Pork: Where did this cut come from?

Jun 22, 2017

NAMI pork cuts imageNames for cuts of meat can be confusing. The cut referred to as the leg on pork, veal and lamb, is known as the round when it’s on a cow. So, it’s no wonder that consumers get overwhelmed at the meat counter and stick to cuts they are already familiar with. Pork is sectioned into five major sections – pork shoulder, picnic shoulder, loin, side and leg – and then broken down into smaller cuts available at the meat counter or butcher.

The pork shoulder is taken from the top of the pig shoulder, is fairly tough, and typically is sold as a boneless roast. Pork shoulder chops also come from this area and are bone-in cuts. Meat from this area is also used for ground pork and sausage. Cuts from this area benefit from moist heat – such as braising – or low and slow roasting or barbequing.

The picnic shoulder comes from the lower part of the pig shoulder. This cut can be smoked and turned into pulled pork. Shanks and ham hocks also come from the picnic shoulder.

The loin, cut from the back of the pig, contains most of the lean, tender cuts of pork. The loin can be roasted over dry heat, but overcooking can cause it to become dry. Ribs – baby back and country style – also come from this part of the pig. Baby back ribs are the leanest, most tender ribs and are perfect when grilled or smoked. Country-style ribs are the meatiest rib cut, but technically aren’t ribs. They can also be grilled, smoked or braised with BBQ sauce. Pork chops are also cut from the loin. They can be bone-in or boneless and are great for grilling or frying. The sirloin, typically called the sirloin chop or pork cutlet, can be roasted, braised or pan fried.

The side of pig is where one of the most common pork cuts comes from – bacon. Bacon is a cured meat from the belly of the pig. Spare ribs also come from the side. These aren’t as meaty as back ribs and require a long, wet cook on low heat.

Another common cut of pork comes from the leg – ham. Groceries tend to have a wide selection of ham products available – from whole hams to ham sliced for deli meat. All of these come from the leg of the pig. Ham is often cured, smoked or processed before purchase. At home, it’s common to roast the ham.

Remember to cook pork products to the USDA recommended minimum internal temperature of 145°F for whole pieces and 160°F for ground pork. For more convenient information about cuts of meats, download MyMeatUp, an app from the North American Meat Institute that offers info on cuts of meat, cooking methods and new recipes.



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