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pork roast


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#1 babka

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 08:20 AM

I buried this question last week in the Zuni Cookbook thread, which wasn't a good place to ask for help. So, bumped up and generically phrased:

To what temperature do you cook a pork roast? I've got a 2.5 lb Boston Butt which has been sitting in my fridge since Friday night, salted and dry-rubbed until it smelled so good that we considered eating it raw. It's cold and snowy and sleety, so we're eating that sucker tonight for dinner, but I'm a little worried about the cooking temperature.

Last time, we roasted it for 2.5 hours at the 350 degrees specified in the recipe (Zuni Cookbook's Mock Porchetta). At the end of that time period, the internal temp was only 170. We let it cook for another half an hour, which brought it almost up to the recipe's stated goal of 185, but it tasted a bit dry to me, and 185 seems awfully high.

I've seen Wolfert's advice elsewhere on this forum for slightly overcooking a picnic shoulder for pernil to 175 or 180, but that's got bones and skin. me, I've just got pure pork to roast.

so--when should I take it out?

#2 Ruth

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 08:26 AM

I am going out on a limb here but I never cook my pork beyond 140°. Cooked to medium rare I swear your pork will b e juicy and delicious.
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#3 babka

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 08:31 AM

hmmm...follow-through dumb question, from the woman who's about to make her second attack at cooking pork and has gathered only that it should neither be red like beef nor white like bread:

What color is the damn thing supposed to be when it's done?

Edited by babka, 30 January 2005 - 08:32 AM.


#4 DTBarton

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 08:37 AM

In this modern pork world (lean pigs and no danger of trichinosis) I like to go with a lower temperature also, usually around 150. Keep in mind that the temperature will keep rising after you take the roast out. The old fasioned advice of 180 - 185 that you see on old meat thermometers assumed a much higher fat content in the pork.

The cut makes a difference also. Rule of thumb is the leaner the cut, the lower the temerature. Very lean cuts like loins and a lot of the chops these days are better at lower temperatures (say 145 or so). A pork shoulder with a goodly amount of internal fat can go a little higher (say 160 - 165).

Another good way to preserve moisture is to consider braising the pork for at least part of the cooking time. You don't have to cover the meat with liquid, just cook it in a covered dutch oven with some flavored braising liquid. Caramelize an onion and add some chicken broth is one good way. If you want to brown up the outside, take the roast out of the braising pan and liquid and finish it uncovered in the oven for a bit.

#5 jackal10

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 08:41 AM

Pork is a meat like any other.
It used to be that there was a danger of trichonosis parasites, but these is both killed at 140F and are extremely rare in modern farming. The last US case so far as I know was in 1998 from uncooked cougar jerky in the southwestern states. For caution some reccomend 150F.

If you cook to 140F the meat will the moist, tender but perhaps a little pink. By 150F any trace od pink will have gone, but the meat will be drier.

#6 ducphat30

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 08:49 AM

I've got a 2.5 lb Boston Butt which has been sitting in my fridge since Friday night, salted and dry-rubbed until it smelled so good that we considered eating it raw

I'd recommend low and slow with a probe thermometer, you could roast it at 250F until the thermometer read 155 and I'd think that you'd be pretty happy with the results. As I remember a Boston butt has a good amount fat so your results should still be very succulent..
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#7 ellencho

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 08:57 AM

What sort of result are you looking for? For pork loin, I've read folks recommend letting it roast until it hits the mid 140s and then letting it rest until carry-over cooking brings it closer to 150. But I realize now that pork shoulder is different since it is fattier and has much more connective tissue. If you want falling apart, super tender like pulled pork texture you're going to have to let it go a lot hotter, closer to 210 (temperature at which connective tissue begins to break down) and you should have some sort of braising liquid or covering up your pork tightly with some foil?

I once made a Tyler Florence pernil recipe, which said to take your meat to 175 and that wasn't nearly enough to make it tender. I ended up covering it up with foil and letting it go to 210 and I was fine.

Edited by ellencho, 30 January 2005 - 09:05 AM.

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#8 jsolomon

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 08:58 AM

For cold, sleety weather, there's little better than a braised pork roast...

250 or 275 F for 3 or 4 hours, till the meat just falls apart. Pull with a fork and stir in some of the juices given off...

Yum!!!!!
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#9 Busboy

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 09:53 AM

According to the magic marker graffiti scrawled above my stove (keep meaning to get that repainted) pork shoudl go to about 145 and then allowed to rest for a while, at which point the internal temperature will creep up a bit. According to Alain Ducasse, meet should rest half as long as it cooked, but that seems excessive for a large roast. Inside should be a pale pink.

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#10 fifi

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 10:43 AM

I think what you first have to decide is what you are trying to achieve with a pork roast and what cut you have. A lean piece like loin or tenderloin is best done to 140 degrees F internal temperature and a little pink. Let it rest under a foil tent for about 20 minutes before slicing.

