Eating Pork: 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Cuts and Preparing Delicious Meals

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

Always the latest smoking tips & tricks?

Subscribe to THE ESSENTIAL newsletter for aspiring pitmasters

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

Pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig (Sus domesticus). It is the most commonly consumed meat worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC. Pork is eaten both freshly cooked and preserved. Curing extends the shelf life of the pork products. Ham, smoked pork, gammon, bacon and sausage are examples of preserved pork.

Pork is delicious and versatile, but it’s not as healthy as beef due to its higher fat content and lower protein. However, it can still be a great option for a healthy meal.

In this article, I’ll explore the differences between pork and beef and explain why pork can be a better choice for a nutritious diet.

What is pork

In this post we'll cover:

Pork vs Beef: Which Meat Reigns Supreme?

When it comes to choosing between pork and beef, there are a few key differences to keep in mind. Here are some things to consider:

  • Fat content: Pork typically contains slightly less fat than beef, making it a good choice for those looking to cut back on their fat intake.
  • Protein content: Pork contains slightly more protein than beef, making it a great choice for those looking to increase their protein intake.
  • Cuts: Both pork and beef offer a variety of cuts, each with their own unique flavor and texture. Some common cuts of pork include pork chops, pork tenderloin, and pork shoulder, while common cuts of beef include ribeye, sirloin, and filet mignon.
  • Preparation methods: Both pork and beef can be prepared in a variety of ways, including grilling, roasting, and frying. However, some methods may be better suited to one  type of meat (like these to smoke) over the other.
  • Flavor: Pork and beef have different flavors, with pork being slightly sweeter and beef having a richer, meatier taste.

Choosing the Right Meat for Your Dish

When it comes to choosing between pork and beef for a specific dish, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Budget: Pork is typically a lower-cost option than beef, making it a great choice for those looking to save money.
  • Versatility: Pork is a more versatile meat than beef, meaning it can be used in a wider variety of dishes.
  • Cooking time: Pork typically cooks faster than beef, making it a good choice for quick and easy meals.
  • Flavor profile: Consider the flavor profile of your dish when choosing between pork and beef. Pork is a good choice for dishes that include sweet or tangy ingredients, while beef pairs well with rich, savory flavors.
  • Protein content: If you’re looking to increase your protein intake, pork may be the better choice, as it contains slightly more protein than beef.

Tips for Cooking the Perfect Pork or Beef Dish

No matter which type of meat you choose, there are a few key tips to keep in mind when preparing your dish:

  • Choose the right cut: Different cuts of meat require different cooking methods, so be sure to choose the right cut for your recipe.
  • Read the label: When buying meat, be sure to read the label to understand the quality and content of the product.
  • Consider the cooking method: Different cooking methods can affect the flavor and texture of your meat, so choose the method that will best achieve the desired result.
  • Add extra flavor: To enhance the flavor of your dish, consider adding a sauce or seasoning mix.
  • Serve with the right sides: When serving your pork or beef dish, consider pairing it with the right sides, such as rice or vegetables.

The Verdict: Which Meat is Better?

Ultimately, the choice between pork and beef comes down to personal preference. Both meats offer a variety of cuts, flavors, and preparation methods, making them excellent choices for a wide range of dishes. Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy dinner or a big, hearty meal, both pork and beef have plenty to offer. So, choose the meat that best fits your budget, taste, and cooking process, and enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal.

The Porky Past: A Look at the History of Pork in Western Cuisine

Pork has been a staple food for humans for centuries. The pig dates back 40 million years to fossils, which indicates that wild pig-like animals roamed forests and swamps in Europe and Asia. By 4900 B.C., pigs were domesticated in China, and by 1500 B.C., they were being raised in Europe. The Chinese were the first to recognize the value of pork as a source of protein, and they began breeding pigs for meat production.

Pork in Ancient Cultures

Pork was a rare and special food in ancient times. In some religious traditions, pork was not allowed to be eaten, and water restrictions made it difficult to keep pigs. However, in many countries, pork dishes were famous and included in local traditions. For example, in the United States, pork is known for its place in American cuisine, and it is a big part of the autumn and late winter season (here’s how to smoke in the cold weather).

Pork in Western Cuisine

When the conquest of the New World began, Hernando de Soto brought hogs with him to the Americas. Native Americans quickly adopted the practice of pig farming, and the animals became a normal part of the local diet. In the United States, pork became a popular meat in the 1800s, and it was included in numerous dishes. Today, Americans consume about 50 pounds of pork per year, which is second only to beef in terms of meat consumption.

