Pork shoulder, pork butt, pork loin, hock, ham, chop…it seems like the list of pig parts never ends. Unless you have experience as a butcher, or grew up on a farm, it is unlikely that you are familiar with every part of a pig and how to best prepare it. We’re here to give you a quick run-down of where each cut of meat is located on a pig and how to cook it to get the best flavor and texture possible.
Generally, the cuts from the top of the pig are the most lean and tender. But cooking the tougher cuts slowly can make them tender as well.
Pork Shoulder aka Pork Butt
Pork shoulder is generally sold as a 5-10lb roast. Which makes sense then, that the best way to cook a pork shoulder is to roast it. It’s good for braising, slow roasting, or BBQ, because it will cook for a long time but remain moist.
The picnic ham is the lower part of the shoulder. It is tough and fatty and normally sold bone-in. Braising or smoking are the best methods for cooking a picnic ham, as it also takes a long time to tenderize.
Front hock is typically sold as a “ham hock” already brined and smoked. It is good to cut up to mix in with beans or veggies.
The pork loin is large, lean, and tender. It is good for a slow roast but remember that it is much leaner than a shoulder or ham, so it will get dry if cooked for too long or at too high of heat.
Pork chops are best for high heat grilling or frying. Chops from the shoulder region are fattier and need to be cooked longer than those by the back.
Baby Back Ribs
Baby back ribs are the bones that come off while deboning a pork loin. They are very tender and can be braised, barbecued, or baked for three different tastes.
Pork belly meat is what is used to make bacon. It is a great braising cut but takes hours to cook properly due to the high fat content.
Spareribs come off of the pork belly. They are best suited for braising, smoking, or low-heat grilling.
Sirloin cuts are typically uneven and lopsided due to their location on the pig. They are great for marinating and grilling since they are tender but have enough muscle to develop the flavor.
The rear leg is almost exclusively sold as cured ham.
The hock is the base of the front leg. It typically comes cured and smoked, which makes it good for use in beans and veggies. If it is raw, the best way to prepare it is to braise it.
Now that you understand the difference between all of the pig parts, you can better select the perfect cut for your next delicious dinner. In addition to all of these fresh cuts, pork is also used to make mouth-watering salamis, like those sold by Carnivore Club. Pork just might be the most diverse meat in terms of preparation techniques and tastes, which is why it is one of our favorites!