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The Secret to Cooking Tender Pork

by Natalie Smith, studioD

When you think of pork, you probably imagine thick, juicy bacon or savory ham. These are the moist, fatty cuts from the pig. However, some cuts of pork -- such as pork loin -- are less fatty and dry out easily, particularly if you overcook them. Master some techniques to cook tender, moist pork for an easy and flavorful meal for your family.


Marinate pork to infuse the meat with flavor as well as to tenderize it and keep it moist during cooking. Choose a prepared marinade or create your own. Olive oil, garlic, orange, soy sauce and ginger are all flavors that pair well with pork. Use dry dressing and seasoning mixes to enhance your marinade. Mix and match flavors until you find one that your family enjoys. Place the pork in a large resealable bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and place it in the refrigerator for four hours or overnight. Turn the bag over every few hours to distribute the marinade evenly.

Cook Low and Slow

Cooking pork too quickly or at a too high temperature will dry it out and make it tough. Cook pork in your conventional oven at about 325 F for approximately 20 minutes per pound, or slow cook it in a sauce or stock on low for about 90 minutes per pound. The cooking times will vary according to the size and thickness of the pork. When the meat is ready, the internal temperature should be 160 F. Do not cook pork past this temperature or it will be dry.

Let It Rest

When the pork has finished cooking, let it rest. Place it on a serving plate and allow it to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before you slice the pork. The resting time allows the fibers of the pork to absorb the hot juices from the meat, which keeps the meat moist and tender. If you cut the meat too soon, these juices will drain out, making the pork dry.

Use a Gravy or Sauce

For a moist pork dish, serve it with a sauce or gravy. Make a gravy out of the hot pan drippings from your pork by whisking in cornstarch or flour with a little water until it reaches the consistency you desire. Another option is to make a spicy sauce using dry salad dressing and seasoning mix for a flavor with kick. The added moistness brought by gravy or sauce helps if you have overcooked your pork.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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