(Transparency matters: Illinois Farm Families, National Pork Board, and other farmer-led organizations and retailers have been/are clients of mine. This post is my own point of view based on my years in grocery and agriculture, coupled with my training as a dietitian. It’s also about how I was raised: My family values agriculture, health, and nutrition while also honoring a food budget. They go together. I hope you enjoy this post!)
You wheel your cart/buggy up to the meat counter. Even in today’s world, choice is there, although it may look different than it did just a few short months ago. It might be perplexing to know what to pick. You just need a plan. Simple, right? YES!
Let’s consider what cooks call “edible portion“. It’s basically the part you eat after you peel/trim/prepare your food. Not everything is a loss that is trimmed. Let’s discuss from a meat case point of view.
“The butcher’s yield test is very similar to the yield test for fruits and vegetables. The main difference is that the trim created during the fabrication of meat and poultry has value, whereas in most cases, the trim created when you fabricate fruits and vegetables does not.”
– Culinary Institute of America’s Kitchen Lesson Plan “Kitchen Calculations”, page 4. accessed 4.29.2020. See also pages 12-13
We’ve become used to the convenience of boneless. Perfect for the time starved shopper and cook, and/or someone who may still be learning their way around a kitchen. We’ve forgotten that in the quest for “hurry up and get it on the table” that bone in offers a different kind of convenience. Think of it in terms of prepping more meals after your current meal.
Chefs may speak of presentation and additional flavor with bone in. From a practicality standpoint, it’s more about the soup/stock or other delicious things that can be made in addition to the obvious meat/poultry.
If it’s a ham bone, you can make a hearty favorite – ham and bean soup. You can make broth-based soup/bone broth from pretty much any meat and poultry bones/trim, which we know is lower in calories and fat than a cream soup. While there has been chatter about additional nutritional implications of using the bones to make broth, there isn’t enough research right now to really get into that. However, the nutrition and value you get by using everything you buy is real. The cooking times don’t vary all that much if you use boneless or bone in, so don’t stress if you have to use a different cut than the recipe calls for. (Remember to check temperatures and not just go by time or look for best results.)
Your decision checklist:
What cuts are available? Can you swap bone in for boneless or this cut for that cut? (yes – click here for more details)
What recipes do you want to make? (Have more than one to use everything wisely)
Can you freeze some for use in casseroles, stir fry, soup, salads, sandwiches?
As we head into grilling season, here are a few ideas that will spice things up but keep heat out of the kitchen, along with some year ’round favorites. You can put everything you buy to delicious use. The biggest question is, what will you make first?
Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book – Pork Cuts: A Visual Guide (includes shopping tips)