How to Cook the Best Pork Dinners of Your Life
With tons of tasty cuts to choose from, and so many ways to prepare it, pork's versatility is almost unmatched. But there are tricks to preparing pork so it comes out succulent and delicious. Here's your guide to preparing perfect pork dinners.
What are the Different Cuts of pork?
Here's a pork cuts chart, which shows you were different cuts come from on the pig.
The numbers in the diagram above correspond with the various cuts: #1 head and ears, #2 jowl, #3 back fat, #4 Boston shoulder, #6 & #7 loin, #8 tenderloin, #9 spare ribs, #10 belly bacon, #12 ham, #13 hocks, #14 feet.
Here are our most frequently asked cooking questions about pork. You'll find plenty of top-rated recipes, too.
Buying, Prepping, and Cooking Pork Chops
What is a pork chop?
The pork chop is to the pig what a beef steak is to the cow. They're a similar cut from a similar area of the animal. Pork chops are taken from the pig's loin, an area that includes the tenderloin. The loin chop, in fact, will often contain meat from the loin and the tenderloin separated by a T-shaped bone.
What part of the pig does a pork chop come from?
Pork chops come from the part of the pig that runs from the shoulder back to the hip. It's called the loin and includes the tenderloin, # 6, #7, and #8 on the diagram above.
Are pork loin and pork chops the same?
All pork chops come from the loin portion of the pig, which includes the tenderloin. Pork chops are essentially the steaks of the pig. The confusion may be that there is a cut of pork called a loin chop. Which leads us to…
What are the differences between pork loin and other pork chops?
Loin chops are a type of pork chop taken from the hip/loin area of the pig. They're also called center-cut loin chops, center loin chops, top-loin chops, and porterhouse chops. Pork loin chops have a mild flavor. They can include some pork tenderloin and will typically include a T-bone separating the loin from tenderloin. Top loin chops, however, do not include the tenderloin. There is also a pork loin roast, which we discuss below.
Some other types of pork chops:
Loin chops and rib chops are the two most common pork chops you'll find.
*Rib Chops are center-cut chops with a curved bone on one side. They're a great choice for quick-cooking methods like pan frying, grilling, broiling.
*Center-Cut or New York Pork Chops are boneless, top loin chops. Choose these pork chops for frying, stuffing, or baking.
*Sirloin Chops are the least expensive and somewhat tougher cut, taken from the back end of the loin. They're also flavorful, and a great choice for slow braising.
What is pork sirloin steak?
Pork sirloin steak is the pork sirloin chop. It's an inexpensive, relatively tough pork chop. A smart choice for slow braising.
How do you keep pork chops from drying out?
Don't overcook 'em! Easier said than done, right? For tips on how to grill, bake, broil, and pan-fry pork chops, check out How to Cook Pork Chops.
How long should I cook pork chops?
That depends on the type of chops and the cooking method you choose. How long you cook boneless pork chops will be different from bone-in pork chops, too. Check out this chart from the National Pork Board for cooking times and temperatures.
What is a pork cutlet?
A pork cutlet is a thin, boneless piece of meat taken from the rib or leg of the pig. Pork cutlets are often pounded even thinner, breaded or dredged in flour, and pan-fried. Try Chef John's recipe for Crispy Pork Cutlets.
Can you share some pork chop recipes with me?
- Enjoy our complete collection of Pork Chop Recipes. You'll find collections for baked, pan-fried, braised, stuffed, and grilled pork chops.
Pork Tenderloin and Pork Roasts
What is the difference between pork tenderloin and pork loin roast?
Pork tenderloin and pork loin roast are different cuts of meat taken from different areas of the pig. The pork tenderloin is long and thin like a cigar; it's the muscle that runs along the pig's backbone. The pork loin roast is short and wide, like a beef roast; it comes from the back of the pig. There's a difference in preferred cooking methods, too. Pork tenderloin takes to quicker cooking methods; it's a good candidate for marinading. Loin roasts do well with longer roasting methods. The pork loin roast is known by many names; you may find it in the butcher section listed as center-cut pork roast, center-cut rib roast, center loin roast, pork loin center rib roast, pork loin roast center cut, or pork loin rib half.
How long should I cook my pork tenderloin or pork roast?
The rule of thumb for pork roasts is to cook them 25 minutes per pound of meat at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Use a thermometer to read the internal temperature of the roast. When the temperature reaches 140 degrees F (60 C), pull the roast out of the oven; it'll continue to cook due to the residual heat and will reach 145 degrees F (63 C). For more on cooking times for specific cooking methods, check out this handy chart from the National Pork Board with recommended pork cooking times and temperatures.
What is a crown roast of pork?
A crown roast is a bone-in pork loin roast that has had the ribs trimmed and the rack tied into a crown-like circle. When meat is trimmed from the ribs, the resulting rack of pork is said to be "Frenched."
Proper Pork Cooking Times
Cooking pork to the proper temperature is key.
How long should I cook pork?
The National Pork Board has a downloadable chart showing recommended cooking times and temperatures for roasting, baking, broiling, barbecuing, sauteing, braising, and stewing pork. You'll see how long to cook pork on the stove, on the grill, and in the oven.
How long should I cook pork on the grill?
Check out the grilling chart from the National Pork Board, which includes cooking times and temperatures for pork on the grill.
How long should I cook pork shoulder?
This handy chart from the National Pork Board shows you cooking times and temperatures for braising, stewing, barbecuing, and roasting pork shoulder.
Ham, Pork Belly, and Bacon
What part of the pig is pork belly?
Pork belly comes from the underside of the pig, the belly. It's the fattiest part of the pig, #10 on the pig diagram above.
What part of the pig does bacon come from?
Bacon comes from the pork belly on the underside of the pig. It's pork belly that has been cured and smoked.
What part of pig is ham?
Hams come from the upper rear legs of the pig above the hocks, #12 in the above diagram. Explore our complete collection of Ham Recipes, including recipes for what to do with leftover baked ham.
How long can I keep cooked ham in my refrigerator?
To store cooked ham, carve the remaining meat from the bone and place it in clean, small shallow containers in a refrigerator. Use it within three to four days. A whole cooked ham from the store can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Cooking the ham changes the acidity and the chemical composition of the preservatives, thus decreasing the shelf life. Cured ham can be frozen but you might note changes in texture and flavor.
Do I have to soak a ham before I cook it?
Most U.S. ham producers use the injection-curing method whereby the ham is injected with brine. After curing, a ham might be smoked to add flavor and aging capability. Because the use of salt is essential to the curing process, it is very unlikely that you will ever find a non-salty ham. You can try and eliminate some of the salt by soaking the ham in water in the refrigerator for about 6 hours before you cook it. This is definitely recommended for most salt-cured "country-style" hams. If you have a honey-glazed ham you should definitely not soak it, as this will dissolve the glaze.
What is country ham?
Country ham has been dry-cured in a mixture of salt, sodium nitrate, sugar, and other seasonings for a period of days (depending on the weight of the ham). The salt is then rinsed off and the ham is slowly smoked over hardwood fires before being aged 6 to 12 months. Most are sold uncooked, though fully cooked hams are now becoming more readily available. Country-cured ham is distinguished by its salty, well-seasoned, firm flesh. America's most famous country-cured hams come from Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Explore our complete collection of Pork Recipes.