Masses of flavour in pork

What does pork actually taste like? DAFC has initiated a project to analyse the taste of specific cuts

DAFC has also been collaborating with supertaster and sensory scientist, Lisbeth Ankersen, on the development of a taste wheel for pig meat. The objective is to create a culinary language in the style of the wine industry.

Taste is more nuanced than simply being good or bad. In other words, it is important to define what taste actually is. Taste is both the personal experience of food – whether something tastes good or bad – and an objective description of its properties. The personal experience is subjective and depends on much more than what happens in the mouth, such as, for example, the occasion, the appearance and the atmosphere. Chemistry, however, lies at the core of taste; an objective factor that can be defined precisely. A meal can thus be described as a positive interplay between the five basic tastes – salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umami.

The taste wheel explains the tastes that can be found in pork. The inner circle contains broader concepts while the outer circle describes the characteristic features for tasting notes found at tastings.

Read more about the tastes contained in pork her

The age of the pig, its feed, breed and the way it has been slaughtered can impact the taste – as can the way it is prepared. There is even a difference in the taste of the light muscles, such as fillet and the dark, connective tissue-rich muscles such as the cheek and hock.


It is also a myth that taste comes from fat alone: it is present in fat, muscle and connective tissue. As far as the taste of pork is concerned, this mainly comes from the proteins in the meat and the connective tissue, together with certain carbohydrates. The proteins are broken down into amino acids which produce the following tastes: 'piggy note'*, stable and umami. Further taste is produced from carbohydrates during the cooking process, i.e. the taste of butter, mushrooms, fruit, fat (kukomi), metal, caramel, nuts, sulphur, meat and onions. These are all products of chemical reactions, including the Maillard reaction, which occurs between the amino acids and carbohydrates during the browning of the meat.

What is the 'piggy note'?
The 'piggy note' largely derives from 3-methylbutanoic acid. In the right quantity, (and in interaction with other smells and flavours) this chemical compound produces a number of pleasant notes – such as sweet-sour, dairy and fruit. It is these plus the familiar smell and taste of roast pork (the meat) that together produce the 'piggy note'.  

Ideas for what can be combined with pork