Intro To Pork Cuts: Ultimate Guide Explained

Intro To Pork Cuts – The ultimate guide to pork cuts

I love a well-made ribs platter or pork chops. Pork cuts are my favorite meat to grill and develop my culinary talents. However, to cook an excellent pork recipe, it is essential to understand the different pork cuts to choose the recipe’s right cut. 

multiple pork cuts on a plate

I wanted to grill my own pork chops and enjoy my own perfectly cooked pork roasts, so to do that, I knew I had to learn everything there is about pork cuts.

Why learn about pork cuts?

Many of us experience amazing pork dishes at restaurants, but when trying to replicate the same recipes at home, the results are not the same. 

Many times the problem is you are just using the wrong pork cut to prepare your recipe.

This article will detail and explain the different kinds of pork cuts to help you understand where these pork cuts can be used to get the best result.

History of Pork

Pork is the culinary name for the meat of a domestic pig. Pork meat is popular; in fact, pork is one of the most commonly consumed meats globally. 

black board with history written on it

Pork can be enjoyed by consumers, both freshly cooked or cured. Curing pork meat can extend the shelf life of pork meat. Preserved or cured pork meats we all enjoy include ham, smoked pork, bacon, and sausage. 

According to Nelson, Sarah M. (1998), who wrote Ancestors for the Pigs. Pigs in prehistory from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Pigs began to be domesticated in Mesopotamia around 13,000 BC.

Where is pork originally from?

The origin of the pig animal can be traced to Asia and then proceeded to Europe. In Europe is where Sus scrofa domesticus became popular. 

However, the Americas get to thank Columbus for bringing pigs to this continent on his second voyage.

Before mass production of pigs began in the 29th century, pigs were an autumn dish, much like apples, which is why they are coming paired in traditional recipes and even found in many historical paintings.

More than you need to know about pigs

The word “barbeque” originated with French-speaking pirates called their Caribbean pork feast “de barbe et queue.” It translates to “from beard to tail,” reflecting the versatility of the hog.

Major Swine Breeds

orange square Chester White

Chester White

Chester Whites originated in Chester County, Pa., from which their name was established. These white hogs with droopy ears are identified for their mothering capability, endurance, and soundness. Breeders also promote their muscle tone.

orange square Duroc 

duroc

The second-most registered breed of swine in the United States, the red pigs with the drooping ears, are prized for their product quality, carcass yield, fast growth, and lean-gain efficiency.

orange square Berkshire

Berkshire

The third-most reported breed of swine in the United States, Berkshires are recognized for quick and fast growth, reproductive efficiency, cleanness, plus meat flavor per value. With the first U.S. meeting of Berkshire breeders held in 1875, the American Berkshire Association is the oldest swine registry globally.

orange square Hampshire

Hampshire

The hogs with “the belt,” Hampshires are the fourth-most registered breed in the United States. Most popular in the Corn Belt, Hampshires are known for delivering lean muscle, high carcass quality, minimal back fat, and large loin eyes. 

orange square Landrace

Landrace

White hogs with droopy ears, Landrace are the fifth-most registered breed of swine in the United States. This breed is well known as “America’s Sowherd,” Landrace females are massive milkers and usually farrow large pigs. 

orange square Poland China

Poland China

China hogs are recognized for their large frame, length of body, leanness, and muscle. They also are excellent feeders and are also quiet in nature.

orange square Spotted

Poland China

Abundant, black-and-white spots distinguish the Spotted swine breed. Breeders in Indiana, USA, concentrated on breeding Spotted hogs for years. Spots are known for their carcass quality. Commercial producers appreciate Spotted females for their productivity.

orange square Yorkshire

Yorkshire

The most common breeds of swine in North America. Yorkshires are white with upright ears. Yorkshires are found in almost every US State, with the highest populations concentrated in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio. Yorkshires are known for their muscle, with a high proportion of lean meat and low back fat.

Pork is not graded like beef but categorized.

Pork, unlike beef, is not graded with USDA quality grades. When choosing your pork meat, appearance is an essential guide. According to the USDA, pork meets with a small amount of fat over the outside. Firm and grayish pink colors are good signs of freshness.

If you notice the pork meat color to be  Brown meat or notice the fat color to be yellow fat usually means the meat is oxidizing and not fresh!

Safe Pork Cooking Temperatures

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Here are the pork cooking recommendations per the USDA

When cooking Whole Cuts of Pork, the USDA has lowered the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160 ºF to 145 ºF with the addition of a three-minute rest time.  You can find the USDA recommendations here.

The different cuts of pork – pork cuts explained.

Know Your Pork Cuts

meat-diagram-cuts-of-pork-pig

bbq grill academy Pork Belly

The Pork Belly pork cut does not get its name from being the stomach of the pig. Pork Belly is the flesh that runs underneath the abdomen of the pig and surrounds the stomach. 

This long cut of meat has plenty of fat formed into the meat and is appreciated for curing and using it into bacon or pancetta. 

Pork belly is very flavorful, and when cooked to perfection, it can be both “crunchy” and tender. You can get very creative with pork belly.

