Believe it or not, pork actually falls second on the list of most eaten meats in the world. Around 110 million tons of pork are consumed each year.
Nevertheless, some cuts of pork, such as pork cushion, are an enigma.
What Is Pork Cushion Meat?
Pork cushion is carved from the shoulder of the pig. The cushion is near the head of the animal.
Picnic shoulder has a substantial amount of joints and a big bone running from the bone. In fact, about 3 pounds of bones are removed from pork cushion.
It also contains a big muscle or cushion on the side of the bone hence the name pork cushion.
Pork cushion is triangular in shape and has moderate connective tissue. However, it is a lean cut of meat since it has a relatively low-fat profile.
This low amount is because the cushion is well exercised.
However, that does not mean this cut is not flavorful. Like brisket, pork shoulder is tough and must be cooked low and slow.
Pork Cushion vs. Pork Butt
Like pork shoulder and pork butt, pork cushion and Boston butt usually get mixed up because of their close proximity.
Yes, both cuts of meat touch the pig’s front leg, and technically, they can be considered pork shoulder. However, they are unique parts of the shoulder.
In addition to this, pork cushion and pork butt are relatively the same sizes. Both cuts must also be cooked low and slow.
This will allow the pork cushion to tenderize and bring out the best flavor.
However, pork butt has more fat than pork cushion. So, you must decide whether you want a lean cut or something with more marbling.
How To Buy Pork Cushion
Unfortunately, most grocery stores and butchers do not carry pork cushions. However, you may be able to find pork cushion in a specialty butcher shop.
You can also purchase pork cushions from online vendors.
However, make sure you read the reviews and look for certification that the online meat vendor is a reputable supplier, so you do not end up with a bad-quality pork cushion.
How To Cook Pork Cushion
Pork cushions can be cooked in several ways. It’s just a matter of deciding which method is best for you.
Just like roast beef, pork cushion can be roasted. It will take less prep work than smoking it in your pellet smoker.
Yes, it will still be cooked low and slow. However, since the pork cushion is cooked at a higher temperature, it won’t take as long to cook.
Even though there are a million roasted pork cushion recipes on the internet. It doesn’t matter which recipe you choose. How you cook the pork will still be the same.
It is best to roast the pork cushion for 40 minutes per pound.
When your infrared thermometer registers an internal temperature of 145°F, the pork cushion is done cooking.
Although pork cushion is a tough, lean cut of meat, it can still be cooked hot and fast.
You can cut the pork cushion into boneless chops and pan-fry them in a hot cast-iron skillet.
The connective tissues will not break down since the cushion is being seared quickly. However, if you tenderize the cushion with a meat mallet until they are thin chops.
You can also marinate your cushion chops in an acid-based marinade such as lemon or vinegar.
Although this will add to the perp time, the marinade will break down the meat’s fibers and add more flavor to the meat.
Nevertheless, even if you marinate the pork cushion, it may still be a little chewy, so using a meat mallet may be best.
Although turning a pork cushion into pulled pork is more complex than shredding it after its cooked, it is still a relatively straightforward process.
Nevertheless, the meat must be fall-apart tender to convert cushion meat to pulled pork.
Whether you decide to cook the pork cushion in a slow cooker, electric smoker, or roast it in the oven is up to you. However, I recommend braising it in the slow cooker.
Once your pork cushion is completely cooked, shred it with forks until you have a good amount of pulled pork.
Toss your pulled pork with your favorite BBQ sauce until it’s coated in the sauce. Add the pulled pork to a bun or taco and enjoy the fruits of your hard labor.
No one likes wasting food, especially when pork cushion can cost a little over $4 per pound.
You can make a stew with your leftover meat if you’ve got leftover roasted pork cushion or cushion chops.
It will save you from making butcher or grocery store run to purchase more meat.
Simply cut the leftover pork cushion meat into cubes. While you can cook the stew on the stove, cooking it in a crockpot is so much easier.
Add the pork cushion meat to your crockpot along with vegetables such as onions, garlic, potatoes, and carrots.
Add your choice of chicken or vegetable broth and let it cook. Over time, your semi-raw food will turn into a delicious stew.
In the same way, you can turn pork cushion into pulled pork; you can also turn pork cushion into carnitas.
Essentially it is the same process for turning pork cushion into pulled pork minus the BBQ sauce.
However, you may want to add citrus in the form of orange juice along with onions, garlic, and cumin if you are cooking it in the slow cooker.
Shred it once the pork cushion is cooked, then place it into a skillet to crisp the meat up.
Add your cushion carnita meat to flour or corn taco shells, and add your favorite toppings.
Onion, cilantro, and salsa are the most popular taco ingredients, but you can also add pico de gallo, avocados, or sour cream.
How to Smoke Pork Cushion
While you can use one of the aforementioned cooking methods smoking pork shoulder in a portable pellet smoker is the best way to cook it.
I might be a little biased, but this is a BBQ website, so I could not help but bring it close to home.
If you know how to smoke a pork butt, you know how to smoke pork cushion.
Nevertheless, you must make sure you cook your pork cushion hours in advance.
Because it takes hours to smoke, you cannot prepare it an hour before dinner time.
Like pork shoulder and pork butt, cooking pork cushion requires lots of patience if you want tender, succulent meat.
First, you must coat the pork cushion with a dry rub. It’s best to think of pork cushion as a base for flavor.
The cushion will get most of its flavor from the dry rub.
If you do not have a dedicated BBQ rub, you will need to mix salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, dried or ground herbs, and garlic powder in a bowl.
Rub your pork cushion with the rub, making sure to coat every inch of it with the rub.
Place the pork cushion into a bowl and wrap it with cling wrap. Marinate the pork cushion in the fridge for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
Next comes the smoking part. Remember, smoking pork cushion is a long process, so be patient and don’t rush the process.
If you rush the smoking process, you will end up with a tough, chewy piece of meat.
Remove the pork cushion from the fridge one hour before you intend to smoke it.
Unwrap the pork cushion and let it sit at room temperature.
In the same way, cold Tomahawk steaks and a hot kamado grill should never meet; cold pork shoulder and a hot smoker should never meet.
Letting the meat sit at room temperature brings its temperature down, which prevents uneven cooking.
Heat your smoker to 225. Add the pork cushion fat side up.
Cook the pork cushion for 1 1/2 hours for every pound of meat. Ultimately it will take 5-14 hours to cook your pork cushion, depending on its size.
Pork shoulder is finished cooking once it has a temperature ranging between 185°F-195°F.
When you remove the pork cushion from the smoker, you will be tempted to dive right in, but you must let the meat rest before you carve.
If you don’t, all of the meat’s juices will escape instead of remaining in the meat. Let the pork cushion rest for 30 minutes.
Truthfully, it’s easy to overlook pork cushion. It’s like a hidden diamond. Unless you are looking for pork cushion, you will probably walk right past it.
Nevertheless, pork cushion is a versatile cut of pork. Now that you know everything about pork cushion, you can use it to make pulled pork or carnitas.
You also can smoke it, roast it, or turn it into a stew.
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.