What Is Pork Jowl And The Easiest Way To Make It Tender

This pork cut is affordable and surprisingly meaty and tasty.

IMAGE Shutterstock

The pork jowl is not a common pork cut but it is available when requested from your butcher. If you do, it's a pork cut that you can use in many pork recipes. It's especially delicious in recipes that require the pork to be simmered long and slow because it's actually a meaty cut! 

What is pork jowl? 

The pork jowl is part of the pork head or the maskara or pig face. Specifically, the jowl is actually just the pig cheek. Some include the skin which includes the meat around that area, too. It's a great substitute for pork belly because it too has a nice layering of meat and fat. It's usually an inexpensive and affordable pork cut. 

If you do get this cut, the first thing that many want to know is how to cook it. For those who love the crunch from cartilage might want to buy the entire pork maskara and not just the jowl, so the pig ears are also included. For those who love the meatiness of the cheeks, you can slice these up into cubes and stew them. 

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In some parts of the world, the pork jowl is made into bacon as it is done in the United States or, if you're in Italy, made into gianciale, the original pork cut that is used in the highly-debated origin story of the pasta carbonara. 

The pig head with the pork jowl or the pork cheek is usually made into sisig or dinakdakan.
Photo by Shutterstock
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Two of the most popular ways of using the pork jowl or the entire maskara is in either the sizzling sisig or the dinakdakan. For both recipes, the pork is commonly simmered until tender and then grilled or just simply grilled for those who like the crunch of cartilage. 

If stewing, braising, or simmering in a broth, simply follow the recipe which will indicate how best to tenderize the pork jowl. If you want to make sure that the meat of the pork jowl is tender before grilling or frying, you'll need to tenderize it. Here's how to do that: 

  1. 1 Bring a pot full of water to a boil. Add salt and ground pepper. Add the pig jowl or the maskara if using.
  2. 2 Lower heat Low and simmer for about 60 minutes or until the meat is fork-tender. Strain from the water and set aside. 
  3. 3 Prepare meat as indicated in the recipe. 
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You can speed it up by using an instant pot, multicooker, pressure cooker, or slow cooker. You can use these now tender pork pieces in your sisig or the dinakdakan recipe or try these recipes: 

Photo by Majoy Siason

1 Pork Sisig Recipe

Feel free to use the entire maskara or just the pork cheeks if you love your sisig extra meaty. If there's any leftover, you can stuff it into empanadas for merienda! 

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Photo by Majoy Siason

2 Dinakdakan Recipe 

This Ilocano dish is a unique pork dish, and it too uses the pork maskara. It's actually a close recipe relative to the pork sisig but with a big difference. This recipe also uses the pig brain to give the dish a creamy consistency. If you can't source the brain, try using mayonnaise as an easy substitute as you can see from the tofu version. (This recipe might be the reason why some prefer their sisig creamy!) 

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Photo by David Hanson | Food preparation and Styling by Angelo Comsti

3 Spanish Pork Cheeks With Sauce Recipe 

Also known as Carrilada De Cerdo Iberico En Salsa, this is a great example of how the pork jowl can be made into a dish that's super delicious. This stew allows the meat to become succulent, tender, and super tasty. 

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