To grill pork is always a safe bet. The meat is mostly a good compromise between tenderness and juicy fat. To prevent that you just buy meat without knowledge how to grill it, we dug deep and listed the well-known cuts.
Overview of the most important pork cuts
This cut is easy to locate on the pork. Pork Belly is cut from the rear part of the pork’s belly and has a characteristic high percentage of fat which runs through the whole cut. This way the pork belly gets a unique taste on its own which can be accentuated by the cooking method. If you choose to sear or grill pork belly you should consider giving it more time than anticipated to take the high fat percentages in account.
Shoulder is cut from the upper parts of the pork’s front leg. Because of this it is close to pork neck and considered part of the Boston Butt. Pork Shoulder is a piece of meat which consists mostly of coarse, long fibers and has a fat percentage of roughly 10%. It is also a sinewy cut and isn’t suitable for most cooking methods. But you don’t have to forgo shoulder and just cook it at low temperatures in a smoker. The result is pulled pork, one third of the BBQ’s Holy Trinity.
Pork Neck is cut from the neck of the pig and another part from the Boston Butt. Just like the shoulder the neck is marbled with fat and though an aromatic and juicy cut. If it is cut in steak size, neck is perfect for to be grilled or seared. A whole pork neck is, due to the similar consistency like shoulder, more suited for slow cooking processes to become pulled pork.
The loin is cut from the back of the pork and comes from the dorsal part of the rib cage. The meat itself is quite lean for pork meat and has a mild flavor on its own. It also comes with a small fat cap which can be trimmed if you want. To serve pork loin you have different options. You can cook it as a roast or cut it in smaller pieces to grill or sear. If you leave the bone in a loin chop, it is called a cutlet otherwise it is a pork steak.
Just as usual for a tenderloin it is the cut with the highest quality and is otherwise called the filet. This is no different if it comes from any other animal or the pork. As usual it is a rarely exercised piece of meat and though the most tender part of the pork. It is also one of the leanest cuts of pork with nearly no fat. Even if it is a more expensive cut of pork, it is still perfect for grilling or searing and best served this way. It can be cooked as a whole or cut up in smaller parts like the filet mignon, medallions or as a chateaubriand.
The ham is the biggest cut of the pork, contributing roughly a quarter of the whole weight of a pork. The consistency of the meat is relatively lean and due to fine fibers is a tender cut. As a whole this cut is perfect for slower cooking methods like braising, roasting or via low-and-slow cooking. But maybe you are not hungry enough to eat a whole ham, so you should know that you could cut it up in smaller cuts. The top shell grants fine pieces of meat perfect for schnitzel or steaks while the subshell brings a more rustic taste with it.
Traditional speaking spareribs can only be cut from pork and come from the belly part of the rib cage. They are rich in every way. They bring a lush amount of meat in comparison to rib cuts of other animals. The percentage of fat is also way higher which could go up to 30% of the cut. In addition, the ribs sport much connective tissue. All of these advantages make ribs a rich, flavorful, juicy and finger licking good cut, but also limits its cooking methods. Mostly because of the fat and connective tissue ribs must be cooked careful and slow to grant an enjoyable result. But the result is so good that spareribs are considered as part of the holy trinity of BBQ.
Pork cheeks sound like old-school home-made food made by your grandmother, doesn’t it? But you shouldn’t assume that cheeks taste bad or musty! Due to frequent usage the cheeks of a pig are intense in flavors and a real eye-catcher with their strong color. It is advised not to sear or grill cheeks due to their consistency and high amount of connective tissue. Instead, braising or low-and-slow cooking them on the grill are good alternatives. This way the cheeks keep their juiciness, let their savory flavors takeover your palate and become such tender that it easily breaks apart.
A pork knuckle is cut from the leg of the pig and is the piece between knee and ankle. Usually, this cut is served bone in and comes with only a little bit of meat. The meat sports a decent amount of fat marbling, is encased in a fat cap and consists of skin, tendons and ligaments. Don’t fear that this makes pork knuckle a chewy or unpleasant cut of pork. If it is either braised, smoked or grilled over a long time, the connective tissue breaks up and the hearty meat can easily be detached from the bone.
The name already suggests it: the secreto is a relatively unknown cut of pork. It is a thin, fan like muscle and cut from between the pigs back and shoulder. Very characteristic for this “hidden filet“ is a striking fat marbling which gives it a quite intense aroma and a rich juiciness. Despite the fat the secreto is a tender piece of meat and considered the best part of the pig. A secreto is also a miracle weapon regarding cooking methods. It is possible for slow cooking but is best simply grilled or seared. A special variant of secreto is the secreto iberico which is only cut from the breed of “Pata Negra” raised in acorn groves in Spain.