We know it’s daunting and can be confusing. What is a picnic ham? Are spareribs the same as the country-style ribs? Is the lechon kawali cut the same as the liempo cut? What part of the pig is the pork butt??
No worries. We break it down for you, from what it looks like to what cuts come from it. We even share a few tips on which is the best cooking method for each, so that armed with this useful guide, you can tell the butcher the cut you want for today’s meal with confidence.
- pork shoulder
- pork butt
The kasim is one of two of the most common and versatile primal cuts in the meat case. Cut from the shoulder of the pig, it’s a tough cut with lots of fat and tissue that make it ideal for slow cooking, but also makes it a general-purpose one. It can be ground up into ground pork or cubed and cooked as adobo. It’s a fantastic cut to roast whole as its layers of fat help keep it moist.
How to cook it: Braise or stew, roast, grill
Cut from the back of the pig, this is a moderately flavorful primal cut that will remain tender if cooked right. As is, season and slow roast it to make a pork rib roast for dinner. Ask your butcher “to French” the ribs and tie it up into a circle shape to get a crown roast. Or go simple and slice between the individual ribs for pork chops. Fillet it to get a whole pork loin which, when sliced and the skin is left intact, becomes cutlets and can be butterflied.
Butterflied Pork Chops
How to cook it: Roast, Braise or stew, Fry
From the same area as the pork loin, the tenderloin is the most tender of all cuts from the pig. It’s small enough to be pan-fried whole and is fantastic when treated like a steak: seared on the outside until the inside is cooked through while being basted with a flavorful butter. While tender it’s best seasoned well or even cooked with another flavorful ingredient as its flavor is the most mild of all the cuts.
How to cook it: Fry, Roast, Sauté, Stir-fry
Debone the loin and the row of bones that encased it is the ribs. Those located closer to the belly are the ribs while those closer to the backbone are the more tender baby back ribs. Remove the lining that covers the inner portion of the ribs or ask your butcher to do it for you before cooking. Fantastic basted and charred on the grill or roasted in the oven.
Baby Back Ribs
How to cook it: Grill, Roast
- Pork Belly
The favorite of Pinoys, the liempo or pork belly primal cut comes from the side or belly area of the pig. It’s a fatty cut with interchanging layers of meat and fat, making it the most flavorful of the pork cuts as well as the one of the more versatile of cuts. Lechon belly roasts can be stuffed and rolled while the spareribs are delicious cubed up and used in sinigang.
Lechon Kawali Cut/Slab Bacon/Pancetta/Salt Pork
How to cook it: Fry, Roast, Grill, Boil
- Ham Cut
The second most versatile of the primal pork cuts, the pigue is taken from the opposite side from where the kasim is cut from: the back leg area. The pigue is also known as the leg or ham cut because joints of ham, including the spiral ham which is the boneless version, are made from this cut. Boneless, it’s another general-purpose cut but is the leaner cut of the two. Because it is less fatty, it’s ideal for slow cooking to help tenderize the meat.
How to cook it: Braise or stew, Roast, Boil
- Hock, front and back
The pata or hock, from either the front or the back knee joints of the pig, is another Pinoy favorite because of the crispy pata and patatim. But beyond these two popular dishes, the underrated pata is a cut that can be used for the wide variety of dishes that otherwise require the general-purpose cuts.
While not fatty, it’s nonetheless a flavorful cut, mostly owing to the skin surrounding the dark meat of the leg. The skin-on pata, when sliced, can easily sub for cubed meat in pork nilaga or sinigang. Deboned and chopped, it’s the highly available substitute for the hard-to-find maskara for sisig. Plus, it’s fantastic simmered in a tasty broth, as part of homemade stock, or stewed or braised in a flavorful sauce that only becomes thicker from the natural gelatin of the cut.
How to cook it: Fry, Boil, Braise or stew
Pork menudo is one of the easiest Pinoy dishes you can put together. Watch the video on how to make pork menudo: