This past summer in Greece I cemented my affections for pork butt, a particular cut of pork that’s diverse, very forgiving to cook with and it always come out juicy and delicious. The pork butt comes from the front end of the pig (nowhere near its rear), located near the shoulder. It’s not as pretty as your usual curved center-cut pork but it makes it up with flavour and juicyness.
Your usual pork chops have all the fat surrounding the meat but the pork butt contains fat within the meat as well. Dare I say some marbling? Much like beef steaks, pork butt chops render fat when cooking, creating a kind of self-basting and protecting the meat from drying out. This cut of meat is forgiving, hard to screw up but not without some precautions:
- Grill over medium-high heat as you’re dealing with pork – you want well-cooked meat and to allow some time for the fat to render;
- Ensure you are giving pork butt – not shoulder. These two cuts are connected to each other on the pig but they are very different: pork butt contains fat in the meat and pork shoulder’s fat is only located around the meat;
- In Greece this cut is called “laimo” (lemmo) and all the butchers will know what you’re talking about
Pork butt is also very diverse! Other than in being my preferred cut for pork chops it’s also used to make pork Gyro, souvlaki, an ideal cut for grinding for sausage use and I also use pork butt to make a Greek specialty: Kontosouvli!
This past summer I rushed from the center of Thessaloniki to catch a bus back to my family’s summer home in Halkidiki and I just missed my bus by 5 minutes. It was lunch time and I had an hour to kill so I headed towards the food concessions in the terminal and found the Gyro joint also offered thin-cut pork chops wrapped in pita bread with your favourite toppings.
Think deconstructed Gyro as you get a whole pork chop, sliced thin and grilled and slapped in pita bread with fixins’. So simple yet so brilliant! Head to your favourite butcher and ask for pork butt. For thick-cut pork chops ask for bone-in and if you want to make souvlaki, Gyro, kontosouvli or pork butt Gyro, ask for boneless so you can easily cut the pork the way you like it.
Pork Butt Gyro (Γυρο με Μπριζολα Λαιμου)
(makes 4-6 sandwiches)
approx. 1 lb. boneless pork butt
1 small onion, passed through a box grater
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
warm pita bread
your favourite souvlaki condiment/toppings: tomatoes, sliced onions, fries, Tzatziki, ketchup, mustard
- If your butcher hasn’t already done so for you, place your pork in the freezer for about an hour so that it hardens enough for you to be able to slice it thinly. Once firm enough, take out of freezer and slice the pork but into approx. 1 cm. slices.
- In a bowl, add the pork butt along with the oil, onion, salt, pepper, paprika and oregano and toss to coat. Cover and place in your fridge for about three hours. Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature before grilling.
- Pre-heat your gas or charcoal grill with the intent of attaining a medium-high heat. Brush your grill surface free of any residue and wipe the surface with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Lightly season the pork with salt and over medium high heat for 3 minutes a side and once cooked, remove from the heat.
- Squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle some Greek oregano. Place the pork chop in the warm pita bread then add your favourite condiments and roll up. Have an ice cold Fix Hellas beer and enjoy!
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