I’ve got a question for you all carnivores out there. Have you ever sat down to a hearty steak and thought to yourself, “Man, I love beef, but what about other types of meat? Is there a pork cut that can rival the flavor and tenderness of a steak?”
If you have, you’re in luck! Because, in this article, you and I are going to explore the world of pork cuts to find out what the equivalent of a steak is when it comes to our porcine friends.
Ready? Bring your appetite and dive right in!
Now, I know what you might be thinking. “Steak is steak, Sammy, and pork is pork. How can you even compare the two?”
But let’s be real here: there are many delicious pork cuts out there that can hold their own against a juicy steak. And, in some cases, they might even be a little more tender and flavorful!
What’s the Equivalent of Steak From a Pig?
We all know what a steak means, but let’s take a minute to go over the definition before we get to the pork cuts closest to it.
When I say “steak,” I’m talking about a thick, bone-in or boneless cut of beef that’s grilled, pan-fried, or broiled. The thickness can vary, though it ought to be at least 1 inch (ca. 2.5 centimeters). It can come from a variety of different parts of the cow, including the ribeye, the sirloin, and the tenderloin.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best pork cuts that can stand in as a steak alternative:
Pork tenderloin: This cut is similar to beef tenderloin in both flavor and texture, making it a great steak alternative. It’s a lean cut with a delicate, kind of buttery flavor, and it’s as easy as pork cuts tend to get to cook. Sear it on the grill or in a hot pan, and you’ve got yourself a tasty pork steak in no time!
Pork loin: Another cut like beef tenderloin, the pork loin is a lean, tender cut that’s perfect for grilling or roasting. It’s a little larger than pork tenderloin, so it’s great for feeding a family. For best results, slice it up into 1½-inch (ca. 3.8 centimeter) cuts against the grain so it’s thick and tender.
Pork ribeye: This cut is similar to its beef counterpart—with a rich, succulent flavor and a marbled texture. It’s a bit fattier than some of the other cuts on my list, but that just means it’s all that flavorful and juicy. Grill it up or pan-fry it up for a delicious pork steak that’s sure to make your taste buds sing.
Pork sirloin: Starting to see a pattern with the names there? For good reason! This cut is similar to beef sirloin in flavor and texture, and it’s great alternative for steak lovers. The pork sirloin’s a little leaner than some of the other cuts, but it’s nevertheless tender and flavorsome. Grill it up or pan-fry it for that tasty pork steak that’s perfect for a weeknight ‘cue.
“But, Sammy,” you may be thinking. “What about pork chops?”
Technically, a pork chop isn’t a steak. But it’s still a delicious cut of pork perfect for grilling or pan-searing. Look for chops at least an inch thick for the best results. They’ll be tender, juicy, and full of flavor; just like we like them.
How to Select Great Pork Cuts
If you ain’t that familiar with pork and are used to beef cuts, you know that the USDA grades beef as Prime, Choice, or Select. So you might find yourseld wondering if there are similar USDA grades for pork.
To make a long answer short, the USDA also grades pork cuts, but not in the same way it grades beef. Per the federal agency’s system, pork cuts are either Acceptable or Utility, culinary writer Dim Nikov explains in Cooking Methods & Techniques.
But they don’t have the same meaning to us consumers as beef grades do. Acceptable pork is all pork that you and I can buy at the store; Utility pork is the type that goes into processed meats and is never sold directly to consumers.
So, how do you select good pork?
First off, buy your pork “steaks” from a butcher you can count on. The supermarket meat counter’s alright, but you’re probably going to find fresher meat from better raised pigs elsewhere.
Second—and this is very much like selecting beef—look for cuts with good marbling. Fat adds flavor and moisture to the meat as it cooks, so you want to make sure you’ve got enough of it to keep your pork tender and juicy.
Bone-in chops are trickier to cook evenly. Then again, because they are, the meat near the bone turns out more tender. Boneless chops are the type you’re going to want to be looking for if you want a nice and even cook on your chops, and most folks do.
How to Grill Up a Mean Pork Steak
Dry-brine: Start by dry-brining the pork chops. You do this by salting the chops generously with kosher salt on both sides, then refrigerating them for 1 hour before cooking.
The dry-brine will do two things. The salt will draw juices from the meat and dissolve in them. Then, the briny juices will be reabsorbed and flavor the meat from the inside. Once inside, the salt will also tenderize the pork by breaking down the proteins.
Bring the chops to room temperature: Bring the pork chops to room temperature before cooking them up. Take them out of the fridge and rest them on the countertop while you’re preheating your grill or igniting coals in your chimney starter.
Just make sure they’re in the shade, covered by a sheet of parchment paper, if you’re resting them outside.
Preheat the grill: Heat your gas grill for 15 minutes, or light the coals in a chimney starter and wait 20-25 minutes until they’ve turned white and ashen. No matter what kind of grill you’re using, what you want is nice and steady heat when you slap those pork chops on the cooking grate.
What you don’t want is to cook the steaks on a cold grill or over coals that are still in ignition. Not only will they not cook evenly, but they’ll dry out as the grill gets up to heat with them on it.
Grill them up: Like beef steaks, pork chops ought to be cooked briefly and over direct heat, until they’ve reached a safe internal temperature of 145°F (ca. 63°C). Remove them from the heat, rest them for at least 3 minutes to let the juices redistribute, then send them over to the hungry folks at the table.
There many pork cuts that can stand in as alternatives to steak. Pork tenderloin, pork loin, pork ribeye, pork sirloin, and pork chops are all great options for grilling or pan-searing.
When choosing your pork cuts, look for well-marbled with fat, ideally from a trusted butcher. So go ahead and give these pork steak alternatives a try. I bet your taste buds (and, in these inflation-plagued times, your wallet) will thank you!