What’s in a name? Plenty – especially for pork. The USDA recently approved new common names for several pork cuts seen in retail grocery cases and on menus. After several years of work with the Industry-Wide Cooperative Meat Identification Standards Committee, fourteen pork cuts now have more consumer-friendly names, including many that align with well-known beef or steakhouse terms.
The cut formerly known as a pork chop or rib chop is now the ribeye chop and is available either bone-in or boneless. Bone-in loin chops were renamed Porterhouse chops, while boneless top loin pork chops are now New York chops.
The new names are the result of extensive consumer research that found these new terms help consumers make better buying decisions at the butcher or grocery store by thinking about pork more like steak. It also helps retailers merchandise pork in different ways to increase profit margins and offer greater variety and value to customers.
Positioning pork as a center of the plate protein like beef and referring to specific pork cuts may help restaurateurs charge more for specialty chops. Showcasing pork as a profitable, higher dollar menu item versus a value-added meat will also help restaurants deal with skyrocketing beef prices as supplies continue to diminish.
“Right now, bellies, bacon and spare ribs continue to show the highest dollar value in terms of raw material, followed by the tenderloin,” says Rob Levitt, owner of Butcher & Larder, a specialty butcher in Chicago, IL. “This time of year, as slow cooking comes to an end, people are looking for different cuts they can grill or cook quickly.”
The Pork Porterhouse
It’s early in the game for new names like ribeye and New York chop, but some chefs have already started calling out the Porterhouse Chop.
“Just like beef, ‘Porterhouse’ from the pork loin is what we call the loin end from the middle of the loin and back, with the bone and tenderloin still intact,” says Levitt. “The meat on a Porterhouse is not as fatty as, say, a shoulder cut and can be as thick as the butcher cuts the chop. Because a lot of chefs these days are working with whole pigs, you can get more portions of Porterhouse steaks than tenderloins as a higher ticket pork item.”
At Craft in New York City, Executive Chef Chris Lavey serves Porterhouse chops as a large, family-style cut easily shared by tables of two or even six. “I think people are looking for something new, but we want to stay true to our concept and still cook the cut properly,” Lavey says. “The Porterhouse chop is just a new way to provide more excitement for our diners and it’s easier to sell because it’s a recognizable term you might see at a steakhouse.”
Lavey roasts the Porterhouse chop with thyme and rosemary, basting it in butter and more herbs to finish, and removes the bone. Then he slices the meat and serves it with a bacon-infused pork jus. He prepares the jus by simmering roasted suckling pig bones with mirepoix and tomato paste for 24 hours, then reduces the mixture into a thicker demi-glace or sauce.
Stephen Barber, executive chef of Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena, CA, will soon debut a Porterhouse chop rubbed in berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend with fenugreek, chiles, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. He also plans to experiment with the New York chop – a thick cut, boneless loin pork chop brined in apple cider, brown sugar and pickling spices for 24 hours before finished on oak wood-burning grills.
“Chefs use the term ‘pork chop’ for lack of a better name, and it’s so vague,” Barber says, noting his excitement over the new nomenclature. “In fact, before ‘New York chop’ was approved, the official term was ‘pork loin chop top loin chop.’”
Lee Morcus, CEO of Kaiser Restaurant Group in La Quinta, CA, has used explanatory names for pork cuts for years. “We use semantics like ‘Porterhouse’ as a descriptive way to help amplify and clarify what we are cutting,” says Morcus, whose restaurants bring in whole pigs and suckling pigs daily for butchering on site.
“What’s old is new again,” he says. “In the traditional butcher shops like the ones I grew up in, we butchered animals according to what sold and our customer preferences.” In a restaurant setting, working with whole animals and different chops allows his chefs more flexibility and creativity in their menu planning, and it reduces waste.
Creative Cut Cooking
While Porterhouse chops, New York chops, ribeye chops and other specialty pork cuts taste great grilled or pan-roasted, some chefs look to other techniques like brining and smoking to add extra flavor and moisture.
