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Cooking Methods

Pork today is leaner than ever before, decreasing the amount of fat in diets and resulting in health benefits for all ages. But, leaner pork also affects the way pork should be cooked. Because there is less fat to moisten and to add flavor to the meat, care should be taken to not overcook pork. There are various methods that can be used to produce juicy and flavorful pork. Some methods work better than others on different cuts of meat. There are two basic methods: dry heat and moist heat. Dry heat is most often used on cuts that are naturally tender, such as bacon, chops, steaks, loin roasts, and tenderloins. Moist Heat is most often used on cuts that are less tender, such as ribs, shoulder cubes and boneless pork neck roasts. Each method has many different techniques that can be used, which may be determined by the recipe or by the personal preference of the person doing the cooking. Keep in mind that there are many good techniques for accomplishing these cooking methods. Shown below is information and some basic cooking instructions for roasting, one of the most common cooking methods used for pork. To see information and instructions on other cooking methods and cooking techniques, select one of the topics above.


Roasting is a dry heat cooking method which is a popular choice for large tender cuts of meat. Roasting, which is basically the same method of cooking as baking, is often used when preparing cuts such as pork rack roast, belly roast, neck roasts, loin roasts, tenderloins, and ribs. Cuts that do not have natural marbling can benefit from barding of the meat to provide the necessary fat for flavor and to help moisten the meat while it is cooking. Marinating the meat before roasting or basting it with meat juices throughout the cooking time will also help produce tender and juicy meat. For skin-on roasts, it is best to dry the skin by putting the pork exposed in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Poking the skin and salting the skin before cooking will also help to release moisture from the skin and allow you to achieve crackling of the skin. Roasting is a good method to use when preparing a meal where other dishes have to be made before serving the meal. It generally consists of a longer cooking time than other methods and needs little attention during the cooking period. This leaves time for preparing other dishes.

Meat is sometimes seared before roasting to brown the surface of the meat to add flavor. Searing can be accomplished by using several different methods. One method is to use a high temperature for a short period of time at the beginning of the roasting time and then reduce the heat for the remainder of the time. This quickly browns the outer surface to create a flavorful crust on the surface of the meat. Another searing method used involves frying the meat in a very hot pan until all sides have been nicely browned and then placing it in the oven to finish cooking.

Remember to pre-heat the oven for at least 15-20 minutes and start with meat that has been left out of the fridge for 20 minutes. The length of time a cut of pork will have to cook will depend on the size of the cut and whether it is tied, stuffed, bone-in, or boneless. The best way to determine if the meat has cooked long enough is to check for doneness. It is important not to overcook pork because it will become tough and dry, but if under cooked it will not have the proper flavor or texture. It also needs to be cooked to the proper doneness to make it safe to eat. Shown below are signs to look for to determine doneness.

  • When pricked, the juices should run clear, with no pinkish coloring.
  • Cut into the meat and check to see that it is white in color. When cooked to medium doneness there may be slight traces of pink in the middle.
  • To ensure doneness, check with a meat thermometer.

For best results, the meat should be allowed to rest (a waiting period before carving) for 10 to 15 minutes. During this time the meat will continue to cook and will increase in temperature 2 to 4 degrees. Resting also allows the juices to be redistributed through the meat before it is carved. Remove strings if tied, and slice or carve to the desired thickness.

  • For a crisp surface on your roast, be sure the oven is fully preheated before placing the roast into the oven in an uncovered pan.
  • To add extra flavor, rub the surface of the meat with your favorite seasonings before roasting.
  • Roasting at a lower oven temperature will result in meat that is more flavorful and moist. It will take longer to cook but the results will be worth the wait.
  • A roast with a bone in it will cook faster than a boneless roast because the bone will conduct heat faster than the meat.
  • Do not use sharp utensils that may pierce the meat when trying to turn it because piercing allows valuable juices to escape. Use other utensils, such as wooden spoons and spatulas for turning the meat.
  • If cooking more than one roast, be sure that there is uniform space around them so that they will cook evenly. The roasts should not be touching and there should be enough space around them to allow air and heat to circulate.
  • When placing a thermometer in the meat to check for doneness, be sure that the stem of it is not touching a bone because this can result in a false reading.
  • Using the drippings from the roasted meat will provide great flavor when making a stock, gravy or sauce.


