Did you know that pork is the world’s most commonly consumed meat? A rich source of protein, pork can be prepared in dozens of ways but, depending on the cut, certain cooking methods work best. Read on for more tips and tricks on using pork in your home cooking.
A HIGH PROTEIN MEAT
Pork is the culinary term for the meat of a pig. It is the most commonly consumed red meat in the world, but is a forbidden food in certain religions such as Islam and Judaism. The high protein meat can be eaten freshly cooked or preserved, of which bacon, smoked ham and sausage are all examples.
If you eat pork frequently, it’s recommended to use lean cuts like tenderloin and loin chops. Lean cuts of pork are not only lower in fat, but they also contain more B-vitamins than found in most other types of meat. Bacon and other fatty cuts may taste succulent but should be eaten in moderation.
Lean cuts of pork are not only lower in fat, but they also contain more B-vitamins than found in most other types of meat.
Pork is a common ingredient in many traditional sausages, including chorizo and salami. Thus, it is a popular component of charcuterie boards. Charcuterie is a popular branch of cooking, consisting of prepared meat products such as ham, sausage, terrines, pâtés and confit, most of which is primarily made from pig.
CUTS AND PREPARATION TIPS
There is no shortage of ways to prepare this versatile meat. The two basic methods for cooking meats are: dry heat and moist heat. Typically, dry-heat methods are best used for tender cuts of meat, while moist-heat methods, like stewing and braising help to tenderize less-tender cuts.
Pairing the right cut with the preferred cooking method will result in the best flavor, tenderness and texture. Here is a quick rundown of popular cuts and the preferred cooking method for each:
Pork Loin: This large cut from the back of a pig is best purchased boneless, and is ideal for roasting whole, grilling, or pan-frying in thinner slices.
Tenderloin: This tender cut, from the end of a pork loin, is the most tender cut you can buy. Its mild flavor makes it a great choice for marinades and rubs and we recommend stir-frying or roasting this cut for optimal results, but be careful not to overcook it, since tenderloin will cook very quickly.
Pairing the right cut with the preferred cooking method will result in the best flavor, tenderness and texture.
Pork chops: This robust cut comes from the middle of the pork loin and is commonly found on restaurant menus. Usually bone-in, these thick pieces of meat are best prepared in the oven or on the grill. Again, just be careful not to overcook them, since you don’t want to lose the juiciness that makes this cut sing!
Pork Belly: Rich, indulgent and flavorful are the best adjectives to describe this cut, which is similar to bacon. The fattiness of pork belly becomes crispy when pan-fried or roasted and is a succulent treat, to say the least.
Shoulder/Hocks/Ribs: Best to slow-cook any of these cuts. If you like tender, pulled pork, the shoulder (AKA the butt) is the cut you’ll want. When cooked low and slow, it shreds apart easily and can be used in a number of dishes, from tacos to casseroles.
AROUND THE WORLD
Pork features prominently in Chinese cuisine. In fact, pork symbolizes prosperity in Chinese culture, so the dish is often prepared and served for Chinese New Year. Two of the most common dishes are Char siu, a dish made of roasted, barbecued pork that has been marinated in a soy-based sauce, and Sweet and Sour Pork, consisting of batter-coated chunks of pork that are deep-fried and then combined with a bright red, sweet and sour sauce, and various vegetables.
Jamón Ibérico is the most commom type of jamón, made from Iberian pigs, and prized for its high fat content and juiciness.
Along with chicken and lamb, pork is heavily used in Spanish cooking. Although preparation can vary depending on the region, cochinillo is popular and consists of a roasted suckling pig with succulent meat and crispy skin, with a very thin layer of fat. It is especially common at birthday parties and other special events. Of course, for anyone familiar with Spanish food, the first thing that comes to mind is probably jamón, or cured ham. Aged anywhere from 15-36 months, legs of ham are carved at almost every restaurant throughout the country and are very popular at Christmas time. Jamón Ibérico is the most common type of jamón, made from Iberian pigs, and prized for its high fat content and juiciness.
In Italy, porchetta (pronounced ‘porketta’) translates to mean “little pig” in English and refers to slow-roasted boneless pork wrapped in fat and skin. This traditional Italian dish traditionally requires butterflying the pork and stuffing it with various herbs, before roasting it.