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Cubano question

The first Cuban I ever had just blew my mind. The roasted pork was so juicy it amazed me. They used bread from Florida and it was also perfect. Went home and made my own and it turned out pretty good for a first attempt. Had another at a different place and it was good, bread a little lacking and meat not as juicy. Went back to the original place and it wasn't as good either, and my wife didn't think so either. (this is all over a period of a year or so).
So back to me. I am trying again and this time I am thinking about brining even though I haven't heard anyone talk of brining pork for Cubans. Also since I have made mine it has become a lot more accepted by the masses to just go to 145 on pork. I haven't done that yet, how does it do when you go to shred or pull at that temp? Maybe cook it a little lower and slower? Last time I did the oven at 325. I just made holes in the pork and forced several garlic cloves in there, rubbed in an adobo sauce on there an baked. Would appreciate any tips! Was going to brine overnight in a gallon of water, cup of salt, and a little sugar and garlic powder

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  1. If you are using a pork shoulder or butt roast your meat will be tough at 145. You need to roast slow and low until you reach an internal temp of about 190. That way all of the connective tissue is able to melt and it will pull apart nicely.

    If you are using a loin and the pork will be sliced, I would pull it out at about 135 and let it rest before slicing it thin.

    I have had Cubanos done both ways. I personally prefer the pork shoulder but that is just a preference.

    1. Yeah, I was kinda confused about that. So what if I cook it like I was going to smoke it, just without the smoke? The recipe I had said take it to 160, which really didn't make since for pulling or shredding. Thanks for the reply.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kendunn

        I would think that would be fine. I do a pork shoulder in a covered roasting pan in my oven at about 225-250 until it gets to 190. It takes a few hours.

      2. I haven't made this but I've been served it at friends and it was delicious:


        3 Replies
        1. re: meatn3

          Not too far off from what I had in mind, think I will cover the pork in a brine and then use the rub I had before because it has turmeric in there and thats the flavor I love in it. Thanks for input, add all these up to get the perfect Cuban, then I will post!

          1. re: meatn3

            this is what you need to make a traditional Cuban sandwich.

            (I made a huge crockpot full of this for New Years' Eve -- it was delicious -- and having grown up with Cuban sandwiches, it's the real thing)

            1. My niece's boyfriend is a chef. When he cooks for the family, they often request his take on the Cubano, with pork tenderloin straight from the grill at about 145.

              IMHO, best ever.

              1. I think a lot of people call a pork sammy with swiss and mustard a Cuban, but I want the real deal with turmeric and garlic pulled pork and a layer of ham. I am thinking my brine will have a lime in there now and forget the sugar and save the garlic for roasting. The first one I had was imprinted with a Palmetto leaf, thats the real deal, about the most savory food I have ever eaten.

                3 Replies
                1. re: kendunn

                  I grew up in the Tampa bay area, which has a distinctively different style Cuban that includes salami due to the Italian influence in Ybor back in the day. I've never encountered turmeric in the roast pork. Not in Tampa nor in Miami.
                  Sounds tasty though!

                  1. re: meatn3

                    This is the rub I was using, and the Cuban gentleman at first place I had one told me about the turmeric. Just adds to the mustard flavor. I will skip the salt since I am adding it to the brine this time.
                    6 Tablespoons Salt
                    6 Tablespoons Granulated Garlic
                    4 Tablespoons Oregano
                    2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
                    2 Tablespoons Turmeric
                    2 Tablespoons Onion Powder

                    1. re: meatn3

                      I agree -- no turmeric -- the link you posted is the real deal lechon asado.

                  2. Love Cubanos. I make them with leftover pork tenderloin sliced thin. Don't know if the ones I had in FLA were shoulder or loin....can't recall.

                    Anyway, I always wet brine my pork chops and loins, but dry brine the shoulders/Boston butts. My only advice for your wet brine is not to add the lime juice, it may make your meat mushy. If you want a strong lime flavor use the zest instead, and you won't change the texture of the meat before cooking.