To cook the ultimate roast pork belly with crackling skin takes practice, but don’t be afraid to try. Once you get the techniques right, the results are amazing.

Why is pork belly so popular?

Pork belly can be as flavorful as bacon, but it has more meat and contains healthier fat. Pork belly offers many culinary options and can be turned into elaborate dishes.

Pork belly offers you the best of both two worlds, tender, delicious meat and crispy delicious, healthier fat.

Is pork healthier than beef?

The fat in pork contains more unsaturated fats than beef. This includes more omega-3 fatty acids and oleic acid, a type of fat more absorbable by the human body.

bbq grill academyPork Chops Cuts

There are a few pork cuts considered pork chops. Pork chops are a great choice for grilling, but pork chops can also be broiled or pan-fried. 

When cooking pork chops, it is important to be aware of their thickness. Thin pork chops cuts can cook quickly; however, thinker chops can be cooked slower for a juicier result.

I love thick-cut pork chops with the bone. Ticker-cut pork chops can produce the juiciest flavors. I always recommend cooking thick pork chops slowly and carefully to avoid drying out the meat or leaving the meat’s center undercooked.

Here is a list of different cuts of pork chops:

 

orange square Pork loin chops 

You can identify these pork chops by the T-shaped bone on one side of them.

 These pork chops are often referred to as pork loin end chops, loin pork chops, or pork center loin chops. 

Tip: You can identify these pork chops by the T-shaped bone on one side of them.

orange square Pork rib chops 

Pork rips chops are often called pork rib cut chops, rib pork chops, or pork chop end cut. These common names for the pork rip chop cut. Pork rib chops are a bit less tender than Pork loin chops.

orange square Pork sirloin chops  

Pork sirloin chops are located on the pig loin very close to the hip. The proximity to the pig’s hip means pork sirloin chops have high protein content compared to their fat content.

According to the USDA, pork sirloin chops are a great source of protein and in 100 grams of bone-in sirloin chops and about 4 grams of fat. Being a leaner cut of chop means it is also less tender than other cuts.

orange square Pork top loin chops 

Pork top loin chops are often sold boneless and are regularly called pork loin fillets.

orange square Pork Shoulder Chops

Pork shoulder chops can be grilled and even pan-fried. Pork shoulder chops are tougher than other chops, but they can be cooked longer and slower to a more tender cook if marinated or tenderized.

 

orange square Pork Crown Roast

Pork Crown Roast is a particular pork cut. A pork crown roast is created when a rib roast is Frenched, and then two Frenched racks are tied into a circular crown, hence the term “Crown Roast.” You can get creative with this pork cut, including making amazing stuffing to add to the center of the crown.

What does it mean to French meat?

No, it does not mean to kiss the meat! To “French,” a cut of meat refers to a culinary technique where meat is cut off from a chop or rib bone so that part of the bone is revealed.

 

orange square Pork Cutlets

Pork Cutlets are also referred to as boneless chops. Cutlets are typically lean but meatier than sirloin chops.

Cutlets are great pan-fried and cook very quickly. Pork cutlets are a great cut to get creative with, bake, fry, and even grill. But remember, this cut of meat is very thin and can dry quickly.

bbq grill academyHam

Oh, the ham. The ham is one of the most popular and commonly used pork cuts. The ham is the top of the pork leg, which is often sold fresh, smoked, boiled, and even cured.

If you like prosciutto, you are enjoying a kind of cured ham.

bbq grill academyPork Loin

Pork loin is a lean and tender pork cut. However, it is easy to overcook any pork cuts from the loin. 

There are three parts of the pork loin:

  • The Blade End is a sirloin cut that is closest to the shoulder and is fatty.
  • The Sirloin End is a sirloin cut closest to the rear and is bony.
  • The Center portion is a sirloin cut closest to the rear and is bony.

bbq grill academyBaby Back Ribs or Pork Back Ribs

This favorite pork cut is also known as baby back pork ribs and one of my favorites cuts to throw on the BBQ. Pork back ribs ( baby back ribs) are not as meaty as country-style ribs but are still juicy and easy to cook. Spare ribs are obtained from the bottom of the pig’s ribs.

bbq grill academyPork Spare Ribs

Pork spare ribs are an excellent choice for slow and long cooking. These ribs are a great choice for the grill or smoker. These ribs are tougher than baby back ribs but are also fattier and meatier. Spare ribs are carved from the ends of the baby back ribs and run along to the pig’s breast bone.

bbq grill academyCountry-Style Pork Ribs

Country-style ribs are the meatiest of the ribs family and also the fatties.  These ribs can be very flavorful, but some people have trouble cooking them as the fat in them tends to cause flare-ups in most grills. However, if you master how to cook these ribs, you will love the taste results.

bbq grill academyPork Roasts Cuts

Pork roast cuts are big chunks of meat that are great for the oven or even your smoker grill. 

Pork Roasts cuts can be cut into slices and even chops, but when this cut is left as a roast, you get great chunks of meat to get creative with.

Here are some popular pork roasts Cuts:

  • Pork Blade Roasts 

  • Pork Tenderloins  

Tip: Pork tenderloin roast is lean and a great option to throw in your oven. However, be careful not to overcook the tenderloin.

