Monday, November 5, 2012

Perplexing Pork

Let's be honest, people overcook pork! It was always the USDA standard to cook pork to a whopping 160 degrees. This was due to Trichinella spiralis, a nasty parasite that was prevalent in pork in the early- to mid-20th century. However, due to changes in feeding, hygiene, and strict meat inspection requirements, trichinae is virtually non-existent. So much so, that the USDA officially lowered the temperature recommendation for cooking pork to 145 degrees. According to the USDA, trichinae is killed at 55 degrees C or 131 degrees F. (Ground pork should still be cooked to 160 degrees.) With that in mind, we must consider that the internal temperature of any meat, when left to "rest," will not only let the juices be reabsorbed but raise the internal temperature. Even a small steak or single piece of chicken will rise at least 3-4 degrees, while a larger cut of meat, like a large roast or turkey can rise as much as 10-15 degrees. So while the USDA recommends 145 degrees, many chefs like Bourdain, Keller, and Ruhlman recommend internal temperatures of about 135 degrees and letting it rest 10 minutes, to create perfectly moist, delicious, and safe pork. 

Don't believe me? Try Ruhlman's excellent recipe for "Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Garlic, Coriander, and Thyme." Pan roasting is the combination of two dry-heat techniques: saute and roast. Meat is first seared on the stove in a saute pan, then is turned and finished in the oven. Keep in mind that you will need a heavy oven-safe pan. I like to use my cast-iron frying pan. Love that pan! This is my new "go-to" recipe for pork tenderloin which can be successfully altered with different herbs and spices. It's a fabulous technique and the results are quick and delicious! Roasted vegetables make the perfect accompaniment.

Pan-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Garlic, Coriander, and Thyme

Serves 4


One 1 1/4 pound pork tenderloin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted and crushed in a mortar with pestle or on a cutting board with a pan, or roughly chopped with a knife
1 teaspoon canola oil
4 tablespoons/55 grams butter
3 garlic cloves, partly smashed with the flat side of a knife to open them up but not flatten them
3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1/2 teaspoon picked thyme
Zest from 1 orange


About 1 hour before cooking the pork, remove it from the refrigerator and season it with salt and pepper and the coriander seeds. Pork tenderloins have one end that tapers. Consider folding the tapered end over onto the meat and tying it with butcher's string so that the tenderloin has a uniform thickness. (I tied mine.) Alternately, you can leave it as is (it will be medium-well done by the time the tenderloin is medium-rare), or you can cut off the end and save it for another use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/gas 4.

Put an ovenproof saute pan that's large enough to contain the tenderloin over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil. When the oil is hot, lay the tenderloin top-side down in the pan. Let cook, without moving it, until it is browned, 1 to 2 minutes. (It took about 3 minutes for me.) Add the butter, garlic, and thyme sprigs to the pan. Turn the tenderloin.

When the butter has melted, spoon it all over the tenderloin and slide the pan into the oven. After several minutes, remove the pan and baste the tenderloin.

Squeeze it. It should still be fairly squishy (rare). Return it to the oven for another few minutes. Baste again if you wish.

Remove the tenderloin from the oven. The total cooking time should be about 10 minutes. The tenderloin should still be somewhat pliable but beginning to show signs of firmness. If you must, check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer; it should be between 130 and 135 degrees F/54 and 57 degrees C. (I must, and I pulled it out at 135.)

Baste the tenderloin again, add the thyme leaves to the butter in the pan, and set the pan aside for 10 minutes.

To serve, cut the tenderloin crosswise into slices about 1/2" thick. Drizzle some of the herbed basting fat over the slices and sprinkle some orange zest over the top before serving.

Recipe from Ruhlman's TWENTY, by Michael Ruhlman.

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