Juicy and flavourful, pork is as delicious in stir-fries and stews as it is roasted or grilled. Despite its pinkish-white appearance when cooked, pork is technically considered a red meat. It’s safely cooked through when the interior temperature reaches 160˚F (71˚C).
Pork is first divided into “primal” (basic) cuts and then further separated into different preparations.
And to help you stay on budget, we’ve broken down each category of meat into price ranges. The $ symbol indicates a more economical cut, and the * symbol means it’s premium.
From the Loin
Preparations from the loin are lean and at risk of drying out quicker during cooking. Keep an eye on these cuts while cooking and pull them off the heat as soon as they reach the correct internal temperature.
* Loin roasts and sirloin roasts:
- These taste moist, particularly when brined, and are delicious with a spice rub. They’re best cooked with dry heat – in the oven or on the grill – so they don’t fall apart. Available bone-in or boneless.
* Tenderloin: The mild flavour of this cut benefits from a sweet berry or apple sauce, herbs such as rosemary or thyme, and spices such as cinnamon and cloves. It’s beautiful roasted or grilled whole, or sliced crosswise to make medallions that can be sautéed to perfection.
* Loin chops: Easy-to-prepare loin chops can be bought with the bone in or boneless. Sear in a skillet and finish with a lower heat on the stovetop or in the oven.
* Back ribs: Due to connective tissue, back ribs do well when first braised or boiled, and then finished on the grill. They also cook up nicely in the oven. Tip: Brush regularly with barbecue sauce or glaze during cooking to seal in and spice up the flavour.
Try it: Maple BBQ Pork Ribs
* Back bacon: When thin slices of back bacon are cured and then coated in cornmeal, you get a Canadian favourite: peameal bacon. Slices can be cooked in a skillet or, for a lower-fat result, on a draining rack sitting in a grilling or roasting pan. Punch up flavour by brushing slices with mustard before cooking.
From the Shoulder
- Often used for cheaper roasts or chops, or sold as sausages or ground meat.
Try it: Classic Meatballs
$ Blade: The most popular of the shoulder cuts, braise this slowly for the most tender results. Perfect for pulled pork sandwiches and stews.
$ From the Leg
The pork leg is sold whole, half or divided into inside, outside and tip preparations. This cut is best cooked with a dry-heat method, such as grilling, roasting or frying. Ham (cured and smoked pork leg) comes from this part of the pig.
Try it: Root Beer Glazed Ham
From the Belly
Processed pork products and lard come from this juiciest part of the pig.
$ Side ribs or spareribs: These are less meaty than back ribs, but are still succulent marinated, seasoned with dry rub or slathered with barbecue sauce. Grill over medium or low heat.
$ Side bacon and pancetta (Italian-style bacon): Try wrapping these perennial favourites around chicken pieces, asparagus or stuffed onions, and then bake in the oven.
How to Carve Pork Roasts Like a Pro
- Let meat stand 10 to 15 minutes to rest before carving so it holds its juices better.
- Secure your carving board on a flat, stable surface with a damp dishtowel.
- Use a very sharp knife for clean cuts and hold your pork steady with a carving fork.
- To cut roasts, slice each section across the grain to the desired thickness.
- To cut rib roasts, remove the backbone with a sharp knife, and then slide the knife between the rib bones to make chop-size pieces, each with one bone remaining.