Pork Cuts Explained
Purchasing a whole or half hog can be overwhelming, especially if you have never done it before. Many have been left to complete a cut sheet on their own. A cut sheet is what the locker/butcher uses to know which cuts of meat the customer is wanting from their animal. However, there are no explanations or details on the cut sheet and many customers are left wondering what in the world they are supposed to write down.
Don’t worry, we are here to help! Below, we will talk about the primal cuts of a hog and how they are best cooked. First, I would like to mention that we have created cut packages for our customers. Our packages do not limit the amount of meat you would get from your pork share. They are designed to take the guesswork out of the cut sheet and help to better understand what cuts you will be receiving from your pork share.
Let's begin! The hog is broken down into 5 basic primal cuts: the loins, ribs, hams, shoulder, and belly. Out of these areas, you get a variety of cuts. Sausages are made from scraps and other sections of the hogs. We will go through each section below.
Loins provide us with pork chops, boneless pork chops, loin, and or tenderloin. There are several cuts here depending on what you want, but because several cuts share the same pieces of meat and/or bone, you can’t have everything. For example, if you want pork chops then that means the tenderloin is part of the chop. You can’t have pork chops AND tenderloin as they are the same piece of meat, just prepared differently.
Common combinations from the loin:
- Bone in pork chops. This will leave you with a nice loin roast and butt roast from the tail end of the loin. The tenderloin lies under the loin and is part of the chops. These roasts tend to be in the 3lb range.
- Boneless pork chops and baby back ribs. (The bone in baby back ribs is part of the same bone on bone in pork chops)
- Whole or cut tenderloin roast and baby back ribs.
If you had something special in mind send us an email or call. The butchers can probably do it, but we will have to check before proceeding.
Spare ribs are the most common cut here. They grill up amazingly and are an excellent summer treat.
The country style ribs aren’t actually a rib, but we placed them here for easy reference. These “ribs” are more like a steak. The cut comes from the front of the loin where it meets the front shoulder. They often have a small bone, but lots of meat. Since it’s so close to the shoulder they also tend to have more fat and marbling than other cuts. They cook well on the grill, broiled in the oven, or fried.
Absolutely the best cut on the hog in our opinion. Also known as Boston Butt and Picnic shoulder. You can do a couple things here.
- Get one large roast for a big party: 7-9lb roast
- Get the shoulder split into half for two smaller roasts: 3-4 lb roasts.
- Get the shoulder made into blade steaks
- Turn the shoulder into sausage
You can get the shoulder fresh or smoked. Fresh is good if you plan to cure and smoke it yourself. If not, we recommend getting it smoked. It will help to lock in the moisture when you’re cooking, and provide a subtle smokey barbecue flavor.
We also recommend the two small roasts. They are perfect on the grill or in the oven. With two small roasts you can try one as is, and have another to experiment with sauces or seasonings or if you are splitting your share with other people, this makes it easier to split.
The ham is very similar to the front shoulder.
- Get one large roast for a big party: 7-13lbs
- Get the ham split into half for two smaller roasts: 3-7 lb roasts
- Get the shoulder made into ham steaks
- Turn the shoulder into sausage
- Combo! Make ham steaks from the meaty center section of the ham, and leave the ends of the ham in tact as small ham butt roasts: 3-4lb roasts
From the belly comes bacon. If you don’t want bacon you can always turn it into sausage. If you do want bacon, it should be smoked for the ultimate in fine pork dining. Most packages in stores and farmers markets are 1 pound.
Everything that isn’t made into delicious cuts is made into ground sausage. Anything that you don’t really want could be turned into sausage. Actually, if you wanted to turn the entire hog into sausage, you could do that.
Most sides of pork have enough meat to make two batches (or flavors) of ground sausage. Although on small hogs, there is only enough meat for one flavor. Our butchers require a certain poundage to mix the spices up in the proper ratios.
You can have just plain ground pork if you’d like some versatility in adding your own seasoning. Ground pork is great when cut with beef to make meatloaf, burgers, meatballs etc. Most common packages are 1 pound.
The leftover parts will be Fatback, leaf lard, sliced heart, and sliced liver.
The Fat back is great for rendering down and making suet blocks for the birds, making cured fatback, or adding to beans other cooking dishes.
Leaf lard is the classic source of cooking lard for pies and pastries.
Sliced heart/liver can be great in stews or used for dog treats. If you are using these for dog treats, we ask that you please talk to your vet prior.
We hope this helps you in feeling more confident about pork cuts. As always, if you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or callus at 828-772-5994.
To reserve your pork share, click here.
Last edit 12/21/21