How to Roast Pork Perfectly
How to roast pork so that it’s juicy and tender on the inside and has a nice brown crust on the outside. It works perfectly every time!
Last year I was searching for the best way to roast prime rib when I found this on Serious Eats.com. It’s a great discussion of what searing does to a roast (it doesn’t seal in juices, if that’s what you’re thinking). And then it has a set of experiments testing to find the perfect roast. What they were seeking was an evenly cooked piece of meat with a nice brown crust. They achieved it by doing something that I found backwards. Because it is backwards:
They seared the meat at the end rather than at the beginning!
I was doubtful but the result was amazing. The best roast beef I’ve ever made. So good that I’ve applied the technique to other meats.
Today I’m showing you how to apply this same reverse-sear technique to roasting pork.
Let me tell you, the reverse-sear is even more amazing with pork. You get a soft juicy inside (nearly as soft as pulled pork) and all kinds of good crunchy meat and fat on the outside.
How to Roast Pork Perfectly
This how-to is for pork roasts that have some marbling. Look for a pork butt or a pork shoulder (boneless or with bone). Don’t try it with a loin. Just don’t. If you do have a pork loin, go here for instructions for roasting it perfectly. And if you’re looking to make a traditional Pork and Sauerkraut dish for New Year’s, head over here.
Here’s a video showing how to roast pork butt and pork shoulder:
(Below the video you’ll find very detailed step-by-step written instructions. A printable, shorter version of the instructions is below that).
Getting Your Pork Roast Ready for Roasting
1) Take your pork roast out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. Preheat the oven temperature to 300°F.
2) If your pork roast has a thick layer of fat on the outside, cut all but a thin layer away so that it’s a thinner coating.
Tip: Don’t throw this fat out. Season it lightly with salt and then put it in a single layer in a cake pan (something with edges because a lot of hot fatty liquid is going to come out of it). Roast it in the 300°F oven until some fat is rendered. Drain off the fat and keep roasting until very crispy. Check it every 30 minutes or so. When it’s crisp and lightly browned blot it on kitchen towel and then break it into pieces. Try hard not to eat it all yourself.
3) Season the pork roast all over with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
When my mom and dad were doing roasts for catering gigs I’d watch them prepare these huge cuts of meat. My mom seemed to be putting a ton of seasoning on the outside. I asked about the amounts and my mom said, “Always put more pepper and garlic than you think you need. But not as much salt.”
To accomplish this I do a good sprinkling of salt all over and then a more liberal seasoning of pepper and of garlic powder. Then I go in with a bit more pepper and a bit more garlic to make sure that I’m following my mom’s advice.
Tip: Measure out the salt, pepper and garlic into a small bowl and mix it up. Now you can season directly from the bowl without worrying if your hands touch the roast in between rounds of seasoning. For a 5lb. roast I measure 1 teaspoon salt, 1 and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. I use all of the mixture but if you have some leftover, discard it.
Putting the Pork Roast in the Oven
4) Put the roast in a large roasting pan, fat-side-up. Add about a half inch of low or no-salt-added chicken broth to the bottom of the pan. Roast it uncovered.
For how long? You’re not aiming for a medium-rare pork here. You want that really tender meat like for pulled pork. But you don’t want it to be so tender that it actually pulls when you try to slice it. Aim for about 180°F internal temperature. That will be about 40 minutes per pound at 300°F.
Tip: Use an instant read thermometer (I really like this one, it’s inexpensive and works well) to check it after 25 minutes per pound and then again every 5 minutes per pound after that. So if you have a 5 pound roast, you’ll check it after 125 minutes (about 2 hours) and then every 25 minutes or so after that. It will probably take 3 and 1/2 hours to get to 180°F.
5) When the broth evaporates and has left a light brown layer on the bottom of the pan, add more (or add water).
Tip: You want to add enough liquid so that it goes back up the sides of the pan. This is to dissolve any brownings on the sides of the pan from the previous round of broth. You want all of this brown flavor in your eventual gravy.
6) Put the roast back into the oven. When the liquid level gets low again, add more liquid again.
Let the Pork Roast Rest
7) When it gets to 180°F, take the roast out of the oven and let it rest for 30-40 minutes. It will be fine for up to an hour. There is no need to cover it during resting time.
This is important because this is the only time the roast will rest. Don’t skip this step.
Tip: Use this resting time to finish off your other side dishes and make the gravy using that gorgeous brown liquid. Here’s my method for making a perfect gravy using drippings like the ones you have from this roast.
Do the Reverse Sear in the Oven
8) Preheat the oven to 475°F.
9) Put the roast into a clean roasting pan or onto a baking sheet and put it into the hot oven for 13-17 minutes, uncovered.
You want the outside to get really nice and brown and the fat to get crunchy.
Tip: You can use the same roasting pan you used the first time but rinse it well beforehand.
10) Carve and serve.
It already rested back in step 7 so don’t let it rest now. Carve it immediately.
Tip: Use an inexpensive electric carving knife like this one to carve roasts. It shreds the meat less and you can get thin slices with an even thickness.
11) Eat :)
Isn’t that the coolest way to roast pork? It’s low and slow so that it’s tender, just the way you want it. And the outside is all brown and crunchy and full of flavor. I’m never going to roast pork another way.
Questions and Answers About Roasting Pork:
(I answer a lot of questions in the comments below so do read those. This is a summary of some of the most frequent questions)
Can I roast 2 (or more) roasts side by side and how does this affect the cooking time?
As long as the roasts are not touching and there is room for air to circulate between them, the roasting time does not need to be adjusted. Weigh each roast on its own and determine how long it will take. The cooking times for each roast will be independent of the other roast there.
How do I make gravy for this roast?
