50 minutes. The weight of a loin roast matters little, heavier roasts are just cut longer, not thicker and will cook in the same amount of time.
Slowcooking a pork loin is a waste of good meat and as you have discovered (though perhaps not admitted yet) a waste of money. Save the slowcooking for a shoulder, which tends to cost less as well. Shoulder has the connective tissue and fat to withstand and require long, slow cooking in a liquid. Pork loin does not.