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How to Cook Pork for National Pork Month

Want to know how to cook pork tenderloin and other specialties? October is Pork Month…and there’s never been a better time to learn.

Fall is the favorite season of many a cook. Summer’s bounty of tomatoes, peppers and zucchini have given way to the harvest of pumpkin and other winter squash, root vegetables and hardy greens. The cooler temperatures make it more pleasant to turn on the stove, yet every tailgater will tell you it’s still grilling weather. And for many, there’s nothing better to put on that grill than a fine piece of pork.

A seasoned, bacon-wrapped pork loin on a white dinner plate with steamed broccoli and red pepper slices.

October Is National Pork Month

Traditionally, October was the month hogs were brought to market. In the days before refrigeration, any pork that wasn’t eaten fresh was preserved through curing, smoking, corning (brining) and other methods. Today, of course, fresh pork is available year-round, but October is the perfect month to honor the hard-working pig farmers and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

It also helps that pork seems like it was just made for fall cooking. Falling temperatures call for hearty comfort foods…and unlike beef steaks, which benefit from a quick sear on the grill, pork loves to languish over the coals, developing the character that can only come from being cooked low and slow.

According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, pork is the world’s most widely eaten meat, representing 36% of total meat consumption. Retail scanner data reveals that the most popular cuts sold today are boneless chops, back ribs, bone-in chops (including pork porterhouse), tender pork ribs (spareribs) and pork tenderloin filet. So how do you cook these and other popular cuts of pork?

Pork Porterhouse
Pork Porterhouse

Pork Porterhouse Chop Recipe

This “king of pork chops,” like its beef counterpart, is two steaks (chops) in one: loin and tenderloin, separated by a T-bone. Unlike the beef porterhouse, however—as mentioned above—the pork version needs to be grilled more slowly: 15 to 20 minutes and to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. This handy reference teaches you how to cook pork porterhouse steak.

How to Cook Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloins are also excellent grilled—or roasted in a 425- to 450-degree oven—for 20 to 27 minutes, depending on size, or until it registers 145 degrees internal temperature on an instant-read meat thermometer. One thing about pork tenderloin, or most cuts of pork, for that matter, is that it has very little intramuscular fat. Without this “marbling” like beef has, it can dry out fairly easily…especially since pork needs to be cooked to a higher internal temperature. For that reason, a pork tenderloin in a roasting bag is an excellent idea. The bag seals in the precious juices, and the pork stays delicious and tender as it cooks at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. Cooking pork tenderloin in an oven bag is very simple, helps simplify cleanup, and makes an excellent choice for weeknight dining.

Pork Osso Buco and Other International Specialties

The cool temperatures of October are ideal for enjoying pork in many forms, and in a wide variety of flavors.

Anyone who’s been to Germany—or Wisconsin, home of many German immigrants—can tell you how incredible a juicy bratwurst is. While this tasty sausage is far more likely to be boiled in Germany, “brats” in Wisconsin are most often cooked on the grill…especially as game-day fare for tailgating football fans or in one of many Oktoberfest celebrations (another handy reason for October being Pork Month). However they’re cooked, sauerkraut is the traditional accompaniment in both places.

Sauerkraut also features prominently in the very German-influenced corner of France known as Alsace, where choucroute is king. The name is simply the French word for sauerkraut, but the dish (choucroute garnie, or dressed sauerkraut) is more a showcase for pork than for the fermented cabbage in which it is nestled: several types of sausage, ham hocks, knuckles, shoulders and slices of salt pork may all be included.

In northern Italy, specifically in and around Milan, osso buco (“bone with a hole”) is the thing. Traditionally made with veal shanks, the dish is increasingly made with pork today—especially by people in areas where veal is not common or, more likely, those who prefer not to eat veal for ethical purposes. Pork osso buco, browned and slowly braised to deeply flavorful tenderness, is a real restaurant-quality treat…and while it may be hard to find a pork osso buco recipe, you can buy a pre-made version that lets you just heat and serve for an easy dinner.

Pork is fantastic year-round…but October may be the best time of all to enjoy the world’s most popular meat.

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