Types Of Pork, Ranked » VSB

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Types Of Pork, Ranked

Damon Young/VSB


Every Labor Day weekend in Pittsburgh, a rib festival (aptly named “The Rib Fest”) takes place outside of Heinz Field. Dozens of award-winning swine-selling companies set up storefronts and sell their best ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, sausages, briskets, and heart disease. Naturally, as a pork coisennessuor, I spent a decent amount of time there this year. How much time, exactly? Well, the people at Carolina Rib King — easily the best company — did the following when they saw me in line Sunday evening:

1. Started clapping
2. Allowed me to skip the line
3. Asked about The Wife Person™ and if the baby was still kicking
4. Asked if I was getting my “regular”
5. Gave me free food

As I took a bite of my pulled pork sandwich, BBQ sauce and a complete and utter lack of shame dripping on my shorts, I started thinking very seriously about pork. More specifically, of all the delicious porks out there, which one is the best?

In reverse order:

10. Chitterlings

It came down to chitlins or kielbasa for the 10 spot, which basically means I had to decide between “Blackness” and “Pittsburgh.” Blackness won.

9. Ham

Some people think ham is great as the featured part of a meal. I disagree. Ham just doesn’t move me like that. Ham is the J Cole of pork-based meats.

8. Salami

Salami is ham with charisma.

7. Pepperoni

Because a plain pizza without pepperoni is like The Office without Steve Carell. Still edible and good. But no longer delicious. 

6. Breakfast Sausage 

For the record, in the Breakfast Sausage Patty vs Breakfast Sausage Link battle, I’m #teampatty all the way.

5. Pork Chops

Like chicken wings, is one of the few meats where the less meat on the bone, the better it tastes.

4. Hot Sausage

Thought about putting it higher on the list, because of how versatile it is. You can eat it with pancakes and eggs, you can make a hot sausage sandwich for lunch, and you can include it in your spaghetti dinner. It’s basically the Draymond Green of pork-based meats.

3. Ribs

Although first on the yet-to-be-written ranking of Slave-Founded Foods — a ranking I’m excited in advance to write — only places third on the pork list. Shame.

2. Pulled Pork Sandwich

Pulls (heh) a surprising upset over ribs. Ribs are more popular, more versatile, and can also make for better weapons. But a great pulled pork sandwich — with the perfect, shame-inducing sauce — beats a great half slab of ribs.

1. Bacon

Like there was ever any doubt.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • I’ve never had chitterlings. Because reasons. So I’d easily put kielbasa higher on this list. And I’d also move ribs right on into the #1 spot. But who cares?? IT’S ALL DELICIOUS. This whole list just made me so happy… My name is Sawyer, and I am a swineaholic.

    • Nicole Holmes

      I, too, enthusiastically dine on the swine.

  • Taufai Calloway

    i clearly am a newbie on the good VSB and I totally thought from the blurb on the Facebook that this was going to be a why pork is bad, ad you should become a vegan, NOT why pork is so damn good! and I agree even though chitlins are so bad for you they deserve a place on the list! thank you fellow Pittsburgher!! and yes BACON!!!

    • cakes_and_pies

      You must have started are the vegan jambalaya post. They roasted him like a whole pig.

  • Tammy Jenkins

    I approve and appreciate this list. I still partake of the swine, let God judge me. Yeah though I walk through the shadow of hypertension . . .I may die with the shine on my lips.

    I may very well be the last of the chitterLing cleaners in my family. There is a minor hope my adult daughter may take up the cause. It’s been yet to be enacted due to the fact I have yet to become arthritic and unable to properly grasp the stink membrane . So I still do the annual new years meal . The chitterlongs are now cooked outdoors overnight in a crock pot. We aren’t savages for goodness sake

  • niksmit

    The only correct placement on this list is the almighty bacon.
    Kielbasa over all the other sausages on this list and the godforsaken chitlins.
    I’ll also take a delicious fried and/or smothered pork chop over your ribs and pulled pork.
    Ham is a beautiful thing to have when you think you may turn into a slice of bacon and need to switch it up. It is a more fitting breakfast side meat than sausage and can also be used as a condiment/topping like bacon at other meals. Ham steaks are also delicious.

    • niksmit

      Yeah, so down with salami and pepperoni, up with pernil! This is a glaring omission that must be corrected.