Frying is a dry heat cooking method, which is a quick and simple way of cooking pork. It can be accomplished by the use of two different methods, pan-frying and deep frying. Both methods work on the principle of using hot oil to cook the meat, producing cuts of pork with a crispy brown outside and juicy, flavorful meat inside. The meat is often coated with a thin layer of flour, bread crumbs or batter. Smaller cuts of pork are generally used for frying rather than larger cuts, such as roasts and hams. The best choice of pork cuts for frying are chops, steaks, escalopes, ham slices, bacon, sausage, and minced pork.


When pan-frying pork, use a heavy pan with deep sides. The cuts of pork can be prepared by simply sprinkling with salt and pepper, marinating, or coating with your favorite seasonings to create a desired flavor. Excess fat should be trimmed and the pieces dried off with a paper towel before frying. If pieces are coated with flour or bread crumbs, they should be placed on a rack and allowed to dry. This may require 20 to 30 minutes. Allowing the pieces to dry will provide for even browning of the meat when frying.



> When frying bacon, place the strips into a heavy frying pan that has not been preheated or had oil added. Fry the bacon over medium low heat. The amount of cooking time will depend on the thickness of the slices and desired doneness, but will generally vary from 7 to 12 minutes. When cooked to the desired doneness, remove from the pan and place bacon on a paper towel to allow the grease to drain.


Minced Pork

Frying ground pork generally does not require the addition of oil unless the meat does not contain sufficient natural fat. Ground pork can also be made into patties and then fried. The meat is done when all the pieces are lightly browned or the patties are browned on the outside and no longer pink in the center. The excess fat should be drained off before serving.



Pork sausages can also be cooked using the pan-frying method. Sausages should be cooked on low heat for a longer time to prevent the casing from bursting. If they are precooked sausages, they can be placed in an unheated frying pan and cooked until nicely browned and heated to an internal temperature of 60°C.

If they are fresh sausages, it is best to poach them for a few minutes before frying to ensure that they will get fully cooked without the outer layer becoming over done. Once they have been poached, fry them in the same manner as the precooked sausages. Do not pierce the sausage casing when cooking it.

Deep Fry

When meat is deep fried, it is cooked by the transfer of heat from the oil used in deep frying and not directly from a heat source. Generally the cuts that are best for deep frying are smaller sized boneless cuts, such as cubes, strips, escalopes and cutlets. Deep frying larger cuts make it more difficult to produce a cooked piece of meat that is properly done in the middle and not over done on the outside.

Often pieces that are deep fried have a crumb coating or a batter applied to them before frying, to add flavor and provide a crispy outside coating. When a crumb coating is used, the pieces of meat are dredged in flour, dipped in egg and then coated with bread or cracker crumbs. They are then set aside to dry for 20 to 30 minutes before frying.

If coating with a batter, the pieces can be coated just before frying but be sure excess batter is allowed to drip off before placing the meat in the hot oil.

To fry, fill a deep pan or an electric deep-fat fryer with enough oil so that the cuts you are cooking can be completely submerged in the oil. Heat the oil to between 180°C and 200°C.

Frying at the high temperature used in deep frying may result in the meat having a tint of pink coloring in the middle, but it is safe to eat if its internal temperature is 72°C. If not fried quickly, the meat will have a tendency to become tough.

With either method of frying, an important part of the process is keeping the oil at the proper temperature. Once the meat is placed in the hot oil the temperature of the oil will drop. But, if the oil continues to bubble consistently, it will cook the pork properly. If the temperature of the oil becomes too hot, the outside of the pork cut burns before the inside is done. To prevent this from happening, the temperature may need to be turned down a little once the meat starts browning, but not too much or the meat will be greasy. Controlling the temperature of the oil is an important part of producing delicious fried pork cuts. Shown below are some additional tips on frying pork.