                    1. Cooking the Pork Shoulder or Fresh ham in the Traditional way is a kind of Dry Brine. The Seasoning is fairly Salty and stays on the Meat overnight. A fairly slow cooking is also typical 300F-325F

                      1. To report back, it turned out fine, but didn't knock it out of the park like I had hoped. For some weird reason (brined?) the pork never got anywhere near 190 even after cooking at 225 for 8 hours. 160 was it so it had to be sliced. It was good, not great. Could it be the brine increasing the time? Maybe if you brine need to go hotter? Usually when I smoke at that temp/time its falling off the bone.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kendunn

                          You just had to wait longer to get passed what they call "The Plateau" which is 160. It can stay there for some time before the collagen starts to melt and temp continues to rise.

                        2. Cubano Sandwich recipes can vary differently from my experience....from the cut of pork, the type of bread, cheese, pickles and Delicatessen Ham. Then there's the issue of the dressing...whether simple mayo, or a garlic inspired version.

                          Let's dispel the myth that Pork shoulder needs to be cooked to 190* for the collagen or connective tissue to melt. It simply isn't true. Pork should needs only to be hit 160* when slow roasted, and with the carryover it hits up to 170* for it to be slice able and serviceable. Whether using pork shoulder or leg,hitting 190* is dry and needs sauce....especially if the meat sits for any amount of time


                          I suggest you use a Fresh Ham for your next attempt....and you only need to bring it up to 155*


                          * I've never had a Cubano sandwich that was made with Pulled or Shredded Pork. I'm sure it exists, just not in my regional area in Northern New Jersey & New York...where the meat is sliced off the roast and the other components are assembled before it is placed into a Sandwich Press

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: fourunder

                            I've never had one with pulled pork either, only sliced. And a pork shoulder slices very nicely if done to 155-160, very tender and juicy if sliced thinly while warm.

                            1. re: fourunder

                              160 is fine for pork shoulder if you are slicing it. If you are going to pull it or shred it the meat really does need to hit the higher temp. It is not a myth...it is science.

                              1. re: jpc8015

                                Pullable and Connective Tissue & Collagen melting are two different things. I've proved it with picture evidence provided.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  You can pull apart a pork shoulder at 100 degrees if you try hard enough. That doesn't mean it is good.

                                  Alton Brown recommends an internal temp of 200 for pork shoulder:


                                  These guys say anywhere between 190 and 205:


                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                    Okay you win, however, I'll stick with acgold7's recommendation and my own experiences.

                            2. I've only used leftover pork tenderloin, sliced thin. It's still slightly pink and very juicy. Such great flavor. Here is the last one I did.

                              1. Lets come up with a standard definition for a Cuban, I am limited to only a couple that I have had that were both pulled pork, ham, swiss, mustard, dill pickles on a bread similar to french with a lot of fat in it. Toast it panini style.
                                Turmeric and garlic were the main flavors from spices. I thought that was standard issue for a Cuban, but I guess maybe ham and some type of roasted pork are the basic requirements?
                                I think I made my bread a little too thick, it was more like a french loaf and I think it maybe somewhere between that and a baguette, right? Just seemed like a lot of bread.

                                23 Replies
                                1. re: kendunn

                                  A true definition would be difficult.. try finding a cubano in Cuba... I did try, I wasn't successful..

                                  There are a few other threads on Cubano's here on chow.. I put mayo on mine an got totally ridiculed for it.

                                  Next time I make it I think I am going to use pizza dough and go for the Stromboli Cuban.... I think Mojo Pork, mustard, deli ham, Pickle, pressed and grilled makes it cuban

                                  1. re: sparky403

                                    I think I've just assumed there's a difference between a Cubano (I've only had it from one place, called that) and a Cuban sandwich. The one I had used their standard torta bread, shredded pork plus I think two other kinds of meat, avocado, American cheese and a deep-fried hot dog to top it off. We shared it among five of us to protect our arteries.

                                    But I've been told by Floridian Cuban sandwich eaters that it's mostly the specific bread that makes it a Cuban; otherwise it's a sandwich.

                                    1. re: sparky403

                                      Cuban sandwiches don't come from Cuba -- while there's a small minority that swears they were invented in Miami, most fans of the Cuban sandwich know it was invented in Tampa by the Cuban emigrants fleeing the Spanish-American war. They worked in the dozens of cigar factories around Tampa, and the Cuban sandwich made a quick, cheap, and tasty lunch.