“We also fabricate different cuts in different ways depending on the cut, cooking technique and flavor profile we are seeking,” Morcus says. “For example the same part of the animal that we cut for grilling or broiling will be cut differently if we are using it for roasting or sautéing.”
Morcus’ Hog’s Breath Inn serves a brined and char-grilled double cut ribeye chop with calvados demi-glace, spicy apple compote and seasonal vegetables. “In this case, the creativity is not so much in the cutting, but what the chef does with that loin or rib chop, and how it’s positioned on the menu,” he says. “This allows the chef to have flexibility and a creative outlet, and gives the guests continually evolving experiences.” At Morcus’ new Figue Mediterranean Restaurant in La Quinta, CA, which opened in late March, Chef Francois de Melogue smokes pork chops and loins for extra flavor and serves ribeye chops Milanese-style.
According to Levitt, the sirloin chop can come out a few different ways depending on who’s doing the cutting. “It’s either the bottom half of the ham or leg end of the loin – where the Porterhouse ends, the sirloin begins,” he says. “It can be a slightly smaller cut with a little more chew, but it has a ton of flavor, thanks to the nice cap of fat on top.”
Levitt’s butcher shop also offers country-style chops and ribs. The ribs are rounder and meatier than traditional loin back or spare ribs and come from the shoulder or blade end of the loin. County-style chops come as bone-in or boneless shoulder steaks. Both can easily be smoked, slow-cooked or braised, then finished on a grill. Back Forty in New York, NY serves a country-style rib chop with slow-cooked grits, roasted mushrooms and a maple-infused jus, and Fatted Calf in San Francisco, CA serves slow-roasted country-style ribs stuffed with peperonata – a mix of sweet and hot peppers with capers.
Justin Brunson, chef and owner of the recently opened Old Major in Denver, CO and owner of Masterpiece Deli and Denver Bacon Co., serves the pork equivalent to the beef Kansas City strip. Though not part of the new nomenclature, Brunson believes calling out a familiar name for the cut helps. “Right now I cut the pork chop as a bone-in pork sirloin, but if I say Kansas City strip, I feel I can charge more and it helps the customer understand what they’re eating,” says Brunson, who butchers whole pigs in his restaurants.
Brunson menus pork shank as pork osso bucco, and he’s also fond of pork collar. “The collar is actually the top part of the pork shoulder, but I can charge $29 for it as an entrée versus $22 for pork shoulder,” he says. “It’s a great piece of meat with a little fat on it that Italians slice thin and dry for coppa, but it also tastes great roasted.” Brunson will sous vide the collar with rosemary, sage, chili flakes, garlic and orange zest at 138 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours, then sear it to medium or pan roast for the same tender texture. He completes the dish with seasonal vegetables like roasted carrots, turnips and Brussels sprouts, pea shoots and peas.
Across the country, new pork common names are taking over in the meat case and on the menu, and operators are making them work to their benefit. From the Porterhouse to the ribeye chop, new cut names let chefs position pork as premium.
A Conversation With
Stephen Gerike is a pork chop always a pork chop? Stephen Gerike, Director of Foodservice Marketing for the National Pork Board, says no. With new common names for pork in the retail meat case approved this Spring, chops with names like Porterhouse, New York and ribeye are primed to make restaurant menus. Gerike believes operators can utilize the new nomenclature to position pork as a premium center-of-plate option.
A 23-year foodservice veteran, Gerike knows how to craft winning menus. Prior to joining the National Pork Board in 2000, he was Senior Manager of Brand Marketing at Sysco Corporation and headed up the kitchens of the historic Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz and the Annapolis Hotel. We sat down with Stephen to discuss the new vocabulary, how it was developed, and how operators can feature pork on menus.
NPB: Tell us about the philosophy behind the new names and the committee charged to create them. What was the committee’s main goal?
