Tue Nov 5, 2013
I have a love-hate relationship with the pork loin. On one hand, it's a rather bland piece of fatless meat, a cut that I would seemingly want to avoid. Yet, when fall settles in, I find myself oddly attracted to this chunk of swine. That pull has led me to some creative solutions to turn pork loin into worthy eats—like giving it a cranberry and apple or Jamaican jerk stuffing—ensuring that I keep the love going and stave off the hate. Adding another mark in the love column is this orange-chipotle pork loin, which has an earthy, smoky, and spicy flavor that's seasonly apt.
So there it is folks, our enemy. A piece of meat so devoid of fat that we shutter in fear at the dryness that awaits us. Usually with a cut such as the pork loin, I suggest a brine, but I've come to enjoy my pork a little rosy in the center, and if I'm not venturing into fully cooked territory, there's no need to brine for that added insurance against drying out. Brining will actually water log the meat, and while that helps moisture, it's at the expense of flavor, so not brining here also makes sure we get the most out the meat.
Even so, the loin isn't going to deliver the stellar porkiness of shoulder or ham, so this is where a marinade can be of service. The one in this recipe is rather simple, but pretty potent. It's a mixture of orange juice, olive oil, brown sugar, chipotles in adobo, garlic, and salt. The smoky and spicy chipotles give the marinade its hefty flavor, while the orange juice compliments those peppers by adding a fruitiness and light acidity.
The pork loin was fully coated in the marinade and left to soak up that flavor for six hours. The latest wisdom says marinades really don't penetrate the meat much beyond the surface, so it's probably safe to say an hour or two will do you fine here, but there's no harm in pushing it the six hours of more the original recipe called for.
Once done in the marinade, the pork was transferred to a hot grill and seared over direct heat over a two-zone fire. Once all sides were nicely browned—I love the grill marks my cast iron grates make—the loin was moved to the cool side of the grill, covered, and allowed to roast. As I mentioned already, I'm no longer a 165 degree pork man, I prefer my thick cuts like chops and loin pulled at 140 degrees, which will carryover to about 145. This leaves the center a little rosy. For those not used to that, it can take some time to adjust, but it's well worth it to have pork that's as juicy and flavorful as it can be.
As the loin roasted, I went into the kitchen and poured the remaining marinade from the bag into a small pot. This boiled over medium heat until it reduced down to about half the volume, thickening the marinade into a well concentrated glaze.
This sauce was key, it delivered a sweet, smoky, and spicy flavor that fully heightened the juicy, but otherwise somewhat bland, piece of lean pork. This classic orange and chipotle combo just feels like fall to me—although it'll taste good any time of the year—and created yet another pork loin that beat the odds of being bad and was actually something pretty stellar.
Orange-Chipotle Pork Loin
Adapted from Brother Jimmy's BBQ Cookbook
- Prep Time:
- 10 Minutes
- Inactive Time:
- 6 Hours
- Cook Time:
- 45 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 6 Hours 55 Minutes
- 4 to 6 servings
- 3/4 cup orange juice, divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 whole canned chipotle chiles in adobo plus 1 tablespoon sauce
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 pork loin trimmed of excess fat and silver skin (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
- Place 1/4 cup orange juice, olive oil, dark brown sugar, chipotles in adobo, adobo sauce, garlic, and salt in jar of a blender. Puree until chipotles and garlic are completely chopped.
- Place pork loin in large resealable plastic bag. Pour in orange-chipotle marinade, seal, and toss to thoroughly coat loin with marinade. Place in refrigerator and marinate for 6 hours to overnight, turning occasionally.
- Pour marinade from bag into small saucepan. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup of orange juice. Bring to boil over medium-high heat; reduce to heat to medium and cook until sauce has reduced in volume by half, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Sear pork over hot side of grill until browned on all sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Move pork to cool side of the grill and brush with orange-chipotle sauce. Cover grill and continue to cook until an instant read thermometer reads 140 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the pork loin, 15 to 30 minutes longer. Remove from grill, let stand for 15 minutes; slice and serve with reserved orange-chipotle sauce.