So what are the High-on-the-Hog cuts?
- Sirloin At the base of the spine between the ham and the loin. Typically sliced thin to cutlets. A lean meat.
- Tenderloin One of the leanest meats on the pig and perhaps the highest demanded meat of all. Each pig has two loins and there are never enough. Often sliced into medallions, loin roasts or pork chops. This meat is probably the most commonly associated with pigs along with ham and bacon. These are the primary muscles on the back of the pig along the spine. Chine off for easy-cut roasts, bone out or in at your preference. Some people like the flavor added by the marrow.
- Boston Butt Also known as shoulder, not to be confused with picnic shoulder which comes from the front leg just below the Boston butt. In my opinion, this is one of best pieces of meat on a pig due to the marbling and the way the three muscles of the back come together. For roasts choose bone out so you don’t have to deal with carving around the shoulder blade. The Boston butt can be kept whole or divided into roasts. This is prime meat to be used for pulled pork, followed by picnic shoulder and ham. It can also be cut to delicious steaks, often called country ribs by some butchers.
Having Your Pork Chop and Eating Tenderloin too?
Note that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. That is to say, in some cases, making a particular cut precludes making others. For example, bone-in lower loin chops contain the tenderloin the way it is normally cut at the butcher. You could get a whole loin, preferably chine-off to make cutting easier, and then strip the tenderloin and have tenderloin as well as semi-bone in chops. But with normal pork chops the tenderloin is that little eye of meat so that makes it no longer available as a whole loin. Likewise if you get bone-in pork chops from the loin then you miss out on baby-back ribs because they are the bone in the chops.
With meaty spare ribs you lose the chest bacon. Meaty spare ribs are wonderful, especially smoked, but if you cut your pig that way then it leaves just belly bacon. Another example is Boston butt roast vs shoulder steaks. These are both cut from the same meat where three muscles at the top of the back come together layered with delicious fat. Some people want this for making pulled pork, othersfor a roast, some get pork steaks.