Stephen Gerike: There are two sets of specifications used in the meat industry to identify cuts of meat for all species.
The retail grocery trade uses Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards (URMIS) that were developed in 1973 by the Industry-Wide Cooperative Meat Identification Standards Committee (ICMISC). This consumer-oriented identification system was developed to simplify and standardize the perplexing array of fresh meat cuts and names. The URMIS program, adopted by food stores, was seen as a promise to consumers that the same cut of meat would have the same name in every store in every city across the country. URMIS later led to the development of UPC codes for fresh meats.
The foodservice trade uses Institutional Meat Purchaser Specifications. The IMPS are a series of meat product specifications maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – a division of the USDA. They were developed as voluntary consensus specifications. The IMPS may be more recognizable to foodservice operators from the Meat Buyer’s Guide (MBG). This is an online and printed pictorial version of the IMPS for all species.
We found a need to change the names used for many pork cuts because they confused consumers. Identification standards were designed for the meat industry and weren’t consumer friendly. The idea was to engage ICMISC and the USDA to propose changes that would benefit all species as well as consumers.
NPB: What research was conducted to develop the new names? How were the names determined?
Stephen Gerike: We brought several consumer focus groups together to understand fresh meat buying decisions at the meat case. We explored their awareness and understanding of packaging information, the current nomenclature, and their ideal fresh meat package. On the surface, consumers seem educated and confident, but as we dug deeper it was apparent they were confused. We found that many of the names or parts of names lack any meaning. Here are some revealing excerpts from the focus groups:
- “I don’t know what top means, but loin sounds familiar.”
- “Getting back to the pork shoulder arm picnic. I don’t know any animals that have arms.”
- “What’s mock tender? I wouldn’t buy that! Either it is or it isn’t tender.”
We learned that consumers gravitate to the familiar and only purchase cuts they already know. Here are some of their reasons:
- Inertia: “I won’t buy something I don’t know.”
- Don’t know how to prepare it: “I don’t know how to cook it, I’m not going to buy it.”
- Worry about wasting money: “I can’t afford to get something and not like it.”
- Fear of failure: “What if it doesn’t turn out right?”
- Disappointing family: “I usually buy the same two or three cuts. I know what I like, what my family likes.”
When we asked them what would be helpful, they told us they want to see specifics on labels: price, preparation, how long it should take, recipe ideas, weight of package, expiration date, safe handling instructions, the simplified name, nutritional information and degree of tenderness.
We developed new label concepts and tested them using eye tracking technology to develop the most effective label. Changing the names of the cuts was part of that project.
NPB: The new naming standards focus on the pork loin, why is this?
Stephen Gerike: The names addressed in the pork category covered cuts from the shoulder and leg as well as the loin, but loin cuts provide the most opportunity to help consumers get what they’re looking for. This will help sales in retail grocery stores and restaurants – ultimately helping raise the price farmers can get for their pigs. Twelve different chops come from the pork loin and in the past we often sold them as assorted pork chops in one package or box. The cooking method for pork chops from each section of the loin is very different. Grouping them together does everyone a disservice, and there were some simple name changes we could make to remedy this.
Stephen Gerike: The chart below shows most of the common cuts that come from the pork loin. They are:
Sirloin Chops, both bone-in and boneless, are from the portion of the pork loin that meets the fresh leg on the hog. They are finely grained muscles that hold moisture and flavor very well. These are best served as cutlets, either sautéed or breaded and fried like schnitzel.
Porterhouse Chops are bone in chops that consist of loin muscle and the tenderloin. Cook them like a porterhouse steak – direct heat on a grill or under a broiler until medium rare.
T-Bone Chops, also bone in, consist of loin muscle and a smaller portion of the tenderloin tail. Cook them like a T-bone steak – direct heat on a grill or under a broiler until medium rare.
New York Chops are only available boneless. This is the loin, or longissimus muscle, that’s opposite the tenderloin in both porterhouse and T-bone chops. Cook like a New York strip steak.
