Ham, bacon, chops, ribs and tenderloin. Pork is our second favorite meat after beef, so much like we did in our All About Beef blog post, we’re taking you through each portion of the pig, breaking down where all the various cuts come from and how they are used.
Although it might sound like it comes from the rear end of the pig, the Boston butt is actually located at the front of the hog in the upper shoulder. This is a moderately tough piece of meat, as it consists of a fair amount of connective tissue as well as parts of the neck, shoulder and upper arm. Although it’s high in fat, the Boston butt is often one of the most flavorful parts of a hog. It is typically used for Carolina style pulled pork BBQ.
Also used for pulled pork style BBQ, the picnic or shoulder is similar in texture and flavor to the butt. Typically, cuts from the picnic portion of the pig are ground and used for sausage.
Loin: Baby Back Ribs, Tenderloin, Chops
Hogs are bred in a way that allows for extra long loins providing more ribs than what would be found in a cow. Baby back ribs are found in the top portion of the hog, unlike the spareribs. In addition to the baby back ribs, the tenderloin comes from the back portion of the loin, making the loin the most expensive part of the pig. Have you ever heard the expression, “eating high on the hog?” It means you are eating the top portions of the pig, which are the highest quality cuts. Bone-in and boneless pork chops are also from this section of the hog.
While baby back ribs are located in the top of the hog in the loin, the spareribs are found in the belly. When you butcher a hog, the ribs are split in half vertically, leaving the top half in the loin and bottom half in the belly. Perfect for pouring a seasoned rub over and slow smoking until perfectly tender, pork ribs are one of our most popular BBQ offerings.
Pork Belly: Bacon, Pancetta
The name says it, folks. The belly is on the underside of the hog and is where one of our favorite pork selections, bacon, is location. Much like the ham, the belly is also cured with salt or sugar before being smoked and sliced in bacon strips. In addition to bacon and pancetta, leftover pork belly is becoming incredibly popular in today’s food scene often times served as small pork belly steaks. The belly is high in fat, making it extremely rich and flavorful.
Honey-smoked ham anyone? One of the hog’s most popular cuts, the ham, comes from the rear end of the hog. This is the same region the ham hock, the portion of the pig where the ham shank meets the foot, is location. Hams are cured with salt and then smoked with the bone in for maximum flavor. Ham hocks are heavily used in traditional Southern cuisine as they add a rich flavor to dishes.