Pork Loin Vs Pork Shoulder: Do You Know The Differences?

Pork Loin Vs Pork Shoulder

Pork loin and pork shoulder are always favorite ingredients providing high nutrition content at reasonable prices for home-cooking meals. Still, many get confused about distinguishing between these types of meat. 

So, what are the differences between them? Let’s take a quick look at their dissimilarities before discussing all the aspects in detail.

Related: Top 18 most common types of meat 

Quick Facts

Pork loin:

  • Nutrition: Higher in protein, potassium, sodium and lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol.
  • Price: More expensive, about 4 to 5 dollars per pound.
  • Texture: Tender and juicy but easy to get tough when low-cooked.
  • Best for: Quick-cooking methods like grilling, pan-frying, and roasting.

Pork shoulder: 

  • Nutrition: Lower in protein, potassium, sodium and higher in calories, fat, and cholesterol.
  • Price: More reasonable, about 3 dollars per pound.
  • Texture: Tougher but becomes succulent and tender when properly cooked.
  • Best for: Slow-cooking methods like slow-roasting, smoking, stewing, and braising.

What Is Pork Loin?

This is a muscle that runs along the pig’s back between the back and the ribs, a piece of lean meat covered with a juicy fat layer. It is large and thick but tender, often sold bone-in or boneless.

Loin meat has a light color, turning pale pink or white when properly cooked. Also, it has a juicy flavor and tender texture, resulting from the combination of lean and fat.

The Best Way To Cook Pork Loin

As mentioned above, pork loin can be found in two forms: bone-in (pork chop) and boneless, each of which is associated with various methods to process and cook.

How to cook pork chops?

There are various ways to cook them, ranging from pan-frying to grill in the oven and on the grill. It turns flavorful and supper succulent when perfectly cooked. 

Pan-fry: marinate it with brown sugar, then fry it in hot oil with garlic and butter until the outer crust turns golden brown. This is how you are going to get a great steak at home.

Grill in the oven: marinate them for some hours ahead of time to lower the chance of drying out, then cook at 425°F for 15 to 20 minutes until tender but not dried out.

Cook on the grill: season them in advance with a barbeque sauce and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t forget to turn the side for evenly grilling. 

How to cook boneless pork loin roast?

The keys here are minimal seasoning and proper cooking time. 

Here, you start by rubbing the surface with seasonings (olive oil, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper). Next, cook at 400 for 10 minutes, then 250°F for 20 minutes until the internal temperature of the meat is about 145°F.

Notes:

  • This cooking time is set for 1 pound of meat.
  • Put the fat side up to create a moist layer keeping the meat from drying out. Also, it will penetrate the meat and make it juicier.

What Is Pork Shoulder?

It is a muscle on the pig’s shoulder above the front leg, a relatively fatty piece of meat layered with fat and connective tissue. It is an inexpensive part and is often sold with the skin.

As located on the leg connecting with the movement of the pork, this meat is pretty strict with less fat marbling. It is a part of the picnic ham cut

Other names for pork shoulder: Picnic shoulder, picnic roast.

The Best Way to Cook Pork Shoulder

With a pretty tough and fatty texture, pork shoulder is excellent for long, slow cooking recipes such as roasting, smoking, and stewing, braising. Besides, people love to use it for ground pork and pork pies.

  • To roast: cook it in the oven at 350°F for 30 minutes per pound. The internal temperature of the meat should be at 195 to 200°F when done.
  • To smoke: rub it with seasonings on all sides, then cook it at 250°F for 8 to 10 hours in the smoker. Uncover it in the first half-process and wrap it with foil for the rest. 
  • To stew or braise: cook it directly in a slow cooker on low heat for 8 to 10 hours to tenderize the meat and melt the fat – the pulled pork with excellent sweetness. Or, you can roast it before braising to have braised pork roast served in slices.

Nutritional Differences

When it comes to the healthy aspect, pork loin is far better than pork shoulder, resulting from the differences in the component. 