A butt is an entirely different thing. What you have is a significant amount of fat and connective tissue (collagen). You want to go low and slow until the fat has rendered and the collagen has converted to gelatin. This will take a long time and either on the smoker or in the oven, you should see a temperature "stall" at 170 degrees F for a while. (I run my Weber Smoky Mountain at 225 degrees F at the grate and my oven at the same temperature.) This is when the conversion and rendering is going on. The "stall" is because the conversion requires energy. (It is a thermodynamic thing.) Then it should get up to about 200 degrees F or a bit more. You know you are done when a fork stuck in the meat will easily turn and the meat is falling off the bone. Any other fate for a butt is doomed to tough and chewy mediocrity. That is a sad fate for a butt.
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#11 snowangel

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 10:52 AM

I agree with fifi on this one for the butt. If you cook the butt past the point of rare but just "until done," it will be dry, and perhaps tough. Cook it longer, and all of that fat and connective tissue will dissolve, basting the meat internally.

I often make the Zuni mock porchetta, and think I've come around to cooking it at a lower temp, for longer. I want a fork to just slide right through the thing. Melting enough it's almost impossible to slice.
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#12 babka

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 11:03 AM

thanks everyone....I'm getting a much better understanding of pork.

I agree with fifi on this one for the butt.  If you cook the butt past the point of rare but just "until done," it will be dry, and perhaps tough.  Cook it longer, and all of that fat and connective tissue will dissolve, basting the meat internally.

I often make the Zuni mock porchetta, and think I've come around to cooking it at a lower temp, for longer.  I want a fork to just slide right through the thing.  Melting enough it's almost impossible to slice.

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Snowangel--can I ask what temperature you cook it at, for about how long? the technique makes sense--lowish temp, roast until it's done, and then keep going until it gets good--but I don't know quite how to translate that into delivering food onto tonight's table.

Edited by babka, 30 January 2005 - 11:03 AM.


#13 snowangel

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 11:26 AM

Snowangel--can I ask what temperature you cook it at, for about how long?  the technique makes sense--lowish temp, roast until it's done, and then keep going until it gets good--but I don't know quite how to translate that into delivering food onto tonight's table.

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I like to do butts at 275 (unless I'm smoking them, and then I aim for 225-250 to give more time for smoke to absorb). And, I roast it to 185 before removing it to rest. I want to say I cook it for more like 3 to 3-1/2 hours, even more if the roast is bigger.

I have taken this dish to "pot luck" dinners, and removed it from my oven at 185, covered with foil, gotten to the dinner, and let it sit in a 225 oven until we are ready to eat.

I do believe that the butt is probably the most forgiving of the pork cuts, provided that you cook it longer rather than less, and at a lower temp rather than a high temp.
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#14 snowangel

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 11:27 AM

Reminder to cook it FAT SIDE UP. This is important. I've been known to trim really huge hunks of fat that are inside the roast, but no trimming on the top. And, make sure the butt you buy has a nice fat cap.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#15 Dave the Cook

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 11:43 AM

I have exactly the same cut ready to go in the oven (using the Zuni mock porchetta recipe). I'm going to put it in now at 225 (convection). I figure I've got a huge margin of error -- if it takes longer than a few hours, I've still got a while before I need to worry, and I can always crank up the temperature if necessary. If it's done in four hours, there's very little risk in letting it sit a while, then gently reheating.

Just to clarify a bit on fifi's point about temperature stall: what you look for is for the temperature to quit rising. Once it starts going up again, you're done. But every butt is different -- the amount of collagen and the size and shape of the roast mean that the stall point will never be perfectly consistent in its onset or its conclusion. Roasting to a specific internal temperature that is higher than the collagen conversion temperature ensures that you've achieved complete conversion, but it's possible to go too far and end up with all that succulence draining out. If it's at all possible, the best strategy is to monitor temperature closely, so you know what's happening inside the meat. It means you give up the ability to set a perfect schedule, but at least you do what's right by the main course.

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#16 fifi

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 11:46 AM

. . . . .
but it's possible to go too far and end up with all that succulence draining out.
. . . . .

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Then you just call it carnitas. :laugh: :raz:
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#17 howard88

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 01:32 PM

I cook pork loin roast, (the cut which is boneless with a fat cap on top),
at 275 degrees to 130. Pull it out and it goes to 140 which makes a juicy
succulent result.
For your cut, Fifi knows what she is talking about. You want the fat and
collagen to break down and bathe the roast.
Yo Dave, sounds like you're campaigning for Altons job.

#18 Dave the Cook

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 03:54 PM

Alton who?

Here's a progress report: I put the roast in at 2:30, at 255 F, having miskeyed the temperature. I reset it to 225 F at the one-hour point, when I went to check on it.

I put a probe thermometer in it at 2-1/2 hours, and it went immediately to 130 F. At 3-1/4 hours, it hit 170, then crept up to 172, and it's been there for the last 25 minutes.

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#19 babka

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 04:04 PM

she's in! 275, because I was frolicking in the snow and want to eat dinner before 9, rerolled according to snowangel's fat cap directive. thanks very, very much for all the advice--Fifi's point about cooking it through the stalling temp made some sense when I first read it and much more sense once everyone reinforced her point.

