How to cook Roast Pork…
Roast pork with crackling is probably one of the most popular pork dishes in the world. It is a traditional winter dish, particularly in Northern Europe.
Choosing pork for roasting…
The most important factor when choosing pork for roasting is the provenance of the meat.
Most pork is produced using semi-industrial methods that result in flavourless, “spongy” meat that isn’t really worth eating. For this reason it’s important to try and track down the “good stuff” of you want to cook truly memorable roast pork.
Try to buy pork from a breed of pig that has been bred for flavour (the most well-known include Tamworth, Saddleback, and Gloucester Old Spot). These are often sold under the description of “rare-breed” pork.
The diet of the pig and its freedom to roam will also affect the flavour of the meat (as well as your conscience). Pigs that have been raised on a diet of acorns, grass, wild plants, vegetables, and leftovers of garden produce will produce better flavoured pork than pigs that have been raised exclusively on feed pellets. Likewise, pigs that have been allowed to exercise naturally will produce pork of a better texture than pigs that have been raised in cramped conditions.
Many producers of high-quality rare-breed pork now sell directly to the public – through farm shops and farmers markets as through the internet. Independent butcher’s shops and specialist internet meat suppliers can also provide a good source of pork for roasting.
A variety of cuts of pork are traditionally sold for roasting – including leg, loin, shoulder, and tenderloin. All will produce good roast pork although different cuts will tend to have different characteristics – for example, leg is typically a lean cut which has a tendency to become dry if cooked for too long whilst shoulder is fattier and therefore tends to produce a moister roast.
Roasting the pork…
The rind of the pork should have already been scored by the butcher. If it hasn’t you will have to score it yourself with a Stanley knife (obviously taking appropriate precautions). Season the pork all over with salt and pepper mixed with a little olive oil or lard to make it stick. Now take some course salt (approx. 1 teaspoon) and rub it into the scores in the pork rind.
Lay the pork into a lightly oiled roasting tin and place it in a hot oven (220°C / Gas Mark 7). This high temperature “sizzle” is maintained for 30 minutes before turning the oven temperature down to 160 °C (Gas Mark 3) for the remainder of the cooking time, as shown in the roasting summary below:
1. Preheat oven to 220°C (Gas Mark 7).
2. Roast for 30 minutes at 220°C (Gas Mark 7).
3. Reduce oven temperature to 160 °C (Gas Mark 3) and continue to roast for 50 minutes per Kg (23 minutes per pound)
4. Remove the joint from the oven and check that juices run clear.
5. Rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.
In theory the high temperature “sizzle” at the beginning of the roasting process should ensure that your roast pork emerges from the oven with a fantastic layer of crackling. In practice this is rarely the case and the crackling needs a bit of help to “crackle.”
Fortunately this can easily be achieved by removing the rind from the pork during the resting period at the end of the roasting process. The rind can simply be removed from the pork using a carving knife and placed under a hot grill. This will quickly turn the rind into crackling, although you will need to keep a close watch as it will easily burn if left for too long under a hot grill.