8 Common Cuts of Pork (Plus All You Need to Know About Each)

From delicious pork chops to oh-so-popular bacon and ham, learn about the various types of pork meat and how best to cook each—illustrations included.

Pork cuts - guides to types of pork
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Pigs are the source of many delicious cuts of meat, including bacon. Pork cuts tend to be leaner now, so the meat is higher in protein and about 30 percent lower in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol than pork produced during the 1970s. This meat is also incredibly versatile—and cooking pork is pretty easy. There are eight commonly used pork cuts that are great (and beloved) for everything from breakfast to holiday feasts, and picking the perfect type of pork can take your dish to the next level.

Knowing you want to enjoy a great pork roast or pork tacos is one thing, but being able to pick the right pork cut is another. Here, we've broken down eight popular pork cuts, with information on what they are, how they should be cooked, and the recipes they're best for. Whether you're planning your main course to go with those tasty pulled pork sides or hoping to try a new pork ramen recipe, this guide to different types of pork will help you pick the right cut for your occasion.

01 of 08

Pork Chops

Types of pork cuts - pork chops
Emma Darvick

The richest and meatiest pork chops are cut from the center of the loin. The two most common types are loin chops (which look like miniature T-bone steaks and have a bit of the tenderloin attached) and rib chops without the tenderloin (see pork tenderloin below). Because they dry out quickly during cooking, it's especially important not to overcook lean boneless chops. Choose cuts that are at least 1 inch thick so they stay juicy.

Best for: Grilling, broiling, and pan-frying

02 of 08

Pork Loin

Types of pork cuts - Pork Loin
Emma Darvick

Buy this large cut (from the back of the pig) without bones, which makes it easier to slice. Pork loin has a dense texture and a robust flavor, with a large cap of fat from the back. Stuff it and cook it as a roast, or slice it into 1-inch chops for pan-frying and grilling.

Best for: Roasting

03 of 08

Pork Tenderloin

Types of pork cuts - Pork Tenderloin
Emma Darvick

This lean, very tender cut from the end of the loin is pale pink and has a fine grain. Long, narrow, and tapering at one end, it is much smaller than a pork loin roast, so it cooks quickly and is a good choice for weeknight dinners.

Best for: Pan-frying, roasting, and grilling

04 of 08

Pork Sausage

Types of pork cuts - Pork Sausage
Emma Darvick

Made from ground pork, sausages come in a variety of sizes and are already seasoned. Flavors range from sweet to savory and spicy. Buy sausage out of the casing and use it as an alternative to ground beef in sauces or stews or as a pizza topping (or in tasty pork dumplings).

Best for: Pan-frying and grilling

05 of 08

Baby-Back Ribs

Types of pork cuts - Baby-Back Ribs
Emma Darvick

Small and meaty, these curved slabs come from the pig's rib cage near the backbone. Prized for their sweet, juicy meat, they cook quickly. A full rack has at least eight ribs. For the tenderest meat, select a rack that weighs 2 pounds or less (which should feed two people).

Best for: Roasting and grilling

06 of 08

Spare Ribs

Types of pork cuts - Spare Ribs
Emma Darvick

Although not as meaty as baby-back ribs, spare ribs are very tasty, thanks to a generous amount of fat. Large and irregularly shaped, they come from a pig's underbelly or lower rib cage (also the source of bacon). A full rack has at least 11 ribs and weighs 3 to 4 pounds (which should feed two or three people).

Best for: Roasting, grilling, and braising

07 of 08


Types of pork cuts - Bacon
Emma Darvick

There are many types of bacon. Conventional bacon is made from fatty slabs taken from a pig's underbelly, then smoked and cured with salt, which concentrates the flavor. Leaner Canadian bacon is cut from the loin and comes in cylindrical slices. Pancetta, also cut from the belly, is cured (salted or brined) but not smoked. Bacon has a longer shelf life than uncured pork. It can be refrigerated for up to seven days and frozen for three months.

Best for: Pan-frying

08 of 08


Types of pork cuts - Ham
Emma Darvick

Ham comes from a pig's leg. Some hams are sold fresh for baking. Most are cured with brine, salt, and spices (making them juicier) and fully cooked. Some are smoked, which imparts a meatier, more intense flavor. Hams are sold in boneless, semiboneless, and bone-in varieties. Bone-in hams usually yield the best flavor, while boneless hams are easier to cut. Prosciutto is ham that has been cured and air-dried for long periods of time for tenderness and a more complex flavor; it is typically sliced paper-thin and consumed uncooked. Precooked ham can be refrigerated for up to seven days; when sliced, consume it within four days. Sliced deli ham keeps in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for up to seven days. Freezing cooked ham is not recommended, as it results in an unpleasant texture.

Best for: Baking

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