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Weekend Recipe: Marinated Pork Roast

I realize that I’ve picked up a lot of new traffic to the blog over the last few months, so today’s post perhaps needs some introduction. Over the years here I’ve often posted recipes during breaks and holidays – the old saying is that you should never trust an organic chemist who can’t cook, and there’s something to it. I’ll be adding a “Recipes” category to the list in the sidebar, something I keep meaning to do, and collecting all the ones I’ve posted there, so if that sort of thing appeals to you they’ll all be in one place. If it doesn’t, you at least know that it’s not a cooking site and that the next post will be on something like T cells, C-H activation reactions, photoaffinity labeling or liver enzymes.

I made this yesterday for the Fourth of July – not exactly traditional for this region of the country, but old-fashioned Independence Day food here would be salmon and peas, and I’m not enough of a New Englander for that. What follows is an adaptation of a recipe from Steve Raichlen’s “Barbecue Bible” book for Cuban roast pig. Raichlen’s recipe is scaled for a whole fresh ham. I used a good-sized pork loin for this (which I think needs aggressive seasoning anyway), but you could also use a pork shoulder cut, in which case you’ll probably want to cook that longer and slower or it’ll be tough, which would be a shame.

  • 1 6-pound (2.7 kg) pork loin
  • 1 entire head of garlic (peeled cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt, such as Morton’s Kosher, which would be about 15g. Others will vary, with Diamond Crystal being the lightest and fluffiest by volume.
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano (1.5g)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin (3g). Freshly ground is definitely better if you can manage it
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper (3.5g) Likewise, freshly ground is the way to go if you can.
  • 1 cup (250 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (4g)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (45 mL)
  • 2 bay leaves, broken up
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced

Cut several short lengthwise slits into the port loin, around all sides. Crush up the garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle or run them through a garlic press, and blend with the salt, oregano, cumin, and pepper to make a thick (and extremely aromatic!) paste. Work this paste into the slits in the meat and then around all the surface. Dissolve the sugar in the lime juice. Place the meat into a sturdy plastic bag – I double-bagged, personally – and pour in the lime juice and olive oil adding the bay leaves and the sliced onion. Sluice this around to distribute everything and let in marinate in a refrigerator overnight (I did about 16 hours), flipping the bag around once in a while so that everything gets soaked evenly.

I cooked this on a rotisserie on a gas grill, at about 400F (200C) for two hours (no direct heat under the meat), looking for an internal temperature of about 160F (70C). You could grill it over indirect heat, turning it often, or roast it in an oven as well. I tend to like pork fairly well-done, so adjust for your tastes and tolerances. I did need to cover the fat side of the meat with a wrap of aluminum foil for the last 30 minutes to keep it from getting too dark.

The finished product is shown. I let it rest for a few minutes after taking it off the heat (standard recommendation for roasted meats. It comes out pretty tender – not surprisingly, after being soaked in lime juice and onions for that length of time.




51 comments on “Weekend Recipe: Marinated Pork Roast”

  1. EugeneL says:

    Derek, could you increase the size of the comments list on the right?

    1. Daniel Jones says:

      Most browsers (like Firefox, my fave) allow for adjustable font sizes in page display. I recommend some experimentation.

  2. M Welinder says:

    I am waiting for the blog post that unites “recipes” and “thing I won’t work with”.

    1. Dave M says:


      Far away from my kitchen, thankyouverymuch.

    2. Ian Malone says:

      Would this be an anchovies, tripe* and Hawaiian pizza type of a column, or an ackee, cassava and taro leaf salad one? (*Incidentally, trippa alla fiorentina is excellent.)

      1. Ian Malone says:

        (I still maintain that nothing which requires gloves as protective equipment in its raw state is intended to be eaten.)

        1. eyesoars says:

          No cashews? That would be a true shame.

          1. Ian Malone says:

            I have to admit to forgetting cashews, maybe because they don’t usually pose a risk to the diner, but they would be a worthy inclusion. (And most beans are quietly trying to kill you, but we’d be here all day…)

        2. Daniel Jones says:

          No Ghost Peppers for you, friend.

          Those things require two pair of gloves as the juices will get through the first..

