Today we will dive into the best way to sous vide pork. In general, sous vide pork turns out much more moist and tender than it does with any other cooking technique. It's also safer to eat because you can fully pasteurize it without over cooking it.
In a previous lesson we discussed How to Sous Vide Beef and Red Meat, and pork follows very similar guidelines but with generally higher tempertatures on the low end. This lesson will help you make the most out of all types of pork, including supermarket pork, pastured pork, wild/semi-wild boar, and other porcines.
Most types of pork or boar behave very similarly but there are differences that can arise based on the type of animal and how it was raised. A feedlot-raised pig will taste different than a pasture-raised pig since their diet and amount of exercise will alter the flavor and texture of their meat.
Warning: One concern is pathogens that might be present in wild animals. If you are eating wild animals, cooked traditionally or with sous vide, you should make yourself aware of the pathogens and what temperatures are needed to kill them.
There are lots of things you can do to pork before you sous vide it. Any silver skin is removed as is extra fat. The meat is often cut into portions or shaped any any spice rubs or salt is added. Spices, herb, sauces, and other flavoring agents can also be added to the bag. Sous vide pork is usually not brined since it doesn't add that much.
When you are sous viding pork you are usually aiming for either a chop-like texture or a braised / shreddable texture. The temperaure you choose to cook at is greatly affected by the texture you are shooting for.
Chop-Like Texture for Sous Vide Pork
Chop-like texture is what you usually associate with pork chops, pork loin, or other juicy, firm preparations. Traditionally they are made from cuts that can be quickly cooked either by pan frying, roasting, or grilling.
With sous vide, you can also cook tough cuts at a low temperature for an extended period of time, usually 1 to 2 days, and the result will be chop-like. This is often done with shoulder, shank, butt, ribs and other tough cuts.
There's a range of temperatures you can use to sous vide pork, and it is safe as long as it's cooked about 130°F (54.4°C) but most people prefer their pork cooked higher than 135°F (57.2°C). From a safety perspective, as long as you cook it long enough to pasteurize it, 135°F (57.2°C) is just as safe as 165°F (73.8°C).
Medium Rare: 130°F to 139°F (54.4°C to 59.4°C)
Medium: 140°F to 145°F (60°C to 62.8°C)
Well Done: Above 145°F (62.8°C)
My favorite temperature for sous vide pork is 140°F (60°C), though I sometimes cook it lower when I want to put a solid sear on it. Most people were raised on pork cooked above 155°F or 165°F (68.3°C or 73.8°C) and can't stand having any pink on the inside so 145°F (62.8°C) might work best for them. That's also the temperature I often do when I have guests that might be squeamish.
Traditional Braise-Like Texture for Sous Vide Pork
The most famous braise-like preparation is probably pulled pork, at least in America, but there are several other dishes that are made including several braised cuts, bbq, ribs, and other "low and slow" preparations. The cuts used for this are tough and generally high in fat and connective tissue, such as shoulder, butt, belly, shank, ribs, and many roasts.
As the food cooks at a higher temperature, the connective tissue breaks down, making the meat flaky and shreddable. The higher the temperature you use, and the longer you cook it, will cause the meat to break down more and more.
Most braise-like temperatures range from around 150°F up to 185°F (65.6°C to 85°C). The temperatures I recommend starting with are:
156°F (68.8°C) for a shreddable, but still firm texture
When you are getting started, I recommend taking a favorite dish of yours such as pulled pork and trying it at all 3 temperatures. It'll give you a great idea of how the different temperatures affects the meat. Then you can tweak the temperature and the time it is cooked to meet your standards.
Sous Vide Pork Times
There are two main types of pork cuts: tender cuts and tough cuts. The cook times different based on what type of cut you are using.
Tender Cuts of Pork
For tender cuts you just need to cook them long enough to be pasteurized and then you can eat them. Common tender cuts of pork are tenderloin, loin roast, most chops, and other cuts you would usually enjoy grilling or pan frying.
The length of time needed to pasteurize it depends on the temperature, but at 140°F (60°C) or above it will be pasteurized through at the following rate:
1/2" (13mm) thick in 50 minutes
1" (25mm) thick in 80 minutes
1.5" (38mm) thick in 2 hours
2" (50mm) thick in 2.5 hours
You can follow the charts on the Sous Vide Cooking Times page for the specific amount of time based on the temperature you use.
Tough Cuts of Pork
Longer cooking times are required to break down tough cuts of pork and make the meat tender. The amount of time will depend greatly on the cut but usually is around 18 hours to 2 days. I have extensive time recommendations in my Sous Vide Time and Temperatures article.
How to Finish Pork
Finishing pork is usually done by drying it really well, salting it and then searing it. This gives it a much more appealing look and adds a lot of great flavor to it. You can sear it however you are most comfortable but I generally pan fry it or grill it.
I also often will use a torch, especially if it is an odd-shaped piece of meat. If I'm deep frying something else I'll often use the oil to deep fry the meat as well.
Whatever method you use, you will want to sear it very quickly to prevent it from overcooking any more than is necessary. You can read more about How to Sear After Sous Vide.
Some people also smoke their pork after it has been sous vided, especially for pulled pork and other barbecued meats.
Sous Vide Pork Recipes
I love pork and sous vide makes it exceptionally tender and mouth-watering so here are a few of my favorite sous vide recipes. My best-selling Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide also has many more recipes for you to explore.
This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the AmazingFoodMadeEasy.com website.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links on this site might be affiliate links that if used to purchased products I might receive money. I like money but I will not endorse something I don't believe in. Please feel free to directly go to any products I link to and bypass the referral link if you feel uncomfortable with me receiving funds.
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