Center Cut Chops with the bone-in are similar to a New York strip steak or shell steak. They differ from the ribeye because there isn’t any spinalis muscle or cap showing on the top of the chop.
Ribeye Chops, both bone-in and boneless, are from the rib portion of the loin and carry one or more of the loin back ribs on each chop, depending on thickness. Cook like a ribeye steak.
Country Chops and Country Style Ribs are available both bone-in and boneless. These are chops and rib portions from the loin nearest the shoulder end. They consist of many different muscles and must be cooked to medium rare or medium on direct heat. If overcooked, they must be braised for a long time until tender again.
Tenderloins, both whole and portioned into Tenderloin Medallions, can be cut in many different sizes and thicknesses. The tenderloin is pulled from the loin when a boneless loin is being fabricated. Once the tenderloin has been removed, the only cuts that can come from that area of the loin are New York chops.
NPB: The new names were originally created for retail cuts and labeling. Any impact on foodservice?
Stephen Gerike: The new common names have been approved by the USDA for use in retail. The changes will be made to URMIS and UPC codes and are available through the Meattrack.com database for grocers to download into the scales that print labels for the meat case. The North American Meat Association (NAMA), the organization that prints the Meat Buyers Guide (MBG), is currently reviewing these changes. NAMA’s pork section revision committee will recommend changes for the next printing of the MBG and the online version. These recommendations are also shared with the USDA to review and update the IMPS. This is an industry-wide effort to let consumers and foodservice operators see the same names for meat cuts. Restaurant operators can now use these names on the menu and consumers will be able to order using these descriptions in the near future.
NPB: Are you already seeing the new nomenclature on menus?
Stephen Gerike: Many of the new names, like Porterhouse and ribeye chops, have been used on menus for years. The benefit now is that consumers will be more familiar with the names from their meat case experiences. As the rest of these common names for pork chops become available in retail, consumers may be more willing to try dishes using the same descriptions on the menu since they will have a better understanding of what they are ordering.
NPB: As operators become more aware of the new names, should this change the way they prepare pork?
Stephen Gerike: The best approach is to cook pork chops as you would steak. Bone-in cuts are best cooked on direct heat and boneless cuts are best cooked on a grill or sauté pan. Train servers to ask how the customer would like it cooked – or better yet, ask them how they like their steak cooked and recommend a similar degree of doneness for the chop they are ordering. The USDA recommends cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145°F using an instant-read thermometer after a three-minute rest. This produces a medium rare chop with a warm, pink center. We’ll talk to consumers about this as part of our roll-out of the new common names so they become more familiar with enjoying pork the same way they like steak. We recommend operators brine whole muscle chops to add moisture and flavor. Visit our website for more about brining http://www.porkfoodservice.org/marinades-rubs-brines-and-glazes#.V7Yi1ZMrLOQ.
This is a major shift in the meat industry and operators should take advantage. Pork supplies are abundant and prices are such that smart operators will profit by positioning chops as premium. Call out new common names and price your chops for profit. Menuing pork as the lowest cost option may not be a successful way to increase sales. Menu a nice, thick porterhouse chop and price it similar to your most popular steak – you will be surprised to see how sales and profits increase. Cook it like steak and customers will learn to love what we already know is so great about pork.
Pork Marinade2 TBL fish sauce
1/4 cup light brown palm sugar
8-10 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup ABC Sweet soy
2 teaspoons black pepper coarse grind
4 stalks lemon grass trimmed and minced
1-2 pounds country-style pork ribs boneless
Pickled Cabbage Slaw1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 head cabbage large dice
2-3 cups carrots paper thin slices on the bias
- In mixing bowl, place all marinade ingredients and mix well to combine.
- Add boneless country style rib and marinate a for a couple of hours
- On char broiler, place ribs and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes on each side. Turn as needed. Cook until 145 degrees internal temperature.
