5 Most Common Pork Belly Cuts You Should Know

October 31, 2022

You may not even be aware of it, but aside from the bacon part, pork belly cuts include pork belly roasts, pork spare ribs, the Saint Louis cuts, and the rib tips. You probably eat pork belly regularly. This pork cut appears in many recipes in its most recognizable form: bacon or pork belly.

Pork belly, which is the fresh and uncured form is super delicious and high in calories. This pork meat has juicy fat, crispy skin, and deeply flavorful meat. In cooking school, I learned all the different cuts of pork in what seemed like pork anatomy classes. And right here, I’ll break them down for you. 

pork belly cuts

5 Most Common Cuts from the Pork Belly 

The whole pork belly seems not to contain a lot of pork cuts. Let me change your flawed view of belly pork by showing you some of the most common pork belly cuts: 

1. Spare Ribs

When you first saw spare ribs, the first thing that probably came to your mind is, “aren’t we talking about pork belly?” But when you check the pig’s body structure, the spare ribs belong more to the belly than the ribs

To me, the baby back ribs traditionally cover the ribs section while the spare ribs, St. Louis ribs, and pork rib tips which are further down belong to the pork belly with a few bone-in cuts in these sections. Only the underbelly is boneless. 

Along with beef brisket and sausage meat, spare ribs are the classics of American barbecues, which is why the three dishes are also called Holy Trinity or Holy Trinity BBQ. These ribs have everything you need for an enjoyable BBQ according to time-honored traditions.

With this type of rib rack, the meat is marinated for a long time and aromatically, which is why many people wear a bib at the barbecue. Or you’d smell like bacon. 

The rubs, sauces, and glazes just run off your fingers. It might be a bit of a mess, but it’s also a culinary experience. The seasoning not only emphasizes the good taste of the meat but also makes it particularly delicious.

When cut raw, the ribs feature the gristle part of the pork belly. The meat is long-fibred and firmer to the bite than the meat of the baby back ribs. 

Fresh Pork Spare Ribs

Spare Ribs Preparation

They are prepared in style in the smoker. Alternatively, you can use the oven. If you follow the traditional, North American recipes, the first step is to remove the silver skin on the underside of the pork ribs with a spoon or paper towel to hold. 

This is followed by rubbing with a dry spice mixture. The ribs can also be lavishly marinated. The cooking temperature I recommend here is a low 275 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooking time is correspondingly long at up to five hours. If you need it cooked faster, set the oven to a higher temperature. Maybe 300. 

2. St. Louis-Style Ribs

St. Louis cut ribs is the part of the entire rib cage that is cut from the upper belly area of ​​the pig. They are curvier and have less meat. Below the St. Louis cut are the so-called rib tips which I’ll show you later. These are the ends of the ribs, which are merged into the whole pork belly.

The St. Louis cut is also known as the Kansas City cut in the US. The meat is extremely tender and juicy. The intramuscular fat content is high and ensures a great taste experience which I like. 

Due to the flatter look and the juicy and intense meat taste, this cut is very popular at barbecue competitions.

Tip: To remove the silver skin/membrane, use the handle of a spoon. Then slightly lift the silver skin over the bone, grab it with kitchen paper and simply pull it off. Cooking pork belly from the ribs with the silver skin intact will give you tough meat that’s less flavorful. You won’t like it.

Raw St Louis Style BBQ Ribs

3. Pork Belly Roast

Boneless roasts and bone-in roasts are delicious and forgiving pork belly cuts that are suitable for beginners. And what’s more? When slow-cooked, the fat renders and becomes crisp

Pork roast is usually tied before cooking to maintain a shape that ensures even cooking. Then the pork is baked in the oven until the rind becomes crispy. 

Pork belly roasts can be braised with carrots, celery, parsley root, and onions. Then you can season them with cumin, coriander, garlic, and marjoram.

In traditional Danish cuisine, pork belly roast is prepared as a flæskesteg. It is usually roasted in the oven with the skin intact after you season it with salt and bay leaf. The skin turns into a crispy crust, which is eaten with the meat.

Roast pork is also a traditional gourmet dish that can be served with a dark beer sauce. When served hot, it is usually accompanied by red cabbage, coleslaw, and bread. 

When served cold, it is accompanied by potatoes with freshly grated horseradish and bread.

Roasted Pork Belly

4. Rib Tips/Rib Ends

The rib tips are the gristle parts of the pork ribs. They are the rib cuts you’ll see the least. As a rule, this cut does not end up on sale a lot. However, they are popular in the barbecue scene as a tasty alternative to St. Louis ribs or baby back ribs. I recommend ordering two to three rib tips per person.

However, when you find or request for them, rib tips are the fine strips of pork belly with soft abdominal cartilage. I like to cook them low ‘n slow on the grill or smoker for BBQ. 

Pork Ribs

5. Pork Belly Slices

Pork belly slices aren’t actually a part of the pig but a type of cut you can find on sale at the butcher shop or the grocery store. 

Beautiful marbling: That’s what thinly sliced belly cuts are all about and what makes the meat juicy and flavorful. 

The abdominal flap of the pig is interspersed with several layers of fat. In addition, the rind, which is the thick and fatty outer layer of skin, is found in boneless slices. Boneless slices are therefore not lean, even the bone-in pork steaks. It is from the parts of the pig that has a high-fat content

The advantage of this, however, is that the meat does not become dry when roasting. In addition, the belly slice loses a lot of fat when frying. Consequently, it is leaner after preparation than when raw.

