Roast Pork in Milk

Cooking meat in milk is common throughout north Italy because it results in moist meat and a wonderfully rich and flavorful sauce. The milk transforms during the cooking from liquid to yogurt-like clusters which form a rich brown sauce. Valentina Harris advises me that if you give it a good whisk over the heat just before you are ready to serve, it helps to break up the sauce slightly, giving it a smoother texture.–Katie Caldesi

LC Fatty Fat Fat Note

A stroke of Italian brilliance, this classic tenderizing technique infuses a relatively cheap cut of pork with the subtle sweetness of milk. Thing is, pork loin nowadays is leaner than it once was back in the day. Those who like their pork falling-apart tender and infused with fatty flavor ought to consider swapping the loin for a fattier cut of pork, perhaps something from the shoulder region such as pork butt. (We love saying those words almost as much as we love devouring the tantalizingly tender meat.) Promise you won’t be disappointed. As for that milk sauce, it’s going to look curdled and, truthfully, not exactly come hither. But just wait till you taste it.

Roast Pork in Milk Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 35 M
  • 2 H, 35 M
  • Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pound pork loin, bone loosened and re-tied (see “Chining” below)
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups whole milk

Directions

  • 1. Remove the rind from the loin of pork for a leaner roast or leave it on and score with a sharp knife for a crusty-topped roast with crackling fat. To chine the pork, cut as close to the ribs as possible to partially separate the flesh from the bones but leave a “hinge” of meat in place to keep it together. After cooking, this can simply be cut through. Leaving the bones attached to the meat means you gain flavor and prevent the meat from drying out. Season the outside of the pork with salt—but go easy, because pork is a naturally salty meat.
  • 2. Heat the butter and oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or flameproof casserole. Lower the pork into the pan and sear until the skin is crisp and a rich golden color, turning it every few minutes. It will take about 15 minutes to ensure all the edges are golden.
  • 3. Reduce the heat slightly and add the milk to the pan or casserole very, very slowly so it doesn’t bubble up too much. Gradually bring it to a gentle simmer and partially cover the pan. Let the pork cook like this for 2 hours, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a skewer. The pork will be tender but not fall-apart tender.
  • 4. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes, loosely covered with foil. Leave the pan with the cooking liquid on the stovetop. Skim most of the fat from the surface of the juices and discard, then whisk the remaining cooking liquid to break up the chunks of coagulated milk a little. It won’t be pretty, but that’s okay.
  • 5. Carve the meat and place the pork slices on a warm plate. Pour the pan sauce over the pork and serve. (If you find upon slicing the pork that you’ve undercooked it, slip the pork slices and sauce in an oven cranked to 350°F(176°C) and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until cooked through.)
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Comments
Comments
  1. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Steve Dunn] Before I get too far along, let me just say that the star of this dish is the sauce, hands down. That said, it’s a sauce with a face only a mother could love, which is a shame. Given its rather regurgitated look, it was passed on by all the kids, but there was a silver lining to be found—more sauce for ME. Even blasting the sauce briefly with a stick blender at service doesn’t help much. It’s just plain hard to make chunks of curdled milk look good. From a taste perspective, the sauce is knock-it-out-of-the-park delicious, a combination of sweet, caramelized sugar from the milk and a meaty saltiness from the pork. It is perfect. As for the meat itself, I found that I enjoyed the very ends of the roast best, as they were the most marbled with fat that melted beautifully and melded with the sauce. The closer we got to the center of the roast, the firmer and less flavorful the meat was. That’s not to say that the meat was dry inside, because it wasn’t, but the fattier end pieces were much more satisfying. That said, I think the next time I make this, I’ll use a different cut of meat, perhaps from the shoulder, such as a picnic roast or Boston butt. It will no doubt require a tad more de-fatting of the sauce at the end, but should result in a fall-apart-tender roast. A final note: while not asked to in the recipe, I rolled the roast in the milk every half hour or so to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan, as well as to ensure that ALL of the meat had equal time submerged in the reducing sauce. I would recommend you do the same.

  2. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Jo Ann Brown] Wonderful, delicious, and so surprising. This is absolutely not what I expected from braising pork in milk, nor did I expect the milk to transform into such a rich, beautiful sauce. The pork was tender, but not falling off the bone, unlike other cuts that contain more gelatin or connective tissue. What you do get is a perfectly toothsome bite of meat that is moist and flavorful, just how loin should be cooked. Rather than whisk the sauce to incorporate the milk solids, I sieved the solids out and separated the fat into a beautifully classical demi-glace. Serve this pork and its sauce with a creamy polenta. Yum!

  3. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Sofia Reino] Prior to telling what we all thought of this recipe, I must share my mother-in-law’s perplexed and worried look when I started testing it. She bought a beautiful pork loin roast and as I was getting ready to start preparing it, she pulled out the oven pan for it. I went on to explain this was to be done on top of the stove. The look on her face was priceless, and she was pretty nervous about this dish’s outcome. Needless to say that once it was cooked, she was in awe as her husband and sons were picking the meat around the bones. Indeed, its outcome was a fantastic, juicy, and tender roast filled with taste, and the milky sauce that accompanied it could not have been better. Both my husband and I also loved it, but right away started to think of other ways to redo it even more to our taste. We thought of adding a nice strong mustard next time. We shall see!