- In sauce pot, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil and sugar dissolves. Stir as needed and do not reduce
- Remove from heat and add cabbage and carrots and mix well to combine
- Place in airtight container or jar and let cool at room temperature
Serve Vietnamese Country Style Rib family style with sticky short grain rice, pickled slaw, table salad herbs like Thai basil, cilantro and mint, thin sliced jalapeno, lime wedges and Sriracha
Ingredients8-rib pork loin Boneless, Center-Cut
Brine:1 cup water
3/4 cup kosher salt coarse
3/4 cup sugar
1 TBL pepper
1 gallon water cold
Cabbage Slaw with Mustard Seed Vinaigrette2 fl oz TBL sherry vinegar
1 fl oz TBL water
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
2 teaspoons honey
2 TBL extra virgin olive oil
3 TBL chives fresh, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
Cabbage Mixture1 pound green cabbage shredded
8 oz wt red cabbage shredded
Whey BBQ Sauce20 oz wt whey reserved from making Skyr*
1 oz wt sugar granulated
- In cup of boiling water, dissolve salt and sugar
- Add mixture to cold water and add pepper. Mix well to combine
- Chill brine completely before adding pork
- Place pork loin in brine and place in the refrigerator for approximately 4 hours (A heavy-duty plastic tub, stainless-steel bowl, or re-sealable plastic bag can work as a brining container, as long as the pork is fully submerged. Weight with a plate, if necessary, to keep the pork fully covered by the brine.) http://porkfoodservice.com/MenuingPork/299/MarinadesRubsBrinesAndGlazes.aspx
- In mixing bowl, add vinegar, water, mustard and honey
- Slowly whisk in oil until well blended
- Add chives, kosher salt, mustard seeds and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well to combine
- In mixing bowl add shredded cabbages and desired amount of vinaigrette. Mix well to combine. Can be held for service or made to order
- In sauce pan over medium high heat, add whey and sugar
- Reduce until it starts to turn in to a caramel
- Cool down.
(If desired you can fold some Skyr at the end. In addition, other ingredients can be added to create different flavor profiles.)
- Hot smoke pork loin to 145 degrees internal temperature
- Liberally glaze pork with whey bbq sauce
- Carve pork loin into approximately 2” slices for service
- As needed add more whey bbq sauce
- Garnish with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Add slaw to plate
Country-style Ribs are appearing on all types of menus across the country, from upscale celebrity chef restaurants to gourmet delis and inventive barbecue joints. These menus illustrate that country-style ribs can be utilized in many flavor combinations to fit any type of operation in all seasons.
- Publican, Executive Chef Paul Kahan, now serves a Country-style Rib with Chinese broccoli, spiced peanuts and kumquat agrodolce. Publican is a beer-focused restaurant located in Chicago, IL menuing pristine farmhouse fare.
- Cucina offers “Pork and Beans” made with country-style pork ribs and beans slow cooked with carrots served over rice. Chef Penny Murphy oversees this Gourmet Deli, located in Salt Lake City, UT.
- The Tulsa Rib Company opened in January of 1981 in Orange, CA, after Steve Parker realized the void in the restaurant scene for high quality barbecue. They are now famous for their “gourmet barbecue menu” which includes boneless Country-style Ribs.
- Hopleaf, a well-known Gastropub in Chicago, IL, is well regarded for their innovative menu. They are currently offering milk and honey-braised Country-style Pork Ribs, with a grilled cauliflower puree, Breakfast Stout collard greens and preserved root vegetables.
- Lambert’s Downtown Barbecue in Austin, TX, offers “inventive barbecue” that the New York Times called “newfangled ‘fancy barbecue.” Their menu features Country-style Pork Ribs rubbed with fennel and coriander, maple glazed and paired with apple and roasted fennel slaw.
Chefs are taking pork sirloin and offering their customers “extraordinary” experiences with a variety of cooking techniques, from grilling to frying the meat until it is crispy and full of flavor.
