Roast Pork in Milk

This roast pork in milk is an Italian classic known for taking an inexpensive cut of pork and the utterly easy preparation of bathing it in an exquisitely creamy sauce.

The classic Italian dish: roast pork cooked in milk sliced on a cutting board.

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.–Katie Caldesi

Roast Pork in Milk

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 35 M
  • 2 H, 35 M
  • Serves 8 to 10
5/5 - 3 reviews
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Ingredients


Directions

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 that imbues the pork with flavor.

Cut as close to the ribs as possible to partially separate the meat from the bones but leave a “hinge” of meat in place to keep it together to make it simpler to cut through after roasting.

Heat the butter and oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan or flameproof casserole. Season the outside of the pork with salt—but go easy. 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.

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 and the milk will turn yogurt-like and clumpy and may brown somewhat.

Tester tip: The milk sauce won’t look pretty. But just wait until you taste it.

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.

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.) Originally published March 15, 2012.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

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.

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.

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 defatting 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.

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!

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

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Comments

  1. 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!

    1. 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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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!

  4. 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.

    1. 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!

    2. 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.

      1. 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

  5. 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

    1. 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.

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