Monday, July 2, 2012

Kitchen Bargains: Divvy That Boneless Pork Loin Yourself

Every now and then you can get a real bargain at the meat counter. Not often, but you can. Everyone tells you to cut up your own chickens, etc, make stock from the bones, and yes, that IS a real money saver. But there is still even an easier meat to cut up yourself: the whole boneless pork loin. You need no skill whatsoever, as you just cut straight down and through like you are slicing a loaf of bread. Pork loin is both lean and tender, so  it takes well to cutting into both roasts and chops, and the scraps are great for sautes and stir fries. The really good thing about cutting up as much of your own meat, poultry or fish as you can is that you can cut it exactly the way your family likes it.
Seven and a half pounds of porcine beauty.

This week my boss mentioned that he'd gotten a whole boneless pork loin at a local market for cheap, so of course, being rather frugal, I ran over and got one too. Nice call, Michael! Most  whole boneless pork loins weight between 7 and 9 pounds and the cut comes from the ribs. I made a center-cut roast of about 2-1/2 lb., by basically dividing the long roast into thirds, using the middle third as a roast and cutting the rest into a dozen 1" chops--"slices". Just 15 minutes and it was all cut wrapped and labelled for the freezer. You can do this too, with nothing more than a good, sharp cooks knife or a sharp slicer. Please don't use a serrated knife, unless it has fine serrations as you'll just tear the delicate meat.
15 minutes from big roast to perfect cooking sizes!
The remaining bits will get cut and marinated for a stir fry. The same market is selling boneless center cut loin chops for double the price we paid for the whole roast. Those chops are perfect to marinate and grill, or to hammer out into pork paillards--thin slices of meat pounded to less than 1/4" thickness and quickly sauteed or grilled.

Please remember that because this part of the pig is lean and tender, you don't have to cook it to death. Our mothers apparently cooked pork until it was rock hard and dry, and old habits die hard. Don't do it. Get a good instant read meat thermometer and use it. Any whole cut of meat (not ground) including pork, is safe to cook just to 145°F according to the USDA, ensuring you have a tender, juicy piece of pork roast or chop. If it's a big cut like a roast, you can pull it from the oven a little short and let the carry-over heat finish cooking the meat. But if your family is squeamish about slightly pink pork, pull your roast from the oven at 145° and let it stand about 15 minutes before slicing, to finish cooking and let the juices reabsorb.

The way I figure this one, every knife stroke I made was worth about $2.

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