It’s no contender to the ever-popular pork shoulder, which is typically used to make classic “pulled” pork. It’s a far cry from crisp and addictive bacon (Hey, even vegans crave it!). And it’s unlikely that many top chefs will choose it over a bone-in chop that requires little more than a quick marinade and a toss on the grill for a succulent and delicious dinner.Pork sirloin roast is one of those cuts of meat that can be all too easy to ruin. With its low fat content and ample protein, the typical result is dry “cottony” meat that requires extensive use of fatty sauces or gravy to make it palatable.
But I’m here to tell you that pork sirloin roast is an unsung hero! With the right preparation (which I’ll show you below), it can be transformed into one of the most delicious and inexpensive healthy meals your family could enjoy.
Here are just a few benefits of this unloved and underappreciated cut:
1. It’s Insanely Affordable: Even when you buy the “best of the best” pasture-raised pork sirloin from US Wellness Meats, it only costs around $1.80 per protein-packed 4 ounce serving. To put that in perspective, a McDonald’s Big Mac provides just 3.2 ounces of hormone and antibiotic-laden conventional beef… at a cost of $3.99.
2. It’s Packed with Nutrition: A 4-ounce serving of pork sirloin roast contains a mere 160 calories, seven grams of fat and 23 grams of protein. The high protein content will keep you feeling full, stoke your metabolism and boost detoxification. In fact, pork is one of the best sources of the amino acid glycine, an essential “ingredient” in producing your body’s master antioxidant and detoxifier, glutathione.
3. It’s Perfect for Make-Ahead Meals: When prepared properly, large cuts of meat lend themselves to freezing. That means you can cook once and enjoy multiple “heat-and-eat” meals in the days and weeks after.
Now that you know about some of the unrecognized benefits of pork sirloin roast, I want to share the easiest way to make it succulent, moist and delicious.
Braising: The Saving Grace for Lean Meats
The culinary term “braise” refers to a two-step process of cooking meats and vegetables using both dry and moist heat. Food is first seared in fat at a high temperature. Then it is finished in a covered pot (Dutch oven) with braising liquid and cooked slowly at a lower temperature. The results can be so “fork tender” that meats cooked this way will literally melt in your mouth.
While this age-old technique dates back hundreds of years, braising is culinary chemistry at its finest. By searing meat in fat at high temperature, the exterior of the meat develops a crust. This crust seals in moisture and imparts deep flavor.
Next, using the elements of steam and low heat, muscle meats are cooked slowly and gently. As the muscle fibers slowly break down, the meat is bathed in steam. This helps to drive aromatic compounds deep into the fibers.
The resulting dish is comfort food at its finest. Moist, juicy, tender, flavorful meat that pairs perfectly with a root vegetable puree or cauliflower mashers, accompanied in its own gelatin-rich broth.
You can braise with just about any large cut of meat, using a range of spices and braising liquids. Generally speaking, you want to use a healthy heat-stable fat for the first step. Tallow, lard and coconut oil are great choices, as is duck fat (my favorite).
Another important element in your braising liquid is the “acid”. Acids break down muscle fibers and help to tenderize meats. It also helps to create balance of the five flavors: sweet, salt, bitter, sour, umami. Acids to consider for your braise include vinegars (apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, coconut vinegar), citrus juices (lemon, lime or orange) and wine (white for chicken and pork, red for beef and bison).
Finally, the aromatics. While you can use just about any combination of herbs and spices, I find that making a rub using powdered blends works best. First, its increased surface area means more flavor molecules to contact and penetrate the meat. Also, powders don’t tend to burn as easily as whole herbs. In the recipe below, I use a French-inspired combination of rosemary and fennel.
But don’t stop there - let your palate and your creativity guide you to create your perfect braise!
Now, for the can’t-miss recipe…
Duck-Fat Braised Pork Sirloin Roast with Fennel and Rosemary
• 1 4lb. pasture-raised pork sirloin roast
• 1 Tbsp. dried rosemary
• 2 tsp. garlic powder
• 1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
• 2 tsp. fine sea salt
• ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• 3 Tbsp. pastured duck fat (or coconut oil, tallow or pork lard)
• 3 cups organic chicken stock
• ½ cup dry white wine (or lemon juice)
- In a blender or magic bullet, grind the fennel, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper to a fine powder.
- Place pork sirloin roast on a large piece of cellophane. Sprinkle seasoning all over and rub into the meat. Wrap in cellophane and refrigerate six hours to overnight to infuse with flavor.
- Remove pork from cellophane and cut into large chunks (3 ounces each)
- Heat the duck fat in a large Dutch oven.* When the fat shimmers, add pork chunks in batches. Do NOT crowd the pan – this will result in steaming, not searing. Sear two minutes per side. Transfer seared pork to a plate and continue with the remaining pork.
- Add all of the seared pork back to the Dutch oven and turn heat down to low or simmer. Add the stock and the wine. Stir with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pot. The liquids should come just up to the halfway point of the meat. Cover and simmer, undisturbed, for three hours.
NOTE: If you don’t have a Dutch oven, use a slow cooker for step two of the braising. Simply sear the meat in a sauté pan or skillet, and then transfer the seared meat to the ceramic insert of your slow cooker. Add the broth and wine to the sauté pan to scrape up the fond (or brown bits) from the sautéing step, then pour over the meat in the slow cooker. Typically the “high” setting on a slow cooker translates to about 195 degrees. This may mean you will need to cook the pork sirloin roast longer than if you used a true Dutch oven, but the end result of both cooking methods will be moist and fork tender.
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