Pork has an understated, non-gamy flavor and is loaded with nutrients, the most prominent of which include protein, iron, selenium and vitamin B12. Small lean cuts of pork, such as chops and loins, cook in short order, while larger cuts like ribs and Boston butt take more time but deliver more pronounced flavor. Regardless of the type of pork dish you are preparing, certain techniques will ensure that you cook pork to perfection.
Keep It Healthy
To maximize health benefits and minimize fat content, trim away the visible, gelatinous fat from your cut of pork before you begin cooking. This can reduce the amount of fat in the pork by nearly half. The method you use for cooking the pork will also have an effect on nutrition. Healthy cooking options include roasting, broiling, poaching, braising, steaming and stewing. After stewing pork, reduce the fat content further by letting the stew cool and skimming away the fat that floats to the surface. If you have your heart set on frying or sautéing pork, use a non-stick skillet and avoid cooking with lard, palm oil or other fatty substances. Instead, choose extra virgin olive oil or a fat-free cooking spray.
Chops are among the most popular cuts of pork for cooking at home, as they cook quickly. Unlike roasts and ribs, they do not require extensive cutting and carving. Select the proper thickness of chop for the method of cooking. For quick and simple sautéing, choose pork chops that are 1/2 inch thick or thinner. For braising, broiling, grilling or stuffing, use pork chops that are between 1 and 1 1/2 inches thick.
To reduce the chances of pork coming out dry and chewy, cook only fresh, non-frozen cuts of pork. Freezing pork takes out moisture, and that has a negative effect on tenderness. When storing pork in the refrigerator, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, as this will prevent evaporation and ensure that moisture remains in the meat. During cooking, make sure the inside of the pork reaches the proper temperature, but don't overcook, which will cause pork to dry out and become tough.
Determine When It’s Done
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you should always cook raw pork roasts, steaks and chops to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. For well-done pork, increase the temperature to between 160 and 170 degrees. With ground pork mixtures, however, cook the pork to a minimum of 160 degrees. To measure the temperature, use a meat thermometer.
Slow-cooking pork allows you to achieve a superlatively moist, tender consistency. With slow-cooked pork, you will be able to "pull" the pork meat into fine, succulent shreds for pulled-pork sandwiches. According to KitchenDaily, the best cuts of pork for slow-cooking are bone-in cuts, such as pork shoulder. When using a slow-cooker, increase the flavor by cooking the pork in stock, juice, wine or beer, as opposed to plain water. Add desired seasonings, or get instant flavor by sprinkling on a salad dressing mix. In a smoker, the traditional approach is a dry rub that forms a crust on the pork as it cooks. Some cooks wrap the pork in heavy-duty aluminum foil after the crust forms to hold in the tenderizing juices for the rest of the slow-cooking process.
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