We consume roughly 110 million tons of pork worldwide, making it the second most consumed meat after chicken, and not by much. Pork is part of every culture, and every part of the farm animal is used. If this isn’t a noble source of protein then we don’t know what is!
Still, just like beef, a pork carcass yields many cuts, each unique in size, shape, flavor and texture. There’s no doubt everyone has some memories associated with pork chops, perhaps the most popular pork meat after bacon, but there’s another pork cut worth exploring, the pork steak. Trust us, you’ll want to know this one intimately.
What is the difference between pork chops and pork steaks? What are pork steaks, anyway? And where do these cuts come from? Here’s your guide to pork chops vs. pork steaks. Have you tried them both? Which are your favorite?
What are Pork Chops?
Pork chops are perpendicular cuts of the pork’s loin or back area, and they might contain small bits of vertebrae and the top part of a rib. They can also include different muscles, mainly the loin and tenderloin. Still, since you can get pork chops from all across the spine, from the shoulder to the hip, they can vary in size and shape widely. These are the most common types of pork chops.
These are the first chops you find going from the pork’s shoulder as you work your way down towards the hip. Also known as shoulder chops, these are often chewy and dark, as the shoulder has more significant amounts of connective tissue.
How to cook blade chops: Marinate and cook on high heat or braise low and slow.
This is the most common type of pork chop, and it comes from the rib portion of the loin and is pork’s equivalent to rib-eye steaks. These chops are often butchered bone-in and contain a part of the loin muscle.
How to cook rib chops: These chops are lean and have minimal connective tissue, so they’re great for smoking, grilling, pan-frying or sear-roasting. Brined rib chops are also common, and they’re even more tender. These might come with a tasty fat cap.
This lean, tender, and even-shaped chop comes from the center loin portion of the carcass, closer to the hip than the ribs; it’s basically a slice of loin and contains more meat than rib chops. You can find boneless versions of this esthetic chop labeled Boneless Loin Chop or America’s cut.
How to cook loin chops: This lean cut can be grilled, sear-roasted or broiled.
Center-Cut Loin Chop
Although loin chops only contain a portion of the loin, if cut from the lower part of the loin, they can also have tenderloin attached, often divided by a T-bone.
Got from the hip area, this chop often comes with a piece of hip bone and backbone. The meat is tougher as well, but the higher bone-to-meat ratio makes them more flavorful.
How to cook sirloin chops: Since this cut is tougher, it’s best when braised, slow-cooked or stewed. Moist heat does wonders for this type of chop.
What are Pork Steaks?
Pork steaks come from the shoulder area of a pig. They’re cut from the blade shoulder, above the arm picnic, behind the head but in front of the loin.
Technically, all pork chops are pork steaks, but when butchers talk about a pork steak, they’re referring to a cut from the shoulder area, most commonly from the Boston butt.
The entire shoulder is a tough set of muscles that work a lot, so it can have a lot of collagen, making it chewy. This means pork steaks benefit from a briny marinade, but their resilience means they have great versatility in the kitchen.
How to cook pork steaks: Pork steaks are fatty and flavorful and can become meat for soups, broths or pot pies. You can also roast, grill or pan-fry the steaks, and since they are fattier compared to chops, they won’t dry out that easily — they’ll take a bit longer to cook as well.
Pork Chop vs. Pork Steak, the Facts
• There are many types of pork chops, depending on if they come from close to the shoulder or the hip. Pork steaks always come from the shoulder.
• Pork chops contain a portion of the loin and sometimes a smaller piece of tenderloin. Pork steaks are cuts from the pork butt (not to be confused with the butt end, in the pig’s rear).
• Most pork chops have a bone attached, although boneless examples exist, particularly for loin chops. Pork steaks are almost always boneless, although they might contain a small piece of blade bone.
• According to the USDA, you should cook both pork chops and pork steaks at a minimum core temperature of 145°F for 30 minutes, then rest.
• Pork steaks are fattier and more flavorful than most pork chops. Still, some pork chops might come with a fat cap to counter this.
• Both pork chops and pork steaks benefit from acidic marinades and dry rubs; still, the meat can dry out quickly if overcooked and has a mild flavor.
• Pork steaks are less famous than chops, so they’re less expensive. They can be just as versatile and enjoyable as chops, though.
So, what’s It Gonna Be?
There’s no doubt knowing your types of chops pays off and gaining experience cooking each will level up your grilling game. Pork chops are loved by all, as they have deep roots in our culture.
On the other hand, pork steaks are a reliable, inexpensive ace to have up your sleeve. Pork steaks are a superb weeknight meal, but they might surprise you at grilling parties. Pork steak’s uniqueness comes with a wow factor you just don’t get from chops anymore.
You need not choose between pork chops and pork steaks. They might sometimes look the same, but they’re entirely different cuts with distinct uses. So, what’s for dinner?