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Mar 16, 2013 09:09 AM

Got a whole pigs head. What can I do with its components and how do I disassemble it?

A friend of mine knows a butcher and, due to him knowing that I like to try stranger types of meats and offal etc, I have a surprise whole pigs head on its way to me for free next week.

So I'm wondering what I can do with its component parts? I've never prepared brain, ears or cheeks myself before and I have no idea how to extract them from the head properly (although I'm sure I'll find videos closer to the time) so does anyone have any tips for that?

Is eating pigs brains still a done thing, or are there risks involved these days?

Aside from that, which other bits of the head can I use and does anyone have any nice recipes for any of it? I'm thinking of breading and frying the brains cuban style, or using them in some kind of south east asian noodle and broth dish. Not sure what to do with the cheeks yet. Are the eyes edible?

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    1. re: scubadoo97

      If you have never had headcheese or scrapple before, I would not waste the head. An acquired taste.

      Hopefully the head wil be cleaned. i.e. shaved. The components are broken down in smoked hog jowls/cheeks. I like the ears deep fried. As well as the skin. If you have the neck, you have what the Germans call spanfergel. Great piece of meat on the grill. You treatment of the brains sounds wonderful.

      And then the eyes. Do not waste them. Either cook them in yougurt, like sheep eyes, or pickle them. They are perfect in a martini at a holloween party instead of an olive.

      Put everything left over in a pot and you will have some great gelatine.

    2. I would make brawn.
      There's a Fergus Henderson recipe and if there's anyone who
      knows their way round a pig it's him.

      1. you could roast the head whole or make headcheese. and savor that brain it is delicious. yes eyes are edible

        1 Reply
        1. re: vonshu

          This would be my can get some great crispy skin and tender pork cheeks out of this approach. Afterwards, you can use the remnants and bones for stock.

        2. Are you actually going to get the eyes? The heads I've seen available for purchase didn't have them still in the head.

          There is also porchetta di testa which would use the entire head and also test your knife skills (

          The cheeks could also be transformed into guanciale.

          1 Reply
          1. David Chang's Momofuku cookbook has a great step by step.