The 5 Best Budget Cuts of Pork and How to Cook Them

published Mar 15, 2017
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Pork chops and tenderloin are favorites among many, but these mild-flavored, lean cuts come with a higher price tag to match. Look inside the meat case and you’ll find a selection of options to get your fill of pork without killing your food budget for the week — you just have to know what to look for and what to do with it when you get home. Here are our five favorite budget buys and how to cook them to perfection.

Why These Cuts Are the Best Buys

To determine the best cuts of pork that won’t break your food budget, are readily available at the grocery store, and cook up into a delicious dinner, I chatted with Pamela Johnson from the National Pork Board.

Like most budget-friendly cuts, this selection of pork is tougher and contains more fat than ultra-lean loin chops and tenderloin — and that works out in your favor. You’re going to get lots of flavor at a fraction of the cost of other pricier cuts. These are the cuts of pork that deliver on both price and flavor.

1. Pork Loin Roast

Average national price: $1.86 per pound for boneless (while bone-in loin is just $1.19 per pound).

What it is: If you enjoy juicy pork chops and tenderloin, the loin roast is the lean, mild-tasting, more budget-friendly cut to keep on your radar. Cut from the full loin, which runs along the back of the animal from shoulder to hip, the loin roast is sold boneless or bone-in, and typically weighs between two and four pounds.

Best ways to cook it: Loin roast is versatile and relatively easy to cook. Because of its larger size, loin roast benefits from a lower cooking temperature than the smaller tenderloin. This cut can be oven-roasted or cooked over indirect heat on the grill. It’s a great option when you’re trying to feed the whole crew.

Recipes with Loin Roast

2. Pork Shoulder

Average national price: $2.47 per pound

What it is: Pork shoulder, also referred to as pork butt or Boston butt, is the large, tough cut of meat that’s marbled with fat from the pig’s shoulder region. It is sold boneless and bone-in, and typically weighs between five and 10 pounds.

Best ways to cook it: This tough cut benefits from low, slow cooking, which ultimately leaves the meat tender and juicy. Pork shoulder is really versatile; it can be braised or stewed on the stovetop or prepared in the slow cooker. This cut is commonly used for pulled pork, stews, ragùs, and meals with shredded meat.

Recipes with Pork Shoulder

3. Spareribs

Average national price: $2.76 per pound

What they are: Spareribs are cut from the bottom section of the ribs (with baby back ribs on top) and breastbone. Rib meat is fairly tough and can be fatty, but if given plenty of time to cook down, they transform into tender, flavorful meat that’s finger-lickin’ good.

Best ways to cook them: Spareribs benefit from low, slow cooking, and the easiest way to do that at home is in the oven. This method starts with a few minutes under the broiler to brown the meat, then the ribs are baked at a low temperature for several hours until they become super tender.

4. Ground Pork

Average national price: $3.06 per pound

What it is: Ground pork is a flavorful and versatile form of pork, made from various parts of the animal, often the shoulder and loin ends. It is typically sold pre-packaged in the meat section, although it can also be freshly ground. Unlike ground beef and turkey, pre-packaged ground pork doesn’t always include the fat percentage, which is typically around 15 percent.

Best ways to cook it: Ground pork can be cooked on its own or blended with other ground meat, like beef, turkey, and chicken. Cook it, crumbled, on the stovetop, or form into meatballs, burgers, or meatloaf to be cooked in the oven or on the stovetop. Expect more fat during cooking, and a rich, sausage-like flavor.

Recipes with Ground Pork

5. Sirloin Chops

Average national price: $3.08 per pound

What they are: Cut from the back of the loin, near the hip area, sirloin chops are the most budget-friendly pork chops. Unlike the more lean loin and rib chops, sirloin chops are a tougher cut, containing various muscle groups, a higher percentage of bone, and more fat marbling.

Best ways to cook them: Because sirloin chops have a tougher bite, they don’t fare well with our go-to method for searing lean loin or rib chops and then finishing them in the oven. Instead, sirloin chops benefit from braising and the low, slow heat from the slow cooker.