A fatty, rich cut of meat that turns meltingly tender after some time in the oven, pan, or grill, this cut is used in everything from porchetta to Korean-style stews. “It’s amazingly versatile,” says Harlem Shambles’ Tim Forrester. Order fresh, skin-on, center-cut belly at the shop, as lean as possible. Each slice contains three layers: thick skin, a layer of fat, and ribbons of reddish meat just like bacon, which is what pork belly becomes when cured.
PIG OUT ON FIVE BUTCHER-APPROVED CUTS THAT ARE THE FINEST ON THE SWINE.
Pork butt, or “picnic cut,” is actually the bottom shoulder of the pig, a dense, well-striated section of muscle laced with lots of collagen. It’s a butcher’s favorite and meant for smokers or slow cookers. “There’s nothing much to it,” says Meat Market’s Jeremy Stanton. “When cooked low and slow, it holds together yet becomes ultra-tender.”
3 RIB EYE
Craving a juicy chop? Treat yourself to this choice cut. Basically a boneless pork chop from the rib section, it’s thicker and bolder in flavor. There’s a sublime swath of fat surrounding it, which melts and insulates when cooking. Pan searing is preferred.
4 PORK SKIRT STEAK
Occasionally referred to as the secreto, this is one of the cuts butchers prefer to keep for themselves. If you can find it, snatch it up, as the long cut is similar to the more popular tenderloin but with a bit more fat and flavor. “Give it some acidity, season it, and grill a killer piece of meat,” says Red Apron Butcher’s Nate Anda.
This is the part of the shoulder that runs from the base of the neck to the tip of the loin. Cured and thinly sliced, it’s a centerpiece of antipasto, commonly called coppa. Left whole, it’s ideal for roasting, with thin skin that crisps up over the fatty, tender meat. “It has that perfect meat-to-fat ratio,” says Revival Market’s Andrew Vaserfirer. “It’s really flavorful and versatile.”