What is the Difference Between Different Cuts of Pork?

Does anything compare to bacon? What is the difference between loin and shoulder chops?

Knowing where your cuts come from and what flavour and texture properties they have makes all the difference in your cooking.

Overview of Pork Cuts

There are many cuts of pork. Technically there are upwards of 13 but we’re going to focus on 8 and how best to prepare them.

Working from the head to rump, each of the main cuts of pork deserve their moments to shine in the kitchen.

Cheek

The pig’s cheek is fatty and succulent. It’s also one of the more affordable and flavourful parts of the pig.

How to cook: braising in its natural glory, mincing in sauces for added richness, or crisping in the fryer for chips!

Look for: bacon square/jowl bacon, crisps, guanciale (similar to bacon)

Shoulder

Shoulders, parts of which are ironically called the ‘butt’, are a great cut to start with. These cuts are extremely versatile. The flavor profiles work fantastically in sauces or even grilled as a steak.

How to cook: roasted slow and long, grilled, barbecued

Look for: blade steaks, picnic cuts, hand, sausage, neck cuts, short rib

Loin

These chops are the strip along the pig’s back and are ideal for big family meals. You will often find these cuts rolled or stuffed around the holidays. Typically juicy and hearty, this cut is a classic favourite. Pair this meat with apples and onions for a heavenly taste combo.

Within the loin section you’ll also find the lean filet chop, which is great for a healthier option. This section needs to be cooked quickly at high temperatures to keep it juicy.

How to cook: stuffing and pan or oven roasting for the loin, hot and fast crisping to seal in moisture for the filet

Look for: T-Bone chops (mixture of loin and filet), pork chops, sirloin roasts, Canadian bacon, cutlets, back ribs

Tenderloin

This cut deserves its own section of honour, despite it being a subsection of the loin, due to its…well, tenderness. As you can guess from its name, the tenderloin is the most indulgent piece of the pig, and often the most expensive. It is leaner than the other loin sections, making it healthy and delectable.

How to cook: roasted, baked

Look for: loin chops, tenderloin filet

Belly

Down below the loin cut is the belly. Welcome to the bacon, baby! This cut is incredibly tender and robust in flavour, due to its higher fat content. With fatty meats like this, there are opportunities for tender melt-in-your-mouth effects, or savoury crispiness! No matter what, it’s umami and luxurious! 

How to cook: slow roast, pan fry, roasted slowly at low temp

Look for: streaked bacon, short rib

Ribs

Ribs are classic decadent finger food. They work best when marinated (apples and sage are complimentary flavours to work with). Achieve a slight crisp on the outside to keep the fats and juices rendered inside for optimal tenderness. The meat will fall off the bone! Common bacon also comes from this side section.

How to cook: grilled or barbecued at high heat

Look for: bacon, spareribs

Chump/ Ham

Pig bum is also a very versatile, meaty cut, much like the shoulder. It can be cooked many ways and enjoyed with tangy sauce pairings that balance the richness and heaviness of the fats. It is full of flavour and is a more affordable cut of pork. 

How to cook: grilled, fried, barbecued

Look for: bacon, cured ham roast, bone- in ham

Leg

Leg cuts are a leaner cut, and are great for curing to make ham and for making robust gravies. Marinating and tenderizing it can elevate the experience that much more. 

How to cook: flash grilled escalopes, on the bone

Look for: smoked hocks, trotter, shank

Whether it’s bacon, sausage, ham, or another delicious form of pork, pig makes for a versatile and rich protein to cook a hundred different ways. It is one of the best meats for smoking, crisping, and frying because of its umami fatty richness. 

Ultimately, whatever cuts you choose comes down to preference. Some melt, some chew, and some transform. As long as you let the meat rest to seal in its juices, and buy from reputable and ethical provider, your dining experience will be superior, no matter the cut.

Do all the cuts of pork sounds delicious?

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