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Pork loin - major fails lately

  • tcamp Jan 25, 2012 07:59 AM
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I used to be able to cook pork loin in a satisfactory way but lately, it all sucks. Roasted, slow cooker, braised. Fortunately, I can salvage the weekend's failure by frying with lots of onions and taco seasoning for burritos. But I have another two chunks of the Costco, burmese python sized loin I cut up and froze.

Any surefire treatments so as to not end up with tasteless, dried meat? Am I doing something wrong?

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  1. I think loin doesn't have anough fat and colagen (as in, almost none) to make braising and slow cooker treatment a good option. I think your best bet is to roast it, being very careful not to let it get overdone, or slice it into medallions and saute it. I love to roast it coated with mustard mixed with herbs (rosemary or thyme usually). You can mix in a bit of honey, maple syrup or pomegranate molasses too if that takes your fancy. If you have one of those remote thermometers that you can set to sound an alarm when it reaches temp, this is the time to use it! I take it out about 135 so carryover takes it to 140 (trichinosis is killed at 137 I am told and anyway these days not an issue except with wild boar). But really and truly the real answer is that it's not your fault, all the fat and taste have been bred out of today's pork.

    2 Replies
    1. re: GretchenS

      This is good advice. The OP's most likely problem is that [s]he is overcooking the loin. It's so lean that it really does not stand up well at all to overcooking. If you roast in a fairly hot oven, you can pull it at 130 or even 125 - the rest will bring the temp up to the high 130s. The lower the oven temperature, the less the internal temperature will rise while the loin is resting.

      Brining can also help.

      OTOH, if you cook it to (rested) 140 or below and it's still too dry for you .... that's a good excuse to start working on your sauce-making, IMO.

      1. re: GretchenS

        This is my feeling, too. I sear on the stove in a stainless steel pan and bake on low temperature and take about about 135 in the same pan. When the roast is resting, I make a gravy in the pan w/ all the drippings (and add vegetables, apples, whatever at this point).

      2. I find that the Costco loins [well all loins from today's pig] need more help. I have taken to butterflying the sucker and then stuffing it with savory goodness. I have found prosciutto, spinach, goat cheese and pine nuts to be a nice option. During the summer, I substitute pesto for the spinach. I think any combination of stuffings that might work well as a salad or pizza topping work inside a loin. I also make sure that I season the inside of the loin before stuffing.

        Then roll and tie before roasting. Maybe this method will get you something that you enjoy more?

        1. Pork loin benefits from being butterflied and stuffed with at least one fatty ingredient (sausage or ground pork or some kind of cheese are nice) and a medley of vegetables or fruits (apples or pears, wild mushrooms, Swiss chard etc). Tie it up and wrap it in some kind of fatty cured meat (bacon, proscuitto, pancetta or whatever). The cut is just too lean without some help in my experience.

          1. Slice, brine, grill, do not over cook ~~ Buy elsewhere next time.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Uncle Bob

              That's what we do. We buy the big loins from Sam's Club and slice them into pork chops for individual freezing. Cook them in cast iron on the stove top with a piece of bacon wrapped around them, or bake them with a home made Shake and Bake-like concoction, or cut into chunks marinated in Trader Joe's Island Soyaki and grilled on skewers.

              I use pork shoulder when I want to braise.

              1. re: mtoo

                There is a very good NYTimes recipe for Red Cooked Pork Belly that I have successfully used with pork butt. It might work with loin if some extra fat e.g. bacon fat were added.

            2. Thanks, great suggestions. I will definitely buy a remote thermometer, just when I thought I was full up on kitchen gadgets. For the two remaining loins, I will butterfly one and slice the other into chops to brine. I appreciate the input.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tcamp

                It will be the most fundamental kitchen gadget you will have if you roast or grill.

              2. The easiest way to cook a pork loin IMHO, is to saute it with a pan sauce. Slice it into finger thick pieces, salt and pepper, and sear them in a pan. Remove them to a plate, do this is batches, don't over crowd. Then add seasoning to the pan. I like shallots, capers, and mushrooms, saute with the drippings and maybe some extra fat of your choice. Then add liquid, wine, or orange juice, or stock, or lemon juice, or whatever. Reduce the sauce and return the pork to the pan to cook until just done (very light pink in the middle, just cut one open and check). TADA.

                1. Best way to ensure that pork loin is palatable is to pair it with a good sauce.

                  I like to make a chocolate soy sauce with a bit of Sriracha whenever I have pork loin.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Or, try my "pork Felix". I marinate a tenderloin in Stubbs overnight, grill 22 minutes with 3 turns, slice into half inch medallions, center 2 or 3 on plates, arrange alternating spokes of snow crab leg meat segments and steamed asparagus, and top with hollandaise. It's my poor-man's steak
                    Oscar.

                  2. The last time I cooked a whole pork loin I made several slits in the meat and then stuffed those with a sliver of garlic and a sprig of fresh rosemary. Then I marinated it in white wine, lemon juice, olive oil, and more garlic and rosemary.

                    I fired up the Weber kettle and mounded the coals on both sides leaving the middle open. I tossed on a few grape vines and roasted the thing in the center until it was cooked to about medium.

                    Sauced it with a sauce chicken stock, white wine, garlic and rosemary thickened a little bit with some cornstarch.

                    Not bad.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chileheadmike

                      I often do the same thing, I make slits and stuff it with garlic and herbs. To cook it, I first sear it off on my cooktop for about 10 minutes until its good and brown. I then transfer it to the oven which is set about 400 or 425. While I'm searing, I'll usually put a meatloaf pan with a cup of beef stock in the oven. Once I'm done searing, I transfer the loin to the meatloaf pan and let it cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. It almost always comes out perfectly pink in the middle. Most times, I serve it with a raspberry or blueberry gastrique.

                    2. If you don't mind cubing a chunk, you can make a quick Chile Verde. Pork loin braised in green chile sauce. Cooking time is 30 minutes to 45 since you're mainly cooking the pork and don't have to break down any collagen.

                      1. The solution is simple but can be expensive: don't use factory raised pork. If you have old fashioned butcher shops near you, ask the butchers where they get their pork. The best, and most expensive (about 3 times the price of supermarket pork in my area) is from pasture-raised pigs. Next is pork from pigs raised in what they call an "enhanced" environment, which is a rather vague term, but for example, the pigs might be raised in sheds, but have more room to move about and their pens have bedding material they can root around in. Neiman Ranch is in this category, although I think their quality has suffered as they've grown. What you get at Costco or your local supermarket, well, you probably don't want to know how those pigs were raised. The pigs are also more modern breeds that are specifically bred to make lots of very lean meat, very fast.

                        I don't intend to turn this thread into a debate about humane treatment of pigs, but I suspect that among other things, the breed and conditions an animal was raised in have an effect on the quality of the meat. The bottom line is you get what you pay for, so if you want a decent pork loin that doesn't need to be pimped up with brines or sauces to make it palatable, go to a proper butcher shop, not a supermarket.

                        1. I marinate it from 1-3 days in a mixture of soy sauce, apple cider, garlic, onion, summer savory, and mustard. Dry off, sear, finish in oven. While it rests, I reduce the marinade and add some form of dairy to make a sublime sauce. Sometimes I slice it into cubes or chops and use the same marinade for only a day, then cook entirely in a saute pan, making the same sauce.