7 Common Cuts of Pork and How to Cook Them
Pork, a resourceful chef's dream protein, renders a lot more meat than just ham and sausage. Each cut of pork can be transformed into something delicious, meaning no part needs to go to waste. That also means there's a hefty list of pork cuts to choose from, which can be hard to keep straight. Here are seven of the most common cuts, where they come from, and how to cook them.
Pork Loin: This large cut of meat from the back of a pig, best bought boneless, is ideal for roasting whole or pan-frying in thinner slices. Try the former method with oven-roasted pork loin with apples and onions, or go for the latter with ready-in-minutes, mustard-coated, pan-fried pork cutlets, pictured above. (Photo via Sara Cagle / Brit + Co)
Pork Tenderloin: Tenderloin is the lean, tender cut of meat from the end of a pork loin. Its narrower shape means it roasts relatively quickly, so it's a great vessel for stress-free experimentation with new rubs and marinades. You can pan-fry it or throw it on the grill, but you can never go wrong with the oven method, as used in this garlic rosemary roast tenderloin. (Photo via Lively Table)
Pork Chops: This robust meat that's a restaurant favorite comes from the middle of the pork loin. These thick, often bone-in pieces of meat cook (and dry out) quickly, so be sure not to overdo them in the oven or on the grill or stovetop. When done right, they're rich and juicy, as in these lemon-garlic marinated pork chops. (Photo via RecipeTin Eats)
Pork Shoulder: If you like tender pulled pork, the shoulder (also known as the butt) is your friend. When cooked low and slow, it shreds seamlessly and shines in a number of dishes, from tacos and pasta sauces to casseroles and sandwiches — namely, this delightfully coma-inducing pulled pork grilled cheese. Don't miss these recipes for simple carnitas or braised pork shoulder ragu. (Photo via Brit + Co)
Pork Belly: Similar to bacon, the succulent fattiness of pork belly becomes decadently crispy when pan-fried or roasted (i.e. if you're feeling gluttonous, use it). It's best as a rich, flavorful accent to dishes like pork ramen, caramelized pork belly pasta, or the pictured barbecue pork belly potato chip sliders. (Photo via Brit + Co)
Spare Ribs: What this cut of the pig's underside lacks in meat is made up for in fat. That's why spare ribs are so darned tender. You can roast or grill them, but braising them (cooking them in liquid), keeps them incredibly moist. Give these tomato and peach braised spare ribs a shot. (Photo via Brit + Co)
Baby Back Ribs: A barbecue staple, baby back ribs are teeny yet meaty. Grilling them (especially with Dr. Pepper) is the tried-and-true method, but don't shy away from sticking them in the slow cooker, which will make the ribs tender — and make your kitchen smell amazing. Try these slow-cooker baby back ribs, flavored with barbecue sauce and root beer. (Photo via Tastes Lovely)
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Sara is a food and lifestyle freelance writer in Los Angeles. She writes a weekly events column for the Los Angeles Times and loves writing food content for Brit + Co. After all, the English language's most fun adjectives are best applied to delicious foods. In her free time, she's a hip hop dancer, avid moviegoer, and thorough face-mask user.