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A Guide to Cooking Pork, Cut by Cut

A Guide to Cooking Pork, Cut by Cut

It’s as easy as knowing these four primal cuts

Pork is one of the most widely consumed and versatile meats you can buy. Broiling, baking, boiling, and barbecuing are just a few of the ways you can cook up this tasty fare — which means as the cook, you’ve got a lot of options to work with. 

Once you realize that all these options boil down to belonging to four primal cuts, it’s easier to choose a method that goes with the best recipe to wow your guests, partner, or even your mom.

The four primal cuts you need to know before heading to the supermarket are shoulder, loin, leg and side (or belly). These are the areas that contain most of the familiar cuts you’ll be working with, and we’ve broken down exactly what cuts come from each area.

  1. Shoulder. This primal cut comes from the upper portion of the shoulder and is best cooked slow and low due to its high marbling content and connective tissue. Methods such as braising, barbecuing, roasting, or stewing are key here. This is one of the most popular cuts due to the fact that it’s relatively inexpensive and a little easier to work with than other cuts.
  2. Loin. Situated between the shoulder and the back legs, this is where you’ll find some of the leanest, most tender cuts such as pork chops, ribs, and roasts. Just be careful not to overcook these tasty segments as they can dry out quite easily, and make sure you check whether it’s better to braise them slowly or pan sear them, depending on the cut.
  3. Leg. Ham is found on the back leg and is often sold in large roasts. Though usually low in fat, cooking it with the bone in will help retain those precious juices in the meat itself, as well as for your gravy. For your escalopes (thinly sliced steaks cut from the leg), try marinating them or using a meat tenderizer to make this delicious cut even juicier.
  4. Side/Belly. This primal cut runs along the underside of the belly and contains the most tender and fatty parts, such as bacon and the spareribs we get brisket from. These pieces are incredibly tender, but also high in fat which makes them flavoursome and versatile. Cook it slow and low for a soft meat, or pan fry it in slices for a deliciously crispy bite.


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