  • Um…so no carnitas? Ok. I see how it is.

    • niksmit

      Oooooh, I forgot about roast pork from my Spanish speaking friends in the Caribbean! It gives me *special* feelings all over.

      • Right?! Also, I’m not here for HAM unless it’s accompanied by pineapple … and only if my auntie made it and is watching me make my plate.

      • Yogiyb8

        Alabama girl here and I’m ALL about carnitas!!! i’d gladly kick “Shittlings” off the list to make room for carnitas.

      • Brandon Allen

        Pernil is bomb.

        • Shout out to PR!

        • In Cuba, we call it lechon asado! Mi gente!!!

        • Wild Cougar

          pork roast is meh

          • Lisa

            Pork roast and roast pork are not the same thing in my book. Pork roast=meh indeed. Roast pork=Spanish style goodness bursting with flavor. I tried to quit the pig but could not do it b/c of those types of dishes. Too good to give up.

    • NKORigible

      Yes Carnitas… tacos, burritos, pupusas…. that’s what happens when an east coaster writes about pork… they leave out carnitas.

    • miss t-lee

      Carnitas is my junk!!!

  • Brass Tacks

    Even though I’m an obvious supporter of everything below the Mason Dixie line (DC gets mad love also) I wouldn’t have been mad if you left out chitterlings. The fam would, but I wouldn’t.

  • cakes_and_pies

    You can add a few commercially available worst like pigs feet, head cheese, and literally the whole head.

    • CrayolaGirl

      Souse is delicious.

      • cakes_and_pies

        Eww. Gelatinous organ meat I just can’t do. But I #sweaterGod that stuff is like the minced meat of the South; well-loved and sanctified.

        • CrayolaGirl

          I brought some back from MS this weekend. All the thumbs up!

          • cakes_and_pies

            I bet you ate in on saltines or Ritz. A cold Peach Faygo, souse, and ritz crackers is like catnip to some people here.

            • CrayolaGirl

              Yep, saltines and my drink was sweet tea.

            • Jennifer

              We didn’t have souse, but my Texas grandma gave us “potted meat” mixed with mayo and a little bit of salsa on a saltine or Ritz cracker. Getting the gout just thinking about it now, but I loved that junk when I was 7. Kids are stupid.

              • cakes_and_pies

                Is potted meat the official “I ain’t fixin’ y’all lunch” food for Grandmas? My Grandmother and Great-Grandmother would give us a can a piece, some crackers and an orange and tell us to stay outside.

                • Jennifer

                  LOL! Probably. She usually let me made it during the summer when she didn’t want to turn on the stove in that hot-a$$ house.

      • Aye Bee

        with a dash of hot sauce on some saltine crackers. yup!

    • K_

      i actually love head cheese and used to eat it all the time as a kid, still havent been able to find it as an adult from the butcher, i tried package once and took one bite adn threw the whole thing in the trash, idk waht that was not head cheese though

      • cakes_and_pies

        Like commercially packaged? That sounds terrible. I see at least three local souse and scrabble products in some grocery stores or people go to the area farm/slaughterhouse and get it.

        • K_

          yes!! commercial!! i was desperate!! and terrible doesn’t describe it :( i need to find a local butcher thats been the challenge

  • Melinda

    Kielbasa is life! Then again, I’m from the Midwest. Maybe I’ll give pulled pork another try.

    • Melinda

      And you have to say KielbaSEE or it doesn’t count!

      • AlwaysCC

        buahahaha we pronounce it kuh-BAH-see…i was almost grown when i found out how it was really pronounced!

  • I don’t think I’m capable of eating a pizza without pepperoni.

    I feel like I’m robbing myself…unless it’s in NY.

    I’ll also take Kielbasa over 8 or 9. I once made Kielbasa with African tomato stew and it blew me away.

  • Nick Peters

    1. Bacon
    2. Ribs (More accessible than Pulled Pork+you don’t need a sandwich or sauce)
    3. Pulled pork
    4. Breakfast Sausage/Hot Sausage
    5. Ham
    6. Pepperoni (really only good on Pizza/Sub)
    7. Pork Chops
    8. Salami

    100. Chitterlings

    • CrayolaGirl

      Your list is void since you put chitlings so far down the list. Delete your comment.

