So your spare freezer in the basement is empty and you are looking to either get a half or whole pig butchered to stock up, but what cuts should you get?
When butchering a pig there are nine classic cuts of meat in which we will review all here.
The sirloin cut of meat from a pig is located on the back of the pig towards the rear end. The cut of sirloin is located above the ham and above the baby back ribs. Sirloins are usually cut into chops and then grilled.
The cut of sirloin is very similar to pork chops. The only difference between the two is that pork chops are from the loin and which is located further up the back of the pig.
If you aren’t familiar with the cut of ham then I haven’t a clue what you have at holiday gatherings. If you are looking for a good ham recipe I recommend this double smoked pineapple ham.
Anyways, the cut of ham come from the hind corner of the pig and is a very popular cut of meat. It is located on the tops side of the rear legs above the hock. When picking up a ham from the store, the cut of meat can come with either bone in or bone out.
I personally prefer ham with the bone is as it ads flavor to the meat.
3. Pork Chop
Pork chops are another very popular cut of meat from the butcher. They are usually either marinaded in some kind of sauce like BBQ sauce and then grilled or grilled and basted with a sauce like BBQ sauce.
They come in all kinds of sizes and can either be bought with bone in or bone out. Pork chops are usually readily available at most grocery stores.
4. Boston Butt (Also Known as Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt)
The Boston Butt has a few different names depending on what region of the world you are familiar with. They are all the same cut of meat with one minor difference.
When a pig is butchered the Boston Butt cut can come either with the should blade in or out. I personally prefer that the shoulder blade remains in as it assists with adding additional flavor.
The Boston Butt cut is located behind the head of the pig and is literally the shoulder of it, as you might guess. The Boston Butt cut typically weights between 6 and 12 pounds depending on the size of the pig that is being butchered.
My favorite way to cook a Boston Butt is by smoking it in the Big Green Egg and then pulling it to make pulled pork. Once its pulled it is so juicy that BBQ sauce is optional. Here is my favorite way to make Pulled Pork with Dizzy Pigs Raging River Rub.
You can even keep the left overs for this awesome Pulled Pork BBQ Pizza!
Many people also like to roast the cut of Boston Butt either in the oven or crock pot. Boston Butts are naturally a tough cut of meat. This is why you’ll notice the best way to cook a cut of Boston Butt is by cooking it low and slow.
The Boston Butt has nice layers of fat which is perfect with the toughness of this cut. When cooked low and slow the fat is rendered down allowing it to turn the Boston Butt from a tough cut of meat to a nice tender and juicy cut of meat.
5. Picnic Ham (Also Known as the Picnic Shoulder)
The picnic ham cut is located directly below the pork shoulder/Boston butt. The characteristics of the picnic ham is similar to the Boston butt, which is expected being located directly under it.
The picnic ham cut is also a tougher cut of meat like the Boston butt. The picnic ham cut also usually comes with a nice size fat cap on it. Similar to the Boston butt, the picnic ham is also best cooked or smoked low and slow.
The fat cap on the picnic ham cut will slowly render down when cooked low and slow. Just like the Boston butt, when the picnic ham will turn out juicy and tender if smoked properly low and slow.
Another very popular cut from a butchered pig is ribs. There are technically three types of ribs that can come from one butchered pig. When cooked properly, all three cuts of ribs can be juicy and tender.
Ribs are typically a tougher meat so they aren’t cooked at high temperatures. My preferred way to eat a cut of ribs is by smoking them as the smoke flavor really adds to flavor to the ribs.
With that being said ribs can also be cooked low and slow in a crock pot too.
Baby Back Ribs
The cut of baby back ribs are located on the back of the pig and in front of the sirloin cut of meat. Baby back ribs are my personal favorite of the three ribs and here is my favorite way to make the perfectly tender Smoked Ribs with Raging River Rub.
Even though they have the least amount of meat of all three ribs, in my opinion, they are the best eating ribs of them all.
When butchered, the baby back ribs are actually part of the pork loin cut. When you slice down the pork loin to remove the bones you are left with whats known as baby back ribs.
Country Style Spare Ribs
The cut of meat known as country style spare ribs is the backside of the picnic ham. The country style spare ribs are located under the front side of the pork chops.
Country style spare ribs are basically a bone in brisket if you were referencing a cow. The country style cut of spare ribs are also the meatiest of all three ribs.
The cut of spare ribs are located on the bottom side of the pig right in front of the pork belly. The spare rib cut can also be made into a St. Louis style cut of ribs which is popular to many people.
St. Louis style ribs have had the cartilage cut off which allows them to cook more evenly. Regular or St. Louis style spare ribs are the second meatiest of the three rib types that can be found on a butchered pig.
7. Pork Belly (Also Known as Bacon After Being Cured, Smoked and Sliced)
The pork belly cut is a cut that is loved by millions of people once it has been cured, smoked and then sliced. After this process its what we all love and know as bacon. The pork belly cut of a pig is located exactly where would think, the belly of the pig.
To make bacon out of the pork belly cut of the pig it first must be cured. The pork belly is typically cured with salt for several days. Once cured it is then typically smoked low and slow. After this it is then put on a slicer and sliced into thin strips of meat known as bacon.
The pork belly cut can be cooked many other ways, but processing it by curing, smoking and slicing it into bacon is the most popular use of pork belly. Another awesome thing to try with pork belly is burnt ends. I also highly recommend this recipe for delicious Pork Belly Burnt Ends.
8. Hock (Rear and Front)
The butchers cut known as a hock is also known as a pork knuckle. The hock is basically the knee joint of the pig. The hock doesn’t contain much meat, so the cut is usually utilized in things like stews and or made into over flavorful sauces by allowing it to simmer within while they cook.
The juices from the cut of a hock really add a tremendous amount of flavor to any stew of soup.
9. Pork Secreto
A cut of pork secreto is originally known as a secret butchers cut from a pig in Spain. As mentioned by the Barbecue Bible, The secreto cut of meat has some mystery behind it but it is believed to be a cut of meat that is hidden under a thick layer of belly fat and others reference it as on top of the brisket, behind the should and between the shoulder, ribs and fat back.
I wont go into more details here as the Barbecue Bible has a great article on it which can be read here.
Other Thoughts on Cuts of Pigs by a Butcher
There are many other cuts of pigs that butcher makes that are also utilized else where. If you are looking to dive deeper into the world of a butcher then there are other cuts like ears, snout, pig head, trotters, jowls and even tails.
Most of these cuts of meat are used in making soups, stock and ears are even popular around the world roasted, grilled and even pickled!
If you are more of a visual person and would prefer to see how a pig is processed with all the above mentions cuts I recommend watching this video by “EATER”. It will show you how a pig is processed and all the cuts of meat are made.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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