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Pork 101: Preparing, Cooking, and Eating Pork

Pork is the most commonly consumed red meat worldwide. In moderation, it can be a great addition to your diet. 

Being high in protein, vitamins, and minerals such as zinc, iron, and several B vitamins makes consumption of this lean meat worthwhile. 

It’s also versatile: you can make different meals with different cuts of pork; from adding pork belly to ramen or basting pork chops in garlic and rosemary olive oil, the drool-worthy options are endless. 

Let’s explore the different cuts of a pig and how you can prepare and cook them. Before we get into it, we want to talk about the myth that pork is unhealthy. 

Is Pork Unhealthy? 

There is not a definitive “yes” or “no” answer. 

The consumption of undercooked pork can certainly lead to health issues. 

Too much consumption of pork can potentially lead to health problems such as increasing your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Pork can be high in sodium and saturated fats depending on how it is processed.

Does this mean you should totally avoid eating pork? Of course not – as we said, moderation is key. Besides, eating too much of anything can have harmful effects on your health. 

Eating minimally processed and lean pork is great for getting nutrients such as iron and zinc. Consuming pork inherently increases your intake of micronutrients. 

Being an excellent source of protein means eating pork can enhance your muscle growth. Pork is a complete protein, which means it contains the 9 essential amino acids. 

Sourcing your pork from a local farm like Riverview Farms is one of the best options – it’s less processed, you can visit the farm to see the excellent conditions the pigs live in, and the overall quality of the meat is significantly better than what you’ll find at chain grocery stores. 

The best part? You get to meet and talk to the farmer and have all of your questions answered. Locally sourced meat is always the better choice if you want to ethically and sustainably consume pork, or any meat for that matter. 

Safe Internal Temperature For Pork

Cooking time varies based on the size/thickness, method of cooking, and type of cut. 

Regardless of the cooking method you choose, the USDA says the safe internal temperature for whole cuts of pork is 145 ºF to 160 ºF, plus a three-minute rest time. 

Let’s take a look at each cut of pork and explore ways you can cook it and what the internal temperature should be. 

The Different Cuts of Pork 

Pork Chops 

Other names: pork rib cut chops, rib pork chops, pork chop end cut. 

A pork chop is a cut of pork that is taken from a larger cut (such as the loin) and is cut into smaller pieces. They can be bone-in or boneless.

You should cook your pork chops until they reach an internal temperature of 145 ºF with a three-minute rest time for safe consumption as well as a meal that is juicy and tender. 

There is a plethora of ways you can prepare your pork – you can cook them directly on the grill for 4 minutes on each side (or until they reach the safe internal temperature mentioned above). 

You can also cook them in the oven by baking them at 325ºF for 30 minutes and flipping them at the 15-minute mark. 

Check out a delicious BBQ pork chop recipe here. 

Pork Tenderloin 

Other names: pork filet or pork tender 

Pork tenderloin (not to be confused with pork loin) is a very lean and tender cut that comes from the muscle that runs along the backbone. This cut should also be cooked to 145 ºF to ensure the maximum amount of flavor. 

One delicious way to cook pork tenderloin is by baking it in the oven at 400ºF. Rub all sides of the cut with olive oil, and sprinkle with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, and other spices. Then, drizzle with a little bit of lemon and pop it in the oven for 25-35 minutes. Check out the full recipe here. 

Pork Loin 

Other names: center-cut pork loin roast, center-cut pork roast, pork center loin roast, pork loin rib half. 

Pork loin is another lean and tender cut with a juicy fat cap. The loin is wide, thick, and generally sold as a boneless roast. The pork loin comes from the muscle that runs along the back between the back fat and the ribs. 

A favorite pork loin recipe: sear the meat first for that delicious, crispy, and caramelized exterior. Then finish it over indirect heat on the grill – all it needs is a little bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil for the chef’s kiss. 

Pork Butt

Other names: Boston butt

Pork butt may sound like it is exactly that – the butt of a pig, but you’d be wrong in thinking that. The name is actually deceiving, as pork butt comes from the shoulder of the pig. This includes the neck, shoulder blade, and upper arm. 

This tough cut of meat is ideal for slow roasting, braising, or smoking. 

Picnic Shoulder 

Other names: pork shoulder 

The picnic shoulder comes from right beneath the pork butt. Usually smoked or cured, it is great for ground pork and sausages. If you have yet to try a BBQ pulled pork sandwich, which is made from shredded pork shoulder, try this recipe. 

Note: Pork shoulder and pork butt come from similar primal cuts on the shoulders of the pig. However, there are a few key differences between the two: 

 

  • Fat Content
  • The shape of the cut 
  • Cooking methods 

Ham

We get ham from the back of the leg of the pig. This is where you get prosciutto from. Ham is typically roasted but can be cut into ham steaks if desired. 

Pork Side 

The pork side comes from the bottom of the pig. This is where you get pork belly, bacon, and pancetta. You can slow roast or fry these cuts. 

For an extremely delicious recipe, try out this ramen with pork belly. 

Spare Rib 

You can find the spare rib between the loin and the pork side. Braised with brown sugar, BBQ sauce, and some chili powder, these make for a delicious addition to your summer cookout. 

Check out this recipe that’ll certainly please your guests! 

Pork Jowl 

This cut is lesser-known in the US and is usually used for making sausages. Both pork collar and pork cheeks come from the pork jowl. 

Pork Foot 

While you can slow smoke, cure, or pickle pork foot, it is best to use in stock, soups, and stews. The pork foot contains tons of collagen and is an ample source of gelatin. 

Pork Roast 

Note: Pork roasts come from the back of the hog and are large. Often, they are broken into smaller portion roasts. It is possible you have come across pork roasts under the following names: loin roast, shoulder roast, center-cut boneless roast, or half loin roast.

Next Step: Get Yourself Our High-Quality Pork! 

Are you drooling yet? We sure are! 

Riverview Farms has a delicious selection of pork cuts you can purchase, or you can purchase your share of a hog. Whether you want our USDA cuts or half of or whole hog, we have options for you to stock up and get ready for summer BBQs!