In the spirit of dirtying as few dishes as possible (which my husband appreciates very much since I’m the cook and he’s the kitchen clean-up crew), I plan to brown a couple pounds of ground meat every Sunday as part of my meal prep. I assume that ¼ lb will be about 1 serving of whatever I make as long as I have more than just meat on the plate. You'll have to consider everyone’s typical appetite when you’re prepping.
I prefer to use ground pork or pork sausage. What’s the difference? Salt, pepper, and sage in this case. The bulk pork sausage I use has those 3 ingredients which is an awesome base flavor that you can take in a lot of different directions. If you prefer, you can use ground pork, which has no ingredients added and then you’ll have a totally blank palate to season however you like.
Once I crumble the meat up and cook it fully, I drain off the "drippings" and begin parsing it out into different recipes. One thing to keep in mind is that if you want to make sausage gravy, you should save the drippings AKA all the liquid in a container to the side.
So how many ways can I use my sausage crumbles? With the right added flavors, the possibilities are endless! And many of them call for sautéed veggies, so I would also suggest prepping those in one big batch. Here are a few recipes to consider:
I love to cook, but with just two of us in the house, I get tired of eating the same things over and over. My husband would be perfectly happy to eat the same thing day after day, but luckily he’s willing to try my more creative “recipes”, which are often a combination of whatever is in the fridge.
But in 2020, it’s my goal to actually plan meals, prep them on weekends and have food ready all week long. I know this would have been a big help after work in 2019 and will be an even bigger help in 2020 when our family grows by one this February!
Although I haven’t been great at pre-planning, my favorite strategy is to use one protein and see how I can add different seasonings and sauces to the leftovers so I don’t feel like I’m eating the same thing over and over. And it’s a big bonus that I always have a freezer full of meat to choose from.
There are two main pork ingredients that I like to use that have the most versatility: Pork Butt and Pork Sausage. I’m going to talk about the pork butt here.
If you're more interested in sausage recipes, click here.
You can really go a lot of different directions with a pork butt. It’s great for shredding but it can also be great if it’s sliced thin either before or after you cook it. But your end goal will determine how you treat it along the way.
Starting with the shred-able options: Pulled Pork, Carnitas, BBQ Pork, Pork Ragu, it’s up to you.
I really enjoy pulled pork and carnitas because the flavor of the pork can really shine through and isn’t masked by a sauce. And this way you’ll have a nice base to add other sauces to for dinner tomorrow and the next day. One dirty pan and a few hours in the oven could feed you several meals in a week and none of them would taste the same!
I made a delicious, pull-apart, fork tender roast for Christmas this year that was super simple. No special ingredients needed: 4 lb pork butt, salt, sugar, and some spices.
>>Skip the details, I just want the recipe.
The rub I used was what was leftover from my honey ham rub, but I’m sure that you could adjust it to your own liking or what’s available in your cupboard. And the best part is that I had shredded pork leftovers that I could dress up as carnitas and bbq pork sandwiches.
Sugar & Spice Rub:
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp seasoned salt
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg or allspice
¼ tsp paprika
Preparing your Butt:
There are a couple of prep steps that I like when I’m roasting a pork butt. Ideally, you should allow your roast to thaw for 1-2 days in the refrigerator so that you don’t shock the meat with a microwave or other rapid warming method. If you didn’t get a chance to pull it out early, there’s a good chance it will still be frozen in the middle even if the outside is softened. You can speed up the process by allowing it to thaw under room temp water that is slowly running. I don’t suggest leaving your meat on the counter to thaw all day or overnight because that can give harmful bacteria and opportunity to grow, even if it’s still sealed and you plan to cook it. If your roast is partly frozen, you can still cook it but it could take 50% longer and you’ll risk drying the outside out while the inside catches up to temp.
Once your meat is thawed, you should trim the fat cap down to around ¼ inch thick and then cut hash marks through the fat so that your seasoning will penetrate. For the best flavor, I typically leave all that seam fat (fat between the muscles) attached until after cooking and then sort it out later.
