Buying From Your Local Butcher: Pork
How can you shop for the best quality, tastiest meat? What interesting cuts can you buy, and how should you cook them? Buying meat from a butcher can seem a little intimidating when you’re used to picking the same packets of meat off the supermarket shelves, and you might not be sure what to ask for. So we asked an experienced chef about how to buy from a butcher in this four-part blog series.
Simon May has over 18 years experience working as a chef in the hospitality industry. Maintaining close relationships with his suppliers, he ensures to visit local farms and butchers to source the highest quality produce and see where it comes from. Simon has always been invested in sourcing meat and learning how to cut it in order to get the best flavour and quality possible.
Here he tells us everything you need to know about buying pork. If you haven’t already, check out our interviews with Simon on general tips for buying from a butcher, as well as how to shop for poultry and beef.
What should you look for when buying pork?
For pork you would mainly look for the colour of the meat. It’s generally a greyish-pink colour, which is surprising because pork falls under the red meat category.
What affects the quality of the meat?
Ultimately you want the freshest, best quality pork. The taste of the meat boils down to the treatment of the animal, how it was reared (free range or organic), and what it’s fed.
Best cut to try for the beginner, intermediate and expert?
I find the pig is the most versatile animal when it comes to nose to tail eating. For a beginner or intermediate cook it might be easier to use the prime cuts of pork: the shoulder, fillets and chops. For someone who wants to experiment, the cheek, head, belly and trotters for stocks are great ones to try.
What is your top cooking tip?
When purchasing pork belly from your butcher, always ask them to score the meat for that nice crispy juicy crackling or score the rind yourself. Take the pork belly, dry the rind with a kitchen towel and salt with sea salt using your hands. Then score the meat by taking a sharp knife and cutting parallel lines. Do not cut too deep as you don’t want to pierce the pork underneath.
Top budget cut and favourite recipe to make with it?
Pork belly is an inexpensive, fatty cut of meat from the underside of the pig near the loin. It’s a very versatile cut of meat, mostly used for Sunday lunch. The skin stays crisp and crunchy while the meat is soft and tender. Don’t forget to score the pork belly for delicious crackling!
Top luxury cut and favourite recipe to make with it?
Pork Cheeks, a slip of meat in the hollow of the cheek, is some of the best on the animal. I find slow cooking ensures they aren’t tough and gives the fat time to render out, so when cooked they melt in your mouth. To maximise the flavour, sear your cheeks in a frying pan first until they are golden all over and then slow cook them until they are falling apart. I would serve with mash and greens, simple but tasty.
What are some of your recommendations for things to pair with pork?
One of my favourites is crispy diced potatoes tossed in melted butter, garlic, and parsley. I also like roasted garlic cauliflower and root vegetables such as onions, sweet potatoes, turnips, ginger, beetroot, garlic, fennel, carrots, celeriac and of course potatoes.
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