                                      They're still stacked like cordwood on the counters of every sandwich shop in town, waiting for the lunchtime crowd to order them mopped in margarine and put on the heavy sandwich presses, leaving them squished and crusty and delicious.

                                      It's made with lechon asado (pork shoulder marinated in Mojo and slow roasted), boiled ham, swiss cheese, a little mustard, and some pickles. That's all. No lettuce, tomato, or onion.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        In Tampa, the home of the Cuban Sandwich they put salami on it as well. The salami from the Italian immigrants and the pickle from the Jewish immigrants that were a big part of Ybor City.

                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                          no -- that's a schtick in Ybor City in the tourist traps.

                                          No real Cuban has salami on it.

                                          1. re: fourunder

                                            I said it's a small minority.

                                            There's a poster here on CH, Andy Huse, who's written a number of books about Cuban sandwiches and other food-related histories of Tampa.

                                            Hopefully he'll be along for a scholarly dissertation.

                                            (ETA: until he shows up, read his take on it in Meatn3's link below)

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              I'm not disagreeing with you...however, they note:

                                              * it has traces of origin/history dating back to the 1930s in Cuba...possibly at the turn of the century

                                              * Lechon Asado is made with Fresh ham, not shoulder

                                              I've had it in my neck of the woods with, butter, garlic butter, mayo and garlic mayo.....and always with Fresh Ham carved right off the roast..Junion City is famous for their Cuban population.

                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                suggest you look up Andy Huse's work (referenced below) -- the Cuban community in Tampa was thriving before Miami's (straight-shot ship service from Havana to Tampa -- ships had to navigate the reefs to get to Miami)

                                                Don't tell the Cuban folks here in Florida that they've been making lechon with the wrong cut. You might end up in the mojo. At Christmas time, it's huge chunks of shoulder trundling to the checkout counters at the grocery store, not ham. (lechon is a majorly important dish at the holidays round these parts)

                                                The folks in Union City didn't show up in the late 1800s to grow an industry. If they didn't come from Tampa or Miami, then there's no culture of a Cuban sandwich.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  I read the article...but I have no bone in this argument....to me it's like the birthplace of the hamburger, pasta/noodles or Carbonara....I really don't care, I just enjoy eating.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Don't tell the Cuban folks here in Florida that they've been making lechon with the wrong cut.


                                                    but you agreed with them above...

                                                    Fresh Ham first...or substitute with shoulder.


                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      I really wasn't in the mood to pick apart the link to the recipe.

                                                      Still am not.

                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                  Funny - we were thinking alike at the same time! Just posted a link to an article of Andy's about Cuban sandwiches.

                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                    *snap* pinch-poke-you owe me a Coke


                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      I'll pay up as long as it isn't diet! Or better yet how about a cafe con leche?

                                                      1. re: meatn3

                                                        Yep -- media y media, natch. with lots of sugar.

                                                3. re: fourunder

                                                  In Florida the discussion about Cuban sandwiches is almost as hotly debated as the discussion about BBQ in North Carolina.


                                            2. re: kendunn

                                              Cubano Bread resembles French, but never a Baguette, as the latter is too thin to be pressed properly with the fillings. It's called * Pan de agua *, which is made from flour, yeast, water and salt...slightly under baked and soft, to allow for the crisping under the *Plancha* press. * Pan de Manteca * can also be used for a recipe, which contains lard as an ingredient.

                                              If you pay over $5 for a Cubano, it's a true rendition.

                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                fourunder Glad to hear that your back on the air,missed your expertise.

                                                1. re: mutti

                                                  thanks..nice to hear I was missed...but I didn't realize I was gone.

                                                  : 0 )

                                                  I just realized.....it should have said...

                                                  it's NOT a true rendition....silly me.

                                                2. re: fourunder

                                                  The best and most authentic Cuban sandwich in my 'hood is $9. I wouldn't try to eat one alone, each half is a meal.

