Pork is one of the most common, and most varied, type of meat on the market. And it’s changed significantly over the years - the pork we eat today isn’t the same as thirty or forty years ago. Bred to be leaner, pork cuts are now lower in calories (by about 30 percent!), saturated fat, and cholesterol than those sold in the seventies.
But each cut of pork is significantly different from the other - and take very different cooking methods to achieve that perfect mouthwatery and meaty chop. We’ve compiled a list of the most common cuts in your local supermarket, as well as the best ones to throw on the barbecue this summer.
Store names: blade steaks, blade chops, pork loin chops, picnic roast (unsliced)
Features: Darker-coloured meat, lots of fat and connective tissue, some blade bone
Flavour: Flavourful, meaty, but can be grisly.
How to cook it: Either pre-tenderize and cook on high heat, or braise on low and slow.
Store names: End cut pork chop, rib end cut, rib pork chop, centre-cut rib chop
Features: Lean “eye” in the centre, with a bone on one side and often a layer of fat. Only fatty in the outer areas.
Flavour: Very lean, very mild (for pork).
How to cook it: Grilling, broiling and searing are great for lean cuts like this. You can even brine them in advance to keep them tender.
Store names: center loin chop, center-cut loin chop, porterhouse, top-loin chop
Features: May or may not have some pieces of tenderloin (depending on where it’s cut). Looks like a t-bone steak.
Flavour: very mild and lean.
How to cook it: It depends on how much tenderloin is present - loin and tenderloin cook at different rates. This can make them hard to cook. Grill, broil or sear em - but don’t overcook.
Store Names: Pork loin filets
Features: lean meat, very little connective tissue and fat, no bones.
Flavour: Not too flavourful - probably the least of the bunch.
How to cook it: Grill, broil or sear. But definitely brine - or at least marinade. They can be very dry and dull.
Store Names: Sirloin steak
Features: Can have hip or back bones - and has portions of multiple muscle groups.
Flavour: Very pork-y, but tough unless braised.
How to cook it: Cooked low and slow (since of so many different types of meat). Try braising or in stews.
Store names: Bacon (when smoked and cured)
Features: Unsliced, uncured, unsmoked pork belly looks like a fatty pork slab.
Flavour: super flavourful, can be very tender but also very fatty. If not prepared properly, can be tough and grisly.
How to cook it: Score or poke many holes in the fatty section of the slab, which will allow the fat to render. Season and cook with low-ish dry heat for at least an hour and a half
Store names: pork cheek, jowl bacon (smoked and cured), hog jowl, guanciale (cured)
Features: Small streaky, fatty, bacon-like slabs
Flavour: If it’s smoked and cured, then it’s a lot like bacon - fatty, salty, and smokey. Otherwise, it’s very similar to pork belly - fatty and porky.
How to cook it: Smoked pork jowl is fantastic in anything you’d toss bacon into - pasta, pizza, or even for adding fatty flavour to carbs like risotto or beans. Otherwise, low and slow is the way to go (if you try a sous vide, let me know!) - unless you want to smoke and cure it at home.
Store names: pork feet, pork knuckle
Features: Tendon-y, ligament-y and often covered in skin
Flavour: Very porky, very tough.
How to cook it: It’s best for imparting a strong pork flavour into soups, stews, and other slow-cooked things. Use it for the rich flavour and then add any meat you would actually eat at the end of the cooking cycle.