A Guide To Pork Cuts

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To choose good cuts of pork, look for a large proportion of lean meat versus fat and bone. Lean pork should be firm, with a fine texture, and appear grayish pink to light red in color. Use this guide to pork cuts to learn more about which meat selections pair best with your favorite pork meals.

Meat Cut From The Pork Shoulder

Popular cuts are: shoulder roast, Boston butt roast, Boston butt steaks, pork shoulder butt, and ground pork.

Pork shoulder and pork butt are both from the pig’s shoulder. They are different cuts, coming from a thicker section of the shoulder, with intense marbling. Use them for pulled pork and other barbecue styles. Both cuts are perfect for long, slow cooking such as barbecue, braised, or as stew meat.

Meat Cut From The Picnic Shoulder

Popular cuts are: shoulder roast, smoked hocks and shanks.

Butchers call them pork hocks and shanks, but really they are the pig’s shins. They are good cuts to smoke and make great additions to stews to add flavor. When the skin is removed they are called pork shanks and often used for braising.

Meat Cut From The Pork Loin

Popular cuts are: loin roast, rib roast (or rack of pork), tenderloin, center-cut loin chops, Canadian back, loin boneless or bone in, pork chops, center cut, back ribs, country-style ribs, and chops.

Pork tenderloins sometimes called pork tenders, or pork fillets are a popular cut. They will along with pork loin chops, be a more expensive cut of pork. Pork tenderloins are lean, tender, and boneless and easy to cook. Tenderloins are good candidates for grilling, roasting, or broiling. They are also easy to overcook, so they need careful attention when they're on the grill or in the oven. Some pork tenderloins are sold with a silverskin, or membrane, still attached. Remove them before cooking, or ask the butcher to remove it.

Meat Cut From The Pork Side

Popular cuts are: ribs, bacon & belly spareribs, pork belly, St. Louis style pork shoulder,

hocks, pork leg (fresh ham) hocks.

St. Louis Style Ribs are side ribs that have been trimmed in by the butcher. The breastbone has been removed and the flank meat has been trimmed away. They are a preferred cut for barbecue.

Meat Cut From The Pork Leg

Popular cuts are: ham, steaks, pork leg (fresh ham), short shank pork leg (fresh ham), boneless ham, coarse chopped pork, and cubed steak.

Fresh pork leg, also called fresh ham, is actually the uncured hind leg of the pig. Like cured ham, fresh leg of pork, or fresh ham, is sold either bone-in or boneless and may be purchased whole or halved. Fresh ham also may be cut from the rump from near the sirloin, shank or lower leg portion, or center portions of the pig.

Now that the mystery of pork cuts has been cleared up here’s several pork recipes to amaze your friends and family.

Bill’s Italian/Asian Fusion Pork Chops


  • ¼-cup soy sauce
  • ¼-cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 limes, juiced
  • 1 Tbl. sugar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence*, grind into powder w/ mortar & pestle and sea salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Place pork chops and marinade in a plastic bag and marinate for 1-hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place pork chops in a medium baking dish and pour half the marinade over the chops, bake for 30 minutes or until the chops reach 145 degrees F (63 degrees C).

*Or substitute ¼ tsp. each of oregano, sage, thyme, parsley, and rosemary.

Slow Cooker Barbecued Pork Ribs


  • 2 sides pork spareribs or 6 pounds, separated
  • 1 28-ounce can chunky tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar or ½ cup for sweeter sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder


Place the spareribs in the bottom of a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour the mixture over the spareribs. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours, or on high for three to four hours if you’re in a hurry.

This rib recipe is mildly seasoned. For more spicy ribs add ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. This also makes a delicious stew with the addition of potatoes, carrots, parsnips, celery, onion, and a chopped clove of garlic.

Grilled Boneless Pork Loin


  • 1 boneless pork loin
  • 9 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 4 crushed red chili peppers
  • ½ cup olive oil

Add the marinade ingredients into a food processor, garlic and soy first, until blended then add the other ingredients. Marinate the pork loin overnight. Light the grill and use the indirect grilling method. Put two or three large chunks of Hickory on the coals when the fire is ready. A 4 lb. pork loin will take 3-4 hours. Add additional charcoal and hickory as needed.

Last Updated: August 21, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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