  • When pan-frying, the best cuts to use are boneless. Boneless cuts will lay flat on the bottom of the pan and allow the meat to cook more evenly. When the bone is left in the chop or steak, the meat around it cooks slower. Frequently, when trying to thoroughly cook the meat around the bone, the outer edges will become over done.
  • Use tongs or a spatula instead of a fork when placing pieces in the pan or when turning. Piercing meat with a fork allows juices to escape.
  • To help reduce splattering when frying, dry all meat with a paper towel before placing in the hot oil and if the meat has a crumb coating, let the meat stand for 20 to 30 minutes before frying. Be sure all utensils and equipment are dry before they come in contact with the oil. Water will make the oil splatter when it is heated.
  • Using canola oil provides a milder taste and it contains healthier amounts of saturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • If using butter when pan-frying, mix equal portions of butter and oil to help prevent butter from burning.
  • When pan-frying chops or steaks, dredging with a light coat of flour will assist in providing a nicely browned coating on the meat and create extra brown pieces on the bottom of the pan to aid in making a flavourful sauce.

Grill and broil

When pork is grilled or broiled at the proper cooking times and temperature, the meat will have a crisp flavorful outside coating with a moist center. Grilling and broiling are basically the same type of cooking method, using dry heat that quickly cooks the surface of the pork and then slowly moves to the middle.

The main difference between the methods is that grilling applies the heat to the bottom surface of the meat, and broiling applies heat to the top surface. Also, grilling infuses the pork with a smoky flavor from the meat juices that drip during the grilling process. When broiling, this infusion of flavor does not occur.

Grilling and broiling are ideal for cooking smaller pork cuts, such as chops, steaks, ham slices, medallion, ground pork patties and sausages. Because grilling and broiling use high heat and short cooking times, it tends to toughen the meat, so it is best to use the most tender cuts available.

Pork steaks and pork chops that are going to be grilled or broiled should be a minimum of 2cm thick because the high heat will cook the meat quickly. If the cuts are thinner than this, it is easy to overcook the meat, causing it to dry out. The meat must be watched carefully while cooking by either of these methods. Coating the pork with a little oil or marinating it before cooking will help keep it moist. It is important that the heat source be properly preheated so that it seals the juices into the meat quickly. The temperature at which the pork is cooked and the distance it is placed from the heat source are both important for providing tender, juicy, properly done pork.

The grilling process cooks foods over a high heat source, either directly, indirectly, or a combination of both. Grilling temperatures typically reach as high as 350ºC, but any temperature above 150°C is suitable as a grilling temperature. The high heat of grilling sears the surface of pork, creating meat with a flavorful crust. The required cooking temperature and the method of grilling (direct, indirect, or a combination) depends on the cut of pork and the quality of the meat. Because pork today is raised to be quite lean, it is important it is not overcooked in order to produce the best results.

When grilling, pork should be cooked at a medium heat. The thicker the cut the farther away from the heat source it should be or the heat source should be at a lower temperature to prevent the outside of the cut from burning before the inside is properly cooked. You will also have to decide whether you will use direct or indirect heat during the grilling time. Depending on the cut, you may use both. A cut of pork may require direct heat to brownl the outside and indirect to allow the cut to cook thoroughly to the center.

The benefit from the infusion of smoked flavoring that occurs when grilling does not occur when broiling pork. It relies on the caramelizing of the surface, or the addition of seasoning to enhance the flavor. Flavor can be added by the use of a mixture of herbs, marinades or basting sauces.

As with grilling, the distance from the heat source is important for proper cooking. You want to produce a pork cut that has a golden brown surface and a juicy, tender inside that is thoroughly cooked but not overcooked.

  • Pre-heat grill or broiler to the proper temperature to ensure the meat surface is seared quickly to give it a flavorful crust.
  • To prevent the meat from sticking, use clean racks and coat them with vegetable oil or a nonstick vegetable oil spray.
  • To keep chops, steaks and ham slices flat while grilling and broiling, make slits in the fat around the edges at 4cm intervals.
  • When grilling, aromatic woods such as hickory, mesquite, apple, or cherry can be added to the preheated coals to give the meat a distinctive flavor.
  • Do not use a fork to turn the pork cuts as they cook. The piercing causes juices to escape. Use tongs to turn.
  • Leave an area in the charcoal grill without coals so that if a flare up occurs or some of the meat is cooking too fast, you can move the meat to this cooler area. On a gas grill, leave one burner on low.


