The 2 Types Of Pork To Use For Traditional Cuban Sandwiches

What sandwich isn't made better with the addition of more types of meat? Think of how a club sandwich joyously marries chicken or turkey and bacon or the symphony of flavors in an Italian sub loaded with salami, capicola, mortadella, and more. The same holds true for a traditional Cuban sandwich.

A descendant of a style of sandwich called a mixto, the Cuban first gained popularity in the U.S. in Florida's Cuban enclaves, notably in Miami and Tampa. It classically contains Swiss cheese, pickles, yellow mustard, ham, roasted pork, and in Tampa, Genoa salami. These ingredients are placed in a small loaf of sweet Cuban bread and toasted in a panini press until hot and crunchy on the outside and melted and warm on the inside.

As with a great many foodstuffs, the Cuban sandwich is what people make of it, so one can't get too definitive when it comes to the ingredients. That being said, one type of pork traditionally used in a Cuban sandwich is sweet ham, such as a honey-glazed ham or a sugar-cured variety, though many kinds of sliced ham will do. The roasted pork element can take many forms but is typically meat from the loin or shoulder that is marinated in Cuban mojo, which is a mix of sour orange juice, a generous amount of garlic, oregano, cumin, and olive oil.

Sweet and savory

Cuban sandwiches are relatively easy to assemble at home with the right ingredients. Primarily made of readily available items (ham, Swiss Cheese, mustard, and pickles), the only thing that takes effort is the roast pork. When pork shoulder is used, it's also time-consuming as the rich cut takes hours to break down at low temperatures. Our Cuban Sandwich recipe calls for quick-cooking pork tenderloin bathed in a mojo enhanced with smoked paprika and light brown sugar. And, while sour orange juice is the backbone of a traditional mojo, it can be hard to come by, which is why we use regular OJ that gets an added bite from a little lime juice.

When selecting your ham, traditionalists say sweet ham is what to reach for, but feel free to let your tastes guide you with the proviso that an extremely salty ham, like prosciutto, might not play well in a Cuban sandwich. Whatever ham you choose, if you're getting it from the deli, have them slice it thin; otherwise, look for a packaged ham that's on the thinner side.

The final product should be a study in contrasts. The savory, garlicky, tangy roasted pork plays off the sweet and salty sliced ham, the unctuous, melted cheese is matched by the briny bite of the pickles, and the crunchy, yet yielding sweet bread is perked up by the tart yellow mustard.