When it comes to pork, most home cooks know the chop, the tenderloin, the loin roast, even the Boston butt. But because I am a sucker for the underdog and the oddball, I have a new favorite cut of pork: the country-style rib.
Why oddball? First, it suffers from something of an identity crisis, since despite its name it’s not really a rib. Second, it has an indeterminate composition, consisting of both light and dark meat. Finally, it has a tendency to slide into disreputable territory, since its name is sometimes appropriated for less desirable cuts.
But like any good antihero, the country-style rib has hidden virtues. It has rich, deep pork flavor; it is generally the most inexpensive cut of pork at the meat counter; and it is ideal for those slow-cooked dishes we crave in cool weather.
To understand this cut, you first need to know the blade pork chop. This chop is cut from the two ribs at the shoulder end of the pork loin. Because it comes from the intersection of the tender loin and the more fat-laden and gnarly shoulder, it has qualities of both.
Butchers used to have difficulty selling this chop, because it didn’t look as lean and smooth as those from the center of the loin. So it generally ended up as an ingredient in sausages or, less reputably, secreted at the bottom of a wrapped package of “loin chops.”
Then sometime back in the late 1960s or early ’70s, a Chicago-area butcher, Cliff Bowes, came up with the idea of taking advantage of the popularity of ribs by fashioning these lowly chops into strips that resembled ribs. To do so, he butterflied the chops and cut through the ribs.