Ranking 13 Cuts Of Pork To Grill From Worst To Best

Every good chef knows that pork is a delicious and versatile meat, from holiday ham to the trendy pork belly, there's a cut to please any crowd. But the culinary art of grilling pork requires technique and the right cut from the hog. Before we break down the pig into parts, it's important to set yourself up for grilling success.

The experts at Pork.org recommend scrubbing the grill clean and spraying it with high-heat cooking oil like vegetable or canola oil. Next, preheat the grill for 15 minutes before placing the meat on. Another pro tip is to select the right utensils. Anything sharp may puncture the pork, which will cause it to release its juice and dry out, so spatulas or tongs are best. Avoid burning the pork by flipping it on cooler grates rather than on direct heat, and hold off on adding sauce until the very end as sugar-based sauces may burn easily.

Lastly, you'll want to grill your pork to perfection using a meat thermometer and bring it up to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Since not all cuts of the pig were created equal, especially where the grill is concerned, we decided to rank them from worst to best so you can be the pork grilling master you've always dreamed of.

13. Sirloin

Although a favored cut from the cow, the sirloin is not a desirable cut of pig as the sirloin comes from the hip of the pig and tends to be dry, bony, and tasteless, plus it's known for being easy to ruin during the cooking process. That said, for daring grillers who want to give this lean cut of pork a try, Live Strong recommends you opt for a very low temperature for an extended period of time so as not to dry it out. It's also a good idea to give it a brine before grilling to yield the juiciest and most tender results. Another clever option to up the grill game with a sirloin chop is to cook it on a rotisserie accessory for your grill to give it an even result. That being said, if you're picking up pork sirloin from your butcher, it's best to braise, roast, or broil it rather than grill it.

12. Tail

A difficult cut of pork to source from your local store or butcher, the tail is a unique section of the pig that requires a lot of technique and when cooked improperly, may resemble the texture of rawhide. (Not an appealing flavor profile for even the most adventurous pork eater.) 

Consumed largely in the South where no part of the pig is wasted, the tail is often barbecued to a crisp and served as an appetizer or boiled and added to side dishes like greens or beans for flavor. Although the terms are used interchangeably, it's important to distinguish the difference between barbecuing and grilling as barbecue involves a low and slow technique, with the grill lid on, and is typically performed using large cuts of meat, or difficult cuts like the tail. Grilling, on the other hand, isn't great for pig tails as it's often implemented with smaller cuts, higher heat, and a quick, hot sear.

11. Front and rear hocks

As Southern Living explains, ham hocks are cut from the joint that connects the leg of the hog to the foot, so it's naturally a tough cut of meat that gets worked by the hog more than most other cuts. That's not to say ham hocks don't hold their own against other flavorful cuts, and they're another piece of the pig that is frequently found in Southern cuisine as a way to flavor collard greens or stews. 

If you've got nothing but time, a large slow-cooker full of soup that needs seasoning, and a flare for adventurous cuts of pork, look no further than the front or rear ham hocks. However, taking into account the amount of skin, bone, fat, and collagen that makes up the ham hock, this cut is not a great contender for the grill as it requires a low and slow technique and is, therefore, best suited for the smoker or Crockpot.

10. Jowl

Another uncommon cut that you'd most likely have to special order from your butcher or grocery store is the jowl. Cut from the cheek of a pig, the jowl is popular in many Southern dishes as a seasoning in black-eyed peas and baked beans, according to 12 Onions. Jowl can also be sliced and pan-fried and served as a creative alternative to bacon or pork belly, but keep in mind it's a high-fat, high-calorie cut of pork and is richer in fats than any other nutrient. 

One fun fact to note about pork jowl is that many people in the South eat this cut of hog cheek on New Year's Day for good luck as it's believed to boost health and prosperity. However, although pork jowl is packed with flavor and is considered a Southern holiday tradition, this cut is best when cured or smoked and therefore isn't a great contestant for the grill.

9. Pork butt

Not to be confused with the actual butt of the pig, pork butt is cut from the shoulder of the pig, though it's not the full pork shoulder either. Confusing? Let us clarify. The actual gluteus maximus of the pig is called ham — the largest cut from the animal. Pork butt comes from the upper part of the shoulder, and is more preferable, as Cook's Illustrated points out, in flavor and texture than the lower pork shoulder cut for its fatty marbling and uniform shape that helps it cook evenly. 

When requesting pork butt from your butcher, the cut is sold as either bone-in or boneless. Pork butt is best cooked with time, patience, and the proper technique, and it's also widely used to make pulled pork recipes, which requires a long and slow cooking process — not a grill-worthy contestant as far as pulled pork technique is concerned.

8. Chump

The real butt of the pork, the chump end is cut from the rump or rear end of the pork loin, and can be butchered bone-in or cut into boneless steaks. With a decent amount of fatty connective tissue, these cuts are best for a low and slow smoker or oven-roast, but when cut into leaner steaks, they can be a great option to sear on a flaming-hot grill. 

To cut some of the fatty flavors and textures of the chump end, baste it with a chutney or other fruit-based sauce before serving. Chump chops are among the more inexpensive cuts of meat, and since trial and error are part of learning how to grill pork like a pro, chump chops can be a great way to learn from your mistakes without breaking the bank. Chump chops may also benefit from a brine before throwing them on the grill, and they're forgiving enough to handle high, direct heat in the center grates of the grill.