- Downside Risk features Pork Sirloin – tender sirloin strips, grilled, with a mushroom rosemary demi-glace. This unique restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ, combines great food designed with weekly live music.
- Executive Chef Hermes Vargas serves up Carne Frita at Adobo’s Caribbean Grill in Sandy, UT. This meal is comprised of boneless pork sirloin fried until crispy served with onions and cilantro mojo.
- Bistro 18, an independent restaurant in Montclair, NJ, features New American Cuisine with European and Asian influence. George Kalivas, the owner, put together a team of chefs with diverse backgrounds to deliver unique cuisine, including a Char-Grilled Pork Sirloin Chop with lobster whipped potatoes and portabellos, in a sherry demi-glace.
Pork Ribeye Chop
Chefs are adding innovative flavors to Pork Ribeye Chops like green tea smoked ginger, coffee and cocoa. Other chefs offer the Ribeye chop with more traditional pairings, such as sautéed mushrooms. However the Pork Ribeye Chop is menued, it transforms the menu from everyday to extraordinary.
- Rosebud Bistro, located in Nashville, TN, opened in 2013 with a menu that celebrates Regional European cuisine and a stellar wine selection. Executive Chef de Cuisine Anita Hartel offers a Pork Ribeye with green tea smoked ginger, whipped sweet potatoes, sautéed greens, and sake pork jus.
- Sanders restaurant, located in Grand Forks, ND, is featuring a Coffee and Cocoa Grilled Pork Ribeye on their specials menu for April. This includes a bone-in pork ribeye chop, rubbed with a cocoa and coffee based spice rub then grilled and served with sun dried cherry port wine demi-glace.
- Garlic John’s, a long-established regional Italian restaurant in Manchester Center, VT, offers a Prime Ribeye Pork Chop. The grilled boneless 8-oz. chop is topped with sautéed mushrooms in a light wine sauce.
- Merchant menus a Ribeye Pork Chop with cheesy root vegetable gratin, and orange gremolata. This casual farm to table restaurant in Madison, WI, celebrates the American craft movement with a passion for quality ingredients and honest cooking.
Pork Porterhouse Chop
Pork Porterhouse Chop is a powerful way to position pork as a premium menu item. Restaurants are taking this nomenclature a step further by describing the Pork Porterhouse Chop with additional descriptors such as “prime” and “beautiful.” In addition to the menu descriptors, restaurants are utilizing flavorful rubs and unique glazes for added quality and appeal.
- TD Homer’s Grill is a family-friendly high-energy restaurant in Southington, CT, that features a Porterhouse Chop on their fall menu. The porterhouse pork chop is pan-seared with herb roasted potatoes, roasted butternut squash, and a housemade bourbon applesauce.
- The Hollow Bistro and Brew located in Clarence, NY prides itself on their great selection of food and drinks. The menu offers a Pork Porterhouse Chop with mustard and New York maple syrup glaze, and whipped sweet potatoes.
- Doug’s Downtown Grill, on Historic Main Street in Garden Grove, CA, offers a 16-oz. Prime Pork Porterhouse Chop. They mesquite grill this chop to perfection, and serve it with homemade applesauce.
- Eric’s Office Restaurant in Canadaigua, NY features a Root Beer Pork Porterhouse. Their thick cut, char-grilled pork porterhouse chop is glazed with a Saranac Root Beer reduction and served with Cheddar bacon smashed potatoes.
- Spoto’s Grill 131, in Seminole, FL, offers a Pork Porterhouse Chop, menued with a mushroom and mandarin orange Grand Marnier glaze and sweet potato mash.
- In the heart of the beautiful Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania, the Back Door Café serves tourists and locals the best fresh foods they have to offer. Chef Thomas M. Chulick C.E.C and Denise Thompson menu a 16-oz. Pork Porterhouse Chop – brick oven roasted and dry spice rubbed with cinnamon, cumin, coriander and white pepper.