The pork cushion cut, albeit unpopular, comes from the anterior part of the pig’s shoulder and can be incorporated into different dishes. This cut is known for its rich, meaty flavor and is commonly used for making pulled pork.
I first came across this cut over a decade ago in culinary school. Over time, I got to appreciate the uniqueness of this cut, and I’ve used it to make delicious delicacies like cutlets, carnitas, etc. Today, I’ll tell you all I know about this uncommon cut of pork so you can also make tasty recipes to enjoy with family and friends.
Pork cushion is a triangular-shaped piece of meat cut from the anterior side of the pork shoulder, also known as the picnic shoulder. You don't have to worry about bones with this pork shoulder cut.
Since this pork cut is obtained from a frequently exercised area of the hog, the meat has a lot of connective tissue. So you'll need to cook it slowly on low heat to break down all the muscle fibers and unlock the delicious taste.
Make sure you're watchful when preparing boneless pork cushion meat and have an instant-read thermometer close by to monitor the internal temperature.
The best cooking methods for this delicious picnic shoulder cut are low and slow. To make this pork tender and succulent, it must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
One excellent way of cooking pork cushion is to prepare it like you would pork butt on a smoker or grill, then use the cooked meat for pulled pork.
You can sear, oven-roast, and boil this tasty meat in a stew. Don't worry; I'll discuss all the amazing ways you can cook pork cushion meat.
Let’s look at how to make pulled pork from pork cushion meat.
When making pulled pork, first trim any excess bits of fat from the meat. This will give you a cleaner cut because the excess fat typically tastes charred after getting smoked.
Next, apply a dry rub to the pork cushion meat. I recommend using the Traeger Perfect Pork Rub here.
After applying the dry rub, wrap the meat in the plastic film and keep it in the refrigerator overnight. This way, the meat will absorb the deliciousness of the rub and taste even better.
Afterward, take the cushion meat out of the fridge, unwrap it, and let it sit on the countertop until it reaches room temperature.
Fire up your smoker and raise the temperature to 250 °F.
Place the cushion meat in the smoker with the fattiest side facing up. By doing this, the smoke can reach the meat's bottom surface, and the rendered fat will pass through the meat and down onto the lower surface.
Measure the meat's temperature at intervals and take it out of the smoker once the meat thermometer reads 150°F. I typically cook according to temperature, not time. But if you're wondering how long cooking this flavorful meat should take, I advise estimating roughly 60 minutes per pound.
Allow the smoked meat to rest for about 30 minutes. The internal temperature should reach around the 160°F mark during the resting period due to the carryover cooking.
Now, prepare the pork for shredding. You can use a fork and a knife to pull the meat apart.
Pork cushion meat can be used to make delicious pork carnitas.
Follow the pulled pork recipe we discussed and put the shredded pork into a pan to make it slightly crispy.
Add the pork to the flour tacos and add toppings, including onion, cilantro, and salsa. Feel free to be creative here and add your favorite ingredients for a more personalized taste.
You can also enjoy pork cushion meat as cutlets.
Ask the butcher to cut the cushion meat into tiny medallions. You can also buy the large cut and cut into pork chops yourself. After the meat has been chopped into pieces, use a meat tenderizer to pound the pieces until they are a quarter-inch thick. You can marinate the cutlets instead of tenderizing them with a mallet. Marinating helps break down the connective tissue, making the meat more tender.
Next, mix 1/2 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of salt, and pepper in a small bowl. In another small bowl, combine 2 eggs and 1/3 cup of milk and whisk. Next, mix the breadcrumbs and paprika in a third shallow bowl.
Dredge the cutlets in the flour mix, then dip them in the egg mixture, and finally in the breadcrumbs and paprika mixture, coating all sides of the meat.
Next, pour olive oil into a skillet and heat at medium heat. Pan-sear both sides for two to three minutes on each side, or until the pork is properly cooked.
Pork cushion meat can also be prepared in the oven at a low-to-moderate temperature. I recommend cooking the pork cushion as you would a large cut of roast beef because of the texture of the meat.
Prepare the pork cushion roast and season it with salt and pepper.
Next, place the whole pork cushion in an oven-safe dish and roast for one hour at 400 degrees, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees for the best results. Cook the pork until your instant-read thermometer reads around 145 degrees. Bear in mind that the entire roasting process should take about 2 hours.
Pork cushion tastes great in the slow cooker because you can use braising liquid to cook it. You don't need to worry about the meat getting dry because the liquid will baste it while it cooks.
Start by applying cooking spray to the bottom and sides of the slow cooker. Now, add 1 cup chicken stock, and 1 teaspoon soy sauce to a saucepan. Heat the ingredients in the pan for about 5 minutes to allow them to blend.
While the mixture is cooking, apply 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper and kosher salt to the pork cushion, then place it in the slow cooker. Next, add a few onion slices, carrots, potatoes, and garlic cloves to the mixture.
Now, pour the heated chicken broth into the slow cooker. Cook the pork shoulder cut in the slow cooker for 7 to 8 hours. After the cooking process, the meat should be deliciously tender. You can serve this succulent pork cushion on noodles or use it as stuffing for pies.
The flavor of the pork cushion meat shines through in the stew. Simply cut the meat into cubes and add it to any of your favorite stew recipes in place of the pork or beef. You can also add leftover pork cushion to your cooked stew to give it another unique flavor.
Remember to let the meat cool before cutting it into cubes, or else the meat will fall apart when you cut it.
This delicious piece of meat can be tricky to find. Pork cushions are less common in stores, unlike the more popular pork butt. That said, you might just find this meat at a grocery store close to you, so make sure you ask around.
If you don't find it in a store, try a specialty butcher shop. A good butcher shop will typically have all parts of your favorite meat available. So, make sure you visit a butcher shop and specify the size of pork cushion you need.
Look for pork cushion meat that is pinkish-red in color with some marbling. Don’t select meat that appears pale or has a few dark spots. You can also try searching for pork cushion meat online. You could be lucky to find a meat shop that has it in stock.
That’s all for today! Hopefully, you now know more about this uncommon pork shoulder cut. Aside from its delicious taste, pork cushion meat requires minimal effort and resources to prepare. So you can make enough to feed a crowd without too much hassle. Make sure you buy pork cushion today and prepare it using any of the techniques we've discussed. You won't regret doing it.