  • Pork Rib Roasts

  • Pork Top Loin Roasts

  • Pork Sirloin Roasts 

  • Boston Butts and Shoulders

Tip: This is a favorite among BBQ aficionados and is great pork cut to throw on your smoker and turn into pulled pork.

bbq grill academyPork Butts

This pork cut needs a proper introduction. This pork cut is among the most popular in the BBQ World. Pork butt can be cooked or smoked to perfection to produce the best-pulled pork recipes in the world.

The Pork butt is not from where you might think but instead form a higher area on the foreleg. The Pork Butt cut is very marbled, juicy, and tender, producing a rich flavor and super tender meat. 

Tips: When to use: The pork butt cut is best for slow cooks such as smoker grills.

bbq grill academyPork Shoulder (also known as Picnic Shoulder)

The pork shoulder is another excellent pork cut and is traditionally used in Cuban cuisine in their delicious pork roast recipes. The pork shoulder is similar to the pork butt, except it is a cut from a lower part of the shoulder and generally with the skin attached. This pork cut is excellent for slow roast recipes but can produce a crisp skin traditionally found in Cuban-style pork roasts.

What is the difference between pork butt and pork shoulder cuts?

The pork butt is a cut from the higher portion of the pig’s shoulder, where the pork shoulder is from a lower area of the pork’s shoulder. Both cuts are shoulder cuts.

bbq grill academyPork Sausages

Pork sausages are the most popular sausages in the world. Pork Sausages are found cooked, smoked, and cured but also ready to be cooked your way.

bbq grill academyPork Hocks 

You can consider this pork cut the pig’s shins and is often found smoked. Pork hocks are a great addition to soups and beans and pack great flavor, which is why many cooks will use this pork cut as an “add-on” to their recipes. 

bbq grill academyPork Shanks

Pork shanks are the name used for pork shins with the skin still attached. Pork Hocks and Shanks are the same cut, but if you ask for a pork shank, you will get pork skinned attached to your pork cut. We recommend this type of cut for use in braising recipes.

bbq grill academyPork Tenderloin

Pork Tenderloin is a trendy pork cut of meat. It is a long pork cut and very lean. The tenderloin is considered to be the pork fillet and an expensive pork cut.

orange squarePork Fat Back

Fatback is pork fat that can be used to add flavor to recipes. 

Cuts You’ll Only Find at a Butcher Shops.

Butcher shop man cutting meat

  • Trotters
    • “These are all cartilage, no meat,” says Mylan. “Great for building the body in stock. Use instead of veal bones.”
  • Half or Whole Pig Head
    • Used for many things, including Porchetta di Testa, or a salami made from both the meat and skin of a pig head.
  • Ears
    • Popular in cuisines worldwide, pig’s ears are often roasted, boiled, grilled, or pickled.
  • Jowls
    • Cured and smoked pork jowl is a soul food staple. In Italy, jowl is used to make guanciale.
  • Snout
    • Often used in soups.
  • Tail
    • Mylan recommends cooking pigtails in the same way that you would cook ribs at home in the oven – covered in tin foil first, then uncovered to crisp them up. “It’s not a ton of meat,” he says, “but like chewing on a rib, but more cartilaginous, lip-smacking, and delicious. It’s a great secret cut. I don’t think anyone thinks about the tail, and most people haven’t seen it – unless you’re regularly in Chinatown.”Where can I purchase pig parts (ears, feet, intestines, tails, or other non-meat)?

Pork Cuts Meat Q & A

question mark sign

  • Where can I purchase pig parts (ears, feet, intestines, tails, or other non-meat)?
    • Contact your local butcher and ask for these pig cuts. Chain food stores normally do not carry certain cuts, but your local butchers do. If your local food store has an onsite butcher, you can 
  • What is the most tender cut of pork?
    • The area between the shoulder and back legs is the leanest, most tender part of the pig. The ribs, loin chops, pork loin roasts, and tenderloin roasts are all from the loin area.
  • What cut of pork is best for braising?
    • Pork should is an excellent choice for braising. You can braise pork to flavorful shreddable meat. Pork Shoulder is commonly used for braising recipes as it is affordable and easy to find. However, don’t be shy to also try to braise some ribs. 
  • Why do my pork chops come out tough?
    • Pork chop cuts are lean and can be cooked very quickly, and are easy to overcook. Make sure you monitor the temperature of the meat and try using a meat thermometer.

  • What is the difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin?
    • Many of us confuse these two pork cuts, but pork tenderloin and pork loin are two different meat cuts from two different areas of the pig.
    • The pork tenderloin is a long boneless narrow pork cut that comes from the muscle along the backbone. The pork line is wider and can be purchased boneless or with the bone. The pork loin comes from the back of the pig.

Summary

We all want to enjoy a good restaurant-quality dish in the conformity of our own homes. Families want to spend time together grilling and enjoying the outdoors. It is possible to cook a great meal for your loved ones. 

Just take a little bit of time and learn your meat cuts, and you will be ready to go.

Happy grilling! 

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