The Rise of Charcuterie

Charcuterie is the practice of preserving meat, and it has been an important part of pork production for centuries. Guilds were built around the production of salted and cured pork products, such as pâtés and sausages (here’s how to make them). These products were named after the specific regions where they were produced, and they were sold to help keep the meat fresh for longer periods of time.

The Importance of Pork Products

Pork is a versatile meat that can be cooked in a variety of ways. It is also an important source of protein, and it is required to meet the dietary needs of many people. There are numerous types of pork products available, including fresh pork, bacon, ham, and sausage. Each of these products requires special cooking and storage methods to keep them fresh and safe to eat.

How Pork Consumption Patterns Have Changed Over Time

In recent years, pork consumption in the United States has been steadily increasing. According to research by the USDA, Americans now consume approximately 50 pounds of pork per capita each year, which is nearly half of all meat consumed in the country. This increase in consumption can be attributed to a number of factors, including the popularity of traditional pork dishes like sweet and spicy BBQ and the ease of preparing pork in various forms.

Pork Consumption Worldwide

While pork is widely consumed in the United States, it is even more popular in other parts of the world. China, for example, is the largest producer and consumer of pork, accounting for more than half of the total worldwide consumption. In countries like Japan and Spain, pork is a staple item in many traditional dishes, and is often served in the form of a curry or a spicy, sweet dish.

The Nutritional Value of Pork

Despite being considered a red meat, pork is actually a relatively lean protein source. Fresh pork is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and is lower in fat than many other meats like beef and lamb. Pork is also an important element in many recipes, and is often used to maintain the overall flavor and texture of a dish.

The Economic Impact of Pork Consumption

The consumption of pork has a significant economic impact, both in the United States and worldwide. In the United States, the pork industry accounts for nearly $23 billion in economic activity each year, and employs more than half a million people. Worldwide, the production of pigs and other animals accounts for a large percentage of the total agricultural output, with pork accounting for a significant portion of that output.

New Pork Recipes and Trends

As pork consumption continues to increase, new recipes and trends are emerging. In countries like Austria and India, pork is often served with potatoes or mushrooms, while in South America, pork is a popular ingredient in traditional dishes like feijoada. Additionally, new methods of preparing pork, such as slow cooking and smoking, are becoming more widely used, and new products like pork jerky and bacon-wrapped items are gaining popularity in the market.

The Wide Range of Pork Products: From Fresh Meat to Prepared Forms

Pork is one of the most popular meats in the world, and it is eaten in a wide variety of forms. From fresh cuts of meat to prepared products, pork is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many different ways. The history of pork production and processing is long and complex, and it has given rise to a wide range of pork products that are enjoyed by people all over the world.

Fresh Pork Cuts

Fresh pork cuts are the main product of pork production, and they are typically sold in large cuts that can be further processed or cut down to size. The most common cuts of fresh pork include the shoulder, which is a coarse and highly flavorful cut that is suitable for slow cooking, and the loin, which is a leaner cut that is good for quick cooking methods like grilling or pan-frying. Other cuts of fresh pork include the leg, the belly, and the heart.


Bacon is one of the most popular pork products in the world, and it is highly prized for its rich, smoky flavor and crispy texture. Bacon is typically made from the belly of the pig, which is cured with salt, sugar, and other ingredients to produce a product that is suitable for frying or baking. Bacon is a highly versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide range of dishes, from breakfast to dinner.

Chinese Pork Products

Chinese cuisine is known for its wide range of pork products, which are carefully prepared using traditional methods and ingredients. Some of the most popular Chinese pork products include:

  • Char siu: A type of barbecued pork that is marinated in a sweet and savory sauce and then roasted until tender and juicy.
  • Lap cheong: A type of sausage that is made from pork and a variety of spices and seasonings. Lap cheong is typically dried and then cooked before being eaten.
  • Roast pork: A type of pork that is roasted until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Roast pork is often served with rice or noodles.

Buying and Using Pork Products

When buying pork products, it is important to consider factors like the cut of meat, the fat content, and the method of production. Some tips for buying and using pork products include:

  • Look for cuts of meat that are fresh and have a good color and texture.
  • Choose products that are produced using natural ingredients and methods.
  • Consider the fat content of the product, as higher fat products may be more suitable for slow cooking methods.
  • When preparing pork products, be sure to cook them thoroughly to ensure that they are safe to eat.

