Pork has the potential to be a delicious, succulent dish. Some people are reluctant to eat pork unless it is perfectly cooked, unlike beef or chicken. One of the major issues with pork, particularly pork loin, is that it can dry out.
When pork loin dries out, it can be very difficult to eat. The flavor is difficult to notice because the lack of moisture makes chewing and swallowing a chore. So, it is important to keep the pork loin moist throughout the cooking process so that it is enjoyable when we cut into it.
Keep it Simple
One of the things that can lead to a subpar pork loin is an overcomplication of the ingredients. Keep your seasonings simple. Some kind of mixture of onion powder, pepper, salt, garlic, and olive oil is all you need to deliver a flavorful meal.
Too many ingredients can not only complicate the palette, but it can also soak out some of the moisture unintentionally. When the moisture comes out of a pork loin, it can really drag down the quality of the meal.
Keeping Pork Loin Moist
Preparing the perfect pork loin can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start or what to do. When you go to the grocery store, there are so many different cuts of pork that you may not know which one is the best. You can choose from pork loin, tenderloin, or chops. Picking the right one for the meal you’re cooking is important, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think.
Pork loin is different from the other cuts of pork in that they are wide enough that you can cut larger slices from it. Pork loin also tends to have a thicker layer of fat on top, delivering the amount of flavor that is customary with pork loin. The layer of fat is also what helps to keep the moisture inside of the pork loin, helping to leave it so moist.
Start out by preheating your oven to 400°F. This is not the temperature that it will stay at as you will lower the temperature later on. The idea with keeping the temperature high to start is that you want to allow the extra heat to trap in some of the moisture, particularly in the fat.
While the oven is heating up, now is the time to season your pork loin. Make sure that you season all of the sides of your pork loin with some or all of the seasonings mentioned above. You can either add them each on individually or mix them up in a bowl to create your dry rub. Mixing it together beforehand allows for a more even coverage of the seasonings than you might get with an individual application.
This is the most essential part of the equation. Make sure that you place the pork loin fat side up on your baking sheet or roasting pan. If you put the pork loin fat side down, the moisture from the fat will leak out into the dish or sheet. The fat has to be facing up so that the juices from the fat permeate and baste the rest of the loin. If you put the pork loin fat side down, it will dry out.
Changing the Temperature
You will want to keep the pork loin cooking for about 10 minutes or so in the 400°F oven. This will give the pork loin a bit of a crust on the outside of the meat while keeping the juices trapped on the inside, allowing it to stay moist.
After that 10 minutes, lower the temperature of the oven to 350°F. You’ll continue to cook the pork loin for 20 more minutes per pound. So, for example, if you have a two-and-a-half-pound loin, you would want to cook it for 50 more minutes. Pork loins take quite a bit of time to cook, but if they are allowed proper time, they can make for a very delicious dinner.
You will want to check the internal temperature of the pork loin as it gets close to the end of its cooking time. Using a meat thermometer, look for the loin to reach an internal temperature of 145°F. When it does, pull it out of the oven and cover it loosely with foil, allowing it to rest for 10 minutes or so.
Resting meat, not just pork loin, is important to keeping the juices permeating throughout the meat. If you cut the meat immediately after pulling it from the oven, the juices will come out and leave the entire loin dry.
Patience is a virtue for pork loin. While there is a trend of “30-minute meals,” this is definitely not one of them. The pork loin needs time to properly cook and it needs to rest so that the juices can permeate throughout the rest of the loin.
Something to Keep in Mind
One thing to keep in mind with pork loin is that to properly cook it, you can’t just throw it into the oven and let it go. It needs that higher cook for about 10 minutes to give it a sear-like cook that would normally be achieved on the stovetop.
When the sear is done, it needs time to not only cook the meat all the way through, but to allow the juices – where the flavor and moisture is – to work their way throughout the rest of the pork loin. Being impatient will rob the pork loin of its moisture and flavor, making it tough to eat.
So long as you keep the fat facing up when it bakes and give the loin the proper sear, it will give the loin all that it needs to remain flavorful and moist when it comes time to serve. If your pork loin has been dry before, think back on the cooking process and you will likely find that you did something differently than this.