Know your pork – Bar & Kitchen

Know your pork

Matt Owens, Chairman of the Craft Guild of Chefs, which supports chefs with training and development, shares his tips for cooking pork in all its forms, and explains how to truly eat nose to tail.

The Basics

It’s important to use good quality pork. It’s a relatively economical meat which means you can spend that bit more on native breeds such as Tamworth or Gloucester Old Spot for flavour and a better product. If you can, buy free range and always buy British too, as it isn’t treated with growth promoting hormones, and it’s fresher with fewer travel miles.

Pork is a popular meat and is recovering well in the out of home (OOH) market, post-pandemic. Pork occasions grew 13% year-on-year (AHDB, January 2022), however OOH pork meat consumption still relies heavily on processed cuts, especially sausage, ham and bacon, and there’s room for more varied use of other economical cuts.

Pork easily adapts to different flavours and cuisine styles, and I always recommend cooking bigger, cheaper cuts of pork low and slow to get more for your money. It can take quite bold flavours, so you can keep it classic with apple, or go punchy with plenty of spicy Mexican chilli, Korean gochujang chilli paste or aromatic Chinese 5 spice.



Tenderloin is a quick cook cut with little fat. It roasts well wrapped in bacon, but you don’t want it to dry out. Cheaper than beef or lamb tenderloin, it’s best pan fried and finished in the oven, especially with Chinese-style spices.



Can come from the shoulder or loin and are leaner depending how much fat is left on. Always crisp the fat up to keep the chop moist. Shoulder is a more flavourable chop, and boneless cutlets or chops make excellent schnitzel.



The rear end makes a good roast on or off the bone. Try rubbing it with fennel and roasting with cider to cut through the fattiness. The chump makes a meaty chop too, which is good on the BBQ.



It’s evolved from being one of the cheapest to one of the most expensive cuts, as everyone is using it. The key to good pork belly is drying the skin, scoring it and getting crisp crackling in a hot oven, before cooking it low and slow to render down the fat. Restaurants often press it to get those fine layers and reheat it in  the pan with a quick sear. Porchetta is Italian-style rolled and stuffed belly. It’s a striking dish that goes a long way.



One of the cheapest cuts. Try slow cooking it with an American or Korean-style rub, pull it apart and serve it in wraps, burgers, or salads. Shredding gives the impression of volume, and you can charge a premium for this economical cut. Hand of pork comes from the lower part of the shoulder and is a cheap cut for roasting or braising.



Messy to eat but so delicious, ribs come as half or full racks which can be boiled down, marinated and grilled on the BBQ or oven.


Mince and sausage meat

Pork mince is often mixed into burgers or bolognese because it’s fattier than beef and brings a little sweetness. It makes an excellent stuffing or meatballs and holds its shape well for koftas. Sausages are traditionally made with pork mince, fat, breadcrumbs and seasoning; fry sausages in their skin, or squeeze out the filling for sausage rolls, pies and stuffing.


Bacon and ham

Back bacon comes from the loin whereas streaky bacon is the belly. It can be smoked or unsmoked; thick-cut and cubed is known as pancetta which makes a good base for Italian dishes. Ham or gammon is leg meat and is popular all year round; boil it with onion, cloves and bay, and serve sliced with egg and chips as a classic.

“Pork retails 7% lower on average compared to total meat, fish and poultry.”
- Kantar, Dec 2021

Nose to tail

Nothing beats making the most of every

part of the animal.

• Trotters can be braised or boned out and stuffed. They make excellent stock and bring natural thickness to gravy.

• Pork knuckle should be cooked low and slow, then crisped up in a hot oven. It’s very cheap, tender and looks like a lamb shank.

• Use pork fat in your pates.

• Pork lard makes deliciously crisp pie crusts.

• Ears are perhaps a more acquired taste, but the cartilage takes a lot of flavour stewed or seared to a crisp.


Cheeks are delicious slow cooked with wine, cider or sherry. Allow 2-3 per person depending on the size

• Jowl is a fatty cut from the cheek, which you can simmer, braise or slow cook to get the most from this cheap, flavourful cut. Also works well smoked and cured in Italian-style guanciale.

• Heart is an inexpensive cut. Marinate it overnight and quick cook on high heat, or cook slowly in a rich sauce or with a stuffing, as with other animal heart.

• Pig’s liver pan fried with onions is a classic.

• Pork caul is a thin, lacy sheet of fat which is used to wrap sausages, meatloaf and patties. Clean and dry the caul before using, before roasting, grilling, or sautéing the finished dish.

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