What’s the best way to cook a pork roast?
In the past two years, I’ve become a fervent convert to the cult of the reverse sear. This method entails cooking meat at a very low heat until the internal temperature is just short of what is desired and letting the meat rest out of the oven for up to two hours, during which time the temperature rises those extra few degrees and the juices settle back into the meat. Just before serving, the meat is returned to a very hot oven to brown the surface.
Not only does the reverse sear produce a roast that is evenly cooked throughout — no red center and gray outer ring — but because the meat can rest for so long, it makes for a very flexible serving schedule.
You are going to need one piece of specialized equipment to reverse sear: a digital probe thermometer, a slender meat thermometer connected to a small digital readout unit by a couple of feet of heatproof cable. The thermometer goes into the meat at the beginning of cooking and while it cooks, you can monitor its temperature by glancing at the digital readout. I recommend the indestructible, simple-to-use Thermoworks DOT thermometer, which sells for $39 at thermoworks.com
According to the USDA, it is perfectly safe to eat pork cooked to medium, when the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. I take my pork out of the oven at 135 degrees, it will rise the rest of the way while it rests, resulting in a roast that is juicy and can have a hint of pink. If you don’t want to see any pink, cook it to 140 degrees.
A bone-in loin roast makes for a more impressive presentation (ask your butcher to crack the chine bone so carving will be easier), but this recipe will work with a boneless roast as well. Do not trim the layer of fat that covers the meat.
I season the pork with a simple spice rub, but you could also make slits all over the roast and insert into each one a sliver of garlic clove and a few rosemary needles. Or you could simply coat it all over with salt and pepper.
REVERSE-SEARED PORK LOIN
1 (6-pound) bone-in pork loin
1 tablespoon kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons table salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon pimenton (sweet smoked Spanish paprika)
1. Season the roast the night before you plan to serve it: With a very sharp knife, score the layer of fat covering the roast. A diamond pattern is traditional but I like to make parallel cuts, about a half-inch apart. Cut all the way through the fat but try not to cut into the meat.
2. Combine the salt, pepper and spices and rub all over pork roast, working mixture into the cuts you made in the fat. Refrigerate, uncovered.
3. About two hours before you cook it, take roast out of the refrigerator so it begins to warm up. Place, fat side up, on a rack in a low-sided pan and insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the roast. Assuming it started at about 35 degrees, you’ll see it warm up as much as 20 degrees over the course of a few hours.
4. About 4 to 5 hours before you plan to serve, place roast in a 250-degree oven and cook until temperature reaches 135 degrees. This should take 2 1/2 to 4 hours. If your roast is smaller than 6 pounds, cooking time will be shorter; if it didn’t rest at room temperature for a while, cooking time will be longer.
5. When roast reaches desired temperature, transfer it to a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Do not remove thermometer — it should remain attached to digital unit. Wrap roast tightly and place in a sturdy plastic bag (to avoid leakage) and put the bag in an insulated container food carrier. If you don’t have one, wrap the bag in a blanket or down jacket. Over the next hour you will see the temperature rise from 10 to 15 degrees and then start to fall again. It will stay hot for close to two hours.
6. About 40 minutes before you want to serve, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Unwrap the pork, remove thermometer and place it back on the rack in the roasting pan. Roast until fat crisps and browns, 5 or 10 minutes. Remove from oven and carve: Cut the whole roast away from the bones in one piece and then slice. Cut apart the ribs and serve with the slices. Makes 6 to 8 servings.