The beginner’s guide to pork cuts

Done right, pork can be one of the most rewarding meats to roast. Here’s our guide to the four key cuts of pork including useful roasting tips.

Pork shoulder (spare rib)

Pork shoulder is a great affordable cut that’s packed with flavour. As with all meat from the pig’s front end, it’s sweet with good marbling of fat. You can roast on the bone but it’s more commonly served boned out, rolled and tied. Pork shoulder is one of the best cuts for making crackling due to its thick layer of skin and fat beneath.

Pork belly

Pork belly has gone through a bit of a renaissance in the last couple of years. Almost always cut in a large rectangular shape, pork belly is fatty and therefore deliciously succulent when roasted. It’s also one of the cheaper cuts too. Drying out the skin of your pork belly joint is essential for really good crackling. Pick up more useful tips with our How to make pork crackling video.

Tenderloin

Also known as pork fillet, this lies inside the ribs along the length of the loin. Tenderloin is, as its name suggests, a very tender and lean cut, so it doesn’t need lots of roasting time – making it great for a midweek roast.

Pork tenderloin quickly becomes dry if overcooked. A layer of bacon rashers laid across the meat’s surface will help retain the moisture. Alternatively, stuff with herbs and prunes, apples or blue cheese to help keep the meat moist and boost the flavour.

Leg of pork

One of the most popular cuts for roasting, pork leg is a large and fairly lean cut great for feeding large numbers. It works well roasted, braised or pot-roasted, but not the best cut for making crackling. 

Top tips

  • The trick to perfect crackling is to make sure the pork skin is completely dry before cooking; score both skin and fat well and start the cooking at a high temperature.
  • The meat closest to the front of the pig works hardest, making it sweet and marbled with fat. Slow-cooking breaks down the muscle, resulting in tender meat.

Try this delicious recipe for Roast pork, with roast potatoes, carrots & broccoli.