How To Butcher, Cut, and Cook Pork, Goat and Lamb

How to break it down and cook it like a professional.

In the last three years, I’ve learned a lot about food, farming, and agriculture. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to write about it. While most people would have documented the process end-to-end, learning about food production and the sciences related to it was something I found to be a very personal experience. 

I was learning and unlearning so rapidly, I had no desire to try and articulate it during the process. Now that time has passed, I’m slowly starting to showcase what I’ve learned in an attempt to help people better understand modern food and farming processes. 

The next step in this exploration is to show you how to cut and cook pork, lamb, and goat. I learned much of this via hands-on classes and assistance to local butchers, as most of the books I found hard to follow. Learning to cut meat and break down animals is something best learned via video and/or hands-on. 

Raise your hand if you know all the different cuts of pork, goat, and lamb, and how are they cooked! 

How to Cut and Cook Pork

As most of you that read my blog and follow me on Instagram know, I’m obsessed with pork. I love pigs, especially heritage breed hogs (Berkshire, Mangalitsa, and now Kune Kune). I like the size of the animals, find them easy to raise, and of course, I love how they taste compared to their larger, more commercial counterparts. Pork is extremely versatile and can be used many ways. Here’s a breakdown of how to cut and cook a hog:

butcher cuts and cooking methods for pork

Butt:

  • Blade Steaks (Braise)

  • Smoked Cottage Ham (Bake or Pan Broil)

Jowl:

  • Bacon (Season and Pan Broil)

Picnic (Shoulder):

  • Arm Pork Steak (Braise)

  • Shoulder Hock (Roast)

  • Smoked Shoulder (Bake or Simmer)

  • Fresh Shoulder (Roast)

Spare Ribs:

  • Spare Ribs (Braise or Roast)

Ham:

  • Ham Roast (Roast)

  • Half Ham (Bake or Simmer)

Butt:

  • Boat Style Butt (Roast)

  • Pork Steaks (Braise)

Loin:

  • Center Cut (Roast)

  • Pork Chop (Broil or Braise)

  • Sirloin Pork Roast (Braise)

  • Pork Tenderloin (Broil or Braise)

Bacon:

  • Bacon (Broil, Pan Broil, or Season)


How To Cut and Cook Lamb

Butcher, Cut and Cook Lamb

Neck

  • Neck Chops

  • Neck Rosette

  • Neck Fillet Roast

Best cooking methods: Slow cooking methods –– Braise, Stew, or Roast

Shoulder

  • Bone-In Shoulder

  • Boneless Arm Roast

  • Boneless Shoulder Roast

  • Shoulder Steaks

Best cooking methods: Slow cooking methods –– Braise, Stew, or Roast

Rib

  • Rack of Ribs

  • Rib Chops

Best cooking methods: High heat and quick methods –– Broil (grilling or barbecuing) or Pan Broil.

Loin

  • Tenderloin

  • Loin Chops

  • Eye of Loin

  • Roast

  • Bone-In Loin Roast

  • Supreme Loan Roast

Best cooking methods: High heat and quick methods –– Broil (grilling or barbecuing) or Pan Broil.

Breast

  • Stew Meat (Broil, Braise or Stew)

  • Ground (Broil or Braise)

Leg & Shank

  • Leg Bone-In Steaks (Broil, Braise, or Pan Broil)

  • Leg of Lamb (Roast or Braise)

  • Semi-Boneless Leg w/Sirloin (Broil or Braise)


How To Cut and Cook Goat

Butcher, Cut and Cook Goat

Neck

  • Neck Chops

  • Neck Rosette

  • Neck Fillet Roast

Best cooking methods: Slow cooking methods –– Braise, Stew, or Roast

Shoulder

  • Bone-In Shoulder

  • Boneless Arm Roast

  • Boneless Shoulder Roast

  • Shoulder Steaks

Best cooking methods: Slow cooking methods –– Braise, Stew, or Roast

Rib

  • Rack of Ribs

  • Rib Chops

Best cooking methods: High heat and quick methods - Broil (grilling or barbecuing) or Pan Broil.

