The meat that almost everyone can recall eating at one point in Grandma’s kitchen is fast becoming a top menu choice and key staple in the culinary world.
And thanks to registered dietitian and certified executive chef Amber Pankonin, folks are learning why. Hello, pork.
“As a chef or nutritionist in a restaurant or cooking class, or as a parent looking for recipe options at home, there’s just so many reasons to add pork to the menu. In terms of looking at nutrients per-serving, calories, flavor and cuts, it’s a win-win across the board,” said Pankonin. “And, yes, even its low-fat content helps contribute to its fullness and flavor, enriching the eating experience that much more.”
Pankonin said certain cuts of pork — like pork tenderloin — meet the criteria for American Heart Association Heart Checkmark: less than 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat and less than 480 milligrams of sodium.
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From a consumer’s standpoint, another benefit is the versatility pork offers in terms of prepping and cooking. Whether using a tabletop convection oven, pressure cooker, oven, stove, grill or slow cooker, it’s easy to experiment and create a different taste with every effort, she said.
Pankonin’s favorite go-to pork cuts include sirloin, tenderloin and steak — each with its own unique flavor and all of which can be served as stand-alone dishes served with other sides, on sandwiches or as tasty additions in soups and stews. Other cuts include everything from ground pork and ribs to ham and bacon, to name a few. Pork can be dressed up or down with herbs, sauces and seasonings, too, making the options endlessly delicious.
Pork is also very affordable. Pankonin said while consumers have experienced cost increases across the board for all foods, the price of pork has remained fairly stable.
One of Pankonin’s favorite pork recipes is her Stuffed Pork Loin with Peanut Pesto and Prosciutto, which she said is easy to prepare before putting it in the oven to “do its magic” for 45 minutes. She recommends a safe internal cooking temperature of 145°F, followed by a 3-4 minute period of “resting” once it’s been removed from the oven. For leftovers, the internal temperature should reach 165°F.
For consumers concerned about how meat, and pork specifically, fits into the various diet trends popular right now, Pankonin said many of these are high-protein specific and that pork makes for an easy addition to both the palate and the plate.
“I understand and respect individuals who must adhere to certain diets out of medical necessity, but overall, there should be no fear in food,” she said. “I like to say that eating is never cheating. Food does not have morality. People often place such guilt on themselves for eating something decadent or off-diet. Eating should be a pleasurable experience. And when you choose something like pork, you can have the confidence in knowing that it’s full of great nutrition and it will be beneficial to your body.
“We need to remind ourselves that nutrition impacts performance. Not just physical performance, but in how well we are nutritionally able to properly fuel the body to live everyday life and perform at our job.”
So, lean into the power of pork.
To learn more about providing pork a space at the table, please visit pork.org.