If you feel overwhelmed at the meat counter, you aren’t alone. There are so many different cuts of meat. There are four main primal cuts of pork. Many are cut even further from the options you see in grocery stores. From pork steaks to pork butt, the options of pork cuts seem endless.
Two of the most popular pork meat options are pork tenderloin and pork chops.
So, what’s the difference between Pork Tenderloin and Pork Chops? Here are a few things to consider.
Pork Loin vs Tenderloin
The pork loin is cut from the back of a pig’s rib cage. This cut is usually lean meat with a very small amount of fat running throughout.
Both the tenderloin and pork chops come from the loin section around the spine of the pig. The loin runs from the shoulder through the back of the pig to the hip area.
The tenderloin, which is sometimes referred to as a pork filet, is boneless, long, thin, and cut from the loin muscle. Similar to beef tenderloin, this piece of meat is not used for movement, thus it is extremely tender and has very little fat.
A primal cut of pork includes pork leg, pork loin, pork shoulder, and pork belly. The part of the animal that will work best for your meal likely depends on fat content and flavor.
Pork chops can be rib chops, shoulder chops, loin chops, or sirloin chops. However, pork chops are usually rib chops that come from the rack of pork or loin chops from the loin of the pig. If you want a specific type such as pork shoulder chops, you may need to ask the butcher directly.
Different cuts of pork will offer different flavors. For example, pork loin has a mild flavor. With its low-fat content, this loin meat has a slightly sweet but savory taste. On the other hand, pork loin chop is fattier and has a gamey more salty flavor.
Pork tenderloin is a long and narrow loin cut. It is a large piece of meat that has a fat cap on top of the meat that provides moist tenderness. For best results, pork tenderloin needs adequate time to cook. It also needs to be seasoned well. It can be grilled, smoked, or baked.
Pork chops are a much smaller piece of meat. It can be tough as they still have connective tissues.
There are a few different types of pork chops you can choose from. You can find boneless pork chops that are easier to cook and offer a more lean piece of meat. There is also a blade chop also called a shoulder chop, New York pork chops and porterhouse chops.
Pork chops can be baked, breaded, fried, or cut into small pieces. Pork chops are usually a quick cook option. However, some pork chops such as a blade chop are a good choice for slow cooking.
The main difference between the two cuts of pork is their thickness. Pork Sirloin Chops are 1 inch to 1.5 inch thick. Pork loin is measured in weight and usually weighs about a pound. You can also purchase pork loin roast which weighs between 2 and 4 pounds.
Pork is often one of the cheapest meats available at the grocery store. Options such as Boston Butt or Picnic Shoulder can be as cheap as $2 per pound.
When it comes to pork tenderloin vs. pork chops, cost depends on which options you chose.
Pork loin boneless roast can be found for about $4 per pound. But, you can find it cheaper if you opt for bone-in loin meat. A boneless cut of meat will be more expensive as you don’t have the hassle or weight of the bone itself.
Pork tenderloin, however, will cost more than a pork loin roast. Much like a beef tenderloin will cost significantly more than a sirloin, the same goes for pork.
A good quality trimmed pork tenderloin will cost $6-8 per pound but is still a much cheaper option than beef.
Pork center cut boneless chops are about $5.50 per pound. Thin cut boneless chops are upwards of $6 per pound. Bone-in rib cut pork chops can be found from $3.87 to $5.20.
Pork Tenderloin & Pork Chop Recipes
If you have spent any amount of time watching cooking shows, you know pork is a hot commodity. There are some very popular pork recipes that can be made using pork tenderloin or pork chops.
New York Pork Chops
The easiest way to cook up some amazing New York pork chops is in the air fryer. With this cooking method, the outside of your boneless chops will get nice and crispy while the inside remains juicy. With only a 20 minute cook time, you can have a full home cooked meal in less than 30 minutes.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches
One of the top favorite pork recipes is pulled pork sandwiches. Neither pork tenderloin nor pork chops will work to create pulled pork. This is because they don't have the same fat and connective tissues.
For the best results in this recipe you should select the shoulder end of the loin. This part of the pig cooks best in a slow cooker at a low temperature. The meat will tenderize and the fat will be melted away with a low and slow cooking method. Looking for the best way to elevate your pulled pork sandwich? Try using a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, root beer, brown sugar, garlic powder, and spices for the ultimate savory and sweet sandwich. Blade roast is an excellent choice for your pulled pork sandwich.
Looking to have a fancy dinner but stay on budget? Try out this Pork Wellington. This delicious pork recipe will take your pork tenderloin to the next level. By searing the pork tenderloin at a high temperature before you bake it, you will be sure to lock in all of the great flavor needed for a mouth watering meal. Tender cuts of meat such as pork loin can transform into rave worthy entrees like pork wellington.
Pork Center Rib Roast
Pork center rib roast is another choice for a special occasion meal. Choosing lean cuts of pork doesn’t mean you miss out on flavor. Center cut pork roast has a fat cap that will still provide plenty of texture and flavor. The presentation of this option can be quite elegant and looks similar to a rack of lamb as the ribs are still attached. For this recipe, be sure to use a variety of herbs and spices to really amp up the natural flavor of the pig. But, keep in mind that this option will need to cook for around six hours.
Pork center rib roast can also be substituted for sirloin roast. Sirloin end is more expensive but will only need to be cooked for three to four hours.
Other Pork Recipes
While pork tenderloin and pork chops are both a popular cut of pork, there are other solid choices.
Everyone’s favorite 90’s baby back ribs commercial was popular for a reason. Both baby back ribs and spare ribs are crowd pleasers. Smoked spare ribs can take a long time to cook, but you won’t regret the labor. Create your own rub with a mixture of heat, sweetness, and a bit of salt. Be sure to pat your ribs dry with a paper towel to ensure your dry rub sticks.
A pork cutlet is similar to boneless skinless chicken breasts. They can be made from pork sirloin or from the rear leg of the pig. One great recipe option for a pork cutlet is to bread it with panko bread crumbs and a few spices. This can be baked and paired with a vegetable and rice pilaf for a great family dinner.
Pork Tenderloin vs. Pork Chop
So, what’s the better choice between pork tenderloin and pork chops? There are two key differences between the two, price and size/thickness. Pork tenderloin is the cheaper option. But, pork tenderloin is usually much wider and a much bigger piece of meat, requiring a longer cook time. Pork chops may be smaller and more expensive, but, they cook quickly and are a crowd favorite.
The best choice for you depends on your personal preference and the meal you want to cook. If you are looking for something quick and easy pork chops are the best bet. But, if you are looking to feed a lot of people for cheap and need something versatile, look no further than pork tenderloin.
Is pork tenderloin supposed to be pink?
Yes, even when fully cooked top loin roast can be pink in the middle. This part of the loin may have a high pH causing it to remain pink. But, keep in mind you will want to ensure the internal temperature reaches at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why is my pork tenderloin in two pieces?
Pork packaging has changed for the better. Pork tenderloin is in two pieces so you can serve just two people or cook both for a family of four.
Can you use pork tenderloin for pork chops?
Yes, but don’t expect the exact same result from the grocery store. Pork tenderloin can be cut into chops but, it comes from a different area of the loin. Pork chops are a bit tougher than pork tenderloin and aren’t as salty.
Do you have any other tried and true substitution recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!