Loin

  • Tenderloin

  • Loin Chops

  • Eye of Loin

  • Roast

  • Bone-In Loin Roast

  • Supreme Loan Roast

Best cooking methods: High heat and quick methods - Broil (grilling or barbecuing) or Pan Broil.

Breast

  • Stew Meat (Broil, Braise or Stew)

  • Ground (Broil or Braise)

Leg & Shank

  • Leg Bone-In Steaks (Broil, Braise, or Pan Broil)

  • Leg of Lamb (Roast or Braise)

  • Semi-Boneless Leg w/Sirloin (Broil or Braise)


Understanding Cooking Techniques

As you can see, in these three illustrations, there are several common cooking techniques I mention. To better break them down, here are what each of them means. 

  • Broil: To cook at high temperatures over 450°F; usually meats are cooked at temperatures around 550℉ on the broiler. 

  • Braise: To cook slowly in fat and a small amount of liquid in a closed pot.

  • Pan Broil: Related to broiling but it is reserved for thinner cuts of meat; you have a greater degree of control over the end product. 

  • Roast: To cook at temperatures of at least 325 °F over an open flame, oven, or another heat source.

  • Grill:  To cook meat over a heat source, usually charcoal or gas. 

  • Bake: To bake meat requires lower temperatures than roasting it (up to 375°F).

Special Notes on More Specific Labels on my Graphics: Some of the cuts are labeled more specifically with methods like seasoning, baking, roasting, or stewing. Given the number of recipes specific to those cuts of meat and how to cook them, there are a few places where I simply labeled them for better clarity. 

Understanding Pork, Goat and Label Labeling

Meat in any store comes with lots of labels. While the original intention of the labels were to provide information for customers on meat quality, labeling has gotten hijacked by marketers, organizations, and companies in order to sell meat at different levels of pricing based on “standards” and “certifications.” When it comes to pork, goat and lamb, here’s what you need to know: 

Pasture-raised pork, goat or lamb means that the animals were raised outdoors on open pastures. Free-range and pasture-fed are also associated with this term (but they have slightly different meanings)

Sustainably raised meats were raised in a regenerative, pasture-based system designed to enrich the soil and the farmers who raised them didn’t require the unnecessary use of antibiotics. 

Hormone-free should never be found on the label of any pork or goat product. The US Food and Drug Administration does not approve the use of any growth hormones in raising pigs and goats. Hormones are illegal. If you do find packaging that says “no hormones,” it has to have a disclaimer that says, "federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.".  Hormones can be used in lamb, but it’s regulated (learn more about it here).


Read My Full Guide To Understanding Meat Labels


What About Meats Labeled Organic?

Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food is grown through a specific production method. It has nothing to do with the quality or safety of the food. If pork, lamb or goat is labeled USDA organic, that means that meat meets all requirements to be classified as such. The primary takeaway is that the animal was fed only certified organic feed and/or grazed on certified organic land, was never given antibiotics at any point in its life, and had year-round access to the outdoors. 

When buying from a local farmer, I don’t always ask if it’s organic. If I know the farm, then I have no problems buying something that’s pasture raised. I have personally fed my hogs the whey byproduct from cheesemaking, and while that dairy byproduct is organically certified the ability to label my meat as “organic” comes into question because the USDA regulations say organic pork can’t have eaten animal byproducts. When looking for valid food labels that validate humane standards, look for pork that’s labeled Animal Welfare Approved and/or has Global Animal Partnership rating of (4+). Most others are pretty easy to achieve. 


Continue to Learn More about Your Food

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on butchery. I encourage you to learn more about the cuts available from pork, goat or lamb you may have not tried (or never tried). I also encourage you to source your meat from a local butcher and/or local farm that offers a meat CSA or quarter, half or whole animal shares. If you’re in western Washington, I’ve created a complete guide to farms around Seattle

Butcher Illustrations - Pork, Goat and Lamb