7. Spareribs

When it comes to firing up the barbecue and throwing on a rack of ribs, pork ribs of any kind tend to be a more popular choice in the U.S. than beef ribs due to their succulent flavor. Cut from a section of the pig's belly, pork spare ribs resemble the taste and essence of bacon due to their close proximity. Spareribs are also rich in fat, but they contain a lot of cartilage and connective tissue which makes them a bit tougher than other pork rib counterparts. 

Because of their toughness when compared to other ribs, spareribs require a more low and slow cooking process, making them a labor of love that may be best smoked or slow-braised. That said, if you're determined to give spareribs on the grill a try, the pros at Food Network recommend boiling or braising the ribs first, slowly precooking them to give them a soft and juicy texture before placing them on the grill in indirect heat to give them a smoky and charred finish.

6. Chops

As explained by the Healthy Butcher, there are several different cuts of chops on the pig, with the most popular being pork loin chops and pork rib chops, but all chops are great for the griller. Shoulder chops, which are cut from the blade roast, tend to be a bit on the tougher side and require a higher level of skill and determination. Pork loin chops are easy to identify thanks to the T-shaped bone that lends this cut a tender and juicy flavor when grilled. 

As one of the more popular cuts of pork, chops are often more expensive cuts as well, so it's best to buy them in bulk to save money, and buying them bone-in can also reduce the price at the register. Another money-saving option to consider when buying chops is to purchase a larger cut of loin and butcher it into smaller chops yourself, which takes a little knowledge but can save a lot in the end.

5. Blade loin

Closest to the shoulder, the blade loin is sometimes called rib end roast, and can be butchered boneless or bone-in. The blade loin also has the most fat of any other section of the loin, but it can be butchered down into smaller portions of steak with some of the fat trimmed off. Not to be confused with the tenderloin cut – which comes from an entirely different area of the hog — the blade loin is much wider with more connective tissue and fatty marbling than the leaner tenderloin. 

When shopping for blade loin, it's worth noting that recipes and grocery stores may refer to this cut as any of the following: center-cut pork loin roast, center-cut pork roast, pork center loin roast, pork center cut rib roast, pork loin center-cut, pork loin center rib roast, pork loin roast center-cut, and pork loin rib half (yeah, it's a lot of names). When trimmed and butchered bone-in, this cut is great for the grill, but to reap the full rewards of this cut, a low and slow roast is best.

4. Pork belly

Pork belly is an overall inexpensive cut that comes from the belly of the hog, in a fatty underside section of the pig that is nearest to the loin. A large cut of pork belly can feed up to 10 people and is best cooked with a low and slow technique (via Great British Chefs). Most grocery stores, however, sell this cut in smaller portions which can make it an ideal option for the grill. 

To make the most of this high-fat splurge, score the meat by cutting slits in the surface before giving it a quick sear that will yield a crisp skin and tender, juicy meat. When grilling large cuts of pork belly, it's important to keep it away from direct heat so as not to overcook it and dry out the fat. When cooked low and slow with indirect barbecue flames, the result yields tender and juicy meat that seemingly melts in your mouth.

3. Baby back ribs

Sometimes referred to as loin ribs, baby back ribs are cut from a region of ribs near the spinal cord, and are referred to as baby because of their smaller portion size when compared to other ribs on the hog, like spare ribs. Their size makes them a far more crowd-pleasing and quick-sear option for the grill compared to other rib options. 

Baby back ribs are an easy find at the grocery store, but their popularity makes them a more expensive cut of pork. Much like spare ribs, a grill master will get the best results with baby back ribs when braising or boiling them before placing them on the grill for a quick char-grilled finish that helps boost flavor. It's also best to avoid the common barbecue sauce mistake of adding it too early and instead, add sugar-based barbecue sauces at the end. You may want to give the ribs a simple spice rub as a marinade. Either way, baby back ribs are a barbecue staple and are always a crowd-pleaser when grilled.

2. Country-style ribs

Unlike their other rib counterparts, country-style ribs are boneless and don't actually come from the rib section of the pig, but rather are cut from the shoulder blade, closer to the loin (via Just Cook Butcher Box). The boneless cut is known for its even marbling throughout, lending it a juicy, succulent flavor when cooked with any method from a slow cooker to a smoker to a grill. 

As with any cut of ribs, country-style boneless ribs require a labor of love, but with the right amount of time and effort, the results can be more than worth it thanks to the bold flavor pork ribs are known for. For the most tender results, marinate country-style ribs up to two days in advance in a brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, or fruit-based sauce. Lastly, when finishing country-style ribs on the grill, be sure to place them on indirect heat so as not to scorch the juices right out of them.

1. Tenderloin

It's not easy to pick a favorite cut of the pig, but pork tenderloin tends to be regarded as the perfect cut for any cook from a novice to a chef. Pork tenderloin is cut from a long, lean, boneless muscle that runs along the backbone of the pig. Pork tenderloin is often regarded as extra-lean meat with a nutritional value similar to grilled chicken. This makes it a popular option in the grocery store, as well as any grill master's most favored cut due to its lean, tender, and juicy finish. 

By comparison with any other cut of pork, the tenderloin requires the least amount of preparation, technique, and cooking time, so it's a great contender for the grill. A low, indirect flame is recommended, and to achieve an even temperature throughout the narrow cut of pork, slide fold the smaller ends into the larger sections and slide a metal skewer through it.