The best pork cuts for roasting (plus tips on how to do it)
From shoulder and tenderloin to the leg and belly, it can be difficult getting to grips with the different cuts of pork. So we’ve compiled an easy-to-follow guide explaining which cuts are best for roasting and tips on how to cook them to perfection.
Check out our advice first before having a go at one of our pork recipes.
What’s the difference between cuts of pork?
Shoulder (spare rib)
This can be roasted on the bone, although the blade bone in the centre makes it difficult to carve. Most often the bone is removed, then the meat is rolled and tied to a neater joint. It has a really excellent flavour, as meat from nearer the head of the pig is always more succulent, with a little more fat to keep it moist. The skin is dry with a reasonable layer of fat underneath, making this one of the best joints to get good crackling from.
Search our pork shoulder recipes.
A smaller cut from the bone-in spare rib. It’s difficult to carve if roasted on the bone, so get your butcher to bone and roll it for you. Beautifully flavoured and very succulent, it gives good crackling and is relatively inexpensive.
As above, this excellent joint is also difficult to carve on the bone and, as it’s a large joint, is best suited to feeding a crowd. Good value for money.
This cut has good flavour. If you’re buying a loin of pork on the bone, which sits up like a rib of beef and looks like a long line of pork chops, get your butcher to chine it for you – this means the back bone will be semi-detached from the ribs, which can then be easily removed after cooking for easy carving. If you can, ask for a piece of loin cut from the end nearest the head, i.e. the part with the rib bones in it, as this has a slightly sweeter flavour.
To serve, carve between the bones or slice the meat away from the bones in one piece and then carve the meat thinly. A loin of pork can also be boned out and rolled for ease of carving. It’s not always the easiest joint of pork to stuff, because there’s very little space for the stuffing to go. One of the more expensive cuts of pork.
Take a look at our pork loin recipes.
This joint can be roasted on or off the bone and cooks to be slightly moister than the leg.
A very lean cut of meat that is excellent when roasted, if helped by the addition of an extra layer of fat to prevent it from drying out during cooking (usually bacon). Also excellent when cooked en croute (in buttery pastry).
A large, rectangular slab of meat that’s excellent for roasting, and is considered to be the tastiest cut by the Chinese. It’s easier to carve if boned first. As always, the skin needs to be scored before cooking, and because it is quite a fatty joint, with a good layer of fat directly beneath the skin, it will give very moist, succulent meat and really good crackling if properly cooked. It can also be rolled up into a more compact joint for roasting.
See our pork belly recipes.
A large joint, on the bone, more usually boned out and divided into more manageable-sized joints. This is one of the most commonly bought and most popular joints for roasting because of its leanness, but is also the joint responsible for the perception that roast pork is dry and that it’s difficult to make good crackling. A leg of pork is one of the most expensive roasting joints but it does give nice lean, uniformly shaped slices, and can be stuffed if you wish, prior to tying into shape.
Tips for roasting pork
- Allow the meat to come to room temperature before you cook it.
- For good crackling: make sure the skin is very dry before you cook it. Put the joint in the fridge, uncovered, to help it dry out. Score the skin before roasting – this allows the fat from underneath to bubble up, crisping the skin as it does so. Use a Stanley knife or a very sharp kitchen knife and, taking care not to go through to the flesh, make incisions 1cm apart. Sprinkle the skin liberally with salt just before you put it into the hot oven. If salted too far in advance it will attract moisture.
- Cooking time: start roasting pork at a high temperature (240°C/ fan220°C/gas 9 or as high as your oven will go) to get the heat through to the centre of the joint, and get the crackling off to a good start. After 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4 and continue to roast for 25 minutes per 450g.
- Knowing when pork is cooked: pierce the centre of meat from the underside of the joint with a fine skewer. There should be no traces of pink left in the juices. Clear juices indicate the pork is sufficiently cooked, but that the meat will still be beautifully moist.
- Always leave meat to rest before carving.