What Is Porchetta And How To Cook It – A Complete Guide
You may be wondering what is porchetta. You may have eaten this pork roast on a trip to Italy or in a top-notch Italian restaurant. It consists of a pork belly that is wrapped in a pork roast. Porchetta originated in Central Italy where it is often served from food trucks. In other parts of the country, this savory pork roast is often featured on holiday tables. There really is no need to wait for a special occasion to make porchetta. Since this delicious meat is relatively unusual in most parts of the United States, it is a great way to impress your friends and family. I am passionate about great porchetta, and I want to share with you how to cook it in this complete guide.
What You Need to Follow This Italian Porchetta
You may already have most of the things that you need to complete this guide on hand. You will need:
- Brine- You will need to brine the meat to make it more juicy and flavorful. While there are different alternatives to make the brine, my favorite is to put 1/3 cup salt and 1/4 cup sugar in two quarts of water. You will need enough brine to submerge your meat, so do not be stingy.
- Rub- The seasonings used in porchetta helps to make it tastes great. While some prefer to add chili powder or another warm spice, I prefer to make it in the traditional way using six tablespoons kosher salt, four teaspoons black pepper or red pepper flakes, five crushed garlic cloves, one cup chopped fresh rosemary, three tablespoons crushed fennel seeds and 1/4 cup olive oil.
- Pork- Traditionally, porchetta is made with a whole young suckling pig. I simplify things, however, by using a three-pound whole pork loin and a five-to-six-pound pork belly. Still, others use just the pork belly, but using the different combination of meat gives the dish a more authentic taste.
- Brine Pan- You will need a shallow pan for brining the pork loin. The pan should be a little taller and bigger than your pork loin. Avoid using aluminum pans as it can give the meat a metallic taste. Over time, it can also ruin the pan. If you are short on brining space or want to do it outside, then you can use an ice chest.
- Twine- The two pieces of meat must be tied together before cooking. The twine that you use should be 100 percent natural. It will normally be cotton. Using a twine made with synthetic materials can add chemicals to the meat. I prefer 24 weight because it is heavier, but 16 weight will work.
- Charcoal- I prefer to cook mine over on a charcoal grill, but you could use a wood smoker or a propane grill. I think that the charcoal flavoring adds to the flavor of this dish. If you are going to use wood, then consider using maple, hickory, pecan or oak as they pair perfectly with pork.
- Charcoal Rotisserie- You will need a rotisserie that fits your grill. If you need a new one, then look for one with forks that will hold the meat tight. Make sure to look for one that turns at a constant speed to avoid some parts of the meat cooking faster than others.
It is easy to make porchetta, but you will need about five hours total time from start to finish.
Make the Brine
Combine 1/3 cup salt and 1/4 cup sugar in two quarts of water. Stir the mixture vigorously until there are no solids left. The salt cannot properly work if it is solid, and the sugar can leave burned spots on your finished dish. Then, pour the mixture into a shallow pan.
Brine the Meat
Submerge the pork loin in the brine. You need to make sure that the meat is completely submerged. If necessary, make some more brine and add it to the first. Then, set the meat in the refrigerator uncovered for two hours. The brine will add flavor to the pork loin while helping it to stay moist while grilling.
The next step is to make your rub. Crush five cloves garlic into a small bowl and add six tablespoons kosher salt, four teaspoons freshly ground black pepper. Chop and add one cup fresh rosemary and three tablespoons crushed fennel seeds. Stir the spice mixture into 1/4 cup olive oil.
Prepare Pork Belly
You will see a thin layer of silvery fat when you look at your pork belly. Lay the pork belly on a cutting board with the layer of fat facing the board. Use a sharp knife to cut lines at an angle across the meat. Your lines should be about 1 inch apart. Turn the meat on the board, so that you can cut in the opposite direction creating diamond shapes.
Pour a large amount of the rub over the meat. Use your hands to spread the cuts apart so that the mixture can get down in each cut. Use any spice blend that is leftover to coat the ends of the meat. Apply all of the spice blend to the meat giving it time to penetrate the pork belly's surface.
Prepare Pork Loin
Remove the pork loin from the brine. Use paper towels to pat the meat dry. While it will be impossible to get all to moisture off the pork loin, get it as dry as possible. Discard the brine by pouring it down the drain. Lay the pork loin on a clean cutting board.
