This is major: Keep the skin dry
At Texas Christian University (TCU), Culinary Director John Flores made students’ eyes bug out with porchetta. “They absolutely loved having something so different.” The key is skin that “puffs and crackles,” Flores says, which he achieves by first rubbing a side of pork with a rub: garlic-herbs, spices and granular onion. Then he rolls it, trusses it with twine and lets it sit in the cooler for two days “to allow any excess juices to come out and keep the skin dry.”
145 degrees, please
Pork’s best internal temperature is 145°F, not 160°F, as it used to be. So TCU’s Flores dries off the skin one more time, places the pork into a 400°F oven for an hour, turned off the oven to let it keep cooking, “much like you’d cook a prime rib,” he says. “I pull the roast out at 135°F and allowed it to rest for one hour. While it was resting, I heated up some of the residual fat in a sauce pot and poured it over the skin. When I cut into the roast the internal temperature had reached 145°F and was the perfect medium well.”
Mise en place
At the University of Albany, Executive Chef Jeffrey Rayno starts strong with everything he needs for porchetta. He toasts fennel, chili flakes, coriander seeds and pink peppercorns in a pan, activating the natural oils of the spices, then grinding them after they’ve cooled.
Before it’s rolled, do this
Butterflying the pork loin to create a flat surface will help with rolling. The spice rub that Rayno creates absorbs through holes poked through the belly side with a paring knife. Then comes fresh parsley, fresh rosemary, minced garlic. And finally, prosciutto is laid on top of that (insert sound of heavenly angels singing).
Rockin’ and rollin’
After the pork is evenly seasoned, it’s time to roll into a log shape. Albany’s Rayno recommends pressing down hard so the roll remains tight, then tying with twine, making incisions with the paring knife through the skin to anchor it.
Out of the oven
Rayno roasts the porchetta for 30 minutes in a 500°F degree oven, turns it down to 350°F and roasts for another hour and a half to two hours. He also looks for the internal temp to reach 145°F after resting.
The sky’s the limit with porchetta garnishes, and at Albany, they’ve given it a little kick with banana peppers.
Albany’s lucky students get to rip into the end result: that perfect slice of porchetta with all the elements coming together in a crackly, fatty bite of perfection.
Try this Asian twist
Cura at Holy Redeemer
Cura Executive Chef Richard Brabson creates a cool version of porchetta-ramen at Holy Redeemer Lafayette, a senior living community in Pennsylvania. “This is a twist on traditional porchetta that I came up with and used for my pork ramen dish for a special event,” Brabson says.
Braising rather than roasting
“Instead of roasting the porchetta, it’s braised slowly and finished with a glaze,” Brabson says. “I’ve always like to take ideas from one part of the world and work them into other styles of cooking.”
The result is this totally different take on porchetta.
Most succulent sandwiches
Porchetta, after it’s sliced, is a natural for the best sandwich of your life, like this one by Eurest Chef Craig Tarrant. “We were looking for a deli concept that showed more food/ingredients than bread,” he says. “We visited San Francisco’s farmers’ market for inspiration and came up with the concept name, Above the Bread.” This porchetta sandwich on a baguette features housemade mustard sauce, pear and fennel slaw and fresh arugula.
More sandwich inspo
Also inspired by porchetta sammies in San Francisco, Chef David Anderson of Penn State created this brunch-friendly porchetta sandwich with caramelized onions, arugula and cranberry mustarda.
Another option: head out to the smoker
Executive Chef Frank Turchan of the University of Michigan added smoky flavor to porchetta by smoking porchetta on cherry wood for 12 hours, then finishing with a torch to crisp the skin. “It’s simple to prepare ahead of time and cooking is easy,” Turchan says. “But it also gives a great presentation and delicious flavor to a meal.”
To brine or not to brine?
The National Pork Board advocates brines for cooking many cuts of pork. Executive Chef Jonathan Bohn of Marist College makes his porchetta brine as a mix of 64 ounces of water, ½ cup kosher salt and ¼ cup sugar for three hours. “This will help keep the meat juicy,” Bohn says.
Marist’s Bohn precooks prosciutto to be used inside the roll. “Save the rendered fat from your precooked prosciutto and use it to saute your aromatics for the stuffing,” he says.
Fennel seeds are “crucial” for porchetta, Bohn says, “as is fresh garlic. I often like to add sage and a touch of fresh lavender if one feels daring. Lastly, make sure you try some of the porchetta thinly sliced like deli meat. Sear it quickly in a pan then serve it on a crusty roll with sautéed broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.” Talk about perfection!