The rise of nose to tail eating has led to a growing appreciation for all manners of pork cuts, from trotter to ear and everything in between. Of course, the key to the appreciation of pork – particularly those more obscure cuts – is to understand the different cuts and how they’re best used in pork recipes.
Spare ribs are a versatile cut and particularly tasty thanks to a generous amount of marbled fat. It can be cooked whole or cut into pieces, and is well suited for roasting, grilling or slow cooking.
The pig’s shoulder is a hard-working muscle which can make the meat quite tough. As such, pork shoulder is best reserved for slow cooking. For the most tender pork shoulder, mince it and use in stews or slow-roast it on the bone.
Pork belly is a fatty but tender cut that can be served roasted as steaks, or cut into smaller pieces for streaky bacon.
The loin describes a range of cuts from across the back, including loin steak, pork tenderloin and pork chops. Use the loin in pork recipes that call for roasting or grilling.
Pork legs are often divided into three common cuts: the rump, centre and shank. They can be boned and cut into small roasting joints, or sliced thin to make steaks. Pork legs are commonly cured into what’s known as ham.
Some of the more obscure but equally worthwhile cuts that can be used in pork recipes include the head, neck, tail and trotters.
The head is commonly used to make ‘brawn’, also known as ‘headcheese’, but can also be used in stocks and soups. Having simmered the head, the ears can then be served on their own, where they’re particularly delicious when breaded and fried. The neck is perfect for slow-roasting, while the tail is best reserved for the stockpot.
Pig’s feet, otherwise known as ‘trotters’ have been used around the world, most commonly in stocks and gravies but are becoming increasingly used as cuts in their own right, where they’re often braised or deep-fried, or incorporated into a meat pie or terrine.