Your guide to pork
Selecting the right cut of meat for your recipe is important. It can make
a huge difference to the end result in terms of cost, time to cook and
BEST PORK CUTS FOR ROASTING
Shoulder – Can be roasted on the bone, although the blade bone in the centre makes it difficult to carve. It’s more usually boned out, then rolled and tied to a neater joint. It has a really excellent flavour, as meat from nearer the head of the pig is always sweeter and more succulent, with a little more fat to keep it moist. It has a dry skin with a reasonable layer of fat underneath, so is one of the best joints to get good crackling from.
Spare Rib – A smaller cut from the bone-in spare rib. It’s difficult to carve if roasted on the bone, so get your butcher to bone and roll it for you. Beautifully flavoured and very succulent, it gives good crackling and is relatively inexpensive.
Hand – As above, this excellent joint is also difficult to carve on the bone and, as it’s a large joint, is best suited to feeding a crowd. Good value for money.
Loin – Has good flavour. If buying a loin of pork on the bone – which sits up like a rib of beef and looks like a long line of pork chops – get your butcher to chine it for you. This means that he will semi-detach the back bone from the ribs, which can then be easily removed after cooking for easy carving. If you can, ask for a piece of loin cut from the end nearest the head, i.e. the part with the rib bones in it, as this has a slightly sweeter flavour. To serve, carve between the bones or slice the meat away from the bones in one piece and then carve the meat thinly. A loin of pork can also be boned out and rolled for ease of carving. It’s not always the easiest joint of pork to stuff, because there’s very little space for the stuffing to go. One of the more expensive cuts of pork.
Chump – This joint can be roasted on or off the bone and cooks to be slightly moister than the leg.
Tenderloin – A very lean cut of meat that is excellent when roasted, if helped by the addition of an extra layer of fat to prevent it from drying out during cooking (usually bacon). Also excellent when cooked en croute (in buttery pastry).
Belly – A large, rectangular slab of meat that’s excellent for roasting, and is considered to be the tastiest cut by the Chinese. It’s easier to carve if boned first. As always, the skin needs to be scored before cooking, and because it is quite a fatty joint, with a good layer of fat directly beneath the skin, it will give very moist, succulent meat and really good crackling if properly cooked. It can also be rolled up into a more compact joint for roasting.
Leg – A large joint, on the bone, more usually boned out and divided into more manageable-sized joints. This is one of the most commonly bought and most popular joints for roasting because of its leanness, but is also the joint responsible for the perception that roast pork is dry and that it’s difficult to make good crackling. A leg of pork is one of the most expensive roasting joints but it does give nice lean, uniformly shaped slices, and can be stuffed if you wish, prior to tying into shape.
BEST PORK CUTS FOR PAN FRYING, GRILLING & GRIDDLING
Spare Rib Chops – The best chops for flavour and tenderness. The meat from this part of the pig is made up of lots of little, softer muscles, interspersed with very thin layers of succulent fat and connective tissue, which in effect makes them self-basting. They will stay moist and tender instead of drying out.
Loin Chops – Classically shaped pork chops that can be a little dry if over-cooked. They are available both with and without the bone, but those with the bone tend to stay moist during cooking. The eye of the loin can also be sliced across into medallions.
Chump End Steaks – This small cut is tender, has lots of flavour and doesn’t need much cooking. Ask your butcher to leave a little layer of fat around the ‘eye’ of the meat to help keep it moist during cooking.
Belly Slices/Rashers – These come with or without the skin. Excellent roasted, grilled or barbecued because the extra fat keeps the meat moist and drips away during cooking, leaving sweet, succulent meat.
Tenderloin (Fillet) – This is a very lean cut of pork which can either be sliced across into small, chunky slices called noisettes, or cut across into short pieces, which are then ‘butterflied’ (slit open lengthways) and bashed out into thin escalopes. Medallions are simply noisettes that have been very slightly flattened into slightly larger rounds. Tenderloin is also great cut into strips for a stir fry.
Leg – A butcher can cut a leg steak from any part of the leg, but more usually from the fillet. They are extremely lean and require careful cooking to prevent them drying out.
BEST PORK CUTS FOR SLOW COOKING
That all-time favourite – pork belly – is one of the best and most popular cuts to slow roast. And it’a cheap too, making it ideal for the times.
Spare Rib and Hand – Both of these joints can be successfully braised. Brown them first to give some colour, then place on a bed of vegetables together with a little liquid, and cook in a covered casserole in the oven. Slow cooking will make the meat meltingly tender. Or dice for use in casseroles.
Loin – As above. This method of cooking can also help keep what can be a slightly drier cut of meat nicely moist. This joint will also give much neater slices.
Chump End – When diced, it is ideal for stews, curries and casseroles and tends to be more tender than leg.
Belly – Although this is quite a fatty cut, it can still be very successfully slow-cooked. The Chinese love to give it this treatment. During cooking, the excess fat melts and rises to the surface, where it can be skimmed away before serving.
Tenderloin and Leg – Both of these cuts are commonly diced and used in casseroles and stews as they provide lean, well-textured meat which retains its shape during cooking.