Steaming is a moist heat method of cooking. It results in tender and moist meat through the use of steam. When steaming meat, minimum shrinkage occurs, and it is one of the most healthy methods of cooking because no additional fat is used. Although water is used in this process as in boiling, the meat retains more of the nutrients because it does not sit directly in the water, preventing the nutrients from being leached out of the meat. Pork can be steamed with a traditional steamer that fits on top of a saucepan or by using a rack that sits in the bottom of a tightly covered pan that allows the food to be suspended above the water. Steaming can also be accomplished by the use of an electric steamer or a bamboo steamer.

Steaming is very popular in Asian cooking and most often the pork is ground, diced, cubed, or sliced before steaming. Ribs are also steamed. Many times other ingredients are mixed with the meat or poured over it and they are then steamed. Ground pork and diced pork are often mixed with other ingredients and formed into balls or loafs before steaming.

When steaming pork with a traditional steamer, fill the steamer pot half full of water and bring to a full boil using a high heat. Depending on the recipe, herbs or other flavorings can be added to the water to be imparted into the meat during steaming. Place a single layer of meat in the steamer and place the steamer in the pot over the boiling water, making sure no water is coming up through the holes in the steamer. Cover and cook for the amount of time indicated on the recipe being used. If using a rack or tray in the bottom of a large pot instead of a traditional steamer, add at least 2cm of water to the pot and bring to a boil. Place the pork in a heatproof dish and place the dish on the rack in the pot of boiling water. Be sure water is not boiling up over the heatproof dish. Cover with a tight lid and cook for the appropriate time. Check for doneness and if thoroughly cooked, remove meat from steamer and serve as directed on the recipe.

  • Marinate cubed pork, sliced pork and ribs before steaming to give them a distinctive flavor.
  • Impart flavor into the meat by adding ingredients to the steaming water, such as onions, carrots, celery, and fresh gingerroot.
  • Other ingredients, such as vegetables, can be steamed with the meat but be sure to not overcrowd.
  • For efficient use of time when preparing recipes that call for pork and rice, steam pork over rice as it is cooking.
  • Avoid removing the cover to the pot during the cooking process. This will allow heat and steam to escape, resulting in extended cooking times.


Poaching is a moist heat method of cooking. It is also a healthy method of cooking pork because no fat is added during the cooking process. It retains the flavor, tenderness and moisture through a gentle simmering process. Poaching is a good method to use when cooking pork cuts that are naturally less tender, such as shoulder cuts, leg cuts and pork shanks. Cooking by this method provides a very flavorful cut of pork because it draws additional flavor from the meat itself and the bones as it cooks. Additional flavor can be imparted into the meat by adding flavoring or seasoning, such as bay leaves, cloves, allspice berries and cinnamon stick, to the poaching water.

The poached pork can be eaten as part of a main meal or used as an ingredient for sandwiches and other dishes. The liquid in which the meat is poached can be used as a broth or reduced and used in making a sauce to be served with the meat. It can also be used to cook other foods to be served with the pork, such as dumplings or vegetables.

When poaching, do not use a pan that is too large. This will help avoid using of too much water, which would result in a liquid that has a diluted flavor. The pan should be just large enough so that the liquid can move freely around the cut of pork. The liquid used for poaching can be plain water, water seasoned with herbs and spices, stock, or water with the addition of ingredients used as flavoring agents, such as onion, other vegetables, fruits or wine. You can also check doneness by making a small slit in the meat, which if done, should be opaque with a slight hint of pink in the middle. If done, remove from the heat and take the meat from the pan. Cover the meat loosely and let it sit at room temperature to rest for approximately 15 minutes before cutting. After allowing the meat to rest, slice and serve or if it is to be added to another food dish, cool and store in the refrigerator until adding to the other dish.

When poaching is used as the cooking method, it is important to just bring the liquid to a boil and then lower the temperature so that the liquid is simmering very gently. The liquid should barely be moving with only a few bubbles breaking the surface occasionally, not bubbling as it does when boiling. Vigorous boiling will toughen the meat.

