How to Roast Pork
- Roasting is a cooking method that uses dry heat, whether an open flame, oven or another heat source. Roasting can enhance flavor through caramelization and Maillard browning on the surface of the food. Roasting uses indirect, diffused heat (as in an oven), and is suitable for slower cooking of meat in a larger, whole piece.
- Prior to roasting in an oven, meat is generally “browned” by brief exposure to high temperature. This imparts a depth of flavor and color to the roast. Red meats such as pork are often roasted to be “pink” or “rare,” meaning that the center of the roast is still red.
- For roasting, the food may be placed on a rack, in a roasting pan or, to ensure even application of heat, may be rotated on a spit or rotisserie. If a pan is used, the juice can be retained for use as a sauce or gravy. During oven roasting, hot air circulates around the meat, cooking all sides evenly.
- A low-temperature oven, 200°F to 325°F, is best when cooking large cuts of meat. This is not technically roasting temperature, but it is called slow-roasting. The benefit of slow-roasting an item is less moisture loss and a more tender finished product. More of the collagen that makes meat tough is dissolved in slow cooking. At true roasting temperatures, 400°F or more, the water inside the muscle is lost at a high rate.
- Cooking at high temperatures is beneficial if the cut is tender enough, as in pork loins or tenderloins, to be finished cooking before the juices escape. A reason for high-temperature roasting is to brown the outside of the food, similar to browning food in a pan before pot roasting or stewing it.
- The combination method uses high heat just at either the beginning or the end of the cooking process, with most of the cooking at a low temperature. This method produces the golden-brown texture and crust but maintains more of the moisture than simply cooking at a high temperature, although the product will not be as moist as low-temperature cooking the whole time. Searing and then turning down to a lower temperature is also beneficial when a dark crust and caramelized flavor is desired for the finished product. Note that searing in no way “locks in” moisture, moisture loss is simply a function of heat and time. The outside is brown and the rest is done fairly uniformly.
- In either case, the meat is removed from heat before it has finished cooking and left to rest for a few minutes while the inside cooks further from the residual heat content, a phenomenon known as carry-over cooking.
- The objective, in any case, is to retain as much moisture as possible. As pork cooks, the structure and collagen breaks down, allowing juice to come out of the meat. So pork is juiciest at about medium rare while the juice is coming out. During roasting, pork can be frequently basted on the surface with butter, lard, or oil to reduce the loss of moisture by evaporation.
Roasting is a great cooking method for large pork cuts like pork loin roasts, shoulder roasts, ham and pork leg roasts. Cook lean, whole muscle pork cuts at an oven temperature of 225ºF – 400ºF and to an internal temperature of 145ºF and then let it rest for at least three minutes before carving. For tougher roasts like the pork shoulder, cook at 200ºF – 225ºF until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 195ºF. This will take between 6 and 9 hours depending on the size of your roast. Shoulder roasts are often removed from the heat at around six hours and then wrapped in aluminum foil for the remaining hours.