      2. Not that kind of organic chef says:

        An excellent idea – a few possibilities come to mind, such as (in no particular order) habanero chocolate (which grows really well on the window sill) or trinidad scorpion chillies without gloves; or Casu Marzu and other ‘living’ cheeses classed as unfit for human consumption (yes there is a black market for cheese in Corsica and the Italian isles, go figure…); and of course a myriad of fermented fish products (hakarl, I’m looking at you).

    3. ap says:

      Durian? Fugu?

      1. eyesoars says:

        Fugu, for sure. Durian? Only makes you wish you could die if you have to put up with the smell.

    4. Nick K says:

      My suggestion for your proposed category is pork colon in blood, which I had the misfortune to order by mistake in a restaurant in Chengdu. It was memorable, and not in a good way.

    5. Elliott says:

      Here’s a suggestion for such a post–unusual methods for starting a barbeque.
      I’m thinking of the classic LOX* + lit cigarette butt (1996 Ig Nobel in Chemistry).

      *LOX = liquid oxygen, for those readers who are not rocket scientists.

      1. Earl Boebert says:

        Off topic, but it’s that kind of a day.

        Speaking as someone who actually worked on a rocket project (Space Shuttle main engine) I am always amused at the use of the term “rocket science” to refer to something intellectually advanced. Let me assure you, rocket *science* is pretty straightforward. Rocket *engineering,* on the other hand, is anything but.

      2. Dub Dublin says:

        LOX to speed BBQ fires was becoming something of a tradition at Purdue University Engineering Dept barbeques until the Fire Department got wind of it and made them stop, despite the fact that they’d safely used LOX to accelerate the coals for years. Here are some videos, including one that gratuitously barbeques the grill itself!

        1. Nameless says:

          In Oppau they used dynamite to (safely!) break up the pile of ammonium nitrate prior to shipping. Mixing it with ammonium sulfate rendered it unsensitive to shock. They performed that procedure over a 1000 times and greatly sped up shipping procedures, saved money and entertained their workers. Until one day it wasnt properly mixed.
          Just because it went smooth for years doesnt make any practice safer (or safe enough to be worth it).

          1. Daniel Jones says:

            Derek’s covered this very thing in the How Not To Do It section.

      3. I’m somehow reminded of the time I had to give a talk in a room the morning after a “let’s make ice cream with liquid nitrogen for the kids!” party.

        Even though there were plastic tarps down, everything was very sticky. The room did still smell very tasty, though.

  3. Marko says:

    My entry for the picture caption contest :

    “This is your lung on COVID-19”

    1. Ken says:

      Too soon, too soon.

      1. Marko says:

        Haha. Yes , my bad.

  4. Andriy says:

    Oh Derek, I was in love with your writing and storytelling style, but now I am ready to enter your fan club. We need merch

  5. Crocodile Chuck says:

    Beautiful, Derek

    Thanks for posting!

  6. right you r says:

    First of all, this is unacceptable. You have not only ignored BLM, but you have shown that you support pork, which is anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and other anti-minority. There is an abrahamic religious consensus that pork is not to be consumed. Is this post racist? Yes, it is objectively racist. Should we tear down all the pig statues in the ” great pig gig “. Yes we need too. To do otherwise is racist.

    1. Esteban says:

      Since society is turning into Orwell’s Animal Farm, maybe pig statues will be spared.

      I do wonder how many of Derek’s new readership are militantly anti-meat. None have appeared in this comment stream as I type this, so maybe we will escape their wrath.

  7. Very nice.

    Despite the well known warning against trusting a physical chemist who thinks he can cook, I do attempt it from time to time. I recently made a corned beef from scratch (except for slaughtering and butchering the beef) with a recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s recent cookbook, “From Scratch.” He has some pork shoulder recipes in that same section of the book. You and other readers might enjoy the book, as well as his blog, which I have linked to.

    And, he gives you a cocktail recipe every Friday.

    1. thanks, peter. very much appreciate your kind words! and yes, the pork shoulder is an incredibly versatile muscle. hope the corned beef was good.

  8. chiz says:

    You forgot the Zinc.

  9. Chef Chemist says:

    Where did you get the cutting board? I’ve been looking for one like that with the reservoir for juices.

    1. ThatsEasy says:

      Pretty standard feature. Just look for a cutting board labeled with adjectives like carving, roast, etc.

  10. Simon Auclair the Great and Terrible says:

    Derek are you running the Maillard reaction again?

    1. A Nonny Mouse says:

      Ah, Amadori adducts; a PITA for me at the moment.