      • Nick Peters

        Chitterlings are the food of Satan and Im sure the primary cause of Diabetes and High Blood Pressure in America.

        • CrayolaGirl

          Hey. Your sureness don’t mean a doggone thing. They are and will forever be delicious (depending on who makes them). ?

          • Nick Peters

            Anyone who doesn’t like you makes them

            • CrayolaGirl

              Ha! They are made with love.

              • Nick Peters

                When you have loved ones like that…you don’t need enemies…

                • CrayolaGirl

                  If you say so.

                  • Aye Bee

                    As a true southern girl, I agree that if made right, they are amazing. They have to be cleaned though so I don’t eat everyone’s. My mom pays a lady to clean them then we go over them again. With a dash of hot sauce and coleslaw…amazing. But so fattening,unhealthy, and time consuming to cook, we save it for the holidays.

                    • CrayolaGirl

                      Every Thanksgiving for us.

                    • Aye Bee

                      Same here. Thanksgiving and Christmas traditional. My aunt’s boyfriend cooked them once and folks were cleaning them as they ate them.. It made me puke .Really. Not gag, but actually rid my stomach of it’s contents bc that is disgusting. Also reason #1 you don’t eat everyone’s.

                    • CrayolaGirl

                      That was grounds to never speak to him again.

                      In high school, one of closest friend’s mother proved that she could cook then. She’s the only person outside of my grandmother. We didn’t trust it at first since we were in MD.

                    • Aye Bee

                      Yeah, he always gets the side eye from me, as long as he lives.

                    • He cooked them lining and all?!?!

                    • Aye Bee


                    • Wow. Were the people eating them okay? I mean physically after that?

                    • Aye Bee

                      Honestly, I don’t know bc we didn’t stay long. My appetite was ruined after that.

                    • miss t-lee

                      My family makes them every new years day.
                      I don’t eat them though.

                    • As country as I am I could never do them or hog brains. Seeing the former get flushed out with a water hose at a hog killing was enough for just say no.

                    • Aye Bee

                      The sad thing is, I have seen that and seen them full of ish and will still eat them. But then again, the slaughter and processing of most animals is not appetizing if you think of it. When I was little and saw my first slaughter, I told my mom I was never eating pig again. She said “what about bacon and ham?” not knowing that the animal I just saw killed was going to be made into my bfast the next morning, I thought long and hard about it after I found out (maybe 5 min or so) and have been eating pork still since then. To me, you aren’t even eating the part the ish is housed in, bc you take that lining off (if they are cleaned properly). People that eat bologna, hot dogs, pepperoni, and salami but condemn chitterlings bc of what they are amaze me bc those are just different cuts of meat mixed up (cured in the case of the latter 2). But then again, I think it is bc chitterlings are in their natural state as with the others the meats aren’t recognizable.

                    • The look is the biggest part of my thing with chitterlings. Honestly, that is the only part of the butchering that ever bothered me. You’re very right about various sausages too. People have no idea what goes into “making the sausage.”

                      I’ve always found it funny that folks with dismiss pork all together but still get down with chicken which is the filthiest beast on the yard.

                    • Aye Bee

                      And it is funny bc I work in food processing and when I first started, they thought I was a girly girl and tried to break me by putting me in live hang (where they hang the chickens before they are slaughtered) and kill room (they didn’t know I spent my summers on a farm and that my grad school involved doing feed study research with poultry) bc they thought I would quit shortly after. When I lasted 3 months they were puzzled and asked why I wasn’t grossed out or scared and I had to hit them with “The way my family used to slaughter chickens was much more gruesome and after working with guinea fowl for years,chickens are much more nicer and easier to handle”. The look on their faces was priceless.

                    • miss t-lee

                      Yup. Chickens are absolutely disgusting.
                      However, delicious…lol

                    • Their filth is only matched by their tastiness.

                    • miss t-lee


                    • Jennifer

                      My grandma would make chitlins’ on the condition that someone else cleaned them…at their house. She was not about that intestinal stench life. Her chitlins’ were soooo good though that some patsy would always agree to it.

      • Chitterlings of of the devil. No one should be eating them.

        • CrayolaGirl

          Then I’ll be partaking of the devil this Thanksgiving…with some hot sauce.

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