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Pork Cuts Cheat Sheet

What's Best for Low n Slow?

There’s nothing quite like the smell of smoking pork or sizzling bacon, so it’s not surprising that in New Zealand, we love our pork cuts! With its fat and collagen content, pork is great for cooking low and slow.

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  • Spare Ribs are nice and meaty.

    Spare Ribs are nice and meaty.

  • Pork Belly (Pork Side in the US) is always impressive and finger-licking.

    Pork Belly (Pork Side in the US) is always impressive and finger-licking.

  • Pork Shoulder (Pork Butt in the US) is ideal for classic pulled pork.

    Pork Shoulder (Pork Butt in the US) is ideal for classic pulled pork.


As with beef, the best cuts for low and slow are actually the harder-working parts of the pig. Given enough time and even heat, the fat and connective tissues break down leaving succulent pork that falls apart and is crammed with flavour.

When buying pork cuts, look for fresh meat with a nice light pink/pale colouring and has a good consistent layer of fat. New Zealand’s pork is quite different from our American friends, in America they breed their pigs a lot bigger and they tend to have a thicker layer of fat. In NZ our pork is leaner, so you may find it difficult to get the same amount of marbling you see in videos from the US. Before cooking low and slow it’s best to remove any skin that is on the cut.


Baby Back Ribs: These are hugely popular in America and despite the name, they don’t come from baby pigs. These distinctively curved cuts are from the top of the rib cage and are ‘baby’ sized in comparison to their spare rib brothers. Baby Back ribs are a bit leaner than spare ribs but they’re still juicy and tender.

Spare Ribs: Spare Ribs come from the lower half of the rib cage and are connected to the belly. These are less curved and because they’re nearer the belly, have more fat and connective tissue. You may find it difficult to get homegrown meaty pork ribs In New Zealand. Because the demand for meaty pork ribs is small here, butchers wanting to stock meaty ribs will source them from places like Spain or America.

Money Muscle (Pork Scotch/Tiger Muscle): This cut of pork is a competition winner because of its generous marbling of fat (almost 50%) and the fact it is tender and full of flavour. The Money Muscle is the beginning of the loin and is high up in the shoulder (high on the hog!).

Pork Shoulder (Pork Butt): If you want to try pulled-pork then the shoulder is the cut you want. The shoulder is divided into two parts, the upper (also known as Boston Butt or Boston Shoulder) and the lower (aka. Picnic Ham). For Pulled Pork, the upper part is best, as it has the most connective tissue.

Pork Belly (Pork Side): As the name suggests this cut is from the underside 'belly' area of the pig. This cut has a high-fat content and is perfect for delicious and succulent Burnt Ends. If you're new to low and slow cooking and you're wanting to impress, start with Pork Belly, it’s a lot more forgiving than a Beef Brisket! When you are buying, try to get a cut that is an even depth the whole way across, so they cook evenly.

Pork Cheeks: Full of collagen, this cut is incredibly tender and moist when cooked low and slow. Pork cheeks are also very cheap, you can buy the whole head and cut the cheeks out yourself, or ask your butcher.


The meat cuts with the least amount of connective tissues and fat are generally best to cook over a direct heat using the searing method. These cuts usually have fat distributed throughout and are less bulky pieces of meat. Cooking these cuts for longer will just dry them out.

Pork Belly Strips, Bacon, Diced Pork (kebabs), Pork Mince (patties and rissoles), Pork Loin (tenderloin and chops).

If in doubt about what cut to start with, ask your butcher. Stay tuned for more recipes and ‘How To’s’ on our site. If you have any great recipes or thoughts, let us know!

Thanks to the Tattooed Butcher for his expertise. Check out his 'How to bone a Pork Belly Video'