Pork has had to overcome a bit of a bad reputation. Remember the insult, ‘fat as a pig’? The fact is today’s pork has been bred to have 16 percent less fat and 27 percent less saturated fat than 30 years ago. Many cuts of pork, such as tenderloin, have less fat and calories than skinless chicken breasts.
Pork is a source of high-quality lean protein and is an excellent source of important nutrients including thiamin, selenium, niacin, vitamin B-6 and phosphorus. It’s also a good source of zinc, riboflavin and potassium. Unprocessed pork is naturally low in sodium and contains a good amount of potassium, a pairing that can help regulate blood pressure.
At an average of 134 calories per 3-oz. serving, that’s a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.
The other thing about pork is its versatility. As a minimally processed meat (unlike ham or bacon, which are processed with flavorings, salt and chemicals), pork has a mild taste and will take on the flavors of however it’s prepared. Cuisines all over the world turn to pork before beef or even chicken, including Austrian, German and eastern Europe. The Chinese are the champion consumers of pork, because traditionally, pigs are easy to feed and they aren’t used for work, like cattle.
Interestingly, the U.S. annual per capita consumption of pork is 50 lb. per year, while the Chinese, whose favorite meat is pork, each eat about 37 lb. per year. That suggests that the Chinese are eating way less meat than we Americans. If you think of meat (of any type) as a condiment instead of ‘center of the plate’, you’ll be eating healthier!
Now for some delicious pork recipes.
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Approximately 8-10 servings
This is a basic that you can prepare and keep in your freezer for a variety of dishes such as pulled pork sandwiches, tacos, even salads.
1 onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup chili sauce
3 Tbs. tomato paste
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 (3-4 lb.) pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine onion, chili sauce, tomato paste, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, apple cider vinegar and spices in the bowl of a slow cooker. Season pork shoulder all over with salt and pepper then add to slow cooker, covering it with ketchup mixture. Cover and cook until very tender (the meat should fall apart easily with a fork!), on HIGH for 5 to 6 hours or on LOW for 8 to 10 hours.
2. Remove pork from slow cooker and transfer to bowl. Shred with two forks and toss with juices from the slow cooker.
3. To store in the freezer, divide into 3 or 4 zip lock bags with the air squeezed out.
Korean-Style Pork Chops
Korean cuisine is meat-heavy, so they are the masters of protein (think Korean BBQ).
4 New York (top loin) pork chops
1/2 cup soy sauce or ponzu sauce
2 Tbs. honey
2 Tbs. hoisin sauce
1 head (about 6 cloves) of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tsp. sesame oil
4 tsp. fresh ginger root (grated)
2 Tbs. sweet hot chili sauce
2 Tbs. olive oil
6 scallions, sliced for garnish
1. In a medium size bowl whisk together soy sauce, honey, hoisin sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and sweet hot chili sauce. It’ll make just over 1 cup of marinade.
2. Reserve half the marinade, set aside. Pour the other half of the marinade over pork chops and marinate for at least 20 minutes. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add pork chops to skillet, discard the marinade used for the chops.
3. Cook for 5 minutes or until chops have browned on one side.
4. Flip the pork chops and add the reserved marinade to the pan; cook for 5 more minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of about 150-160 degrees F. Don’t overcook or the chops will be dry. Let rest for 4 minutes before serving. Garnish with the scallions.
Waikiki-Style Pork Ribs
Serves 6, 4 ribs per serving
These tasty ribs are the next best thing to a vacation! You make them in a slow cooker, so you prep, switch it on for a few hours and come home to a delicious aroma and melt-off-the-bone ribs.
2 racks pork back ribs (2 ½-3 lb. each), cut into 3 or 4 rib sections)
2 cups hoisin sauce
1 cup pineapple juice
1 tsp. brown mustard
3 Tbs. fresh ginger root (grated)
3 Tbs. sesame oil
8 chives, for garnish
1 ½ tsp. sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish
1. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, pineapple juice, mustard, ginger, and sesame oil.
2. Arrange the ribs in a slow cooker and pour half of the sauce mixture over the ribs. Set the remaining sauce aside in the refrigerator. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3 ½-4 hours, until the ribs are very tender.
3. Just before the ribs are done, remove the sauce from the refrigerator and warm in the microwave, about 20 seconds to take off the chill.
4. Arrange the ribs on plates or a platter and brush both sides with some of the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the chives and sesame seeds. Serve the rest of the remaining sauce at the table.
Pulled Pork Salad
Pork in a salad? Why not? This is when you want to throw together a quick meal and you’ll be grateful to have some delicious, pre-cooked pulled pork in the fridge.
2 cups cooked pulled pork
2 romaine hearts, leaves torn
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 firm but ripe avocado, cut into chunks
1 bell pepper, diced
1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
1. In a bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, and BBQ sauce.
2. Heat the pulled pork in a skillet until warm.
3. In a salad bowl, gently toss the romaine, tomatoes, avocado, bell pepper, corn and red onion.
4. Top the vegetables with pulled pork and drizzle with the BBQ dressing to serve.
Pork Chops Provencal
Prepared in a Mediterranean style, these pork chops have the sunny flavor of Southern France.
1 ½ Tbs. olive oil
4 pork chops, 22 oz. with bone, 1-inch thick, all visible fat trimmed
1/2 tsp. sea salt
fresh ground pepper
3 Tbs. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
¼ cup dry white wine
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
3 Tbs. chopped, fresh herbs like parsley, tarragon and thyme
1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil over moderately low heat.
2. Season the pork with salt and pepper.
3. Raise heat to medium and add the chops to the pan and sauté for 6-7 minutes. Turn and cook until chops are browned and done to medium, about 6-7 minutes longer. Internal temperature should be 150-160 degrees F. Remove the chops and put on a warm plate.
4. Add the onion and tomatoes to the pan and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds; add the stock and white wine and simmer until it reduces to 1/2 cup, about 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Stir in the mustard, herbs, and 1/8 tsp. pepper.
6. Place the chops on a platter and pour the sauce over the meat. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.