Pork 101

January 02, 2013

Ham was probably on your table this holiday season, regardless the various cuts and names can get confusing. Here is your quick reference for shopping for pork.

What is Pork:
Meat from a pig that is under a year old, although most pork today is from pigs 6-9 months; which makes it tender, and leaner. There are many varieties of cuts.
How to Buy:
Fresh traditional or organic choices at butcher’s counter or in meat section of your local supermarket. Ham is hind cut; dense, smooth; smoked or cured. Pork Loin: chops, (bone in/boneless, thick/thin); tenderloin is prime cut. Ribs: baby back, spare, country style; Bacon: strips/slabs; ground pork: plain or seasoned for meatloafs/patties or in casings for sausage. Pork Shoulder: picnic for shredded pork; arm picnic for dry roasting; Boston butt for stews or soups; Blade shoulder, arm shoulder and shoulder hocks for slow cooking/stewing. Leg cuts: ham or ham roast. Some hams pre-cooked, sold in cans, benefit from additional cooking.
How to Read the Label:
Check for sell-by date, moist, pink color. If gray or brown spots, do not buy. Check for added ingredients, particularly nitrates, in ham and bacon products.
How to Use:
Roast hams, shoulder cuts or loins; broil or pan fry chops; smoke or grill ribs. Bake or fry bacon; grill or fry sausages; fry ground patties or sausages or mix with other ground meat and bake. Cook to an inner temperature of 150-165°F. Never eat raw. 
How to Store:
Refrigerate at 40°F. in original wrapping; always refrigerate cooked pork. May be frozen in original wrappers or double wrapped. Store canned hams in a cool cupboard or refrigerate. Always refrigerate opened cans and leftovers.
Health Benefits:
Roasts, loin cuts lower in fat than bacon and sausages. Higher in fat, traditional pork has extra minerals and iron. Cured, smoked products are typically high in sodium.
Smarter Shopping:
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