Just like the different cuts of beef, pork products all come from separate parts of a slaughtered pig. But what are all the cuts, and what part of the pig are they made from? Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about pork products:
One of the most popular forms of pork, bacon is cut from the side belly of the pig that is then cured and smoked. This cut is high in fat and sold in packaged slices. Bacon is a staple side dish of breakfast and brunch, and can be pan-fried, baked or broiled to crispy perfection.
Pig’s ear is, obviously, the ear of a pig. It’s found all over the world, from Chinese cuisine to Filipino dishes. They can be fried, barbecued or boiled.
Ground pork is essentially the same as ground beef — meat that has been been ground and seasoned. The meat is easy to grill or pan fry and the pork can be shaped into patties, meatballs, or mixed into recipes to make numerous other dishes. It’s the most versatile source of pork.
This cut comes from the pig’s hind legs and can be roasted, grilled or slow cooked. Glazing the ham before cooking is often a common choice among cooks. Ham can be boneless or bone-in, and each pound can serve about two people, which makes this a popular cut to prepare and serve during holidays and large gatherings.
A ham hock, also called a “pork knuckle,” is the joint where a pig’s foot connects to its leg. The hock can be taken from the front or back legs and requires a lengthy cooking process by stewing or braising because the meat is so tough. But once it’s tenderized, it has a rich flavor that is commonly used in soul food and Asian cuisine.
This cut can be sold bone-in or boneless, and is cut from the area between a pig’s shoulder and beginning of the leg. This cut makes great barbecue and is especially juicy and flavorful when the bone is included. Loin roast is often distinguishable from other cuts because it’s commonly rolled and tied with string, which keeps the meat from spreading out as it’s cooked and allows you to stuff the meat if desired.
I’ll give you one guess as to where pork belly comes from. But while bacon comes from the side of the pig’s stomach, pork belly comes from the animal’s underside. It’s a boneless cut and can be served fresh without undergoing the curing and smoking process. Pork belly is most flavorful when roasted, and can make a delicious meal as the burnt ends style that’s most common in beef barbecue.
Pork chops are a cut from the pork loin, which is the strip of meat that runs from the pig’s shoulder to hip. They are one of the easiest cuts of pork to prepare, which makes them one of the most popular. They can be grilled, baked or cooked on a stovetop with ease, even if you’re a novice cook. Depending on the specific section of pork loin the pork chops are cut from, they can also be called ribeye, sirloin, top loin or blade chops. Pork chops can be bone-in or boneless.
Pork Rib Roast
Also referred to as “rack of pork,” this cut is from the pig’s ribs and filled with flavorful fat. As with beef or lamb, pork rib roast should be “Frenched” before cooking. This means that when you get the slab of ribs, you cut the meat back from the ends of the bone to expose it. Once it’s Frenched and cooked, it will make a striking sight on your dining room table that will water the mouths of your guests.
Also called blade steaks, this cut comes from the pig’s shoulder and contains the blade bone. This cut has fat marbled into the meat that gives it a rich and delicate flavor and texture. Pork steak is best when grilled and only takes a few moments to prepare this delicious meal — you only need to leave it on the grill for about two or three minutes.
Unlike pork rib roasts that come from the rib area of the loin, this cut comes from various sections of the ribcage and contains much leaner meat.
Baby Back Ribs
Ribs cut from the back are commonly called “baby back ribs” and are popular in Western cooking, especially when grilled and served with barbecue sauce.
Country-style ribs contain the greatest amount of meat and are cut from the rib area of the loin. Similarly to baby back ribs, country-style ribs are a popular choice for barbecues.
Ribs cut from the sternum (sometimes containing the sternum itself) are called spareribs and are the heaviest cut, but contain the less meat. Unlike baby back ribs and country-style ribs, this cut is more popular in Asian cuisine.
Sausage is a spicy and versatile cut of pork and is popular for breakfast, grilling or as a pizza topping. Sausage is made by seasoning ground pork from various areas of the pig which is stuffed into a casing. The casing can be natural pig intestines or made with synthetic materials. Sausage has been incorporated into many different regional cuisines, from German bratwursts to Spanish chorizos.
Cut from the top of the pig’s front leg, this pork contains a lot of tender marbling as well as the shoulder blade. It can be roasted or barbecued to achieve its full flavorful potential. Although pulled pork can be made from any part of a pig, it’s one of the most popular ways to use a pork shoulder.
This is the most tender cuts of pork and comes from the entire loin — usually a pound to a pound and a half heavy. It can be prepared in numerous ways and, although juicy and succulent, has a mild flavor unless prepared with seasonings and marinades.