Spices for pork need to be subtle to bring out the succulent flavor. Unlike beef, pork is not a strongly flavored meat. It requires a delicate hand with seasoning and enough of its own fat to moisten the lean, even in butterfly chops. But pork seasoning can make an ordinary meal into something special.
Best Seasoning for Pork
The best seasoning for pork tends toward can draw upon many cultures, but Italian, Asian or Hawaiian cooking provides excellent resources. Herbs for pork include (but are not limited to) sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, light garlic, marjoram, and oregano. Italian herb blends often work well, and so do curry blends.
Herbs add that little bit of bite or kick that can take the delicately flavored white meat from pretty good right on over into delicious.
Pork, like chicken, is more easily produced than beef and is often more accessible, especially for inland households, than fish. Herbs, marinades, and sauces can extend the many ways that pork dishes can be varied.
Fruit and pork complement each other very well. While apples, pineapples, and even apricots are not precisely a seasoning, they do offer ways to bring out flavors that go together very well.
Pork marinade can be either sweet or savory. Pork goes extremely well with pineapple or apple juice, but teriyaki and other soy sauces can also bring out the delicate flavor without overwhelming the natural taste.
Even Barbeque sauces, which tend to be rather heavy, need to be used with a light hand so that they bring out the flavor of the meat rather than covering it up. For example, it is better to apply a basting sauce frequently and let it soak into the cooking meat than to load up a chop or even a roast with a thick coating and expect it to last throughout the cooking process.
Ginger and pineapple juice make a tart marinade that will work equally well with pork or chicken. If the pineapple seems a little too stringent, add a little sugar to the mix. The tartness in the pineapple, however, is due to a chemical compound in the fruit; a chemical that helps break down the tissues in the meat, making it extra tender.
While not quite as effective as pineapple, if that fruit is not available, green apples and the juice from them works almost as well and goes very well with ginger.
Pork Seasoning Recipe
It is difficult to put together just one recipe for pork seasoning because this versatile meat can be used in many different ways.
For example, if you were making pork sausage, you would want to add sage, a little red pepper for heat, paprika for a subtle background flavor, garlic and a little black pepper as a sort of binder. You could add a pinch of mustard or even a dash of ginger for some added kick.
For sweet and sour pork, however, you would want quite a different mix. This would require a little garlic, an uptick in the amount of ginger added, some sugar – honey or white sugar would do well, but a light brown sugar could be all right with pineapple.
A flavorful pepper such as a mild, red banana or even a slightly spicier one, such as a southern bell can add just that little bit of extra flavor as well as some heat without overpowering. Chunks of pineapple or cubes of green apple add the sour to complement the sweet, spicy sauce that can easily buoy up the pork flavor.
A Pork Seasoning Rub
Sometimes, as a cook, you want something that you can keep on hand, a sort of all-purpose seasoning that requires little thought. This pork seasoning rub could provide just such a resource.
- 1 teaspoon rosemary powder
- ½ teaspoon sage
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground salt
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- Pinch mustard
- Pinch ginger
Remove the meat from its packaging and rinse it well at the sink.
Pat it dry with paper towels, then apply oil to the outside of the meat. Sprinkle the seasoning on both sides of the piece and use your hands to massage the spices into the fibers. You can put some muscle and vigor into the rubbing as this will force the flavoring into the center.
You don’t need a dry rub to be absorbed by the meat. You have already taken care of that by pressing the herbs into it. You can immediately place the piece onto or into the heat source, whether that might be a grill, frying pan or oven.
Pork needs moderate heat, one that will cook it through so that no pink shows in the middle but without scorching the outside or turning it hard and tough.
This same spice mix can be added to a liquid such as chicken broth and used to “swiss” a pork steak or even a small roast. The added moisture helps keep chops tender and moist, even when cooking them to “well done.”
Safety for Cooking Pork
Pork has long been known as meat that should be cooked with care. Not only is its delicate flavor easy to destroy, but pigs have also long been known to be an animal that carries both parasites and diseases that can cross-over to humans. Therefore, preparing pork should be done mindfully.
Rather than trying to fast defrost in a microwave, pork should be thawed over 24 hours in a refrigerator. Once thawed, it can be marinated in your choice of marinade.
Although there are some debates over this, most sources recommend then discarding the marinade, and if you want to baste the chop or roast with the same marinade sauce, use some that have not been in contact with the raw meat.
Cook your now fully thawed meat to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit at the center if checking the cooking process with a meat thermometer. If you do not have a meat thermometer, check for doneness by cutting into it next to the bone and looking for any sort of pink. The ideal moment is when there is no pink left, but the chop or roast is still moist and tender.
