Just as with other animals and food crops, the way in which an animal is raised is directly related to how the meat tastes when it gets to your plate. Our pigs are very active and eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and roots in addition to their organic grain. As a result, the meat they produce is often darker in color with a rosy hue and is very flavorful. If you are accustomed to eating conventionally raised pork, you will notice a difference in not only the appearance and flavors of certified organic pastured pork, but also in the way it cooks. Here are a few things to consider when cooking Certified Organic Pastured Pork.
Pastured pork is very flavorful and juicy, but you can easily overcook it by using too high of heat or cooking it for too long. Don’t forget that meat continues to cook with the residual heat held within it even after you remove it from the heat source. If you think your pork is not quite done, remove it from the heat right then. By the time it finishes cooking it will likely be perfect. Checking the internal temperature of the meat is a good way to gauge the degree of doneness so you know when to take it off the heat. The USDA recommends cooking pork to an internal temperature of 170°F, but that will likely result in a very dry piece of meat. A range of 145-165°F will give you a juicier, more tender piece of meat.
Tip Number Two…Choose an appropriate cooking method!
The second important thing to keep in mind is to make sure you are using the right cooking method for the cut of meat you are preparing. There are two main cooking methods, moist heat cooking and dry heat cooking.
MOIST HEAT COOKING
Cuts of meat that come from a part of the animal that is used and exercised more will be tougher and may have more intramuscular connective tissue and gelatin. To tenderize these cuts, you should use a moist heat cooking method which will use a longer cooking time and lower temperature with added moisture or liquid to help tenderize the meat. As the meat cooks, the connective tissue and gelatin in the meat will melt down making the meat tender, moist and very delicious.
- Moist heat cooking methods include: braising, stewing, boiling or cooking in a crock-pot.
- Cuts of pork that are most appropriate to use with this cooking method include: Pork Shoulder (Roast or Steak), Country Style Short Ribs, Spare Ribs, Ham and Pork Hocks.
DRY HEAT COOKING
Cuts of meat that come from muscles of the animal that are not as active will be more tender. These cuts of meat can be cooked for shorter periods of time at higher temperatures.
- Dry heat cooking methods include: grilling, sautéeing, roasting, broiling, stir-frying, pan-frying and deep-frying.
- Cuts of pork that are most appropriate to use with this cooking method include: pork chops, pork tenderloin, bacon and ham.
Tip Number Three….Let the meat speak for itself
Don’t forget that pastured pork is very flavorful, so let that flavor work in your favor. Use simple seasonings, herb and spice rubs or just a little salt and pepper to season the meat. Simple marinades and sauces are nice accompaniments to pastured pork as well. Whenever possible, make the sauce in the pan that the pork was cooked in, or cook the pork in the sauce or braising liquid. The flavors of the pork will seep into the sauce adding a fuller pork flavor to the sauce.