How to Cook Pork
Pork is not graded in the same way that beef is. In fact, the only two categories are "acceptable" and "utility," and if it's not "acceptable," you won't find it in your store. Just look for pork with a small amount of fat on the outside, a decent degree of firmness, a greyish-pink color, and, if you're seeking maximum pork flavor, a decent degree of marbling.
Handling & Storing Pork
Fresh packaged cuts of pork can keep in the fridge for 2-4 days. If you're not going to use it before that, wrap it tightly and keep it in the freezer for up to 6 months. Ground pork is good for 1-2 days in the fridge and 3 months wrapped in the freezer. Ham loses flavor and texture in the freezer, so plan accordingly. Check packaged bacon's freshness date. It can stay frozen for up to a month.
If pork, cooked or uncooked, has been left out at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees for more than 2 hours, toss it. It might look and smell fine, but pathogenic bacteria aren't your pals.
It's not necessary to rinse pork before using it, as any outside bacterial will be killed by cooking -- which entails a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees, or 170 for well-done.
Why is ham pink if pork is a white meat? Well, first of all, despite the popular ad campaign, the USDA recognizes pork as a red meat, rather than a white. Certain cuts, such as boneless tenderloin, are as lean as poultry, but the meat still contains the protein myoglobulin, which holds oxygen in muscle. The amount of myoglobulin determines the meat's color, and pork falls on the "red" side. It does, however, lose color during cooking. Ham gets its signature pink tint from the same curing and smoking process that endows it with its luscious flavor.
Ham can be dry (rubbed with spices and often called "country-style") or wet (brined) cured, and are a cut from the back leg, Because the leg gets so much exercise, ham is a relatively lean cut.
Hams can be found either boneless, for easy slicing, or bone-in whole or as a butt or shank half.
Some cultures' cuisines include specific curing techniques to create specialty hams such as Prosciutto, Capicolla, Serrano, Westphalian, Black Forest, Iberico and Bayonne.
Learn more about How to Cook Ham.
Pork chops are cut from the loin and are named loin, rib, sirloin, top loin or blade chops depending from which part of the loin they came. They can be bought boneless or bone-in, generally in thicknesses ranging from 1/2 to 2 inches.
Because pork chops are a leaner cut, they can often benefit from brining (read our guide here) to retain maximum moisture.
The 1 1/4 inch top loin chop has been nicknamed "America's Cut."
Base cooking time on the thickness of the chops. They're great grilled, broiled (8-10 minutes for broiling or grilling a 3/4 inch, 12-16 for a thicker one), braised (8-15 minutes up to 1 inch, longer for thicker cuts), or sauteed (7-8 minutes).
Spareribs come from the belly of the hog and impart a luscious pork flavor, due to their fat content, but are less meat-laden than leaner back chops. Either cut is delicious roasted or grilled, and can be seasoned with a dry spice rub, or based with sauce or steeped in a marinade.
In colonial days, wealthy landowners were said to live "high on the hog," as they could afford the topmost, more desirable leaner cuts like the back ribs, while the common folks made do with the lower portions and extremities. If only they'd known the flavor they were missing. ...
Back ribs are called "baby" because they're smaller than those from the belly.
Slow Cooked & Pulled Pork
Bone-in cuts like pork shoulder are ideal for slow cooking, as the collagen is given time to soften and make for incredible tender, sumptuous meat. The lower part of the shoulder is often called the "arm picnic" cut (the hock is often smoked and used to provide rich flavor to soups and stews), and the uppermost is the "Boston blade" or "Boston butt." This cut tends to be inexpensive, and is excellent slow-roasted, braised, barbecued, or cut up for stew. It also makes exquisite pulled pork.
Place a whole or half shoulder in your slow cooker with a few slices of onions, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and enough liquid to cover it about 3/4 of the way up. The liquid can be water, but it's extra-yummy with a couple of beers, some wine, stock, or a bit of fruit juice poured in. Set it to cook on "high" for 5-7 hours, lift it out of the liquid, shred the meat with a fork, and season with your favorite sauce.
North Carolina Pulled Pork Recipe
Picante Pulled Pork Tamales Recipe
Smoked Pork Butt with Onions and Cider Recipe
Various cuts of pork take well to roasting. A pork "roast" simply refers to a larger cut, so for clarity's sake here, we're just talking about the cooking technique.
Bone-in rib roasts, racks and crowns contain fat and bones that allow meat to retain moisture during cooking, and tenderloins and loin roasts, which are leaner cuts, tend to benefit from time in a brining solution.
