Pork is one of the highly preferred types of meat across the world. The various cuts of this meat are unfamiliar to many people. This is why many people need to familiarize themselves with the terms jowls and bellies. Both cuts are tasty with their distinct flavors. They can also be used in different dishes, but not interchangeably.
If you want to know more about these cuts, keep reading this blog. We’ll break down everything about the pork jowl vs. pork belly comparison. So read on!
Table of Contents
What is Pork Jowl?
The jowl is taken from the pork cheek. So it’s basically in the pig’s upper parts, specifically the head. For many pork foodies, the jowl is the best cut in the head. The jowl meat is anything around or between the chin and jawline.
Because the meat is located in a fatty area near the pork neck, it is pretty sweet, soft, and tender. Another reason the jowl tastes perfect is that the muscles of this area are not used much.
According to the geographical area, these cuts of pork are called by different names. For instance, in the northern parts of the U.S., it is commonly called ” Jowl bacon.”
In the Midwest and southern regions, it is often known as ” joe meat.” In Italy, it is called “guanciale.” However, it is very different from the raw jowl, you know. Guanciale is always cured and smoked.
When you opt for a jowl cut, you get a large chunk of smooth meat with a sweeter flavor. So, it is always used as a main dish. For instance, you can use the jowls to flavor beans. Cooking the jowls with black-eyed peas will give you a proper main course.
What is Pork Belly?
As the name suggests, this meat is cut from the pig’s belly. This cut is trendy in various cuisines all over the world. The delicious regular bacon comes from the belly. This pork cut is famous for its fatty texture and juicy meat. The belly is often cut as one large piece. It is cut with the skin on, but you can remove it before purchasing.
Pork belly has a rich flavor from the fat layers surrounding the flesh. Aside from curing the meat and turning it into thin salty slices of bacon, pork belly loves slow cooking.
The meat melts in your mouth when the tissues and pork fat are cooked at the proper temperature. It works excellently as roasted meat. Also, you can cook the belly slowly and then give it a nice crisp using the broiler.
One of the things that contribute to the high popularity of belly meat is that it is inexpensive. It is also easy to find in stores and online. The increased demand and supply make shopping for this meat a breeze.
What are the Differences between a Pork Jowl and a Pork Belly?
A Pork jowl and a belly can have things in common, like being fatty and delicious. They differ regarding cut location, popularity, price, and other factors. Moreover, their nutrients are very different.
Belly and jowl come from totally different locations on the pig. The jowl is a head region near the cheeks and the pork neck. The belly, on the other hand, is located near the animal’s loin. It is extracted from the pig’s undersides.
When freshly cut, the whole belly appears long and heavy. It is a whole piece of fatty meat covered with thick skin. Inside the flesh tissues, there is fat marbling, giving the meat a lighter shade.
The jowl cut, on the other hand, is the largest in the head.
Another significant difference between the jowl and the belly is their size. The belly is more prominent in size and weight. A whole belly weighs about 12 pounds, whereas a single piece of the jowl weighs about 2 pounds.
4. Flavor profile
As raw meat, there is not much difference in their flavors. Both have a fatty and buttery flavor. However, the taste of the jowl remains somehow sweeter and juicier. The location of the jowl muscle keeps it away from the usual stress spots. This is why the meat is of better quality.
Pork fat and skin surrounding the belly flesh give the meat a crispier texture when grilled or seared. The jowl, conversely, is thicker but lacking in the skin layer.
Both cuts of pork would not be described as affordable cuts. However, a jowl usually costs a bit more than a belly. There is less supply of the former compared to the latter.
Hog jowls or pork jowls are less popular than pork belly. The latter is more commonly used in countless cuisines all over the world. Many cuisines in Asia and Europe count on this meat in different dishes.
Jowls are more widely found and consumed in the U.S. Still, they are less popular.
The fatty meat of both cuts can be used in cooking a main course, but pork belly is less commonly used for this purpose. The belly is more commonly cut to be turned into bacon.
Pork jowl, on the other hand, is more commonly consumed as a main meal. It is usually cooked with vegetables or legumes. In Italy, proprietors of pork jowl made the most of this fatty flesh when they turned it into cured meat.
This is how you get what you know as pork jowl bacon or guanciale. The appearance and flavor of guanciale are much like those of traditional belly bacon but somehow fancier and less easy to find.
8. Nutritional value
Generally, both cuts have a high-fat content and calorie count, but the jowls have more. Also, you will get more protein from the belly than the jowls.
Lastly, the belly has more iron and zinc. So, the belly seems more nutritional than a jowl.
Pork Jowl vs. Pork Belly: are they the same?
Pork jowl and pork belly are different cuts of the pig. They have a few similarities in common, but they neither look nor are used the same. Jowl comes from the upper part of the animal – the pork neck, whereas the belly comes from the undersides.
The jowls are mostly thicker and fattier, with softer meat. The pork belly is also fatty but less sweet than the jewel. It is mainly cut to make bacon, whereas the former is usually cooked with other ingredients to make a complete meal.
Lastly, the pork belly is larger, heavier, cheaper, and less fatty than the jowl.