Roll the Meat
Lay the pork belly in the middle of the pork loin. Try to get the meat the same height, so that it cooks properly. Start at one end and roll the pork loin around the pork belly. Try to keep the pork belly centered on the pork loin as you work.
Tie the Meat
The next step is to tie the meat. With a kitchen twine, make a slip knot and hold it on one end of your roll. Using a slip knot allows you to adjust the twine if you need to as you are tying it. Pull enough twine loose from the bolt to make a loop slightly larger than your roll. Place the loop over the roast, and move it up the roast until it is about 1 inch from your anchor knot. Continue making loops and placing them about 1 inch apart until you reach the other end of the roll. Now, run one string around the meat the other direction working it under the loops that you have placed against the meat. Pull the string back down the front of the roll until you reach the anchor knot. Tie the string to the anchor knot and trim away any excess.
Prepare the Charcoal
Prepare and light one chimney full of charcoal. Let it burn until it turns into gray ash. Then, divide the ash into two piles leaving room for a rotisserie to sit between the two piles. The ash will cook the meat slowly leaving it very tender. Keep the charcoal handy as you may need to add more later.
Put Meat on Rotisserie
The next step is to put the meat on the rotisserie. You will want to follow your manufacturer's directions to securely fasten the meat to your rotisserie using the rotisserie forks. You may even want to shake it a little bit to make sure that your meat does not wobble as you do not want it falling off while it is cooking.
Place your rotisserie pan between the two piles of ashes that you have created. Close the lid and let the pan get hot for about five minutes. Then, add the meat on the rotisserie spit to the grill. While you will want to make sure that it is attached properly, leave the lid open as little as possible so that your grill will retain its temperature.
Cook the Meat
You will need to roast pork for about three hours. Periodically, you may need to put more charcoal in the grill so that it maintains an even temperature. When you think the meat is getting close to being done, then use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. You want the pork to reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees before you remove it from the grill.
Place Meat on Serving Tray
Remove the meat from the rotisserie and place it on a serving tray. Let the meat sit for about five minutes so that the meat has time to reabsorb its juices. Then, use a sharp knife to slice the meat into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Try to slice clear through from the top to the bottom of the roll so that each serving has pork belly and pork loin in it.
Now that you know what is porchetta and how to cook it, we hope that you will want to try it at home. This Italian recipe is great for making a great Christmas dinner party, and your pork butt will surprise everyone with how tender meat can be. If you have enjoyed this tutorial, then please share it with your friends as they may want to try it at their cookout too. And of course don’t forget to write down your achievements in Cave Tools Cooking Journal! In my mind, this main entree is a great switch from the steaks, chicken and hotdogs served at most grilling parties. We would love to know if you decide to try this recipe, and any tips that you have for cooking porchetta at your house.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Porchetta Made of?
Traditionally, porchetta is a boneless pork roast that is stuffed with fennel, garlic, bread crumbs, and other herbs. The classic cut is a skin-on pork belly that also contains the center cut pork loin, but the dish is often made from just pork belly to give it a rich and savory texture. You can also find porchetta made from pork loin alone, pork shoulder, or even an entire, boneless suckling pig.
How Long Do You Cook Porchetta?
Porchetta is a large cut of meat, and it’s also stuffed with a number of fillings. It’s important that you cook it long enough so the fillings are not contaminated by contact with raw pork. It generally takes anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to cook, depending on how large your porchetta roast is.
What Temperature Do You Cook Porchetta?
The internal temperature of Porchetta depends on how tender you would like it to be. Pork is safe to eat at 145 degrees F, but pulled pork is often cooked to a much higher temperature of 190 to 195 degrees F. You don’t want your porchetta to be that hot (because you don’t want to shred it) but you can cook it anywhere from 155 to 180 degrees F, depending on how tender you want it to be when you slice it.
How Do You Cook a Porchetta Roast?
The best way to make sure that porchetta stays together as you cook it is to truss it with butcher's twine. This will make sure the roll stays together and none of the fillings will fall out. We like to put the meat on a rotisserie over a fire pit or a grill so all of the sides become golden brown and the rendered fat helps crisp up the outsides. Or, you can cook it on the indirect heat side of the grill.
How Do You Serve Porchetta?
We like serving Porchetta as delicate slices. It is best to allow it to cool completely before slicing, as you will be able to slice more precisely when the roast is cooled. Then, you can reheat the slices before serving. It is excellent as a main entree with a side of mashed potatoes, but we also like serving it as a sandwich.