                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                    4-5 bucks in the cafeterias on Kennedy Boulevard, JUnion City, NJ....made right in front of you. As recently as a few years ago, they were $3.

                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                      I think they're 6 for the awesome ones at the Havana Cafe in Bradenton (and yeah -- huge)

                                                3. Wow, this is a sandwich I've never had and I really feel like I'm missing something. (Live in Cleveland, OH)

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: atomicpurple

                                                    While working as a baker for Panera, I tried my first Cuban. Back then they used pork instead of the chicken they use now.

                                                    It use to be onion rosemary focaccia filled with roasted pork, ham, swiss, heavy slather of ground mustard, and slices of dill pickled sprayed with oil and toasted melty in the panini press. I loved it.

                                                    They've since changed it and I now can make my own Cubano bread. I usually make it with mojo roasted pork shoulder, and the usual suspects.

                                                    Down in Key West I had one with lettuce, tomato, and mayo instead of mustard... was good, but not what I expected.

                                                    1. re: Crockett67

                                                      a "Cuban sandwich" with tarted-up focaccia and chicken isn't a Cuban sandwich. It might be tasty, but it ain't a Cuban.

                                                      Purists leave off the lettuce, tomato, and mayo.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        True. Panera never toted as such.

                                                        But to a person stranded in the deep Mid-west, it is a convenient delight that can be had on a random Wednesday when nothing authentic is readily available. Like to the poster in Cleveland. And apparently it's endearing as the cuban panini has been on their menu for over 14 years, so somebody must be eating it. lol!

                                                        We agree it's not authentic, but still tasty.

                                                  2. This is a good primer on Tampa Bay Area Cuban sandwiches:


                                                    Author is an occasional CH poster on the Fl. board.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: meatn3

                                                      LOL -- I came back to post the exact same link.

                                                      I'll still hold back on the salami, but Andy knows pretty much all that anyone could ever know about Cuban sandwiches.

                                                    2. Here's one for the experts: Would you say a Medianoche is a sub-type of Cuban Sandwich or a separate type?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: LorenzoGA

                                                        I'd call it a first-cousin thing. It's very similar, but it's not the same thing. Different bread, slightly different filling.

                                                        (Love medianoche, but they're hard to find)

                                                      2. I've never brined the pork before roasting for a Cubano sandwich, and have never heard of adding turmeric, though I do like that addition in other recipes.

                                                        The Cubano is really a very simple sandwich. The roast pork component is simply a pork shoulder marinated over night in a citrus marinade w S & P & cumin & onion. It's slow roasted then sliced for the sandwich which consists of Swiss cheese, cured ham, dill pickles, mustard, then grilled.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            More or less like that. When Gran Cocina Latina was COTM last month I made Maricel E. Presilla's Cubano which was supposed to be authentic. I still don't know what all the shoutin's about.

                                                        1. Wow, this thread really took off. I think we are all not that far off. The gentleman that first served me mine said the bread was the key. Also turmeric, since its a key ingredient in mustard, should be fine, and besides that they say it is really good for you. My adobo sauce isn't too far off the standard mojo I think, other than the turmeric. I guess we could say it is a 2 pork (one type of ham, other roasted with your favorite spices) panini with swiss, dill pickles, and mustard is pretty close.

                                                          9 Replies
                                                          1. re: kendunn

                                                            Somebody is going to say salami.

                                                            1. re: jpc8015

                                                              Someone did - the thread is too lengthly for me to fish it out, but salami is not an ingredient in a Cuban sandwich.

                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                I said salami since it's common in Tampa Bay

                                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                                  jpc, here's a wiki link that addresses the addition of salami:


                                                                  In Tampa salami is usually included.

                                                                      1. re: jpc8015

                                                                        kind of a non-issue, since it had already been mentioned long before you entered the fray.

                                                                        The Tampa variation *sometimes* (not always) has salami.

                                                                      2. re: jpc8015

                                                                        Yeah, its been mentioned a couple of times. The only two Cuban restaurants i have to (one owner didn't even speak English) didn't have salami, and the recipe that I pulled up that sounded closest to what I was told by the other Cuban owner didn't have it either, so I don't think its required.