Butterfly wings are delicate things, diaphanous and fragile and nothing at all like the large, fat-veined chunk of boneless pork loin I had spread out on my cutting board one recent afternoon.
Yet I kept the butterfly in mind as I prepared the pork, slicing through the loin so I could quickly grill it to feed a crowd.
I was, to use the butchering term, butterflying the loin, a very simple technique of cutting lengthwise through any thick boneless piece of meat until you’ve almost halved it, but not quite, leaving it attached on one side. When you open up the halves, they should resemble the symmetrical wings of a butterfly. At least in theory.
With an oval chicken breast, this imagery holds if you squint a little.
But with a cylindrical pork loin (or a lopsided leg of lamb for that matter), butterflies are merely a poetic notion. Another analogy is to think of opening the cut piece of meat like a book. In the case of a 4-pound pork loin, picture a nice big tome — “Moby-Dick,” perhaps.
The advantage of this kind of trimming is that the slimmed-down slab of meat will cook faster. For my pork loin, this means less than 30 minutes on the grill, instead an hour or more in the oven. (Do not substitute pork tenderloin, as it is an entirely different cut.)
If you have access to a butcher, they can butterfly the meat for you. But if it’s the supermarket or bust, buy a boneless pork loin and cut it yourself. It’s not at all hard to do if you’ve got a sharp knife.
I like to marinate butterflied pork loin with plenty of garlic, herbs, cumin and lemon. But you can adapt the basic cooking technique and flavour it any which way. Or leave it plain and porky, rubbing it down with salt and a little pepper.
Just be sure to at least season the meat at least a few hours in advance. As the salt dissolves and forms a brine, it helps the pork retain its moisture.
Then don’t overcook it. Pull the meat off the grill when it’s still medium-rare (57 degrees on an instant-read thermometer) so it stays nice and juicy and beautifully pink in the centre.
A grilled pork loin may not be fluttery or delicate, but it’s hearty and luscious enough to satisfy a hungry crowd.
The New York Times