  11. Culinary Chemist says:

    160 for pork, wow I don’t even know how you eat that.

    If memory serves, Kenji’s excellent _Food Lab_ book suggests around 140-145 or even lower for a pork loin. To each their own though

    1. Peter Juhasz says:

      Am I looking at a fellow (Chris) Schlesinger follower?

  12. Mark from the park says:

    Looks great! I actually have a chemistry question here: I’ve read that if your marinade contains an acid component (in this case, lime juice), you shouldn’t marinate your pork/beef longer than several hours. The cited explanation is that acid denatures the meat, similar to the effect that heat has on it, which could eventually result in an overcooked outer layer of the meat (tough and dried out). As a physicist, I believe experiments are the ultimate decider though, and it looks like your experiment turned out well. But I’m wondering if you can comment on the validity of the above guidance — does it make sense at least in principle? And have you tried marinating for less than 18 hours?

    1. Pedwards says:

      You can find an example of an over-marinating experiment here (granted, it’s with fish instead of with pork). The protein denaturing that results from over-marinating doesn’t lead to meat that’s “over-cooked” as much as it leads to meat with a somewhat mushy texture. If you want more lay-person oriented food science, check out The Food Lab by J Kenji Lopez-Alt (mentioned in a comment above). As far as I know, it’s one of the only non-professional chef focused cookbooks that includes multiple graphs and a section in the intro discussing thermodynamics

    2. Daniel Jones says:

      Acids do cook meat by denaturing. Ceviche is the classic example, taking *fresh* firm fish and bell pepper bits for color and swishing the mixture in lime and lemon juice until it’s been heatlessly prepared, then eating it.

  13. Kai Lowell says:

    This looks delicious – I may well have to give it a go. (Your recipes are always a hit around here; the pies especially get made often and eaten promptly.)

  14. matt says:

    I’ll volunteer for challenge testing of your recipes.

  15. Erik Dienemann says:

    Looks tasty, but I’m waiting for the series on “things I’ve blown up,” as I would imagine there’s another old saying of not trusting a chemist who didn’t blow things up, lol…

  16. Schinderhannes says:

    Hi Derek, very nice recipe as with most 🙂
    As a German I consider me an expert on prok roast, gas grill rotisserie is currently one of my favorites.
    Only your temperature readings confuse me, I thought we had agreed on K in 1960.

  17. Reviewer #3 says:

    While the authors claim their results were ‘tender’, they provide no data on grip-strength while carving and have neglected histology completely. A thorough report on the study would have to include sagittal, axial and coronal sections. Given the limited data provided, the reviewers cannot currently recommend publication in the Posted on Social Media Food Journal (PoSoM Food J).

    Happy Holiday!

    1. sgcox says:

      Moreover, reporting N=1 results is completely unacceptable.
      N=3 should be the minimum for the submission

      1. Yes, the n-value is limited, but given the inherent safety (if not yet tastiness with any certainty) of such agonists as lime juice on the porcine surface receptor, it is ethically acceptable to apply same to unroasted pork loins in vivo outside the context of a clinical trial (maintaining independent control populations of course). Then we can monitor reported outcomes on a longitudinal epidemiological basis. The difficulty lies in the controls – how can we keep an independent study population from ever applying lime juice to their pork?

  18. Ola says:

    I’d very much enjoy the crossover section as well!
    It is also interesting to see the various regional variations in taste and culture, e.g. many comments mention offal as Things they won’t work with, while they are staples of European and south-east Asian cuisine (and probably quite a few others that I don’t know of) – which doesn’t exclude some Europeans from sharing that opinion, either.
    I find most dishes are good until you’re told what they’re made of – a bit like all video images look more stable/steady if ambient sound is removed during sound editing. Losing one of our reference points helps a lot to overcome some of our own limitations 😉
    I myself did enjoy a well done steak in the US, even though everyone knows the
    beef cooking is based on the 3B scale: Blue, Bloody, or Bad. Go figure 😉

  19. BK says:

    Derek, while I’m a bit late here, check out the America’s Test Kitchen pork loin recipe. They “butterfly” the loin into almost three times its width to around 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick, then spread whatever their seasoning(s) or sauce on the open ‘face’ then roll it up and tie it like a roast. Then roast it at whatever temperature, I forget. But the reason they do this is to essentially triple the surface area and prevents uneven cooking from scoring like you do.

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  21. expert says:

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  22. expert says:

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