#20 fifi

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 04:13 PM

she's in!  275, because I was frolicking in the snow and want to eat dinner before 9, rerolled according to snowangel's fat cap directive.  thanks very, very much for all the advice--Fifi's point about cooking it through the stalling temp made some sense when I first read it and much more sense once everyone reinforced her point.

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Ain't science grand? :biggrin:
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#21 babka

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Posted 30 January 2005 - 10:30 PM

thanks again, everyone, for all your help--it was fantastic, melt-in-your-mouth succulent stuff. stalled out at 172 hour half an hour, than raced up and out. I took a picture, which I'd post tonight if it hadn't taken FIVE HOURS at 300 degrees to cook through.
(we're recalibrating our oven tomorrow...it's never been off like that before)

#22 jayhay

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 12:06 PM

(using the Zuni mock porchetta recipe).

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Could you explain this recipe, Dave?

#23 Dave the Cook

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 02:18 PM

Sorry, jayhay, it was a shorthand reference to babka's original post that made note of the Zuni Cafe Cookbook thread.

In summary, it's Judy Rodger's condensed reworking of the classic Italian porchetta, where a whole pig is stuffed with herbs, garlic, salt, lemon and capers, then slowly roasted. The Zuni recipe uses a pork shoulder roast. You "unroll" the roast along its natural muscle seams and press the seasonings into the resulting crevasses. Then you roll it back up, tie it and roast. Judy recommends 325 or 350; I can't remember which. My experience is that a lower temperature gives you a juicier result -- the one drawback of which is that you get very little in the way of fond, so you have to compensate by using richer stock when you're making up the jus that Rodgers specifies as an accompaniment.

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#24 snowangel

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Posted 31 January 2005 - 02:29 PM

Here's an on-line link for the recipe. I solve the fond problem with cooking at a lower temp by searing it well first.

We like this as much for the leftovers. Crisped in a pan, mixed with hash browns, topped with an over-easy or poached egg.
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#25 nathanm

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 12:09 PM

Besides temperature, you need to consider time at temperature. Tougness comes largely from collagen, which converts to gelatin. This takes time. Roasted or braised meat held at 140F/60C for a while will be more tender than one that is just brought to that temperature and then served.
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#26 russ parsons

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 12:57 PM

also remember that "meat isn't meat". different meats have different flavors at different temperatures. the sensory guys describe the flavor of rare pork as "metallic" and I agree. I've tried the really low temps and while i have no doubt they are safe, i don't like the way they taste. i prefer my pork at 155 to 160 with a rest. at this point, the meat is still juicy and faintly pink, but the flavor is more developed. also, i should be clear that i am referring to lean roasts such as loin. With a fatty roast such as my beloved Boston butt, you can push it much higher and get really great flavor while still being juicy.

#27 Sartain

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 01:24 PM

Just had this question in my Sanitation class test. Strictly from a safety point of view, pork should be cooked to 145F for 15 sec (for chops) or for 4 minutes (for roasts).

As to texture, juiciness, etc., well gosh, that's been really well covered here.
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#28 Dave the Cook

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 10:41 PM

Besides temperature, you need to consider time at temperature.  Tougness comes largely from collagen, which converts to gelatin.  This takes time.  Roasted or braised meat held at 140F/60C for a while will be more tender than one that is just brought to that temperature and then served.

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I won't argue against the notion that meat brought to temperature and held there (though a 140F holding temp is pretty difficult for most home cooks) will result in a juicy roast. But at that temperature, collagen has nothing to do with it. Collagen doesn't start to melt until a little over 150F. It seems more likely that the 140F scenario results from one of two sets of circumstances:

- a slow technique that allows the proteins to contract slowly, thus minimizing exudation of moisture, or

- in the case of a roast brought to 140F under higher-heat conditions (say 350F), time to rest and redistribute juices under controlled conditions before serving.

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#29 forever_young_ca

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Posted 05 February 2005 - 11:36 PM

I have read this thread from beginning to end. I want to cook a 4 1/2 lb pork picnic shoulder for Sunday dinner. I am assuming a slow roast is the best for this - am I right? 275 degrees? How long?

Suggestions would be welcome.
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#30 fifi

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Posted 06 February 2005 - 08:46 AM

You are looking at about 4 or 5 hours. I am going by Dave's post above. Every hunk-o-pork is different so you can't be precise as in x minutes per pound. The best thing to do is plan for it taking extra time. The good news is that it "holds" just about forever. You want to cook this cut through the 170F temperature stall so there is just about no such thing as overcooking it. In this case, you are watching the thermometer, not the clock.

My favorite recipes currently include citrus with garlic, cumin, coriander and black pepper. I have been buying the Goya Mojo Criollo but if you don't have that around just use orange juice sharpened by the addition of lime or lemon and add seasonings to your taste. Go heavy on the garlic.

Of course, there are any number of braising liquids that you could use. I have even dumped a big ole jar of Pace Picante Sauce and a bottle of dark beer in there and it was fabulous. (I think I may have had a few of those when I got that stroke of genius. :biggrin: )
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