Seasoning your Butt:
At this point, I coat all sides of the roast with salt using a shaker and rub it in. Then I coat it on all sides with my Sugar & Spice rub and rub it in and place it in an oven-friendly pan, fat-side-up so it basically bastes itself as it cooks. I don’t find the need to add any moisture to a high quality roast that has sufficient fat, but if you use a roast that is very lean or very pale in color, you will need to add some cider, juice, or beer to the pan.
I like to let it set for a couple of hours so that all the flavor from the rub has time to soak in a little. I left mine at room temperature which theoretically allows the meat to acclimate a little more but isn’t long enough to have a concern with bacteria growth. This step can be skipped if you don’t have time. A little internet research will teach you that people have strong opinions on whether acclimation at room temp helps with juiciness, but not everyone agrees of course.
Cooking your Butt:
About 20 minutes before you want to start cooking, pre-heat your oven to 450°F. You’ll cook the roast for 20 minutes until the fat begins to brown, but not burn and then drop the oven temperature to 250°F and cover the roast and continue cooking until it reaches 190°F internally. This takes about 5-6 hours on a 4 lb roast. I use a digital thermometer with a probe and wire inserted into the center of the roast (not touching bone) set to alarm when it reaches 190°F. You can cook it faster at a higher temp, but low and slow is the best way to get a fork-tender and super juicy roast. Low and Slow helps break down the connective tissue that would normally make a piece of meat tough. As the meat rises from 160-200°F, it will turn the collagen connective tissue into gelatin, which is part of what makes the roast moist and succulent.
When you pull your roast out of the oven, let it rest for at least 15 minutes. You can wait longer, but make sure it stays above 140°F until serving. I leave my thermometer in the roast as it sets to make sure I’m not risking letting it get too cool. This little rest period will help allow the juices to return to the center of the meat and take some of the flavor of the rub along with it.
Serving your Butt:
It’s really quite simple, the butt will be fork tender, so you can use a couple of forks to pull it apart. I did this right at the table in a serving dish because I wanted to show off how beautiful the roast was and let people have the option of grabbing some of the deliciously crisp fat from the top, but you can always shred it prior to bringing it to the table if you prefer.
Diversifying your Butt:
After you’ve served it once, you’ll hopefully have leftovers. My favorite leftover options for shredded pork are to make pulled pork nachos, carnitas tacos, or add bbq sauce and put it on a bun. And one that I haven’t tried but plan to is to make Banh Mi sandwiches.
When I say easy, I mean it. So easy that I’m even going to use the microwave once (gasp!). If you want to make it harder, feel free to replace the microwave with oven use any time you want! Some of these won’t be innovative, but they will be delicious and easy, which is what I think we’re all going for on the day of a tailgate whether you’re headed to campus or staying in the back yard. Not to mention this is a rare occasion online when you'll get 5 recipes in one place without a bunch of ads and clicks!
Let’s go easiest to hardest here:
Chorizo Queso Dip: This may be the simplest recipe of all, and who doesn’t love cheese?
Chorizo Nachos: The fun thing about nachos is that you can pick and choose what to put on them, but here’s a blend I really like.
Pulled Pork Crostini: This is great for a bite-size bit of deliciousness that combines sweet with meat and a little bit of heat! You can even replace the Crostini Cracker with a Cheese Whisp if you want to have a keto-friendly or low carb option.
Loaded Baked Potato Snackers: This recipe will take a little longer (50 minute) but is still super easy! It’s a simple take on a classic appetizer that people are sure to love. You can really top it with any meat you like, but what is better than bacon?
Teriyaki Pork Kabobs: This is another great combination; zesty, fruity flavors combined with teriyaki glazed pork. This one takes a little more prep and ingredients, but it's worth it!
You may have noticed the pork theme here. You should check out all our great pork products for your next tailgate! You can order online and we'll get them to you ASAP!
If you're feeling social this weekend, you may have a choice to make...Cinco de Mayo or Derby? Or maybe you will be celebrating both! Either way, pork plays a big role in the dishes for these days.