In fact, the loin meat comes with much lean and little fat, providing more protein, potassium, sodium, and fewer calories, fat, and cholesterol. 

Let’s look at the metrics per 100 grams of each in the table below.

Pork loin (100gr) Pork shoulder (100gr)
Calories 192 291
Protein (gr) 30 23
Fat (gr) 7.4 21.5
Cholesterol (mgr) 77  90
Potassium (mgr) 373  328
Sodium (mgr) 98 61

Price Difference

While pork loin is healthier, pork shoulder is cheaper and is considered a reasonable meat choice. This is understandable due to their textures and nutrition values. 

For example, a pound of the shoulder costs about 3 dollars, while the same amount of the loin can take you from 4 to 5 dollars, depending on where you buy and the specific quality.

Can You Substitute Between Them?

With those differences listed above, these two meat types require different cooking times plus offer distinct flavors and textures. As a result, pork loin is not an ideal alternative for pork shoulder in most recipes and vice versa. 

Pork loin comes with a low-fat level and is easy to dry out during cooking. For that reason, it is not a thing for slow-cooking recipes like stew and braising. 

Still, since they are pork-based, you can use them interchangeably if you don’t mind the texture and fat content dissimilarities. The finished dishes may vary slightly but are still good once you know the differences and adjust the recipe.

How Do You Keep Pork Loin From Drying Out?

This meat type is considered hard to keep moist during cooking due to its low-fat content. Below are some ways to keep it from drying out.

  • Utilize the fat layer: Set the fat side up when grilling or smoking the loin. In this way, melted fat will seep into the meat during the process, keep it from drying out, and tenderize it.
  • Brining with salt and herbs: Simply soak it in a mixture loaded with water, salt, and herbs for at least 15 minutes before cooking. In this way, the loin will get extra flavor and lower the risk of drying out.
  • Avoid low-cooking solutions: Cooking under low heat and for a long time will deliver a tough texture. So, stay away from slow-cooking methods such as a slow-cooker or a crockpot. 

The ideal cooking time length for the loin is around 10 minutes, on average. Hence, when grilling or smoking, just cook until it reaches 145 to 150°F in internal temperature. This is the best condition for an excellent roasted loin.

What Is The Most Tender Cut Of Pork Chop?

We all know that the loin is tender, but its softness varies from area to area. In detail, the meat at the ends is least tender, while the center is where the most tender pork chops come from. 

These pork chop cuts are beautiful with a distinctively big eye and curved bone running along one side of the chop. Also, a dense and flat layer of fat covers the chop, allowing balanced flavor after cooking. These chops are excellent for grilling and pan-frying.

Also, here are some tips for choosing the best tender pork chops:

  • Prioritize pasture-grown pork: If you pick the meat in a package, chances are this information will be listed on the label. Animals from natural growing methods tend to be better in taste and quality. Still, they are commonly more expensive.
  • Look at the color: Choose the ones with a bright pink color. Also, there shouldn’t be any discoloration, such as browning on both the meat and bone surfaces. 
  • Look at the marbling: The best pork chop cut should come with veins of “marbling” fat, the signs of the white fat, to diversify the flavor and retain moisture in the meat.

Why Do My Pork Chops Always Come Out Tough?

These are lean cuts with low-fat content, and they don’t appreciate being over-cooked. That’s why we have repeated two things throughout this article: prioritize quick-cooking and stay away from slow-heat, which is the primary reason for tough chops. 

Apart from reducing the use of this meat in stew and braise recipes, you should notice when you let the chop in the oven after cooking.

Typically, the chops range from ½ to 1 inch thick, resulting in extra time in the oven post-cooking. On average, you should let the thin chops (about ½ to ¾ inch thick) in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes and 8 to 10 minutes for the thick chop (from 1-inch thick).

Mariana Rouco

Mariana Rouco is the editor-in-chief of Elpasony.com. She loves traveling and writing about foods and cooking in general. She has a degree from the New England Culinary Institute and enjoys Mexican, Italian, and Chinese cuisines the most.

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