Pork Cuts 101

Pork Cuts Visual for Meat Depot

We know the feeling. You walk into the grocery meat section or butcher shop, clueless about which pork cut you need. You stall, go up and down the aisle, unsure and indecisive (was it pork loin, sirloin or tenderloin?) Finally you pick a cut, (pork loin – because they’re all the same, right?) only to come home with the wrong part for your recipe. It happens. Often, the variety of choices in a meat shop can be overwhelming. That is why we’ve come up with this quick guide to the different Pork Cuts and their characteristics to save you the time and trouble of picking your pork and get you cooking the perfect pork dish, chop chop! 😉

Primal Cuts:
Primal cuts” are simply the initial cuts of meat, which are later divided into smaller cuts that you can take home from your friendly neighborhood butcher. The five primal cuts of pork are the blade shoulder, arm shoulder, loin, side and leg.

Blade Shoulder – Cut from the upper portion of the front legs, it contains well-exercised muscles and a fair amount of fat.

Arm Shoulder – Also from the pig’s front legs. It has similar characteristics with the blade shoulder, but packs more flavor.

Loin – the area between the shoulders and the hind legs. The leanest and most tender part of the pig, it is usually divided into pork chops, tenderloin, baby back ribs, etc.

Side – This refers to the lower-rib area or the belly, where bacon and spareribs come from. It is the fattiest and tastiest pork cut.

Leg – This refers to the hind legs, which is sold with or without the shank bone. Easy to carve and not very fatty.

1. Pork Butt
Also Know As: Pork Shoulder, Boston Shoulder, Boston Butt, Kasim
Best Ways to Cook: Barbecue, Braise, Slow Roast

Contrary to the name, this pork cut actually comes from the front of the pig, particularly its shoulder blades. This cut is usually tough, but it also has enough fat to keep the meat moist and tasty. It is commonly used for barbecue and pulled pork.

2. Picnic Shoulder
Also Known As: Picnic Ham, Fresh Picnic, Picnic Roast,
Best Ways to Cook: Barbecue, Braise, Slow Roast

This flavorful cut comes from the lower part of the shoulder. Some folks use this as a flavoring ingredient in soups and stews. Another tough and fatty cut, its ideal for slow roasting which lets the fat turn the meat tender, juicy and melt-in-your-mouth. Check out this Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder recipe from Jamie Oliver to see how it’s done!

3. Country-Style Ribs
Also Known As: Country Rib, American Ribs
Best Ways to Cook: Barbecue, Braise

A combination of light and dark meat, the Country-Style Ribs are from the fatty blade end of the loin. Tasty and meaty, they’re usually divided into individual ribs.

4. Baby Back Ribs
Also Known As: Loin Back Ribs, Riblets
Best Way to Cook: Barbecue

These cuts come from the upper part of the rib cage, close to the backbone. They may be a lot less fatty than spareribs, but Baby Back Ribs are not as meaty as the country-style ribs.

5. Pork Loin
Also Know As: Center Loin Chop, Loin Pork Chop, Top Loin Chops, Porterhouse
Best Ways to Cook: Braise, Grill, Sauté, Pan-Sear and Roast (Pan Roast)

This cut is from the hip and loin towards the back of the pig. It can easily be identified by a T-shaped bone that separates the loin meat from the tenderloin muscle. A lean cut with a mild pork flavor, it can be very versatile, but cooking can also be tricky. Because the the loin and tenderloin cook at different rates, you’ll need some skills to cook these pork chops evenly and keep the meat moist. Check out Kitchn’s tips on cooking the perfect pork chops.

6. Pork Chop
Also Known As: Pork Fillet, Boneless Pork Steak
Best Ways to Cook: Grill, Broil, Pan-Sear and Roast

These cuts are basically shoulder, top loin or rib chops served without the bone. The absence of the bone means they are less prone to overcooking but also make them less tasty or flavorful than their bone-in counterparts.

7. Ham
Alternate Name: Fresh Leg, Leg, Pigue
Best Way to Cook: Roast, Cure, Smoke,

This pork cut refers to the hind leg, usually sold with the shank and leg bone. Low in fat and great for roasting – cooking the meat on the bone helps keep it moist and produce mouth-watering juices. In the Ph, we also use the front leg especially for the inuman favorite – Crispy Pata.

In the Ph, leg with knuckle/hock cuts are also referred to as Pata, the front leg is especially used for the inuman favorite – Crispy Pata.

8. Pork Tenderloin
Alternate Name: None
Best Ways to Cook: Grill, Stir-Fry, Roast, Sauté

The tenderloin is the very lean, delicate and boneless cut of pork. It cooks very quickly and due to very little marbling can easily change its texture.

9. Pork Ribs
Also Known As: Rack of Pork, Center Rib Roast, Pork Loin Rib Half
Best Way to Cook: Roast

This cut comes from the center rib area of the loin. Flavorful because the bones and nearby fat are attached, but also fairly lean and easy to carve. For special occasions you can form two racks of pork into a circle, tie the ends together, and create the special “crown roast.”
Or check out this succulent Roasted Rack of Pork recipe.

10. Spare Ribs
Also Known As: Side Ribs, St. Louis-Style Ribs, Tadyang
Best Ways to Cook: Barbecue, Braise

The spare ribs are cut close to the belly of the pig. They can be sold as regular or ST. Louis Style-squared and without the cartilage. They are more tender than back ribs due to their high amount of fat, but are not very meaty.

11. Pork Belly
Also Known As: Liempo
Best Ways to Cook: Cures, Smoked, Braise, Slow Roast, Barbecue
High in fat and incredibly tender, the belly can be very versatile. More popularly known as streaky bacon, it can also be slow roasted for soft meat that melts in your mouth. In the PH, we usually cut up the belly according to the viands we prepare: Adobo Cut, Sinigang Cut or Menudo Cut.

Less typical and possibly cheaper (not to mention just-as-good) options that you can get from your butcher.

Whole Pig Head- the part that goes into our beloved Sisig. In other cultures it is also used for many different things such as Porchetta di Testa or salami. O

Snout – normally used in soups

Cheeks – fatty, flavorful and with a gelatinous texture, it’s usually chopped and used in stews or braised and served with sauce

Tail – some folks bake serve this deep fried, in stews or baked to a crisp.


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