What Is Pork Roulade?

Meg Higa

A pork roulade is a simple, but elegant dish, prepared by rolling a thin sheet of pork around a filling to form a roll. Roulade, in French, means “to roll.” Other meats can be used, but certain cuts of pork are especially popular for their mild taste and texture. Recipes for the filling vary widely.

Head cheese, a type of pork roulade.
Head cheese, a type of pork roulade.

The meat used to make pork roulade must have certain characteristics. It is a single large piece that is quite thin. The ideal butcher cuts are pork shoulder or loin, but it requires some knife skills to trim it into the necessary shape. If explained that the meat is to be rolled into a log, many store butchers will offer to trim a large roast accordingly.

Ideally, pork roulade is made of either pork loin or pork shoulder.
Ideally, pork roulade is made of either pork loin or pork shoulder.

Roulades of all types are especially popular throughout Europe. Some countries or regions have signature preparations. Different meats are used to wrap the roll, but it is the nearly infinite combination of filling ingredients which gives them such variety. Cheeses are very common. Also popular is layering the filling with other types of meat.

There are two ways of rolling the pork roulade. With a thin spread of filling, the roll, when cross-sectioned, will have a spiral pattern. The more common method uses a generous amount of filling, and when rolled, the edges of the meat just barely overlap. Wooden skewers can be used to stitch and hold the roll’s shape, but most cooks will tie the bundle together with butcher’s twine.

Cooking methods also vary, though oven-roasting makes easy pork roulade. Gas or charcoal grilling offers the opportunity to coat the pork with a flavorful sauce. If the roulade is tightly and seamlessly rolled, braising it in a liquid such as red wine and beef stock is also popular. Regardless of method, when cooking with pork, it should reach an internal temperature of about 150 degrees Fahrenheit (66 degrees Celsius).

What makes the roulade a dramatic pork dish is its presentation. The log is sliced into medallions, perfect circles with a shell of pork and a center of filling. One classic pork roulade filling is goat cheese, nuts and fresh herbs. Fruits, such as apple and raisin grapes, are also a favorite. Seasoned bread crumbs are frequently used to function as a binding agent for the stuffing mixture.

There are a few types of other less common pork roulades. One is called “head cheese.” It contains cooked pork, particularly bits and pieces from a boiled pig’s head. This is mixed with gelatin, poured into a mold, and chilled in a refrigerator to firm into shape. A “terrine,” is a cooked mixture of ground pork, egg yolk and other ingredients for a lighter texture.

Terrine is a less common type of pork roulade.
Terrine is a less common type of pork roulade.

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