Popular pork cuts and how to cook them

Pork is considered a fatty meat, but most of the fat in pork is beneficial monounsaturated fat. Less than half of the fat in pork is saturated. It contains a low percentage of intramuscular fat, making it an ideal choice for slimmers and healthy eaters.

Apart from being a great source of protein, pork is also a source of B-complex vitamins and minerals like zinc and phosphorous.

Leaner cuts of pork, in other words the parts of the pig with lower fat content, include pork tenderloin (pork fillet) which is different from the pork loin. When trimmed, it has the same fat content as skinless chicken breast.

Pork tenderloin or fillet

Pork fillet is the leanest of all cuts, so it’s the healthiest choice. Pork tenderloin or fillet can be roasted whole in the oven or on the braai or cut into medallion slices and pan fried. It needs to be cooked quickly at a high temperature for a juicy result. Cooking it for too long will dry the meat out. Rest the fillet after cooking to seal in the moisture.

Pork loin

roasted rack of pork

Rack of pork loin roast.

Pork loin is a classic roasting joint. It can be oven roasted in one piece with the bone, or deboned, stuffed and rolled up to make a really juicy roast. The pork loin can also be cut into loin chops which are ideal for pan frying, grilling or on the braai.

Leg and shoulder of pork

roasted pork shoulder

Roast shoulder of pork.

Pork leg or shoulder, whole or deboned and tied, are the most common cuts for a Sunday roast. A leg of pork has a low fat content and can be quite dry when slow-roasted. Cooking the meat on the bone helps to keep it moist and results in delicious oven juices. Make a gravy from the oven juices, slice the meat and serve with marula, apple or cranberry jelly.

The leg can also be cut into smaller roasting joints, or thinly sliced to make steaks or schnitzels. It can also be cured to make ham.

Pork leg and shoulder are also the best cuts for Caribbean inspired pulled pork – slow cooked and served with crusty bread rolls, coleslaw and a smidgen of Dijon mustard.

Pork belly

This fatty, but succulent cut of meat, is delicious when slow-roasted in the oven at a low temperature for soft juicy meat that melts in the mouth. Pork belly is high in fat, but that is where all the flavour comes from. Scoring the skin and rubbing it with salt will achieve the best crackling. Ask your butcher to score the skin for you. Pork belly and Asian flavours like soy sauce, honey, ginger and garlic are a match made in heaven. The belly is also cured and smoked to make streaky bacon.

Pork shank



Pork shanks are the lower part of the front leg. The  best way to cook it is in a slow cooker to lock in the moisture for a really tender piece of meat. The shank contains a large proportion of bone, but the meat contains a lot of white connective tissue which makes it very tasty. Generally prepared by slow pot roasting or oven roasting to retain its tenderness, shank is a cost-efficient cut. Delicious in soups, it is also smoked and cured to produce the German delicacy, Eisbein.

Spare ribs

spare ribs

Spare ribs are taken from the belly side of the rib cage, below the section of back ribs and above the breast bone. They are flatter and contain more bone than meat, but fat that can make them more tender and tasty than back ribs.

Spare ribs can be cooked on the braai, grilled or roasted in the oven. They’re usually sold as a whole rack, plain or marinated and precooked. If you want to make your own marinade, the trick to get them juicy and tender, is to parboil them and then to marinate them for a few hours before cooking them.

Thick rib

rib chops

Rib chop.

The thick rib consists of the shoulder blade and ribs. The meat from the shoulder blade is a highly versatile cut. It can be minced or diced for cooking slowly in stews, or kept on the bone and slow-roasted until tender. Deboned, the cavity where the shoulder blade has been removed can be filled with a stuffing to make a cushion for oven-roasting. Strips can be cut for a stir-fry. It can also be used to a make a crown roast.

The thick rib can be sawn into rib chops for grilling. These are delicious with sage and apple. They are best cooked in a pan, on a grill, or on the braai. Cook them on a high heat and turn regularly to ensure that they are juicy and succulent.


chump roast

Deboned and tied chump roast.

The chump can be kept whole and oven-roasted. If it is deboned and tied, carving will be easier. Chump chops can be cut for grilling. The chump can be left on the leg to make ham.

Chump chops are meaty chops cut from the rump of the pig. They can be bought on or off the bone. Chump is a cheap cut with delicious flavour and texture. It’s versatile and easy to cook, either fried, grilled or on the braai.

Source: Capricorn Review