Make sure you’ve got a very sharp knife, good quality olive oil and a sense of adventure. At the most basic level, there are three cooking methods used for pork.
DRY HEAT COOKING
This is oven-roasting, oven-grilling, braaiing over the coals, pan grilling, deep fat frying and shallow fat frying in a pan. The pork is cooked by means of direct exposure to heat or the circulation of very hot air. Suitable cuts for dry heat cooking are any pork roast, for example leg roast, shoulder or neck roasts, loin roasts, rolled pork belly or whole rib roasts.
For oven grilling, pan grilling or braaiing, choose any chops (from the loin, rib, shoulder, chump or neck), any pork steaks, kebabs or sosaties and sausages. It’s a good idea to rub the pork cuts with a little olive oil before grilling, to prevent it from sticking to the metal grid.
Deep-fat frying is hardly used today anymore, except sometimes by caterers who fry small pork friccadels or crumbed chops or steaks in oil. When doing this, it’s best to coat the friccadels with seasoned crumbs or a batter to protect the delicate pork meat against the high temperature of the oil. Always drain it very well on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.
Shallow fat frying is used for crumbed cuts such as pork schnitzels or crumbed chops. A good tip is to place the schnitzels or crumbed chops or steaks in the fridge for at least 2 hours before frying. This will help the crumbs to stick to the meat surface when frying. Drain well on kitchen paper before serving.
MOIST HEAT COOKING
This is stewing/simmering, casseroling, pot roasting, braising, boiling, using cooking bags or wrapping foil around a pork cut.
Stewing and casseroling is used for any curry dishes or stews, and pork cubes or pieces used for this can be cut from the thick rib, leg, breast or belly. Bigger cuts such as pork shanks can also be used.
Pot roasting is best for bigger joints such as the shoulder or thick rib.
Cooking bags or the wrapping of pork joints in aluminium foil before putting it in the oven (always wrap with the shiny side of the foil against the meat) is best for cuts such as whole shoulder/thick rib joints or a leg of pork. If this method is used, it’s best to remove the outer skin, as the skin will not crisp if moist heat is used.
Braising is used for steaks or chops, or slices from the breast or belly.
Boiling is best if only used for cured and smoked cuts such as eisbein or gammon.
Stir fry is a combination of dry and moist heat. Pork stir fry dishes are extremely quick, easy to make, economical and healthy. Add flair and lots of options to your menu repertoire and use pork stir fry dishes more often.
Pork strips for stir fry dishes can be cut from the leg or shoulder. Start with a small amount of olive oil or peanut/canola oil in a heavy-based pan. (A combination of olive and peanut oils give the best results). Pat the pork strips dry with kitchen paper and stir fry until they just start to turn a light golden brown. Do not overcook! Add strips of veggies, keep on stirring and add tablespoons full of boiling water or heated wine or fruit juice (as it becomes necessary) to “steam-fry” the dish further without adding more oil. Flavour with soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce or fruity flavours such as sweet chilli sauce, pineapple sauce or sweet and sour sauce to suit your taste buds. Stir steamed rice or cooked noodles into the pork and vegetable mixture, taste and adjust seasoning, and serve hot.
Improve the eating experience of a pork roast
Through study it was confirmed that “resting” a pork roast for 5 minutes after it comes out of the oven definitely improves the juiciness and tenderness of the roast. Simply cover the cooked roast with foil, shiny side towards the pork, and leave somewhere warm (in the kitchen), away from cold draughts, to “rest” 5 minutes. It will be easier to carve into neat slices, as the resting period helps the cooked pork to “relax”.
The best method to test if pork is cooked properly through is to invest in a meat thermometer. Wash the meat thermometer before using it. Stick it into the thickest part of the pork. It is perfectly cooked when the internal temperature is between 71 and 71°C.
Pork is unique as a flavour carrier, as it is the only meat type that combines superbly with all the sensory taste combinations and textures. (Savoury, sweet, sour, smoky, bitter, smooth, crisp, tender, chunky, crunchy, robust, delicate and anything in between.) Nothing beats pork when it comes to versatility and fusion of flavours.