Pork is one of the most versatile meats and it is flavorful and delicious. It can be lean, it can be rich and flavorful, but it’s almost always delicious. If you are trying to eat “heart smart,” pork can be a regular part of your diet, and if you want to indulge, you can do that as well. There are many ways to prepare chops, tenderloin and roasts. Here’s how to cook the different cuts of pork. Some recipes still call for the an internal temperature of 160 degrees. That may have been the right thing to do back when trichinosis was still in existence, but today’s commercially-bred pigs are tested for disease, so cooking them that much is just drying them out. A little pink in your pork is okay, trust us!
Chops come from meat along the center of the back and ribs of the pig, just to either side of the loin (although the loin itself can be cut into chops as well.) Chops, being cut thinner than a roast, benefit from a high-heat, low-time method of cooking like grilling, broiling, or even pan frying. Roasting them may dry them out, although with care it is possible to do. Still, it’s easier (and delicious) to stick with grilling. Depending on thickness, you may have to cook for as long as ten minutes, but really shoot for an internal temperature of 150 degrees, and let the meat stand for a bit before cutting into it to let it finish cooking.
The tenderloin sits just underneath the loin, and as its name would imply, it’s a tender piece of business. It’s also incredibly versatile. It can be marinated and slow-cooked, smoked, grilled, roasted with herbs, and just about anything else you can think of. It’s a bit leaner, so be careful not to let it dry out since there’s less fat in it to help keep it moist, but it’s flavor and texture is excellent. When roasting, be sure to let the meat rest after it hits 145-150 degrees. Simply remove it from the heat, put it on a plate and cover loosely with foil, and the residual heat will make the meat rise in temperature roughly ten to fifteen degrees. After fifteen minutes of resting, cut it width-wise (against the grain).
You’ve got a few choices when it comes to ribs. There’s country-style ribs, which are basically the whole rib section. They contain a lot of meat, but with the amount of bone and connective tissue they may be more trouble than they’re worth. The best-loved ribs are the baby back ribs, which are the short sections of rib. Very tender, very flavorful, and easy to work with. The best method? Use a dry rub to season your ribs, put them on a sheet pan covered with a little foil, and put them in the oven at 180 degrees for two hours. This slow cooking method will help the rubs really flavor the meat and will make the meat fall-off-the-bone tender. To finish them, put them on the grill over high-heat and brush with barbecue sauce. After just a few minutes to give them some char, they’re done! You could do all of this with a smoker, but that’s a whole different article!