When it comes to steaks, beef is by far the most popular choice for searing or grilling in America. But what about pork? While pork chops are popular, some butcher shops or supermarket meat sections will also have something labeled as a pork steak. These large pieces of pork are intensely flavorful by themselves or with a delicious marinade. It’s a filling and tasty alternative to beef, great for grilling or searing.
First, let’s define the difference between a pork chop and a pork steak. Since pigs and cows both are four-legged mammals, pork and beef can be butchered into similar cuts. The key difference is size and fat content since cows are larger and pork is fattier. Pork chops refer to three different parts of the pig — the loin, rib, and sirloin. The pork loin chop, located underneath the spine of the animal, is commonly butchered with the bone attached (resembling a t-shape). This chop is from the same area as the t-bone or porterhouse steak on a cow. If the loin is deboned and kept whole, this is called a loin roast, one of the most popular pork roasts. The pork rib chop also has a correlation to beef — the ribeye steak. Similar to the ribeye, a pork rib chop has a curved bone attached to the meat with a leaner center and fattier cap. Compared to the loin chop, the rib chop will have more fat and a softer texture. Finally, the sirloin, butchered from the pig’s backend is a leaner and cheaper cut. Sirloin chops are bigger but tougher than both loin and rib.
So what is a pork steak? Specifically, pork steak is butchered from the pork shoulder (also known as Boston Butt), an area typically used for slow cooking. Adding to the confusion is that this cut is also sold as pork shoulder chops. These are the same thing, the only difference being individual butcher naming preference or the size of the cut. Pork steaks are usually thick and being from the pig’s shoulder, have a great balance of fat to meat along with incredible meaty flavor. The downside is that its tougher than rib or loin chops. This cut needs some technique and skill to cook properly.
Pork steak can sometimes be hard to find because of butchering preferences, customer demand, and different labeling. As mentioned previously, sometimes pork steak will be labeled as shoulder chops. If confused by the packaging, the best option is to visit your local butcher and ask for pork steaks. The butcher will cut a pork shoulder into steaks to your desired thickness. Another option is to order meat online from your favorite purveyor. These companies will often source high-quality pork that’s a step above the typical supermarket pork offerings.
Pork steaks are great marinated. They go extremely well with a spicy marinade consisting of hot peppers and herbs. For something elegant and quick, try a simple blend of lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. For a Southeast Asian twist, try seasoning your pork steak with lemongrass, garlic, sugar, and fish sauce. Pork steaks are essentially a blank canvas for flavors and marry well with a diverse range of ingredients. The fatty marbling of pork steaks gives the cut an awesome juiciness. To increase the pork steak’s tenderness, marinate the meat with something acidic like citrus or pineapple juice. This will help break down the meat, making it more tender.
Also, pork steaks will generally include some bones. These bones are not difficult to deal with and effortless to eat around. Because of the thickness, bones, and overall fattiness of pork steaks, they need a longer cooking time than leaner chops like loin. The plus side is that pork steaks are more forgiving because of the excellent marbling, giving you more protection from overcooking. Pork steak can be pan seared, grilled, or broiled in the oven. If cooking high-quality pork, its totally fine to eat the meat medium to medium rare. But if your unsure about pinkish pork or using standard supermarket cuts, cook to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
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