In addition, it is quick and easy to prepare. Just choose the right seasoning and nothing stands in the way of the taste experience.

Pork Belly Slices

What Exactly is Pork Belly Meat?

Pork belly is a cut of meat that can be bone-in or boneless but fatty cut. Cuts of pork belly taste nearly the same as pork loin chops. Pork belly is especially popular in Norwegian, Korean, Hispanic, Chinese, Danish, Thai, and Filipino cuisines.

Characteristics of Belly Meat

  • Origin: Found in the lower side and underside of the hog
  • Alternative names: belly bacon, pork slab, sowbelly pancetta, side pork 
  • Appearance: has fat deposits and a thick rind
  • Meat structure: long-fibered, streaky, and rich in fat
  • Taste: very flavorful 
  • Preparation: cooking, stewing, low-and-slow, roasted in covered dish, cured and smoked

The whole belly is cut from the bottom two-thirds of the pig. It is usually sold in stores boneless, that is, without rib bones. With a fat content of up to 30 percent (half of which is saturated), it is one of the fattest parts of the pig. But it is very flavorful cut.

The meat is long-fibered and interspersed with connective tissue and intramuscular fat. It ends up buttery soft, wonderfully juicy, and tasty, precisely because it has so much fatty tissue. The good thing is that most of these fats are lost when you fry the meat. 

The upper third of the whole belly is traversed with the ribs and is called the belly rib. This is where the classic spare pork ribs come from. 

What’s Pork Belly Suitable For?

Thanks to the thick rind, pork belly is perfect for slow-roasting preparations made to develop a crust in a covered dish. The meat is cut, sprinkled with salt, and then cooked until crispy in the oven or on the grill. 

Due to its long-fibered, streaky meat structure, the pork belly is most suitable for a slow cooking method such as stewing or low-and-slow type of cooking. When you cook belly pork at low temperatures to the right internal temperature, the meat becomes wonderfully soft and tender.

Whether as a roast with a crust or bacon – pork belly is very popular despite its high-fat content.

Pork Belly Recipe

If you’re looking for a simple and practical pork belly recipe, you’ll like the tasty and uncomplicated fried pork belly. A tip for the preparation of this dish is to pay attention to the pan. Pork belly frying spatters a lot of oil.

I always use a deep pan where I can completely cover the meat and keep it closed during frying. I only open the pan again after the fire is off. This way, I always have a crispy, dry pork belly, without burns and without messing my kitchen up. 

One more tip worth paying attention to: the thinner and smaller the cut of meat is, the crispier the result.

If you want it to be meatier and softer, cut them into small but thick pieces, like cubes. The essential thing is that the pork cuts are all the same size and thickness so that they fry evenly. To keep the crispiness, don’t remove the rind that comes attached to the fat.

Crispy Pork Belly Stir Fry With Chinese Kale

Ingredients

  • 500 grams of pork belly
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 375ml of lemon juice 
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 1 clove of crushed garlic
  • Pepper and salt to taste
  • Oil for frying

Preparation Method 

Step 1: Pour the lemon juice and olive oil over the meat.

Step 2: Let the meat marinate for one to two hours with black pepper and salt added. 

Step 3: Then, drain the juice from the meat and remove the rosemary branch.

Step 4: In a pan, pour oil enough for the meat to be covered in. 

Step 5: Add the rosemary and garlic to the oil.

Step 6: Let the oil heat up and add the whole belly cuts. If you have a lot of meat, I recommend frying it in two parts so that the oil does not cool and soak the piece.

Step 7: With the pan closed and the heat on medium, let the pork fry for about ten minutes or until it turns golden brown.

Step 8: Drain the fat and serve.

FAQs 

What is the Difference Between Pork Belly and Bacon?

The difference is the curing process. Pork belly is raw, fresh pork belly meat while bacon is cured pork belly meat. What is offered under the name belly bacon, breakfast bacon, or bacon is usually cured and smoked belly meat that is sometimes cut into thinner slices to make what is known as streaky bacon.

I like to use it as a hearty ingredient in soups, stews, and cabbage vegetables. You can also cut it into thin slices and fry it until it turns crispy. You can have it grilled as a delicious side dish to breakfast eggs.

How Do You Make Pork Belly Cuts?

This cut of meat can be difficult to cook without instructions. First, if you don’t cook it long enough, it can get tough. On the other hand, if you cook it too long, it can get dry and rubbery.

For this reason, I recommend that you cook it slowly in the oven or on low heat. You can also cook the piece of meat in a pressure cooker or fry them in strips and small slices on the stove. It is also possible to grill the pork belly on the grill with enough barbecue sauce and apple juice used to moisten the meat.

Conclusion 

Pork belly is usually sold boneless, sometimes boned-in. It’s a cut of pork from the side belly and underside of the hog. You have a lot of cuts coming from the belly, from the pork belly boneless and bone-in roasts to spare ribs, St. Louis, and rib tips

The boneless underside with the thick fat rind may not be ideal for people who are watching their weight. Undoubtedly, however, it has more meat, more healthy fat, and greater culinary complexity than bacon. Plus, a bite of a pork belly can be both crispy and juicy.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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