Here is my tutorial for making gravy. This recipe uses the liquid from the roasting pan. If you want to make the gravy ahead of time, you totally can. Use this recipe for making gravy without drippings. Then, if you want to, you can add some of the liquid from the roasting pan while the roast is resting.
Can I brine the pork roast before cooking it?
Yes, you can use a brine or a marinade. I honestly don’t think it’s needed for the tender juicy cuts used here though(the butt and shoulder). It’s more beneficial when doing a leaner cut like a loin or tenderloin. If you do brine the roast, you won’t be able to use the liquids that drip out of it during roasting. They’ll be too salty. You’ll need to use the Gravy without Drippings recipe.
Can I put potatoes or other root vegetables in the roasting pan with my roast pork?
Yes. But then skip adding the liquid to the pan. You want the vegetables to roast, not boil. Arrange potatoes or other root vegetables around the roast in a single layer for the last hour of cooking. While the roast rests, you can put the veggies in a low oven to keep them warm, or you can let them keep roasting at a higher temperature to get a crust on them. Note that you won’t get any drippings for gravy since the vegetables will soak up all the fat and juices from the roast. That’s not a bad thing at all. Just go ahead and do the Gravy without Drippings mentioned above.
Can I make the roast ahead of time?
YES! My parents’ restaurants used to do a lot of catering when I was a teenager, and so I did a lot of catering alongside them. What we used to do for turkeys is exactly what you should do for this roast pork if you have a crowd coming over. A day ahead, roast the pork. Follow the instructions above and roast it slowly at 300F, then let it rest, then do the reverse sear, but then let it rest again. Let it rest until it’s cooled down quite a bit. Then refrigerate it whole until chilled. This makes it really easy to get nice even slices because slicing it cold there are less juices flowing and everything holds together better.
Use an inexpensive electric knife, if you have one, to get nice thin slices. A carving knife works too just not as well and it gets tiring if you’re doing a lot of slicing.
Arrange the slices in a single slightly overlapping layer on a large sheet pan. 40 minutes before you’re serving dinner, dribble water or chicken stock over the pork slices. You want about 1 drop of water for every 3-4 slices. Very little water, really. But the water is going to heat and steam and keep the roast juicy. Next, cover the sheet pan with foil and then put it into the oven at 300F until just heated through, about 25-30 minutes. Serve.
If you want to keep several trays of meat warm while serving, you can do that. Heat the trays all together in the oven at 300F for 30 minutes. Then drop the heat down to 200F so that you’re just keeping them warm and not at risk of them actually cooking or starting to dry out.
How to store roast pork
I like to carve the entire roast and store it in the fridge in slices. The slices are easier to grab to use than having to haul out the whole roast and cut it every time. Put the slices in a sealed container. They’ll keep for 3-4 days in the fridge. Or you can put them in a freezer bag and freeze them for a month.
What do I do with the leftovers from the roast pork?
Once you have the leftovers, you can do all kinds of things with them. You can use them anywhere you’d use cooked chicken. Put them on a salad or in a sandwich or wrap. They’re great on a bun with BBQ sauce, like pulled pork sort of. You can mix them with any pasta sauce and serve with pasta. It’s great chopped up and put with rice, like Chinese fried rice, or even white rice with peas and pork. The possibilities are endless!
Here’s the How to Roast Pork Tutorial in printable form. Just click Print Recipe below.
- a boneless or bone in pork butt or pork shoulder (4-8 pounds is ideal)
- 1 and 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1 and 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- low or no-sodium chicken broth
- Take your pork roast out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven to 300°F.
- If your pork roast has a thick layer of fat on the outside, cut about half of it away so that it’s a thinner layer. You can throw this out. Or, the best thing to do, is to turn it into a snack to have while your pork is roasting. Put the fat that you removed from the roast in a single layer on its own cake pan. Use a pan with edges because a lot of hot fatty liquid is going to come out of it. Season it lightly with salt. Roast the layer of fat in the 300F oven until it’s brown and very crispy. Check it often. Blot it on kitchen towel. Break it into pieces and offer it as nibbles to anyone who is lured into your kitchen by the roasting pork smells.
- Meanwhile, mix the pepper, garlic powder and salt in a small bowl and then sprinkle liberally all over the roast. Depending on the size of your roast, you may not need it all.
- Put the roast in a large roasting pan, fat-side-up. You do not need to use a rack in the pan. I never do. Add about half an inch of low or no-sodium chicken broth to the bottom of the pan. Put it into the oven, uncovered. For how long? Well, you’re not aiming for a slightly rare pork here. You want that really tender meat like for pulled pork. But you don’t want it to be so tender that it pulls when you try to slice it. Aim for about 180°F internal temperature. Use an instant read thermometer to check the temperature. It will take about 40 minutes per pound. If at any point most of the broth has evaporated, add another half inch.
- Take the roast out of the oven. Transfer it to a plate so that you can get at the roasting pan and make your gravy. Let the roast rest for 30-40 minutes. This is important because this is the only time the roast will rest. The roast does not need to be covered during resting time. Don’t skip this step. Use this time to make your gravy. (Here’s how to make gravy using the flavorful broth from the bottom of the roasting pan) and to finish off your other side dishes and set the table.
- Preheat the oven to 475F.
- Once the roast has rested, the oven has preheated and once you have everything else for your dinner just about ready, put the roast into a clean roasting pan or onto a baking sheet, uncovered, and put it into the hot oven for 13-17 minutes. You want the outside to get nice and brown.
- When it’s really nice and browned, take the roast out of the oven and immediately carve it* and serve it. Do not let it rest now since it has already rested.
Video by Leigh Olson. Article, photos and recipe by Christine Pittman.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click on one and buy something, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.
This post originally appeared in December, 2014 and was revised and republished in December, 2016.