The trick to roasting a large cut of pork is to keep the meat moist and to make sure the crackling is crunchy. + How to cook other cuts of pork from loin chops, eye loin, pork belly and sausages to rashers.
How to roast a joint of pork (a shoulder or loin)
You can use this method for any pork joint, from a pork shoulder to a loin.
1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7.
2. Weigh the pork so you can calculate the cooking time. You will need to cook the pork for 20 minutes per 450g plus 20 minutes extra for the joint. For example, if the pork weighs 900g, you roast it for 2 x 20 minutes + another 20 minutes, a total of 60 minutes. You’ll need to calculate the time based on the size of your joint.
3. How to prepare the pork for the oven: Season the pork with salt and black pepper and rub a little olive oil all over it. If you are using herbs (rosemary sprigs are excellent) or garlic, make deep slits with a sharp knife in the fat and poke the herbs or garlic slices into the joint.
4. Place the pork, skin-side up, into a baking tray that fits it neatly – if the tray is too large, the juices will burn and you won’t have gravy at the end. Roast the pork for 20 minutes at 220C/425F/Gas Mark 7, then turn the heat down to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for the remainder of the cooking time (to see if the meat is cooked, use a meat thermometer which should register 75°C according to Safefood). If the skin is getting too dark, cover it loosely with foil.
5. Remove the pork from the oven. Transfer to a plate, cover lightly with foil and leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving – the resting time allows the meat to finish cooking and the juices to flow back into the meat which keeps it moist.
Pork with Vegetables: Surround the meat with vegetables: shallots in their skins, halved red onions, quartered potatoes either peeled or in their skins, large chunks of sweet potato or thick unpeeled slices of butternut squash. If you are adding herbs, place them under the meat and vegetables or they will burn (they always look good in food photographs but in real life herbs burn if they sit on top of the meat in the oven).
How do you know when pork is cooked?
There are many different opinions on how to check when pork is cooked safely. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) revised its cooking temperature guidelines for pork and now says that a fully cooked ham should be cooked at 73.9C to be safe whereas pork steaks, pork chops and pork roasts can now be cooked to 62.8C if they are allowed to rest for at least 3 minutes which we have found raised the cooking temperature by 10C on average. Read the USDA Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart for meat here.
Different cuts of Pork
Loin Chops: these pork chops should be cut thickly so they don’t dry out during cooking. You can grill, fry or roast them. Try to find a rare-breed loin chop which will come with a layer of thick fat which helps to baste the meat during cooking. Commercial pork chops are heavily trimmed (the fat goes into sausages to increase margin) and that is one of the reasons that the meat becomes dry during cooking.
Eye Loin: a reasonably-priced cut for mid-week sandwiches and meat plates. Spread honey and mustard over it and stud it with cloves and use the method above to roast it.
Pork sausages: a sausage needs to be cooked slowly, preferably in its own fat. The best sausages in our opinion contain 30-40% fat. Oil the pan lightly, add the sausages, turn the heat to high and when you hear a sizzle, turn the heat to the lowest setting. Cook, turning the sausages just once, until both sides are golden (up to 10 minutes on each side depending on thickness). Sausages need to be eaten immediately. You can also cook them in the oven but when you do, eat them as soon as they are ready because they become wrinkly if they are left. Please don’t deep-fry sausages: this is a hotel trick to prepare sausages the night before because they soak up the hot oil and keep their shape when they are reheated. Some Irish cafés have adapted this terribly bad habit – you’ll know because the sausages are highly burnished.
Rashers/Bacon – Fry or grill plain, smoked or cured rashers in a pan with a little oil and butter. When frying, press the rind into the pan so that you crisp up the skin (we found that a cast-iron burger press is useful for weighing down the rasher so that every bit of it comes into contact with the heat – this is the burger press that we use, we got it discounted in a kitchen shop so don’t buy this one on Amazon – it’s about four times what we spent – it’s for you to see the image only).
Pork Belly: a luscious treat, it can be roasted using the method above. Marinate it for 20 minutes in a mixture of light soy sauce, a little dark soy sauce for colour, a spoon or two of mirin or a tablespoon of demerara sugar, finely chopped ginger and honey. Use the rest of the marinade to baste the pork belly while it is roasting.
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