Direct-to-Consumer Pork Products

In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards direct-to-consumer pork products, which are sold directly to customers by small-scale producers. These products are often of a higher quality than standard supermarket pork, and they are produced using sustainable and ethical methods. Some direct-to-consumer pork products may include:

  • Heritage breeds of pork that are not typically sold in supermarkets.
  • Pork products that are produced using organic or vegetarian-fed methods.
  • Pork products that are sold in small, carefully packaged sizes that are suitable for a variety of users and budgets.

The Art of Eating Pork

Like all meat, it’s important to cook pork properly to ensure that it’s safe to eat. The internal temperature of pork should reach 145°F to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. Here are some tips for cooking pork safely:

  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the pork.
  • Allow the pork to rest for a few minutes after cooking to allow the juices to redistribute.
  • Trim any excess fat from the pork before cooking to reduce the risk of flare-ups.
  • Store pork in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

The Versatility of Pork in Different Dishes

Pork is a versatile meat that can be used in a variety of dishes. It’s a staple in many cuisines around the world, from sweet and smoky barbecue in the United States to spicy and complex dishes in Asia. Here are some popular pork dishes from around the world:

  • Bacon and eggs for breakfast in the United States.
  • Char siu pork in China.
  • Pork vindaloo in India.
  • Lechon in the Philippines.
  • Carnitas in Mexico.

The Negative Associations with Pork Consumption

While pork offers numerous health benefits, there are some negative associations with its consumption. Some people believe that pork is associated with heart disease and other health problems. However, studies have shown that pork can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. Here are some of the negative associations with pork consumption:

  • Some people believe that pork is associated with heart disease.
  • Pork consumption has been linked to an increase in certain types of cancer.
  • Pork can transmit diseases if not cooked properly.

The Role of Local Farms and Butchers in Pork Production

Many people choose to buy their pork from local farms and butchers. This allows them to support local businesses and ensures that they’re getting fresh, high-quality pork. Local farms and butchers also play an important role in pork production by:

  • Allowing consumers to choose the cuts of pork they want.
  • Offering a wider variety of pork products than big brand stores.
  • Providing a higher level of service and attention to detail.
  • Following proper safety and sanitation guidelines.

Choosing the Perfect Pork: What to Consider When Buying Meat

When buying pork, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Different cuts of pork have varying levels of fat content, which can affect the flavor and texture of the meat. Here are some basic things to keep in mind when choosing a cut of pork:

  • Look for cuts with a little bit of fat marbling throughout the muscle, as this will help keep the meat moist and flavorful during cooking.
  • Avoid cuts that are too fatty or too lean, as they may not cook evenly and can result in a dry or tough finished product.
  • Consider the specific dish you’ll be making and choose a cut of pork that will work well with the cooking method and flavor profile.

Checking for Freshness

When it comes to buying pork, freshness is key. Here are some tips to help you ensure that the meat you’re buying is fresh and safe to eat:

  • Check the sell-by date on the label to make sure the pork hasn’t been sitting in the store for too long.
  • Look for meat that is firm to the touch and has a bright pink color. Avoid meat that looks dull or grayish in color.
  • Smell the meat to make sure it doesn’t have a strong, unpleasant odor. Fresh pork should have a mild, slightly sweet smell.
  • If you’re buying pre-packaged pork, check to make sure there is no excess liquid in the package, as this can be a sign that the meat has been sitting for too long.

Understanding USDA Grading and Inspection

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a grading system for meat that can help you determine the quality and safety of the pork you’re buying. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Look for the USDA stamp on the label, which indicates that the animal was inspected and passed for consumption.
  • The grading system (Prime, Choice, Select) indicates the quality of the meat based on factors like marbling and age of the animal.
  • While higher grades of meat may be more expensive, they can also be more flavorful and tender.

Additional Considerations

Here are some other things to keep in mind when buying pork:

  • If you’re not sure what to look for, ask the butcher or meat department staff for help. They can provide guidance on specific cuts and cooking methods.
  • Lighting can affect the color of the meat, so try to view it in natural light if possible.
  • When buying pork belly, look for a piece that is evenly sized and has a good balance of fat and meat.
  • If you’re buying a whole piece of pork, consider the size and capacity of your kitchen and cooking equipment before making your selection.
  • If you’re interested in learning more about pork butchering and processing, many meat departments offer demonstrations or classes that can teach you tricks of the trade.