Cooking to 145 degrees, all the way through is sufficient to kill most pathogens. A reliable meat thermometer is an excellent kitchen tool to have on hand, no matter what kind of protein you are preparing.
Of course, as with all meats, pork should be cut up on a cutting board that is separate from the cutting board used for vegetables. It is also a good idea to use a different knife or at the very least to wash the knife used for cutting raw meat thoroughly using a good detergent or soap before using it to cut anything else.
How to Season
When thinking about how to season pork, there are many different ways to go about it. For example, in one household of roommates, the little butterfly pork steaks are a favorite. They are flavorful and can easily be prepared individually using only a frying pan and minimal condiments.
In fact, one roommate prefers them cooked in a little olive oil with a little black pepper and salt. The second loves to sprinkle a little store-bought Cajun seasoning mix on his pork steak, while another one loves to slather barbeque sauce on the defenseless hunk of protein, nearly obliterating it.
The fourth uses a lighter hand on the BBQ sauce but likes to drive his roommates from the house with the fumes from judicious drops of extreme hot sauce on his butterfly steak.
So, you see, there isn’t necessarily a wrong way to season pork, but there are some ways that perhaps work a little better than others.
Seasoning for Pork Chops
Oven fried pork chops do very well when swissed with chicken broth. Add a clove of fresh garlic to the basic pork seasoning rub. Rinse the pork chops and pat them dry with a paper towel. Rub the seasoning mix and garlic on the chop, then dip it in egg and roll it in flour.
Heat olive oil in a heavy frying pan on the stovetop and sear the chops on both sides. Cook in a medium oven in a bath of chicken broth. As the chops cook, the broth will thicken, and the chops will absorb the flavorful herb flavors.
Chops can also be pan-fried with the basic pork seasoning either rubbed into the surface or sprinkled on each side while cooking. To get the most out of the oil where seasoned pork has been cooked, grate one large potato per chop, mix the potato with an egg, and fry it in the seasoned grease. It might not meet every diet plan, but it will certainly taste delicious.
Seasoning for Pork Roast
When it comes to seasoning for pork roast, there is scarcely anything better than rosemary. It lends a sharp, bright flavor that is not quite like anything else. Accompany a roast that has been seasoned with rosemary with peeled, whole potatoes or scrubbed new potatoes and peas.
The savory broth from the roast makes an excellent cooking medium. If you love roasted carrots, add a few of those, as well. But there are people who just don’t like rosemary, so it is fortunate that there are other seasonings that will do as well.
One lovely combination is a studding of whole cloves, with their ends pressed into the roast, especially when they are coupled with pineapple rings that are held onto the roast with toothpicks. Baste this assembly with brown sugar dissolved in water to develop a delicious glaze that goes with the bite of the cloves.
Sweet potatoes go very well with a glazed pork roast. It is not necessary to cook them in a pan with a lot of marshmallows and brown sugar. Scrub their outsides well, prick the skin with a fork, and bake the potatoes in the same oven where the roast is cooking.
Put them into the oven about an hour before the roast is planned to finish cooking. Split the baked yams and serve them in their jackets with a little melted butter. Or, if you prefer a sweeter preparation, scrape the cooked potato out of the skins and add a little brown sugar.
If you are cooking the pork roast in a crockpot, revisit cooking pork in chicken broth. Add a little garlic, some coarsely ground salt, and black pepper. This will let the roast’s natural flavor shine through.
For day-old pork roast that has cooked until it has fallen to pieces, add your favorite barbeque sauce to the shredded meat to make delicious pulled pork for sandwiches.
Seasoning for Pork Loin
Pork loin is perfect for oven roasting. You can rub it with the basic pork seasoning recipe, or you can go for something a little different. Try combining cumin, garlic powder, paprika, and cilantro or a little celery seed. As it cooks, periodically baste it with a little of its own juices, just to keep the top of the roast moist.
Cook until the center registers 145 degrees Fahrenheit, then remove it from the oven and let it rest while the table is being set and the rest of the meal assembled. Then slice and enjoy.
Leftover pork loin, like pork roast, can be transformed into pulled pork with the addition of a little barbeque sauce. Alternatively, it can be cubed and used in oriental stir-fry recipes, fried and the drippings made into the gravy to serve with biscuits, or just sliced thin and served as pork sandwiches.
Pork seasoning can be used on poultry as well as on pork. The use of herbs, spices, and marinades can turn prosaic daily fare into something delicious. A windowsill herb garden or one at the kitchen door can provide items such as fresh chives, green onions, oregano, thyme and other tasty additions to your next pork pot roast.
For people who do not have growing space or who have that proverbial brown thumb, watch for sales in the baking section of your grocery department. Experiment with different flavors. You will be amazed by the creative ways you can use seasonings.