Photo: Danish Agriculture & Food Council

Pork and the perfect food combinations

Pork is rich in flavour with 600 different taste nuances. A new food pairing analysis has examined which ingredients can be served with pork to produce the perfect taste experience. The results are surprising.

Consumers are always on the lookout for new inspiration in their cooking. Consequently, there is growing interest in taste combinations where pork features as only one of several ingredients. The Danish Agriculture and Food Council, in collaboration with a supertaster and sensory technologist, has formulated these observations into a study on food pairing.

Food pairing is based on chemistry and keen sensory perception
Food pairing increases the consumer’s overall food experience. The study was based on an analysis of flavour combinations and four chosen cuts of pork: cheek, loin, belly and knuckle. The basic principle of food pairing is to identify common components in different foods. The analysis was based on a historical review as well as objective and sensory descriptions enhanced by experience. The flavour of each ingredient was also chemically analysed to reveal the correlation between the flavours of a range of ingredients.

Sensory technologists recommend these pairings with pork
Pork has the same key flavours as mushrooms, cream, white cabbage, potatoes, (baked and boiled), almonds, milk, cloves, peanuts, cheddar cheese, apples and butter). Consequently, these are 'safe' to combine with pork in cooking.

The following recommendations for pork pairings were recommended by the sensory technologist:

Pork cheeks sous-vide
Slightly heavy and fatty ingredients go well with pig cheeks sous-vide. This includes ingredients such as root vegetable mash, cream sauce, fried mushrooms, pancetta and hazelnut oil. Oatmeal breadcrumbs also work well with the flavour of the cheeks. Chicken or game stock also complements the taste.

Braised pig cheeks
The best taste pairings for braised cheeks are parsnips, onions, leeks and seaweed pesto. Pearl barley is also a good accompaniment. Milk, however, came out tops. Other good pairings are oatmilk, dark ale and crushed pork rind.

”Orange juice and trout roe do not pair well with braised pig cheeks because the taste would be too confusing,” says Lisbeth Ankersen, sensory technologist and supertaster.


Roast pork loin
The perfect taste combination with roast pork loin is boiled parsnips and baked beetroot. The taste of pork lion can be enhanced by ingredients such as cloves and bay leaves. Successful loin pairings include red szechuan, almonds, fennel seeds and pepper. Milk is judged to be the best accompaniment followed by oat milk or light ale. Dark ale tastes too much of honey, which does not work well with roast pork loin.


Braised knuckle
Braised knuckle pairs well with juniper berries, pearl onions cooked in stout, butternut squash and white cabbage. Apples and hazelnuts are also good matches. Again, milk gets top marks. Raspberry juice complements this cut of meat and brings out its floral flavours.

Belly slices
The perfect pairings with roast belly slices are goat’s cheese, star anise and crushed cloves. Garam masala, butternut squash and kale chips are other suggestions, as is apple with cinnamon. Apple juice mixed with a ginger drink is an excellent accompaniment. Oolong tea is also recommended: it works well with the belly slices without dominating their flavour.