Pork facts: Busting the porkies about pork
Myth: “I always think of pork as fatty and unhealthy to eat”
Truth: Whilst many people think of pork as fatty, it’s actually a lean meat with an overall fat content of 4%. Like with all meats, there are cuts which are leaner than others, for example the pork fillet and the loin medallion are actually low in fat and low in saturated fat. To read more about the healthy attributes of pork, visit the pork and healthy eating page
Myth: “Pork is neither a white or red meat, it’s a processed meat”
Truth: There is some consumer confusion as to whether pork is a red, white or even a processed meat. Firstly, ‘processed meat’ refers to a process applied to meat in its raw state, which would have started as a white or red meat. We can see why there is confusion around if pork is a white or red meat, as it seems to have a trotter in both camps. From a nutritional standpoint, a red meat is defined as a meat that has more myoglobin than white meat, with white meat being defined as a non-dark meat from chicken or fish. However, from a cooking point of view, other red meats are red in colour when raw, and turn a darker colour when cooked, which cannot be said for all cuts of pork.
Myth: “Pork seems to be tough, is pork better slow cooked?
Truth: Pork is a delicious and juicy meat, but has in the past suffered a poor reputation due to excessive overcooking of certain cuts. Whilst some cuts of pork just get even tastier the longer they are cooked – the shoulder joint for pulled pork is a great example here – other, leaner cuts of pork which are low in fat and low saturated fat do not require as much cooking, and can easily be overcooked. Overcooking any meat will make it dry, tough and chewy and pork is no different.
If we wanted to get really technical about it...
...it’s all about the fibrous makeup of the meat itself.
Think of meat fibers as rubber bands.
Like different meats, some rubber bands are more flexible than others, making them have different levels of elasticity.
When meat is cooked, fibres shrink and shorten in length, and the longer the meat is exposed to the heat, the more this process continues.
As pork does not have much elasticity, it can suffer from overcooking, unlike chicken breast, which has more elasticity and is therefore more forgiving of overzealous cooks.
To help avoid tough meat, there are three simple things to do. Firstly, you could tenderise the meat by flattening it with a rolling pin or the bottom of a pan before cooking.
You could bathe the meat in a tasty marinade, even 10 minutes while other ingredients are being prepared will have a significant effect.
And finally, you could allow your meat to rest after cooking. Even a two minute rest will help keep it tasty and juicy.
The Food Standards Agency recommend pork should always be cooked until the juices run clear and there is no pink in the middle.