Cuts of pork
The loin forms the back of the carcass. Attached to it are back ribs and the tenderloin. Once these are removed what is left is the main muscle, which is divided into three sections: the rib portion (closest to the shoulder), centre, and sirloin. The loin muscle is very tender and lean throughout, which is why it yields premium-priced cuts. Ideally, loin cuts are cooked by dry heat methods: roasting, grilling or pan frying.
The leg can be merchandised whole or cut into three muscles: inside, outside and tip. Each of these has its own characteristics, with the inside being the most tender. The eye forms part of the outside. Leg cuts can be cooked by dry heat methods, particularly in the case of schnitzels, but are best suited to moist heat methods; braising, for example. Leg cuts are lean, economical and a good choice for marinating.
The shoulder is divided into two sections: the blade and the picnic. The blade portion (closest to the loin) is the more popular retail cut; the picnic is usually merchandised as economical roasts, chops or is used to make ground pork and sausages. The capicola is the boneless, well-trimmed eye of the blade. Moist heat cooking for both cuts produces excellent results, but dry heat cooking can be used as well.
The belly is the section from which we get side ribs and side bacon as well as a variety of other further processed pork products such as pancetta (Italian-style bacon) and salt pork.
In addition to the traditional pork roasts, chops and ribs, specialty cuts such as pre- breaded schnitzels, cutlets, cubes, strips and stuffed roasts are becoming more popular.
All trimmed pork cuts, except ribs, qualify as 'lean' or 'extra-lean.'
Lean cuts contain 10 per cent of fat or less. These include all trimmed fresh, cuts (excluding ribs), including pork chops, roasts, schnitzels, kabobs, cutlets, cubes and strips.
Extra-Lean cuts contain 7.5 per cent fat or less. These include pork tenderloin and cuts from pork leg inside round.
Lean Ground pork contains 17% fat or less.
Pork contains many nutrients recommended by Health Canada to build and maintain a healthy body, including six essential vitamins, four important minerals, protein and energy.
An average 100 gram cooked, trimmed serving of lean pork provides:
191 Calories; 29 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fat.
Pork is an excellent source of Thiamin. 100 grams provided 65 per cent of the daily, recommended intake. It is also a source of Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamins B6 and B12, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Iron and Zinc.
Buying & storing
A nice pink color is the best to look for.
Pork labelled "seasoned" has been processed using a brine (salt, water, sodium phosphate) solution to create a product that retains moisture even when overcooked. Seasoned meats and poultry are not flavoured or spiced, so do not have a taste noticeably different than unseasoned products.
This is done because many pork cuts are very low in fat, and can become dry and perceived as tough after cooking. Seasoned pork allows for a more tender and juicy product even if overcooked or held warm for periods of time.
If the pork is frozen, it is best to ensure that the meat is sealed from the outside air. Even though the meat is frozen, moisture will still evaporate from the product if it is exposed. Vacuum packed bags are still the best form of packaging.
For fresh meats, always check the "best before", or "packaged on" date.
If you are not cooking it within two days of purchase, wrap it in an air tight seal and freeze it right away.
- Estimate 4 oz (120g) raw pork for a 3 1/2 oz (100g) cooked serving. Water evaporates during cooking resulting in weight loss.
- Don't overcook pork - cook to 160°F (71.1°C).
- Use a meat thermometer when roasting to avoid guessing when pork is done.
- When cooking stuffed pork roasts, ensure the tip of the meat thermometer is in the meat, not the stuffing.
- Trim visible fat before cooking.
- After removing a roast from oven cover with foil and let stand for 10-15 minutes before carving.
- Slice pork across the grain.
- Stir-fry pork strips quickly over medium-high heat. Do not overcook since the meat will toughen and dry out.
- Barbecue or grill over low to medium-high heat. Use tongs for turning the meat.
- Use a nonstick skillet for pan frying and stir-frying. This way you need little or no oil, which reduces the fat added to the meal.