A SWEET GLAZE CONCEALS THE FLAWS IN A BORING ROAST
Acrisp breading is a great way to camouflage the problems associated with today’s too-lean, too-bland pork chops. But when it comes to a loin roast, cut from the same part of the animal as those chops, a sweet glaze is a better agent for this cover-up operation. The glaze keeps the exterior of the roast from becoming tough and dry. And when the roast is carved, the glaze coats each slice, making every bite tastier and juicier.
Glazed pork roast usually begins on the stovetop, with a quick sear to build flavor. The roast is then transferred to a roasting pan and the glaze (we like maple syrup) is brushed on. The result should be a glistening roast—if only you could get the glaze to stick.
Although we think of maple syrup as being thick and viscous, when heated it becomes quite thin. Even the thickest glaze ends up pooling at the base of the roast and you need to brush it back on. This is slow work, especially if you have to reapply the glaze several times. For quick, even coverage, ditch the brush and use tongs to roll the roast in the glaze. The process is so easy you won’t mind repeating it several times.
There is one possible downside here: As the glaze bubbles away in a roasting pan it can burn in spots. Switching to a skillet prevents the glaze from spreading out and keeps more of the roast submerged. (It also makes this a one-pan recipe.) Once the roast is browned, the maple syrup goes into the pan—almost deglazing it and ensuring that the browned bits stuck to the pan contribute their meaty flavor to the glaze. Roasting and turning the pork in the glaze makes covering the whole roast easy and keeps the pork plenty moist.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
Use Natural Pork
Today’s pork is very lean, and less fat means less flavor and moisture. The industry addressed this issue by introducing “enhanced pork”—meat injected with a solution of water, salt, and sodium phosphate meant to both season the pork and prevent it from drying out. However, natural pork has a better flavor and if cooked correctly it will stay juicy. When shopping, read labels carefully. If pork has been enhanced its label will have an ingredient list. Natural pork contains just pork and won’t have an ingredient list.
Pick the Right Roast
A boneless blade-end loin roast, cut from the tender loin near the pig’s shoulder blade, has a lot of flavor and juiciness, which it receives in part from a little deposit of fat that separates the two muscle sections at one end of the roast.
A Tied Roast Cooks Evenly
Straight from the package, most pork loins lie flat in the pan and cook unevenly. Tying the roast ensures that the roast will have an even shape and yield attractive slices. Tied into a neat bundle, the roast fits well into a skillet on the stovetop.
The Glazing Is Easy
Dry pork is a problem, but so usually is the glaze, which is either too thin or overly sweet. The sweetness of maple complements the pork, which has a faint sweetness of its own. Small amounts of spices add subtle heat and dimension to maple syrup and cut its sweetness. Using a nonstick skillet helps to prevent the maple syrup from burning and sticking. Reducing the syrup in the skillet used to sear the pork takes full advantage of the browned bits left in the pan and eliminates the need for an extra pan; cooling the glaze briefly thickens it up quite a bit.
A skillet ensures that the roast really browns and the glaze really sticks.
Maple-Glazed Pork Roast
SERVES 4 TO 6
- 15 minutes to tie and sear roast
- 35 to 45 minutes to roast and glaze pork
- 5 minutes to cool and thicken glaze
- 15 minutes to let glazed roast rest
- Kitchen twine to tie roast
- 10-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet
- Tongs to rotate roast in glaze
- Oven mitts to handle scorching-hot skillet as it comes out of oven
Substitutions & Variations
- Maple syrup is graded based on color. The darker the color, the more flavorful the syrup.
- A nonstick pan will be easier to clean, but this recipe can be tough on delicate nonstick surfaces—make sure to use tongs with nonstick-friendly nylon tips. If using a traditional pan, let the pan cool completely and then bring a cup or two of water to a boil in the pan. The boiling water will loosen the glaze and make cleaning a snap.
- This dish is unapologetically sweet, so we recommend side dishes that take well to the sweetness. Garlicky sautéed greens, braised cabbage, and soft polenta are good choices.
Note that you should not trim the pork of its thin layer of fat.
- ½ cup maple syrup, preferably dark
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch ground cloves
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 (2½-pound) boneless blade-end pork loin roast, tied at even intervals along length with 5 pieces kitchen twine
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Stir maple syrup, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne together in measuring cup or bowl; set aside. Pat roast dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil in 10-inch ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place roast fat side down in skillet and cook until well browned, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, rotate roast one-quarter turn and cook until well browned, about 2½ minutes; repeat until roast is well browned on all sides. Transfer roast to large plate. Reduce heat to medium and pour off fat from skillet; add maple syrup mixture and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds (syrup will bubble immediately). Off heat, return roast to skillet; using tongs, roll to coat roast with glaze on all sides.
- Place skillet in oven and roast until meat registers 140 degrees, 35 to 45 minutes, using tongs to roll and spin roast to coat with glaze twice during roasting time (skillet handle will be hot). Transfer roast to carving board; set skillet aside to cool slightly to thicken glaze, about 5 minutes. Pour glaze over roast and let rest 15 minutes longer. Remove twine, cut roast into ¼-inch-thick slices, and serve.
MAPLE-GLAZED PORK ROAST WITH ROSEMARY
Substitute 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary for cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne.
MAPLE-GLAZED PORK ROAST WITH ORANGE ESSENCE
Add 1 tablespoon grated orange zest to maple syrup along with spices.
MAPLE-GLAZED PORK ROAST WITH STAR ANISE
Add 4 star anise pods to maple syrup along with spices.
MAPLE-GLAZED PORK ROAST WITH SMOKED PAPRIKA
Add 2 teaspoons smoked hot paprika to maple syrup along with spices.
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