The Best Way to Cook a Boneless Pork Loin

by A.J. Andrews

Few meats have as much versatility as the humble pork loin. Whether you go with a basic preparation or an elaborate presentation, pork loin hits every note. Boneless pork loin responds well to several cooking methods, so your preferences ultimately determine what works best. If you prefer a smoky finish and hearty crust, go with grilling. If the gentle, subtle flavors of complementary herbs and a rich sauce suit your tastes, braising has you covered. For the juiciest, most tender pork regardless of cooking method, follow one simple guideline: Use a meat thermometer to prevent overcooking.

Roasting

If you need a hearty all-in-one meal that goes from fridge to table in under an hour, roasting delivers. Add one-inch chunks of starchy and fibrous vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes and parsnips, to the roasting pan for a side dish.

Season the pork and veggies with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and give everything a liberal coating of olive oil. Roast the pork and veggies for 10 minutes at 450 F, then lower the oven temperature to 350 F and cook until the internal temperature in the center reaches 140-145 F, about 25 minutes per pound. Let the pork rest for five minutes before serving.

Braising

Braising gently cooks the pork in a savory liquid that combines with the meat's juices to form a succulent sauce. You can also incorporate your favorite herbs and spices in the cooking liquid to season the pork and flavor the sauce.

Sear the pork loin in a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a braising pan, then set the roast aside. In the same pan, caramelize two parts chopped onions to one part each chopped carrots and celery, and return the pork to the pan. Add enough stock to cover the pork by half along with a handful of your favorite herbs and spices. Cover the pan and braise the pork in a 325 F oven until it reaches 145 F in the center, about 45 minutes for a two- to three-pound pork loin. Set the pork and veggies aside, and simmer the cooking liquid with 1/2 tablespoon of flour until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Season the sauce to taste and serve.

Grilling

Grilling gives pork loin a satisfying combination of smoky charred crust and moist, tender interior that showcases what open-flame cooking can do. Save time on side dishes by grilling veggies on the unused parts of the grill while the pork cooks.

Heat the grill to high and season the pork loin to taste. Set the pork loin on the grill and sear it until charred and golden brown on all sides, turning as needed. Lower the grill temperature to medium (around 300 F) and cook the pork, covered, for 45-60 minutes for a two- to three-pound pork loin, turning occasionally. Check the internal temperature and remove the pork when it reaches 140-145 F.

Seasoning Options

Consider applying a spice rub, herb paste or marinade to the pork loin before cooking it. Make your own herb paste by pureeing two or three cups of fresh herbs with one to two tablespoons of olive oil. Make a spice rub by mixing your preferred dried herbs and spices with kosher salt to taste. To make a marinade, combine equal parts lemon juice or vinegar, vegetable oil and herbs, spices and aromatics, such as chopped garlic. Coat the pork loin on all sides with the rub, paste or marinade, then wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for four to 24 hours.

Photo Credits

  • Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images

About the Author

A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.