Braising pork in milk has been a go-to technique among Italian families for generations, but it was pioneering cookbook author Marcella Hazan who popularized it stateside. It’s a kitchen stalwart because it works: The milk tenderizes the pork, and the meat soaks up the liquid to create a sweet, silky, slightly nutty sauce for pasta Bolognese or to accompany the pork.
There’s just one aspect of milk-braised pork (or chicken) that might give cooks pause: the curds. Heating milk naturally makes the liquid curdle, producing golden curds that are perfectly edible but might not be considered Instagram-worthy.
As we approach prime pork roast season, there are two small tweaks to the milk-braised technique that ensure a tender roast and lump-free sauce: Just add fat and baking soda. Rendering the fat from a couple ounces of salted pork will coat the casein proteins in the milk, preventing them from bonding. As a bonus, the rendered fat adds flavor while inhibiting curd formation.
Watch the recipe video below for step-by-step instructions:
Curdling can also be triggered by the introduction of an acid to the liquid (think of making homemade ricotta using vinegar, for example). Our Milk-Braised Pork Loin recipe calls for the addition of just ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, enough to raise the sauce’s pH level. This not only further guards against curd formation but also has the added benefit of allowing for more Maillard browning, the chemical reaction that causes browning—it’s what makes grilled cheese delectable, bacon irresistible, and roast chicken divine (especially this recipe).
With rendered pork fat and baking soda boosting the sauce, the pork loin can slowly simmer and roast in its milky sauce without the risk of curdled dairy. Of course, if the aesthetics of a few lumps here and there in your sauce don’t bother you, your milk-braised pork will be just fine without rendered fat or baking soda. Generations of Italian families haven’t minded a couple curds.