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Every time I try to roast a pork leg a lot of water drains from it and it becomes dry.

Last time I did it this way: 24 hours before, I seasoned a 1.5kg (3 pounds) piece with salt, pepper, garlic, orange juice and lime juice. I put it out of the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting, and roasted it (covered), with low heat (150° C, about 300° F) for about 2 hours in the seasoned juices. When roasted, I let the meat rest for 1 hour. Still, the leg was kinda dry.

What could be wrong? The oven, the meat? Something in my process?

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How big is this pork leg? Is this what I would call a ham? Frankly, only a couple hours sounds like you are probably undercooked. –  SAJ14SAJ Oct 16 '13 at 13:57
    
Forgot this info. About 1.5KG (3 pounds). And yeah, I think is the same as ham. It's not too big, 2 hours was entirely cooked. Maybe too much time? Roast with higher temperatures and less time, is better? –  AntonioC Oct 16 '13 at 14:03

3 Answers 3

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It is hard to tell just from text descriptions, but I believe your pork leg is under-cooked.

Note that it is likely fully cooked in the sense of safety, but it has not had long enough for the slow process of collagen to gelatin conversion.

Pork legs (or hams, depending on what you have exactly) are well used muscles with a lot of connective tissue, comprised of the protein collagin. This is tough, even when fully cooked to 165 F / 74 C (which is well done for most meats).

At temperatures above above 180 F / 82 C, in the presence of water (which is in the meat already), the collagen will begin to convert to gelatin, which has a moist, unctuous texture.

This process is both time and temperature dependent. At lower temperatures, it takes more time; at higher, it is faster.

Continuing to slowly roast your pork leg will allow this slow conversion to happen, making it again become tender and unctuous, because of the lubricating affect of the gelatin. In fact, it will eventually be pullable just with a couple of forks (although shoulder is even better for this).

You would probably be better served by cooking it at least three hours; four might be even better.

See also:

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Roast pork, bone in or boneless, needs low oven temperature and lots of time. The answer to your question is you were too hasty. After your prep, use an oven temperature of no more than 300 degrees F for about 50 t0 60 minutes per lb., when the internal temperature reaches 165-170 degrees. Slow and steady is the way to roast pork, and it's good to invest in a good probe thermometer such as an instant-reading Themapen.

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Sorry, an internal temperature of 160-170 will indicate that the meat is well done, but it won't indicate that the collagen to gelatin conversion is sufficiently complete to move the roast from the tough and rubbery phase to the soft and succulent phase. That takes time at temperature and is dependent on both. While I disapprove of temperature tests for this application, those who use them in fact recommend temperatures from 192 F to 203 F. –  SAJ14SAJ Oct 19 '13 at 12:51

These guys who have a little experience roasting pork have this to say:

The hams, the large rump muscles on the rear legs are the thickest and most dense muscle group. They are best when smoked to about 175°F.

[...]

Cook low and slow. Normally I tell readers to cook most foods at 225°F and to learn how to peg their cookers at that temp, but if you don't crank the temp up a bit a hog can take forever. So we'll take it up to 250°F or so.

The higher temperature is for a whole hog; a single cut would probably work at the lower temperature.

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let us continue this discussion in chat –  SAJ14SAJ Oct 28 '13 at 16:17
    
After some discussion, we decided to just edit this down to the part that (slightly obliquely) addresses the question. –  Jefromi Oct 28 '13 at 16:28

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