I’m often asked what my favorite cookbooks are and invariably I pull out a copy of The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. It’s one of those rare books where you learn something from every sentence on every page, and in every recipe that you make from it. Judy was an amazing cook and whatever she made was unusually good, in spite of its (seemingly)…
I’m often asked what my favorite cookbooks are and invariably I pull out a copy of The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. It’s one of those rare books where you learn something from every sentence on every page, and in every recipe that you make from it. Judy was an amazing cook and whatever she made was unusually good, in spite of its (seemingly) relative simplicity, ranging from the lightest ricotta gnocchi you’ll ever have to the legendary Zuni roast chicken, which was worth the one-hour wait after you ordered it at the restaurant. It gave you plenty of time to have a margarita, a pile of shoestring fries, and a classic Caesar Salad. (Fun fact: I worked at Zuni Cafe when I first moved to San Francisco and made a lot of Caesar Salads, which, if I may be so bold, were excellent and the recipe is in the book.)
Roasted pork loin is probably one of the easiest (and inexpensive) main dishes you can make. Just add a little seasoning, pop it in the oven, and let it do its thing. The only thing you have to be mindful of is overcooking.
Roasted pork loin is probably one of the easiest (and inexpensive) main dishes you can make. Just add a little seasoning, pop it in the oven, and let it do its thing. The only thing you have to be mindful of is overcooking, but we’ll talk more about that below. As long as you avoid that one pitfall, you’ll have a tender, juicy pork loin that makes a deeelish main dish that can be paired with tons of different sides.
Pork Loin vs. Pork Tenderloin
This recipe is written for pork loin, sometimes called a pork loin roast, which is different than pork tenderloin. Pork loin is a large roast, usually sold in 3-4 pound cuts. Pork tenderloin is a different, smaller muscle that tends to be slightly darker and more tender. Here is a more in-depth look (with photos) at the difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin. If you’re looking for a recipe for roasted pork tenderloin, try my Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin.
About that Brown Sugar Rub…
If you’ve made my Glazed Pork Chops, you’ll be familiar with this sweet and spicy brown sugar rub. It’s the perfect mix of sweet, savory, and spicy, and it’s just so incredibly simple. When it’s used with the direct contact heat of a skillet it turns into a glaze, but when it’s baked in the dry air of an oven it forms a delicious crust on the surface of the pork. Either way, it’s a winner!
The Key to Good Pork Loin
Don’t overcook it. That’s it! Overcooked pork is dry, tough, and resembles something like a hockey puck. So how do you not overcook it? You really need to get a meat thermometer (my favorite is linked in the recipe card below) since every pork loin is a different size and shape, and every oven cooks a little different.
How Long to Cook Pork Loin
The safe internal temperature for pork (excluding ground pork) is 145ºF. The estimated amount of time you’ll need to cook your pork loin using the method below (starting at 400ºF then reducing to 350ºF), is about 15 minutes per pound after the initial ten minutes at 400ºF. Use your trusty thermometer about ten minutes before the estimated time to see if you’re getting close, then about every 10-15 minutes after that until you reach 145ºF.
And lastly, make sure to let your pork rest for about 10 minutes after it’s removed from the oven before slicing. This gives the steam pressure time to reduce, which means more of the moisture will stay in the meat instead of evaporating out once it’s sliced.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, cayenne, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.
Place the pork loin on a parchment lined baking sheet or in a large casserole dish with the fat cap facing up. Begin packing the brown sugar and spice mixture all over the surface of the pork loin (no need to get the bottom). The moisture from the pork loin should help the sugar mixture stick to the surface.
Transfer the pork loin to the oven. Roast at 400ºF for ten minutes, then reduce the heat to 350ºF and continue to roast for about 15 minutes per pound of roast, or until the internal temperature reaches 145ºF. Always use a meat thermometer just to be sure.
After roasting, let the pork loin rest for 10 minutes before slicing into ½-inch thick slices and serving.
*To reduce the spiciness of this dish, reduce the cayenne to ½ or even ¼ tsp.
How to Make Brown Sugar Roasted Pork Loin – Step by Step Photos
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.Combine ½ cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, and 3 Tbsp olive oil in a bowl.
Mix the rub ingredients together until they look like damp sand.
This is the pork loin I used, which was 4 pounds. Your cooking time will vary depending on the size of your pork loin, so make sure to use a meat thermometer so you can prevent over or under-cooking the pork.Pork loin usually has a “fat cap” which is a layer of fat on one side (it’s on the bottom in the photo above so you can’t see it).
Place the pork loin on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in a casserole dish with the fat cap side facing up. Pack the brown sugar rub all over the surface of the pork loin.
Roast the pork for 10 minutes at 400ºF, then reduce the heat to 350ºF and roast for an additional 20 minutes per pound of pork, or until the internal temperature reaches 145ºF. The temperature of the roast will continue to rise slightly after it is taken out of the oven, due to carryover cooking. (Don’t worry if the brown sugar burns on the baking sheet, the rub ON the pork will not be burned. The burned sugar can be cleaned off with a quick soak in hot soapy water.)
Let the pork loin rest for ten minutes before slicing into ½-inch slices and serving.