What Is Side Pork Used For? (According To Experts)

If you’re a meat lover, you may have heard of side pork, also known as lean bacon or pork belly’s upper part.

While it’s often used interchangeably with pork belly, side pork is less fatty and meatier, making it a healthier option.

But what exactly is side pork used for?

In this article, we’ll explore the various ways you can cook and serve this delicious cut of meat.

From hot stews to sandwiches, we’ll give you some ideas on how to make the most of this versatile ingredient.

So, let’s dive in and discover the world of side pork!

What Is Side Pork Used For?

Side pork is a popular cut of meat that can be used in a variety of dishes. Its rich, meaty flavor makes it a great addition to stews, soups, and casseroles.

One of the most popular ways to cook side pork is by making hot stews. This cut of meat adds a depth of flavor to the dish and pairs well with vegetables like asparagus, potatoes, and cabbage.

Side pork can also be served with baked beans, making for a hearty and satisfying meal. It can even be sliced and made into a sandwich for a quick and easy lunch option.

Another great thing about side pork is that it contains more fiber from lean pork than pork belly. This means that you don’t have to moderate your consumption of it like you would with pork belly.

While pork belly is mostly fatty and contains very little meat, side pork contains more meat and less fat, making it a healthier option. However, it’s important to note that the fat in pork belly is largely monounsaturated, which is a healthy fat found in olive oil and nuts.

If you’re watching your weight, it’s important to be mindful of the calories in side pork. While it’s a delicious cut of meat, it does contain fewer proteins than other pork cuts.

What Is Side Pork?

Side pork is the upper part of the pork belly and is sometimes referred to as lean bacon. It consists of some back fat and short ribs, but is less fatty and meatier than pork belly. The pork side is a subprimal slab that’s nearly flat, like a tabletop, and is only as thick as a piece of bacon is wide, plus the thickness of a sparerib. It can be used interchangeably with pork belly and can go by any of a few different names like “fresh pork belly” or “pork side.”

To prepare side pork, it can be seasoned with salt, black pepper, and sugar before being baked in the oven until brown and sizzling. This results in a great-tasting, healthier option for bacon that you can customize to your liking.

How To Prepare Side Pork For Cooking

Before cooking side pork, it’s important to prepare it properly. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Choose the right cut: Look for fresh side pork with the rind still on. This will ensure that the meat stays moist and flavorful during cooking.

2. Cut into strips: Cut the side pork into thin strips, about 1/4 inch thick. This will help it cook evenly and ensure that it’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

3. Season: Season the side pork with salt and pepper, or any other spices you prefer. You can also marinate it in a brine for added flavor.

4. Cook: Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the side pork strips. Cook until golden brown and crispy on both sides, turning as needed. You can also oven-bake the side pork if preferred.

5. Drain excess grease: Once cooked, remove the side pork from the skillet and drain any excess grease. You can save the fat for later use in cooking or discard it.

6. Serve: Serve the side pork hot with your favorite sides or use it in a recipe.

By following these simple steps, you can prepare delicious and flavorful side pork for any meal.

Cooking Methods For Side Pork

Cooking side pork is easy and there are many ways to prepare it. The method you choose will depend on whether you buy the cut raw or processed (cured and smoked).

If you buy the side pork raw, the simplest way to cook it is in the oven or a smoker. A low and slow approach is recommended to ensure that the fat breaks down, resulting in a tender piece of pork instead of something that is chewy. It’s important to make sure that the internal temperature has reached 145 degrees before serving.

Most side pork is cut into strips, which can be laid onto a cookie sheet and seasoned to your preference. Salt and pepper are minimal seasonings that can draw out the natural flavors. Smoked paprika and garlic powder are also popular options to use.

If you buy cured side pork, you can cook it just as you would traditional pork bacon or beef bacon. You can render the fat to take advantage of the rich flavor, fry the strips for a particular dish, or cut the strips into cubes and add them to a specific dish such as meatloaf, casseroles, and quiches.

Side pork is highly versatile, so you can slice it, dice it, and cube it to incorporate it into any dish where you would want some fatty pork flavor. It can easily be used as a substitute for bacon, pancetta, and ham.

One of the most beloved ways to cook side pork is by frying it in a pan with plenty of salt and pepper until very crisp. This method brings out the meaty flavor of the cut while also allowing for a crispy texture. It’s perfect for breakfast with eggs or in a sandwich with mayo, tomato, and lettuce.

When cooking side pork, remember to drain and save the grease. It can be used for baking too, if you don’t mind the cooked meat flavor that may come with it. The pan can also be saved after discarding the grease as it makes wonderful gravy. Cooking eggs directly in the pan provides a delicious flavor that cannot be replicated with just the grease.

Popular Side Pork Recipes

Here are some popular side pork recipes that you can try at home:

1. Pan-fried Side Pork: This is a simple and delicious way to cook side pork. Cut the meat into thin slices and fry them in a pan until crispy. Serve with eggs, toast, or your favorite breakfast sides.

2. Streak o’ Lean: This southern classic is made by coating thin slices of side pork in flour and pan-frying until crispy. It’s a bit like bacon, but with a crunchier texture and a more savory flavor.

3. Side Pork and Bean Casserole: This hearty casserole combines tender side pork with baked beans, onions, and spices for a comforting and filling meal.

4. Side Pork and Cabbage Soup: This soup is made with tender side pork, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and herbs. It’s a great way to warm up on a chilly day.

5. Side Pork and Potato Skillet: This easy skillet meal is made with sliced side pork, potatoes, onions, and herbs. It’s a great way to use up leftover side pork and makes for a satisfying dinner.

No matter how you choose to cook it, side pork is a versatile and delicious cut of meat that can be used in many different dishes. Try out these recipes or come up with your own creations to enjoy this flavorful cut of pork.

Health Benefits Of Side Pork

Aside from its delicious taste and versatility in cooking, side pork also offers several health benefits.

Firstly, side pork is a rich source of high-quality protein, which is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass, which can lead to conditions like sarcopenia. Eating high-quality protein like that found in side pork, as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, can help slow or reverse sarcopenia and maintain healthy muscle tissue.

Additionally, side pork contains the amino acid beta-alanine, which helps your body form a compound called carnosine. Carnosine is important for muscle function and has been linked to lower fatigue and higher muscle performance in humans. High doses of beta-alanine supplements taken for 4-10 weeks have been shown to lead to a 40-80% increase in carnosine levels in participant’s muscles.

Side pork is also a rich source of several important vitamins and minerals, including thiamine, selenium, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, and iron. These vitamins and minerals play essential roles in various bodily functions such as blood formation, brain function, immune system health, and metabolism.

Where To Buy Side Pork And How To Store It

If you’re interested in trying out side pork, you can find it at your local farm store or butcher shop. Some retailers may also carry it vacuum-packed and ready to use.

When purchasing side pork, make sure to look for fresh cuts that are refrigerated at 35 to 45 degrees internal temperature. If you’re buying it vacuum-packed, check the expiration date and make sure it’s within a reasonable time frame.

Once you’ve purchased your side pork, it’s important to store it properly to ensure its freshness and quality. Fresh side pork can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 days at the recommended temperature range. Once opened, it can be stored for 4 to 5 days.

If you don’t plan on using your side pork right away, you can freeze it for up to 6 months. Just make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before placing it in the freezer.

When thawing frozen side pork, it’s best to do so in the refrigerator overnight. Avoid thawing it at room temperature or in warm water, as this can lead to bacterial growth and spoilage.