Poaching is a good method to use to precook fresh sausages before finishing the cooking process with another method, such as frying, grilling or broiling.

Braise and Stew

Braising and stewing are very similar moist heat methods of cooking. They both use the same process of searing to enhance color and flavor, and slow cooking in liquid to produce tender, moist meat. Once the meat is browned it's simmered in a covered pan, either on top of the stove or in the oven. The liquid used in this process is diffused through the meat as it cooks, which works to loosen and tenderize the fibers of the meat. Braising and stewing work well for some of the tougher cuts from the shoulder and leg/ham, but is also used for cuts such as ribs and chops.

Braising and stewing are almost identical methods except stewing involves the use of more liquid and the ingredients, including the meat, are cut into smaller size pieces. Braising generally involves smaller cuts such as ribs, steaks, chops, and sausage. When the same process is used with larger cuts, such as roasts, it is sometimes referred to as pot-roasting. It is best to not use lean cuts, such as tenderloins, because they have a tendency to become tough from the longer cooking time.

It is beneficial to use the same pan to sear the meat and to simmer the meat so that any pieces remaining in the bottom of the pan will help to add flavor when the sauce is made. Select a heavy sauté or frying pan that is both suitable for the stove top and the oven. The pan should have a fairly tight fitting lid to prevent moisture from escaping. If you use a different pan to finish the cooking process than was used for searing, be sure to deglaze the bottom of the searing pan and use as part of the stewing or braising liquid. Deglaze by adding a little liquid to the bottom of the searing pan and heating to a boil, scraping the bottom to loosen all the browned pieces. Add this deglazing mixture to the pan that will be used to finish cooking the meat. The searing of the meat is not absolutely essential to the cooking process, but it does help to provide for a deeper colored sauce.

Generally slow cooking the meat in the liquids that are added will provide very tender results. Extra flavor can be achieved by using broth, stock, wine, sherry, beer, or vegetable juices as the liquid or part of the liquid that is added for simmering. Other ingredients that can be added to enhance the flavor are herbs and spices, fresh or dried fruit, black olives, walnuts, and mushrooms.


Sautéing is a dry heat cooking method that quickly cooks the pork using a little oil and high heat. The types of pork best suited for sautéing are the more tender lean cuts, such as chops, tenderloin medallions, cutlets, and ground patties. They are often served with a sauce made from the pan drippings. The oil used must be able to withstand high heat without burning. Olive oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, canola oil, and soy oil are commonly used oils when sautéing. Butter can also be used but it should be used in combination with oil so that the butter does not burn when exposed to the high heat used for sautéing.


Stir-frying, like sautéing, is a dry heat cooking method that quickly cooks the pork in a small amount of oil, using high heat. The difference between the two methods is that sautéing cooks pieces of meat that are about the size of a serving portion and stir-frying involves cooking smaller pieces of food that have been cut into small strips or cubes all similar in size. Stir-frying generally includes other ingredients that are cooked together with the meat. The different foods that are cooked when stir-frying usually require cooking at different intervals. They are stir-fried according to how quickly the foods cook. The process starts by cooking the pork and the slowest cooking vegetables first, such as carrots, cauliflower and onions. Vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, peppers, sugar snap peas and snow peas are added several minutes after the first ingredients and then the fast cooking vegetables such as mushrooms, celery, peas, and scallions are added last. Any fresh herbs should be added at the very end of the cooking time. Fruit is also used in many stir-fry recipes and should be added as directed by the recipe.

Stir-frying is a fast paced cooking method so it is important that everything is ready before beginning the process. Oil, pork, vegetables, seasonings and sauce ingredients should be premeasured and within easy reaching distance. The pan used for stir-frying should be a heavy pan with deep sides to allow the ingredients to be stirred and tossed without spilling over the edges of the pan while cooking. A wok, which has deep tapered sides that make it easy to stir and toss the ingredients as they are cooking, is a traditional pan used for stir-frying. Although a wok works well it is not a necessity and a nonstick deep pan also works very well.


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