Culinary Curious

Photo: Krause, Johansen

Cuban-Style Grill-Roasted Pork

Presented by America's Test Kitchen

Serves 8-10

NOTE: Letting the cooked roast rest for a full hour will yield noticeably more tender meat. This roast has a crispy skin that should be served along with the meat. Top the meat with Mojo Sauce (see third tab). Traditional accompaniments include black beans, rice, and fried plantains.

Pork and Brine

  • 1 bone-in, skin-on pork picnic shoulder (7 to 8 pounds)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups table salt
  • 2 medium garlic heads, unpeeled cloves separated and crushed
  • 4 cups orange juice

Garlic-Citrus Paste

  • 12 medium garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Method

  1. TO BRINE THE PORK: With sharp paring knife, cut 1-inch-deep slits (about 1 inch long) all over roast, spaced about 2 inches apart. Dissolve sugar and salt in 6 quarts cold water in stockpot or large bucket. Stir in garlic and orange juice. Submerge pork in brine and refrigerate 18 to 24 hours.
  2. TO APPLY THE GARLIC-CITRUS PASTE: Process garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper in food processor until they reach consistency of coarse paste, about ten 1-second pulses. With machine running, add orange juice, vinegar, and oil through feed tube and process until mixture forms smooth, wet paste, about 20 seconds. Remove pork from brine and rinse under cool running water; pat dry with paper towels. Rub paste all over pork and into slits. Refrigerate pork until ready to grill.
  3. TO GRILL-ROAST THE PORK: Using chimney starter, light 4 quarts charcoal (about 60 briquettes) and burn until fully ignited and partially covered in gray ash, about 15 minutes. Empty coals into grill; build modified two-level fire by arranging coals to cover one-half of grill in even layer. Position cooking grate over coals, cover grill, and heat until hot, about 5 minutes; scrape grate clean with grill brush. Place roast with skin side up on cool side of grill and shield with foil. Cover and cook until grill temperature falls to 225 degrees, 2 to 3 hours (coals will be gray and partially disintegrated). After 1 3/4 hours, heat oven to 325 degrees with rack in lower-middle position.
  4. When grill temperature has fallen to 225 degrees, remove foil and transfer roast to wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet or to roasting pan with rack. Roast pork in oven until skin is browned and crisp and instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 190 degrees, 2 to 3 hours. Transfer roast to cutting board and let rest 1 hour. To carve, first remove skin in one large piece. Scrape off and discard top layer of fat, then cut pork away from bone in 3 or 4 large pieces. Slice each piece against grain into 1/4-inch slices. To serve skin, scrape excess fat from underside and cut into strips. Drizzle Mojo Sauce over pork just before serving.

Mojo Sauce

makes 1 cup

The sauce can be made while the cooked pork is resting or up to a day ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container. If chilled, let the sauce come to room temperature before serving.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup juice from 1 to 2 oranges
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Method

  1. Place minced garlic on cutting board and sprinkle with kosher salt. Using flat side of chef's knife, drag garlic and salt back and forth across cutting board in small circular motions until garlic is ground into smooth paste.
  2. Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic paste and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in remaining ingredients. Transfer to bowl and cool to room temperature. Whisk sauce to recombine before serving.