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Pork Jowl vs. Pork Belly: Tasting the Difference

Pork Jowl vs Pork Belly

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Hello, pork lovers. Do you know there are two pork cuts that look similar and often get compared, the pork jowl and the pork belly? They are both well known for their rich and fatty texture, making them popular choices for many dishes. 


Although they may appear similar initially, pork jowl and pork belly have unique characteristics that impact their flavor, texture, and cooking methods. In this article, we’ll uncovering their differences and providing tips for achieving perfection when cooking them.


The pork cuts diagram showing the location of pork jowl and pork belly.
The pork cuts diagram

What is Pork Jowl?

Pork jowl is a fatty cut of meat that comes from the cheek area of the pig. This cut also has a clear fat and meat layer, like the pork belly. It is known for its high-fat content, which gives it a rich, luscious flavor and a tender texture when cooked. 


However, the connective tissue in the meat can make it tough if it is not cooked correctly. So, to break down the connective tissue, this pork cheek can be made tender by cooking it slowly over low heat. Braising, stewing, and smoking are all good methods for cooking the meat. 


The cheek cut seems like an unpopular part of pork. It is not. In America, it is a popular ingredient in many Southern U.S., often used in braised dishes. It’s also popular among Chinese around the world. Chinese love eating pork from nose to tail. In Europe, it is the same; people in Italy braised and cured it to make a popular cured meat, Guanciale.


What is Pork Belly?

pork belly cube raw
Raw Fresh Pork Belly cut into cube

A pork belly is a cut of meat from the underside of the pig’s stomach. It is the most popular pork meat cut in many Asian cuisines, particularly Korean, Chinese, and Japanese dishes. However, nowadays, many fine dining offer pork belly dishes. 


The cut is a versatile meat that can be prepared in various ways. It can be roasted, braised, or smoked and paired with a wide range of flavors. It is known for its thick, fatty layer and meaty texture. When cooked properly, it can yield crispy skin and melt-in-your-mouth buttery meat.


Pork Jowl and Pork Belly make Bacon

Most of the bacon we eat is made from pork belly. Do you know pork jowl also makes good bacon? 

1 slice of raw bacon

  • Jowl bacon is made from pork cheek, the area around the pig’s mouth. It has a high-fat content and a gelatinous texture when cooked. Jowl bacon is often used in Italian dishes like carbonara and spaghetti. Additionally, it can be enjoyed as a delectable main course. 
  • Belly bacon is made from the area around the pig’s stomach. When it’s cooked, it becomes crispy and has less fat. Belly bacon is often used as a side dish or topping.

Differences Between Pork Jowl and Pork Belly

While both meat cuts come from the pig, these two cuts have some key differences.


Flavor Profiles of Pork Jowl and Pork Belly

Pork jowl is all about that tasty, fatty goodness that people say tastes like butter or nuts. This cut has more fat content compared to pork belly. The meat’s high-fat content makes it super tender and juicy, perfect for many dishes. It is a fantastic choice to add flavor and make your pasta, stews, or soups super tasty and satisfying.


Nutritional value of pork jowl and pork belly compared side by side. Data is provided by Fitness Pal apps.
Nutritional value compared side by side. Data is provided by Fitness Pal.

Now, pork belly is a bit different. See the screenshot; it is less fatty and more meaty. It’s got a meaty flavor that’s all about that savory and umami goodness. The best part? Its thick layer of fat gets all crispy and crunchy when you cook it just right. That means you can add some serious texture and crunch to your dishes with the meat. 


Besides that, the way and the time to cook both of the cuts are also varied. Let’s find out next how they are different next. 


How to Cook Pork Jowl

Besides making cured meat, like bacon and Guanciale, pork jowl is versatile; you can cook it any method you want, braising, smoking, and roasting. Whatever you choose, make sure you slow cooking it. 



Basically, a braising goes like this: Season both sides of the raw pork cheek with salt and pepper, sear until golden brown, then add celery, carrot, and onion, cover with water, and braise until tender, adjusting cooking time based on meat thickness (approximately 1.5 to 3 hours). 


Check out this article on “The Comprehensive Meat Braising Techniques” to learn more about braising.


How to Cook Pork Belly

Pork jowl contains higher fat content. But, the fat layer of pork belly is thicker than pork jowl. Because of this, the cooking method can indeed be different. With the correct cooking methods, you can achieve crispy fat and meaty pork. 


Another difference between the cuts is belly can take slightly less time to braise if you choose to. Anyway, the quickest way is to cook this cut is using an air fryer. Check out this “Skin off Honey Garlic Air Fryer Pork Belly” recipe.


Recipe Ideas and Popular Dishes for Pork Jowl and Pork Belly

Pork Jowl Recipes

  1. Spaghetti alla Carbonara – This classic Italian pasta dish features pork jowl as the star ingredient. The fatty and creamy sauce is made with eggs, Parmesan cheese, and pork cheek.

  2. Tacos dish – These tacos are filled with tender and flavorful meat, topped with cilantro, lime juice, and spicy salsa.

  3.  Stew dish – This hearty stew features potatoes, carrots, and onions in a rich and flavorful broth.
roasted pork belly
 Siu Yuk

Pork Belly Recipes

  1. BBQ pork belly sandwich – This is a yummy meal made with a juicy and flavorful meat, placed between two pieces of bread and topped with tasty barbecue sauce.

  2. Siu Yok  – Hands down, this is the most popular dish ever. Check out the easy Chinese style crispy skin recipe.

  3. Miso Braised dish – Japanese inspired Miso braised dish.

Conclusion: Which One Should You Choose?

It comes down to what texture and flavor you want. Both are equally delicious if cooked correctly. Why not try to cook both cuts, the pork jowl and the pork belly. They are inexpensive cuts compared to premium beef cuts, like the ribeye. Give them a chance. Also, check out the difference between pork shoulder and pork belly too. Until next time.  



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2 Responses

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