Chorizo and Carnitas are staples of a Cinco de Mayo celebration. There are so many ways to serve them that fit any need...tacos, nachos, enchiladas, the list goes on and on!
On the other hand, there's no more iconic food than a Hot Brown to go with your mint Julep on Derby Day. Turkey may be a part of the dish, but everyone knows that the bacon is the real star!
Chorizo may be the simplest of these. All you have to do is purchase the chorizo and cook it into crumbles. You'll want to strain off any excess grease before throwing them into some small corn tortillas to make street tacos, or adding them to your favorite melted cheese to make some Queso Fundito. See the simple queso recipe below.
Carnitas made from a pork Boston butt aka pork shoulder isn't too difficult either and will be another great addition for street tacos. You can even make carnitas using your instapot if you want to speed up the process a bit. Check out this great recipe.
But don't forget to get the pork out of the freezer and allow it to thaw at least a day. A rule of thumb is to allow meat to thaw in the refrigerator for 6 hours per lb.
The classic Hot Brown originated in the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY and has been a staple that's linked as closely as a the mint Julep to horse races. A hot brown is basically an open-faced Sandwich that starts with white bread toast, is topped heavily with sliced turkey, tomatoes and a creamy Parmesan sauce, and then broiled in the oven. Bacon is the cherry on top...two slices of perfectly crisp bacon should cross the top of the sandwich. Here's a recipe of the classic Hot Brown. But if you want to make it more of a finger food, then I would suggest making mini builds, piling all the ingredients on toasted crostini bread and broiling it briefly to get the cheese to bubble and brown.
P.S. Great Food starts with great ingredients. You can get your butts, bacon, and chorizo through our website or If you're local to central Ohio, visit one of the shops that sells our product!
I saw a ham at the grocery store for less than $1 per pound today. I also saw a ham for $7 per pound today. How can the price be so different? There are several reasons; some you can see and some you can’t see. One very important thing to look at is the fine print of what the ham is actually called. A ham is rarely just labeled as “Ham”. In fact, there are rules that require specific labeling of hams as you add water and other ingredients. For example, there’s a lot more ham in “Ham with natural juices” than there is in “Ham – water added” and there’s even less ham (and more water) in “Ham and Water Product.”
Take-away: Cheaper hams are usually made with more water or other ingredients. You’re able to pay less since you’re buying water, not ham.
Meat quality is crucial when you’re looking for your perfect ham. Not all pigs are the same! If you want a lean ham, less flavorful ham (usually blander flavored), you can find that in any grocery store from many well-known brands. But if you’re interested in finding the best flavor, you probably want to look at the breed of pig. Many old-world breeds are known for their naturally incredible flavor. That flavor comes from the fat naturally occurring inside the muscle (called marbling) that old world breeds tend to have a lot of! If you’re looking for flavor, one breed you should be looking for is Mangalitsa. For those who know their beef, Mangalitsa is to Berkshire what Waygu is to Angus – the best you can get!
Take-away: If you want flavor, go for the heritage breeds like Mangalitsa that have lots of marbling (fat inside the muscle) to make sure you’re getting incredible flavor!
If you want to impress your friends and family, look for pork that is Mangalitsa crossed with other heritage breeds like Red Wattle or Glouchester Old Spot. It’s just like your heirloom tomatoes, these breeds have been relatively untouched and so they have been able to maintain their natural deliciousness! We have found that heritage breed ham is absolutely mouth-watering and it may even convince you that ham is for more than just the holidays!
Remember though, heritage breeds often come from small farms and will be delivered frozen, so be sure to get yours soon so it has 2-3 days to thaw! As a little side note, most grocery store hams are frozen at some point, and then thawed before they're delivered to the store.
Contact us if you want an incredible ham on your table this Easter.
Sarah grew up raising pigs on her family farm. She has spent most of the last 15 years studying and teaching about meat, animal welfare, and food safety. She has a passion for pigs, pork chops, and teaching. It is her goal to help meat eaters understand what they're buying and how best to cook it, all the while getting into the nerdy nitty gritty details about meat and animals.