Techniques for Meats, Poultry, Fish, and Shellfish
Pork with salt, bay leaves, and perper corns.
Culinary Institute of America
Most pork today is much leaner than it used to be. While some cuts are still extremely high in fat, others are as much as 30 percent leaner than they were twenty-five years ago. This is a boon for health-conscious consumers, but it presents challenges to the chef. Lean pork can become dry and tough if not handled properly.
Pork shoulder goes by many names: Boston butt, butt, picnic ham, or picnic butt are a few. This cut is somewhat higher in fat than other cuts, so it is often used in sausages and charcuterie. It can be roasted, but it is better braised or stewed.
Pork loin is cut much longer than loins from beef, veal, and lamb. It can be roasted, bone-in or boneless. Chops from the loin differ in composition and shape depending on the end of the loin from which they are cut. Shoulder or arm chops are often braised; center and leg chops take well to any dry-heat method. The tenderloin is extremely lean. Left whole, it can be roasted; cut into medallions or noisettes, it can be sautéed, broiled, or grilled.
The ham simply refers to pork leg, which may or may not have been cured. Fresh ham is typically roasted; leaner parts of the ham can be ground or cut into stew meat as well. Ham steaks can be fresh, cured, or smoked. Cured or smoked hams are usually cooked and ready to heat, though roasting enhances tenderness and flavor. Specialty hams such as prosciutto and country ham are also available.
Spareribs are exceptionally fatty: nearly 70 percent of the calories may come from fat. They also have a high proportion of bone. Nevertheless, they are immensely popular.
Ham is not the only part of the pig that is cured or smoked. Pork belly is smoked or cured (or both) to make bacon; Canadian bacon is boneless smoked loin. Ham hocks, pig’s feet and knuckles, and even snouts are available fresh, cured, and smoked. They are often used in soups and as flavorings in simmered dishes such as beans and greens.