  4. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Brenda Carleton] I hadn’t braised pork in milk for quite some time, so I was excited when this recipe appeared. This dish could hardly be simpler—sear, add milk, and braise. What I enjoyed about this recipe is that the pork flavor was pronounced, as pork tends to be neutral in taste. But this method makes you feel like you really are eating pork! The recipe said to cook the pork at a low simmer for two hours, or until juices run clear. Well, my preference is to cook pork to slightly blush pink, and this took nearly 45 minutes longer. Before that, the juices were still dark pink to red. Thankfully I started the recipe early! The meat was moist (definitely not even close to falling apart, but I think that is the nature of pork loin) and certainly did need to be seasoned with salt and pepper after cooking. I found that simply whisking the milk curds was not enough, so I pulverized in a blender instead for a smooth (albeit very runny) sauce. For leftovers tomorrow, I will thicken the sauce slightly with arrowroot or cornstarch. The flavor of the sauce was simple yet lovely served with garlic mashed potatoes. The bonus was the cracklings, which I sort of saved for myself (I opted to leave the rind on). All in all, I would make this again doing the same as I did this time—cook longer for perfect blush pink interior, blitz the sauce in a blender and season after (which one does normally anyway). Minor changes. A spoon of tart jelly or cranberries would be a nice accompaniment—so would fresh thyme thrown in for the last half hour or so of cooking.

  5. Tripp Rion says:

    Looks great David! I am trying this one out tonight, wish me luck! Wondering how dropping a sprig or two of fresh rosemary may change or enhance the flavor of the milk? Tripp

    • David Leite says:

      Tripp, first anything you do can only enhance a recipe. And I think the rosemary would help. Not too much, but I’ve found rosemary and milk/cream to go very well together.

  6. Jenny says:

    I made something like this recently and the family all thought it sounded “weird” but they didn’t even leave me a sliver of leftovers. Did the same with roasted chicken (Jamie Oliver style) and was equally delicious.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      As with so many things, tasting is believing! And yes, though this sauce has a face that only a mother can love, we swoon to its subtle overtones. Good for you for making it anyways, Jenny.

      • Jenny says:

        I am all for trying new flavors and new tastes. When I moved here 14 years ago, no one in my husband’s family had ever eaten homemade macaroni and cheese. Now they all make it because I taught them. I am a revolutionary. LOL

        • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

          A noble cause, if ever there was one! Sounds like you’ve swayed some former loyalists, Jenny. Keep up the good fight!

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      I used to be one of those non-believers (read: picky teenagers) too, Jenny! Pork in milk was a combination I didn’t even want to think about, until I tasted it a few years ago. It’s such a dream!

  7. Loretta says:

    I’ve been making a version of this dish since I first noticed it in a book called The Italian Cooking Encyclopedia. This version calls for browning the meat but only after browning chopped onions, celery, several carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt and pepper. Then, scalding milk is added, the casserole is covered and oven roasted for about 1 1/2 hours, turning every 20 minutes. A third of the carrots and the veggies (minus the bay leaves) are then pressed through a sieve and added to the sauce. If sauce is too thin, the directions call for boiling it down a bit. It’s then poured over the sliced meat and the carrots (which are, btw, fabulous). This treatment of the sauce eliminates the curdled look. The meat is flavorful and tender. I recommend trying this method – it’s only slightly more labor intensive but the results are worth it.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Many thanks, Loretta. It does sound intriguing and I like that we all now have another option for the sauce. I’m a pork purist, so I’m going to try the plain and simple pork and milk rendition first, but may add just a little onion, as you suggest, for sweetness. Again, thanks!

  8. Karen Munro says:

    My best friend is from France and this is how her family cooks their pork. When I first had it, I couldn’t believe how tender it was. But if I remember my chemistry, it’s the enzyme in the milk that tenderises the meat. Nice recipes. Thanks for sharing.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      It’s nice to finally have a real-life application for all that high-school science, isn’t it, Karen?

  9. Patty says:

    What do you serve with it? I’m anxious to try it but think I’ll use the butt or some other, fattier cut. Just not sure what to serve with it.
    Thanks!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      So many things, Patty! If you like pleasingly bitter, sautéed broccoli rabe would be really lovely in contrast to the subtly sweet richness of pork butt. We have a really nice recipe for rabe and potatoes that would go really well with this, especially given the crisp texture of the potatoes in conjunction with the falling apart tenderness of the pork. Another option would be simple fork-mashed potatoes and green beans sautéed in olive oil and slivered garlic. If you prefer a salad to cooked greens, perhaps some chicories such as escarole, frisee, and radicchio with a basic or a mustard vinaigrette and some oven-roasted potatoes? Let us know what you decide…

  10. William Gillett says:

    Planning on cooking this next week, looking forward to it, but just wondering how the sauce would fare if you used a hand blender to break up the chunks?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      William, a couple of our recipe testers tried that, and they told us it really didn’t do much for the appearance or the taste. A couple other testers strained the sauce prior to serving and were quite pleased with that result. Quite frankly, the sauce has a face that only a mother can love, but the taste and the texture of the pork? Something everyone can fall in love with. Curious to hear what you chose to do and what you thought of the pork…

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

*

Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail