Pork is one of the most popular choices of meat available. While everyone knows about: pork ribs, pork belly, and pork chops, there are less commonly known cuts that exist, such as pork cushion.
Much like beef, there are many different types of cuts available when it comes to pork meat. In total, there are around 18 or more different pork cuts. Read on to learn more pork, like what pork cushions are, how to cook them, and why they’re the perfect choice for certain recipes.
What is Pork Cushion?
The pork cushion cut is derived from the pork picnic shoulder. It’s a lean and, usually, boneless cut of meat that’s very tender and comes with quite a bit of connective tissue.
It’s best to roast it slowly or use it in soups and stews via other slow cooking methods. In terms of size, a typical pork cushion usually weighs two to three pounds and measures about five to six inches in length.
Boston Butt vs Pork Cushion
It’s easy to confuse the boston butt (pork butt) with pork cushion, as these two different cuts of pork both come from the shoulder of the pig. With that being said, pork cushion comes from the picnic shoulder, while the pork butt is located just above that area.
Since the pork cushion meat is situated closer to the pig’s foreleg, this meat is leaner than the boston butt. Since the boston butt isn’t as close to the foreleg, it contains more fat and less lean muscle.
Aside from that, their only other difference is that the Boston Butt cut usually comes in an oblong shape, while the Pork Cushion takes on a more triangular shape.
In terms of cooking methods, both of these cuts of meat are best served braised, stewed, roasted, or smoked. It’s best to cook both the pork butt and the pork cushion meat on a low heat setting for an extended period of time.
Both cuts of meat will have plenty of flavor when cooked appropriately. However, fans of marbling will appreciate the boston butt cut more, while those who like leaner cuts will lean towards the pork cushion meat.
How to Cook Pork Cushion Meat
There are many different ways to cook your piece of pork cushion meat. It really is best to roast it slowly or use it in soups and stews via other slow cooking methods.
Simply popping the cut of meat on a frying pan will often leave your pork cushion dry. Pan-frying such a nice lean piece of meat in this manner will ruin the tasty piece of meat and result in it developing a chewy texture.
While we’ve mentioned that the cooking methods for both pork cushion and pork butt are incredibly similar, pork cushion is usually smaller in size and it tends to have a faster cooking time.
Best Pork Cushion Recipes
Even though we’ve already mentioned that it’s best to cook pork cushion on low heat, slowly, there are many delicious ways to prepare, cook and serve this type of meat. Using a ‘slow method’ of cooking isn’t dull, and it can provide more versatility in cooking pork cushion.
This prolonged cooking period ensures that the intramuscular tissues and fats have the time to break down and soften. While this isn’t the most exciting way to cook meat, it will result in the pork cushion being less chewy and juicier. Below some of the ways you can cook pork cushion, including a few great recipes to try.
Roasting is an oven cooking method that utilizes indirect dry heat. If you know how to cook roast beef, or regular pork roast, then roasting pork cushion will be a breeze. This slow cooked pork cushion roast is perfect because the longer the cooking time, the more tender it’ll become. When roasting a piece of boneless cushion pork, make sure that your oven maintains a low cooking temperature; this prevents the meat from burning. It’s best to keep your oven temperature at around 145°F to 160°F.
Unsure of how long you should leave it in the oven? Since the oven temperature is relatively low, the cooking time should be half an hour per pound. Meaning, that if your boneless pork cushion meat weighs three pounds, you should leave it to roast for 30 minutes per pound of meat — which will leave you with a total cook time of an hour and a half. However, if you prefer your pork well-done, feel free to leave it in the oven for longer — but make sure that you always keep an eye on it!
Chop and Cutlets
Simply cooking a pork cushion on a frying pan will not leave you with a juicy and succulent piece of meat because the high temperature and fast cook times associated with pan-frying won’t be able to dissolve the fats. With that said, you can still pan fry pork cushions by turning them into pork chops or pork cutlets!
It’s no secret that a typical pork cutlet and pork loin chop do not come from the pork shoulder. However, by cutting your pork cushion as thinly as possible or by pounding it into thin cutlets, you’ll be able to break down its fats when you fry it on the pan. Pounding the meat will also help tenderize it, which results in juicy, flavorful meat. This Greek Schnitzel is a great recipe that uses this method of pounding meat.
It’s also a good idea to add a liquid ingredient to the pan while you’re frying your pork cushion cutlet. This will hopefully help the pork retain its juices. If your meat marinade lacks flavor, add a quarter cup soy sauce to enhance the taste. If soy sauce clashes with your existing marinade, then simply add a tablespoon of water into the pan and reduce the heat.
Using Pork Cushion for Soups
What do you do if you have leftover pork? Don’t waste it! It doesn’t matter if the pork has been cooked or not. Feel free to throw it into a pot and make a delicious soup out of it. Soups are easy to make and delicious to eat, on their own or on the side.
If the pork cushion you bought still has bones, you can also add them into the soup. They’ll provide for an overall deeper and richer taste. If you’re not short of time, it’s always best to let your soup cook on the stove for as long as possible. Instead of leaving it to boil on high heat, allowing it to simmer on medium heat will draw out lots of flavor.
Feel free to be adventurous when adding other spices and ingredients to your soup base. However, you should never forget to include the basics, such as garlic, onion, salt, and pepper. Once you’ve perfected the flavors, you’ll often find that your homemade soup won’t require any store-bought chicken stock or chicken bouillon powder.
Nothing beats a classic pork stew. It’s a great accompaniment to bread, rice, or anything else — and you can use any leftover pork cushion meat to make one. To ensure that your stew comes out thick and flavorful, we recommend placing the pork into a slow cooker and then adding in some chicken stock and an assortment of vegetables, we recommend this classic pork stew with root vegetable If you’re short on time, you can also make this in a pressure cooker, but it might not draw out as much flavor as a slow cooker would.
If all else fails, pork cushions are great for making pulled pork. As long as your pork is relatively tender, it’s easy to turn it into pulled pork, and you won’t have to worry about the meat being ‘too tough’ or ‘too chewy’.
The brilliant thing about pulled pork is that it can be made out of roasted, smoked, or slow-cooked pork. If you’re still worried about your pulled pork being ‘too dry’, slow cooking it first will probably prove to be your most reliable option to ensuring that it stays juicy and moist.
Once the pork cushion is properly cooked, all you have to do is shred the piece of meat using a pair of forks. And the last step before plating up the pulled pork is to toss the shredded meat into an incredible mixture of sauces and spices of your choosing. After that, you can use the pulled pork for tacos, side dishes, or even use it to make the perfect pork sandwich!
Wrapping it Up
The pork cushion is an incredibly versatile cut of meat. It can be smoked, roasted, stewed, and even slow-cooked. While it’s not the best option if you’re looking for a cut of pork that has a fast prep and cooking time, it’s perfect if you have the time. If you’re familiar with the Boston Butt but not a fan of its fatty texture, then be sure to pick up a cut of pork cushion for a leaner option.