Pork is a staple of American cuisine, and with its versatility and affordability, it’s no wonder why. However, with so many different cuts available at the grocery store, it can be confusing to know what to buy and how to cook it. In this guide, we will explore the various pork cuts, what they are best used for, and provide some examples of delicious American dishes that feature them.
Shoulder cuts are some of the most versatile and flavorful cuts of pork. They can be cooked in a variety of ways, including roasting, braising, or slow-cooking, and are often used in dishes like pulled pork or carnitas. Two popular shoulder cuts are:
Pork Shoulder Roast
This cut comes from the upper portion of the pig’s front leg and is marbled with fat, which makes it perfect for slow-roasting. It can be seasoned with a variety of spices and herbs to enhance its flavor. One popular American dish featuring pork shoulder roast is Carolina-style pulled pork, which is slow-cooked and then served on a bun with coleslaw.
Despite its name, pork butt actually comes from the upper part of the pig’s shoulder. It has a good amount of fat and connective tissue, which makes it perfect for slow cooking or smoking. One popular American dish featuring pork butt is Memphis-style pulled pork, which is slow-cooked and then served with a tangy vinegar-based barbecue sauce.
Loin cuts are some of the most popular and tender cuts of pork. They are lean and have a mild flavor, making them perfect for grilling or roasting. Two popular loin cuts are:
Pork chops come from the loin and can be bone-in or boneless. They can be cooked in a variety of ways, including grilling, roasting, or pan-searing. One popular American dish featuring pork chops is applesauce pork chops, which are seasoned with cinnamon and cooked with applesauce for a sweet and savory flavor.
Pork tenderloin is a lean and tender cut that can be cooked in a variety of ways, including roasting or grilling. It can be seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices to enhance its flavor. One popular American dish featuring pork tenderloin is bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, which is stuffed with herbs and wrapped in bacon for added flavor.
Ham cuts come from the hind leg of the pig and are often cured or smoked. They can be served as a main dish or used in a variety of recipes, including soups, stews, and sandwiches. Two popular ham cuts are:
Ham roast is a large cut that can be roasted or slow-cooked. It can be glazed with a variety of sweet or savory sauces to enhance its flavor. One popular American dish featuring ham roast is honey-glazed ham, which is coated in a honey and brown sugar glaze and then roasted.
Ham hocks come from the lower portion of the pig’s leg and are often used in soups and stews. They have a lot of flavors and can be used to add depth to a variety of dishes. One popular American dish featuring ham hocks is split pea soup, which is slow-cooked with ham hocks for added flavor.
Understanding the different cuts of pork can be overwhelming, but it’s essential in order to get the most out of your meat. Whether you’re looking for a lean cut for grilling, a fatty cut for slow cooking, or something in between, there’s a pork cut that’s perfect for your needs.
By purchasing high-quality, locally sourced pork and experimenting with different cooking techniques, you can create delicious and satisfying meals that are sure to please your taste buds. So the next time you’re at the grocery store or farmer’s market, don’t be intimidated by the variety of pork cuts available – instead, embrace the options and get creative in the kitchen.