Remember, buying high-quality pork means better flavor and a more enjoyable eating experience. By taking the time to choose the right cuts and check for freshness and quality, you can ensure that your pork dishes are always a hit.

Why Pork is a Nutritional Powerhouse

Pork is an excellent source of protein, containing all the essential amino acids required to build and maintain muscle mass. In fact, a 3-ounce serving of cooked pork provides around 22 grams of protein, making it a great option for people looking to increase their protein intake. Additionally, pork is rich in a range of essential nutrients, including:

  • Vitamin B12: crucial for proper brain function and the formation of red blood cells
  • Vitamin B6: important for the proper functioning of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells
  • Thiamin: essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates and the proper functioning of the nervous system
  • Niacin: important for maintaining healthy skin and proper digestion

Pork: A Good Source of Healthy Fats

While pork is often associated with high levels of saturated fat, it also contains a significant amount of unsaturated fats, which are important for maintaining heart health. A 3-ounce serving of cooked pork contains around 6 grams of total fat, with around 2 grams of that being saturated fat. The rest is composed of healthier unsaturated fats, which can help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Pork: Rich in Vitamins and Minerals

In addition to being a great source of protein and healthy fats, pork is also rich in a range of vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Iron: important for the formation of red blood cells and the proper functioning of the immune system
  • Zinc: essential for the proper functioning of the immune system and wound healing
  • Phosphorus: important for the formation of strong bones and teeth
  • Selenium: crucial for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland and the immune system

Pork: Lower in Calories Than You Might Think

Contrary to popular belief, pork is not necessarily higher in calories than other types of meat. In fact, a 3-ounce serving of cooked pork contains around 170 calories, which is similar to the number of calories found in a similar-sized serving of cooked beef. Additionally, pork is lower in carbohydrates and sugar than many other meats, making it a great option for people looking to reduce their intake of these nutrients.

Pork: A Versatile and Delicious Food

Pork is a popular food all around the world, with different cuts and preparation methods found in many different cuisines. Some of the most popular ways to prepare pork include:

  • Barbecue: slow-cooking pork shoulder or other cuts over low heat for a tender and flavorful result
  • Pulled pork: slow-cooking pork until it is tender enough to be easily pulled apart, often served in sandwiches or tacos
  • Chops: single slices of pork cut from the loin or other parts of the animal, often grilled or pan-fried
  • Roasts: larger cuts of pork, often prepared in the oven with a variety of seasonings and ingredients

No matter how it is prepared, pork offers a range of important nutrients and health benefits that make it a great addition to any diet. So next time you’re looking for a delicious and nutritious food, consider adding some pork to your plate!

For Jews, the consumption of pork is strictly forbidden under the dietary laws of kashrut. The Torah states that pigs are unclean animals and should not be eaten. Even touching the carcass of a pig makes a person unclean. Therefore, observant Jews avoid pork and any food that contains pork products.

The Sustainable Pork Industry: Caring for Pigs and the Planet

The pork industry has come a long way in terms of sustainability. Producers are now more aware of the impact their farms have on the environment and are taking continuous steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Many producers have set ethical and environmental goals for their farms, such as reducing water usage, improving waste management, and using renewable energy sources. The National Pork Board has a Pork Checkoff program that funds research and education on sustainability practices for producers.

The Care of Pigs

Sustainability in the pork industry is not just about the environment, but also about the care of the pigs. Producers are committed to providing a safe and comfortable environment for the pigs to live in. They ensure that the pigs have access to clean water and nutritious food, as well as proper medical care. The National Pork Board also has a We Care initiative that promotes responsible pig care and animal welfare.

Metrics and Tools for Measuring Sustainability

To measure the sustainability of their farms, producers use metrics such as the carbon footprint calculator. This tool helps them understand the impact their farms have on the environment and identify areas where they can improve. The National Pork Board also has a Pork Quality Assurance Plus program that provides guidelines and standards for producers to follow to ensure the sustainability of their farms.

The Impact of the Pork Industry on the Planet

The pork industry has a significant impact on the planet, but producers are taking steps to reduce this impact. They are using renewable energy sources, reducing water usage, and improving waste management. The National Pork Board has a Pork Industry Environmental Sustainability Goals initiative that aims to reduce the industry’s environmental impact by 2025.


So, that’s why pork is such a popular meat choice. It’s versatile, it’s delicious, and it’s a good way to get some protein into your diet. Plus, it’s a great way to celebrate a special occasion with some delicious pork dishes. So, go ahead and enjoy some pork!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.