Different Cuts of Pork Explained

Pork generally refers to the meat of young pigs butchered under a year old. Just about the entire pig is used as food. The head, feet, jowls, tongue and sweetbreads are all used in special recipes or to make sausages. But the most commonly used parts of the pig are the muscle sections, or cuts. These cuts can be pure meat, or meat attached to bone. There are four different cuts of pork.

Shoulder Cuts

Pork shoulder cuts provide the highest level of fat, making the meat perfect for roasting or braising. Shoulder cuts include blade roasts and steaks, picnic roasts and hocks. Known also as Boston roast, blade steak comes from the highest part of the animal's shoulder. It can be roasted or sliced and grilled. The lower part of the shoulder, or Picnic cuts, are most often cut into chops or ground meat.

Loin Cuts

The loin is the back section of the pig along both sides of the backbone. It includes the tenderloin, the leanest and most tender cut of pork. It also provides the back ribs --- the centre rib roast, bone-in sirloin roast, boneless centre rib roast and boneless rib end roasts. These tender cuts are usually cooked using dry heat methods, such as grilling, roasting, broiling and frying.

Side Cuts

The common side cuts, also known as belly cuts, are pork spareribs and fresh side pork. They are tender and rich in fat. Spareribs are long rib bones with a thin covering of meat on the outside and between the ribs. They are most often prepared by grilling, braising, baking or in a slow cooker. Fresh side pork is most often salted and cured to become a side of bacon, which is then sliced.

Leg Cuts

Pork leg cuts are from the rump and back legs of the pig. The most common cuts are cutlets and the hind leg. Cut from the middle of the leg, pork cutlets are sometimes tenderised before cooking. The plump hind leg, or ham, is commonly smoked. It is often cut up into three sections: inside, outside and tip. Being a lean meat, ham is usually cooked by dry heat, such as roasting or frying.

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About the Author

Brian Burhoe has been writing professionally since 1971. His stories have appeared in "World of If Magazine," "Fantastic Stories" and "Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year." He cooks in Atlantic Coast restaurants and he is a graduate of the Holland College Culinary Course and holds a Canadian Culinary Federation chef's certificate.