Monday, January 2, 2012

Erica's Pork Loin with Caramel Sauce

I'm a recipe hoarder.

I see so many "Oh yeah, I have GOT to try that!" recipes online at my favorite blogs and sites.  I save them to my BigOven files "to try soon".   But then I almost never get around to making them because I am busy playing around with my own recipes.   I might actually make one of them for every 100 that I save.  

This is recipe is one of the few to escape the purgatory of my "to try soon" list.  Last March Erica of My Columbian Recipes blogged about Cerdo al Caramelo, a dish her mother made in her home town of Antioquia.  It's roasted pork bathed in a luxurious caramel sauce.

Photo Credit:  My Columbian Recipes
Of course I took Erica's kitchen based version of Cerdo al Caramelo and converted it for the grill.   Her version is less complicated, faster, and done in the kitchen so click on that link if you don't want to fire roast it.

I chose to slow roast my loin at 250f for as long as possible before raising the heat to make the caramel sauce.  That is because the two enzymes (calpains and cathepsins) that break connective tissue in meat are more active at internal temps under 105-122f (McGee 3954*).  So the time the meat lingers under 120f acts as a sort of "accelerated aging" process, resulting in a tender, juicy roast (McGee 4494). 

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce

Pork Loin with Caramel Sauce
Adapted from My Columbian Cooking
Serves: 6

4 lb crown pork roast, tied

For the brine
  • 1.5 quarts water
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (optional but preferred)

For the paste
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and coarse chopped
  • 1 green onion, coarse chopped
  • 1 dried red cayenne chili 
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper

For the sauce
  • 2 cups piloncillo grated or brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup pork broth 
  • 1/4 lb butter, unsalted, melted
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • pinch of clove (optional)
  1. Brine the roast for 4-6 hours, refrigerated.
  2. Pulse the paste ingredients in a blender or food processor until they form guessed it, paste.
  3. Remove roast from the brine.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.  Leave at room temperature for 1 hour.
  4. Set up your grill for indirect heat and preheat to 250f.  (see notes)
  5. Slather the paste all over your roast and place it bone side down over indirect heat on the grill.  Slow roast until it hits an internal temperature of 105-110f.  (See time/temp chart)
  6. Stir sauce ingredients in a grill proof roasting pan that will hold the pork roast.  Place the pork roast in the pan and return to the grill, still on indirect heat.  Adjust your vents (or gas) to bring the grill temp up to 350f.  Roast until the roast reaches an internal temp of 135f.
  7. Remove roast and allow to rest, bone side down, for at least 15 minutes.  
  8. Stir the sauce to make sure the sugar thoroughly combined into the sauce.  If not, put it back on the grill while the roast rests, stirring occasionally.  
  9. Slice and serve with sauce.
  • Substitute 2 tsp of red pepper flake if you don't have dried red chili.
  • Do NOT substitute turbinado sugar for the piloncillo or brown sugar.  I used a cup of piloncillo and a cup of turbinado.  Seemed reasonable.  It took the turbinado forever to melt. 
  • Big Green Egg set up was:  lump coal to top of fire ring, 2 chunks cherry wood, plate setter legs up, drip pan, cast iron grate.  
  • The slow roast took about 2 hours and 15 minutes.  A similar bone in pork loin last year done at 350f the whole time only took 1 hour and 30 minutes.  I'd say the difference in texture was worth the extra 45 minutes.
  • The "carryover cooking" during the rise maxed out at 151f  about 20 minutes after coming off the grill.
The pork roast was very juicy, extra tender, and flavorful.  The sauce was rich and sweet, but not too sweet.  Very worthy of a holiday meal.

Target Grill Temp
Actual Grill Temp
Meat Internal Temp
0 hr 0 m

0 hr 30 m

1 hr 0 m
Very windy, temps got away from me. Nudged vent shut by 1/4”
1 hr 30 m
Put roast in the roast pan. Opened bottom vent back by 1/4”
2 hr 0 m

2 hr 30 m
Pulled the roast at 137f at 2 hr 15 min
3 hr 0 m

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce
Pork roast getting its "beauty treatment".

Piloncillo must be Spanish for "Grates as easy as hardened cement" but it's a mild tasting sugar.

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce
I cooked it right on the grate during the low temp roasting portion so all sides were exposed.

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce
I used stoneware for my roasting pan.  Was just about to add the liquids here.

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce
Resting on a raised rack helps retain the juices inside the roast.

bone in pork roast with caramel sauce, pork loin with caramel sauce
Plan for 1 rib or 3/4 lbs per person.

*Citations list the Kindle page number


  1. mouth actually watered reading that recipe. I too have WAY too many recipes that I "intend" to try, but would never get to them in a million years.

  2. The caramelized sugar fire roasted on the grill would produce such sweet, crunchy crust. Delicious. This is a creative twist. Very nice.

    I enjoy Erica's blog too.

  3. I just added this to my must try soon list and promise it won't see purgatory, but will get made very soon! Looks fantastic!

  4. This looks so delicious. My mouth goes watery just by looking at the photos.

  5. Indeed this is one of the most beautiful hunks of meat I've seen in quite a while. Congrats.

  6. I have way too many "to try" recipes myself. This is a very creative recipe Chris and it suits your style perfectly. Great photos as always.

  7. I've made vietnamese caramel sauce before but I think it's time I branch out into other versions. Any excuse to eat caramel for dinner, right?

  8. Caramel sauce on pork? Oh yea, it's a gotta try for sure.... and I'm with you, that list just gets longer and longer with no true dent ever made!!!

  9. The finished roast looks outstanding Chris, both before and after carving.

  10. Something about looking at a rack of pork makes me smile.

    I always enjoy reading Erica's recipes and I love that you've adapted this one for the grill. The crust on the outside of the pork looks so scrumptious. Delicious!

  11. Oh my, that looks and sounds fabulous!

  12. I am a hoarder too! I have 100's saved with the intention of making them all - if only the day had more hours. Caramel with pork? Yes, please. Very unique and utterly delicious.

  13. Oh my... the pork looks perfect and the sauce sounds amazing! Happy New Year my friend!

  14. "Oh yeah, I have GOT to try that!" Where have I heard that before? If I started cooking nothing but recipes I've saved to cook "latter" I'd be cooking for years.

    But this one - I have pork chops in the fridge some piloncillo sitting in the pantry. No time like the present, eh?

  15. Another great pork recipe. I'm just like you... I hoard recipes hoping to make them one day but don't make nearly as many as I want or as I bookmark. I'm bookmarking this recipe (but probably won't make it for a long time lol) and I'll let you know how it goes in about a year or two :)

  16. That's a recipe that I will have to add to my to cook list. I really like the piloncillo, it has a great sweet and slight spicy flavor is great with just about any smoked meat. If you're putting piloncillo in a sauce, you can just break it up and add the pieces to the liquid and heat it up, it will melt. It's a lot easier than grating.

  17. Wow!That looks amazing,Chris!!!!Yours sound and looks better than mine :)I have to try it next time!


  18. dude. you're killing me with deliciousness. a caramel sauce? genius.

  19. I have used a food processor to grate hard as rock palm sugar which seems very similar. GREG

  20. My wife cooks a pretty good pork loin. We're going to have to try this some time soon.

  21. I will attempt not to let this one disappear into the never ending to do list. It sounds so good with the caramel sauce (oh my...) and I'm always up for a pork recipe.

  22. Pork and Caramel together? Drool. Thanks for giving us the link to the non-grill version as that's the one I'll have to try first.


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