Roast pork cuts uncovered in a shallow pan at 350 degrees, to an internal temperature reading of 160. For loin roasts (bone-in or boneless), crown roasts and legs, estimate 20 of minutes cooking time per pound. Shoulders take 30 minutes per pound. Tenderloins take 425-450 degree heat for 20-30 minutes (whole, not per pound), and ribs take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Marinate as frequently as desired. Just make sure to discard any unused liquid that's come into contact with the pork at any time.
Pork Cutlets & Medallions
Pork medallions are simply slices from a tenderloin, and they're excellent braised (cooked over low heat with a small amount of liquid in a covered pan for 8-10 minutes for a 1/2 - 3/4 inch cut) or sauteed (1/4- 1/2 inch cuts take 4-8 minutes at medium heat in liquid in an uncovered pan).
Cutlets are thinly sliced cuts taken from the sirloin end of the tenderloin, from the leg, or from a cross-section of the tenderloin. Since they're cut so thinly, they cook quickly, and are great grilled (use a brine or marinade), or sauteed for 3-4 minutes.
Pork Medallions with Miso-Mushroom Sauce Recipe
Pork Cutlets with Maple Spiced Apples and Red Cabbage Recipe
How do we love sausage? Let us count the ways -- pan-fried, boiled in beer, grilled, stewed, in gumbo and jambalaya, with peppers, on a biscuit, in gravy, as andouille, chorizo, bratwurst, hot and sweet Italian. ... We could go on, but we'll just note that sausage is seasoned ground pork, often enclosed in a casing, and comes from various cuts, including the shoulder butt and the loin. Sausage can be cured, fresh, or smoked, and making it at home is easier than you might think.
Sausage Gumbo Recipe
So what exactly is this oft-fabled tenderloin? It's a tender, if somewhat less flavorful cut from the full pork loin, and is generally as lean as chicken breast. The cut is from the inner rib bones of the sirloin end, and the whole thing (usually 3/4 - 1 1/2 pounds) can be quickly grilled or roasted (use a marinade or brine to ensure moisture and flavor), or cut up to make kebabs and and medallions. Roast a whole tenderloin for 20-30 minutes at 425 - 450 degrees, broil it 4 inches from the heat source or direct-grill for 15-25 minutes . Keep a close eye so it does"t overcook and dry out.
Parts of the tenderloin are smoked to make Canadian bacon.
Tuscan Pork Loin Recipe
Killer Pork Loin Marinade Recipe
We've got most of your queries covered in our Grilling section, but here are a few quick tips:
Ribs are ready to leave the grill when two center bones rip apart with just a tiny smidge of resistance.
The silver skin on pork tenderloin stands in the way of marinades, and makes the meat tough to eat. Slice it off pre-grilling.
Cut down on cooking time for sausages and ribs by boiling them in water or beer before grilling.
Pork should reach an internal temp of 160 degrees. Use a meat thermometer, but make sure it's not touching a bone -- which could result in an inaccurately high reading.
Grilled Pork Chops with Rhubarb Chutney Recipe
Molasses Mustard Baked Beans with Ribs Recipe
Jamaican Jerk Pork Recipe
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mustard, Rosemary & Apple Marinade Recipe
Sliced-up strips of tenderloin cook quickly in a wok, absorb the flavors of oils and marinades, and can be trimmed as leanly as you'd like. Freeze the meat for 15-30 minutes to make it easier to slice, and try for thin, julienned slices, or bite sized (roughly the size of a quarter) pieces. Make sure to have all of your meat and other ingredients cut and ready to go, and pre-heat a wok or heavy skillet until the it begins to smoke. Add oil, and and the pork, which should be cooked until all pink traces are gone. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon, cook ingredients in batches until they're tender-crunchy, add any soy or other flavoring, return the pork to the mixture, and cook for another minute.
Stir-Fry of Pork with Vietnamese Flavors Recipe
Pork Vegetable Stir Fry Recipe
Tangelo Pork Stir Fry Recipe
What exactly is bacon, aside from being the most delicious edible matter on the planet?
Bacon is meat taken from the side or belly of the pig, and then cured and smoked (fun fact - pancetta is a close cousin, but it's just cured, but not smoked). The high, streaked fat content is what gives the meat its slight sweetness and ability to crisp up so yummily.
As mentioned before, Canadian bacon is not technically bacon, but rather a smoked tenderloin portion that's more akin to ham.
Slab bacon comes with a rind that's sometimes cut off and fried to make pork cracklings, also known as chicharron, pork scratchings, pork rinds or pork skins. We just call them "delicious".
Emeril's Home-Ground Burgers with Bacon, Cheese and Fresh Thyme