Stretch the Budget, Tip 1- Pork Loin Savings

By Tim

Hello and welcome to another recurring feature here at Hayes Amaze: Stretch the Budget, a savings tip series that will have you saving money and eating great for pennies on the dollar. (Disclaimer: It probably won't be that amazing. But it'll be worth it.) For our first trick we are going to take a large cut of pork loin and show you how to make it into several chops, a roast or two, and some meat for mincing or grinding.

I am an unrepentant carnivore. I am more than happy to make,  eat and cook vegetarian entrees. They can be delightful, filling and satisfying. They can even be wonderfully unhealthy. But I would be lying if I didn't say that I prefer a little meat in my dinner. And since meat can be expensive I look for ways to save a little money while getting a better product. And so it is that I introduce you to our guest this evening: Mr. Pork Loin

When I buy pork I try and avoid a pre-brined, injected cut of meat. They inject the pork to make it stay moist when it's cooked, put a little flavor into it and, most importantly, pump up the weight so you spend a little more. I find that the brined meat is a little too salty, throws off my recipes and generally has a strange quality to the meat that I don't appreciate. That said, if all you can find is an injected bit o' meat, don't feel bad about buying it. Just remember to watch any salt you put into the recipe as the meat is already fairly well salted.

So we have here a 4.25 pound hunk of meat at $2.29 a pound. How does that compare to pre-cut, supermarket chops? I'm glad you asked.

Pork chops in the wild.

Pork chops in the wild.

Here we have a package of four chops, about a half inch thick for $4.99 a pound. One, maybe two dinner's worth of meat for ten bucks. We have twice the meat for a lower price. Sweeeeet. We also have control over how thick our chops are. These are a pretty decent thickness for supermarket pork chops. Anything less than a half inch thick is going to be overcooked before it's done and you may need a saw to cut it, or at least leather working tools. And plenty of gravy to cover the dryness.

Alright, enough about those supermarket chops. We are through, and we've moved on to something much better and will never look back. So, first step with our pork loin: Remove the wrapper.

My knife is about a foot long. That's a big hunk of pig.

My knife is about a foot long. That's a big hunk of pig.

Removing the wrapper is best done over the sink. Set up your cutting board and take your pork and a knife to the sink and have a couple paper towels ready on the counter. There's going to be a bit of liquid and it's a little ooky and you don't want it all over the place. Food safety is no joke, friends.

Once the wrapper is off, hang the pork loin over the sink for a second to let any excess liquid drip off. It's not completely pleasant but it'll be worth it. Some people say you should rinse your meat, but that isn't really necessary, and present advice is to avoid doing that as water can splash bacteria all about and turn your kitchen. I don't know about you, but I have enough bacteria around my kitchen already, thank you very much. Take your paper towels (good thing you had them ready, isn't it?) and pat the meat dry. Lay the pork loin on a cutting board. Like the picture.

Now it's time to decide what you want to get out of your pork loin. Do you just want chops? Do you want three or four decent sized roasts? Maybe a mix of the two? Maybe you want to make a pork loin copy of Michelangelo's David. I cannot help you if that's the case. It may be too late for help at that point.

Here's what I decided to do:

Tada!

Tada!

We have here six inch thick chops, a lean chunk on the left there that I'll be using to make spicy bulgogi pork (Why yes, I will share that recipe with you! Thanks for your interest!) and a fatty chunk on the right that I will be grinding up to make meatballs. If you are going to make a roast I recommend using that fattier side and cutting a four or five inch section. The fatty bit will help the roast from being too dry. The leaner section is good for stir fry.

Now that you have decided what you want out of your loin (oh dear, that didn't sound right...), commence to cutting. Start by cutting your roast of one end and then work your way down, cutting piece by piece. Like I said, I prefer a thicker pork chop, about one inch. Chops that size won't dry out as quickly and can be pounded into thin cutlets that you can use to make schnitzel or tonkatsu (and I will cover those as well, thank you for asking). A half inch would be the minimum thickness I recommend, and you can go up to two inches for some real cave man sized double chops, if that's how you want to roll.

Take your knife and make long, slow strokes. Use the whole length of the blade. The less sawing back and forth, the smoother the surfaces of your chops and roasts will be. It should take just three or four back and forth motions to get through. If they do come out a little ragged don't worry about it. They will still be delicious. You'll just need a little more practice and maybe some better knives.

Now that you've parted the pork it's time to put it away. Decide if you're going to use any of the bits in the next day or so and freeze anything you will be saving for later. I like to put them in single layers in large freezer bags so I can take out one or two as needed. The roasts will go into individual bags.

Wash your hands (cross contamination is no joke, people!), get as many bags as you need, open them and grab some tongs. Alternatively you could ask a responsible adult to help you if one is near. They can hold the bags open while you fill them with your dirty pork hands. Today I was alone, so I used tongs. Be careful not to touch the outside of the bags or zipper area with the raw meat.

And there you have it! You'll note that one chunk is not bagged, that's because I used it to make meatballs immediately after I portioned my pork. The tale of the meatballs next time, my blog friends, but until then, enjoy!