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May 31, 2013 08:34 AM

Lost in the world of pork chops - center vs top loin vs "center cut" top loin?

I am quite confused with all of the different cuts of pork. I understand the source of the rib, sirloin and blade chops, but am quite confused on many of the others commonly seen in my grocery store including "center cut boneless chops," "top loin boneless chops," and "center cut top loin chops." Are these all the same thing? My basic understanding so far is that if there is no tenderloin then it's just a loin cut and center refers to the center of the loin. What is the top loin?

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  1. Gosh, this is interesting. Where I am in the world, a pork chop is just sold as a pork chop. Never realised some countries had different sorts of chops.

    1. It seems that there's so much confusion around cuts of meat because every cut has about five different names and some butchers break things down into more pieces than others, and then name each piece a different thing. Where I work, we break the pork loin down into four basic pieces, but there is some overlap where the pieces join, and some places sell the transition areas as their own cuts. Also, some places take off different bits of bone and sell the resulting cuts as completely different steaks.

      A whole pork loin includes the sirloin at one end, the rib end at the other and the tenderloin running down the side of the loin, starting at the sirloin end, and ending about half way down the loin. Where I work, we cut off the sirloin end for sirloin chops and call anything that includes the tenderloin a center cut chop. This is the "t-bone" of pork chops as it has a small t-bone, a large piece of loin and a small piece of tenderloin. After the tenderloin ends, there's a slightly fattier section between the center cuts and the rib end. We cut this section as rib cut chops. Rib cuts are the "ribeyes" of pork chops. The rib ends we cut in half and sell as country style ribs. We also get boneless loins, that have had the bones, tenderloin and most of the fat removed. I believe that these come from the entire section between the sirloin end and the rib end. One end of the loin is streaked with fat and darker red meat (I'm not sure if this is the end closer to the sirloin or to the rib end, but I can ask my boss today). Boneless top loin chops are cut off the end without the streaks. I've never heard of center cut top loins, but I image they might be cut off the steaky end of the boneless loin, or at least a little further down the loin than the regular top loin chops. I can ask about that too, or maybe someone else around here knows what's up.

      Hope this helps. I'm still learning so much myself and even though I'm familiar with the whole loin, it's hard for me to say where something comes from without poking and prodding at it first. Can you explain what the center cut top loin chops look like?

      1 Reply
      1. re: BananaBirkLarsen

        Wow this is quite helpful, thanks! So basically the boneless loin chops are the equivalent of the ny strip section of a porterhouse without the bone?

      2. The National Pork Board recently announced a move to new names to make things "simpler" (see below). Pehaps looking at the new names, which are more akin to beef cuts, will help cut through the confusion.

        Before the renaming process took shape, the National Pork Board and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association collaborated on in-depth research over an 18-month period. The research showed consumers are often confused by the different names for similar cuts of meat and, as a result, do not know how to cook a variety of cuts now available in the meat case.

        To overcome this challenge, the National Pork Board is working to simplify pork cut names and include basic usage and preparation information on the package. Several cuts of pork will now match the names for similar beef cuts for easier consumer identification and preparation. New pork names to look for in the meat case include:

        · Pork Porterhouse Chop (previously a loin chop)

        · Pork Ribeye Chop, bone-in (previously a rib chop center)

        · Pork Ribeye Chop (previously a rib chop)

        · Pork New York Chop (previously a top loin chop)

        · Pork Ribeye Chop (previously a rib chop)

        · Pork New York Chop (previously a top loin chop)

        1. The Center Cut Chop was the old name; the new name is Porterhouse. Some alternative names you might see less often are Pork Loin Chop Bone-In, Center Loin Chop, Pork Loin End Chop, or Pork Loin Loin Chop.

          Here's some info I found about them online (don't recall the source): Porterhouse chops cut toward the center of the loin will have a T-shaped bone that has loin on one side and tenderloin on the other. Sometimes the more tenderloin present, the higher the cost. The tenderloin runs in a tapered thinnish line underneath the back half of the loin. For those who are not familiar with the tenderloin or why it earns such a lofty reputation, consider this: it is the softest, easiest to chew and commonly the most flavorful part of the meat. Perhaps you have a taste for filet mignon beef steaks? Well, the pork tenderloin is pork’s equivalent!

          Cooks Country says: "These chops can be identified by the bone that divides the loin meat from the tenderloin muscle. The lean tenderloin section cooks more quickly than the loin section, making these chops a challenge to cook. They have good flavor, but since they contain less fat than the rib chops, they are not quite as moist. Grill or sauté."

          Cooks Illustrated says: “Because the loin and tenderloin muscles in these chops are bisected by bulky bone or cartilage, they don’t lie flat and thus make a poor choice for pan-searing. Save them for the grill, but position the ultra-lean tenderloin away from the fire to keep it from drying out."

          A very very similar chop that you'll find used to be called the Top Loin Chop and is now called the New York Chop. Alternative names for it were the Center Cut Chop Boneless or Pork Loin Fillet. They are just like the Porterhouse but with two major changes: Top loin chops will have no tenderloin and are boneless.

          You might see a Top Loin Roast (New York Pork Roast); to make a boneless roast, the butcher puts two top loins together and ties them up, fat sides out.

          Hope that helps; I'm figuring it all out myself and it's pretty confusing!!!