Pork is acclaimed as the most widely eaten meat in the world – accounting for a whopping 36% of meat consumed worldwide. The reason for its popularity is that it is affordable and exceptionally versatile – pork is available in a wide variety of cuts that are both fatty and lean – all of them delicious!
Pork appears in many cuisines from all over the globe – from Asia, through to Europe, the America, and of course, Africa. It is available in many different guises, including minced, as a sausage, cured as bacon, pancetta or prosciutto, or traditional cuts, which vary in flavour and fat content. The most popular cuts in South Africa include the pork chops, shoulder, and steaks. Read on for a few tips on how to perfectly prepare these cuts of meat for a scrumptious meal that will keep them coming back for more…
Here’s how to cook pork chops perfectly so that they are juicy and delicious every time:
- Marinate the pork chops in brine in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 4 hours. This will make them softer and juicer. To make the brine, dissolve 4 tablespoons of salt into 500ml of boiling water, and then add 500ml of cool water. Add a Bay Leaf and some peppercorns if desired.
- Remove the pork chops from the brine, rinse them off and pat them dry using paper towel. Discard the brine, as it cannot be reused.
- Let the chops rest at room temperature for 5 minutes, and preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Rub the pork chops with olive oil and seasoning on both sides.
- Warm a large non-stick skillet until an even medium temperature has been reached. Place the chops in the pan and fry them for 3 minutes on one side without moving them. Use tongs to turn them over. If they stick, then leave them and let them cook for another minute. When a good crust has formed, they will be easy to lift and flip. Cook the second side for around a minute or 2, or until a nice crust has formed.
- Transfer the skillet with the chops to the oven, and bake for 4 – 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops.
- Remove the chops from the oven, plate them and let them rest for 2 minutes.
TIP: Don’t overcrowd the pan, and don’t put a lid on the pan, as this will cause the chops to steam, rather than fry. Instead leave adequate space between the chops for juicer chops with an optimum crust.
An incredibly versatile cut of meat, pork shoulder can be slow roasted for an incredibly delicious roast with crackling, cooked until it falls apart for pulled pork, or it can be diced and cooked in various casseroles stews and curries. Since the shoulder comprises different muscles that are intertwined with sinew and fat, the best way to cook it is slowly, so that all the fat and connective tissues are broken down and it becomes mouth-wateringly tender and delicious. Here’s how:
- When calculating how much you will need, you can work on around 300g per person.
- Season the cut the day before – this will help the crackling become super crispy.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C, rub the pork shoulder with oil, and place it directly into the roasting dish.
- Roast the pork shoulder for 30 minutes or until the skin starts to blister and crackle, and it turns brown.
- Then reduce the heat to 180°C, and roast for a further 2 hours, or until the meat is tender and cooked through.
- If the crackling isn’t sufficiently crackly by this stage, then turn the oven onto Grill and finish it off, checking regularly to ensure that it doesn’t burn.
- Remove and let the pork shoulder rest for at least 3 to 5 minutes.
Tip: Adding a rub when you season the pork should is a great way of adding extra flavour. There are many pork rub recipes to choose from – try this one: 125g smoked paprika, 80g brown sugar, 60g salt, 60g garlic powder, 30g black pepper, 30g chilli powder (can omit), 30g onion powder, 15g cumin, 15g dry mustard powder. Mix it all together and rub it onto the pork shoulder.
Tender, lean and full of flavour – pork steaks are delicious and they are incredibly quick and easy to prepare:
- Select your choice of pork steak – you can choose between a sirloin, scotch fillet, porterhouse or medallions.
- Preheat the skillet or pan until it is at an even medium heat and add some butter with fresh thyme and sage.
- Move the herbs to the side, and place the steaks in the skillet, without overcrowding them.
- For steaks that are approximately 2cm thick, cook on one side for 6 minutes, without moving them.
- Turn them over, and cook them for another 2 minutes on the other side. This will cook them through. If your steak is thicker, then cook them for longer on the second side. If you prefer your steaks a little pink in the centre, then reduce the amount of time you cook them on the second side.
- Remove the steak from the pan and let it rest in a plate for 2 minutes to allow the juices to settle.
TIP: Pork steaks pair beautifully with a wide variety of delicious sauces – ranging from creamy mushroom, mustard, or cheese sauces, all the way through to fresh spicy mango salsa or chimichurri sauce.