DEAR DR. BLONZ: Please tell me if doing the following can cut down the horrific quantity of fat grams in pork shoulder. One database says it has 29 grams of fat in a 1/3-pound serving! I roasted it slowly and then took it out of the pan immediately to drain, removed all visible fat, then sliced and refrigerated portions. The next day, I removed more fat made visible from chilling, and also removed connective tissue around the fat. I then warmed the meat in a dry pan and pressed the warmed pieces between paper towels to soak up more fat. I repeated until the roast was gone. Can you assure me that I did reduce the fat grams per serving? Or is this just wishful thinking? -- J.T., Richmond, California
DEAR J.T.: Please don't consider the fat content of pork shoulder to be "horrific." This cut can be quite flavorful, but it involves longer cooking times that reduce the level of fat. There is fat in and around the muscle fibers in the shoulder cut, but once visible fat is trimmed and you go through an appropriate preparation like roasting, braising or grilling, the levels drop significantly. Your diligent steps all worked toward that end.
There are a number of databases out there that can provide a nutritional breakdown of foods, but you have to be sure to select the correct listing, or the information can be misleading. I have provided these links to better explain. According to the USDA database (ndb.nal.usda.gov), a 4.8-ounce serving of pork shoulder that has been roasted, including both the lean and the fat -- see full info at tinyurl.com/oqeysm7 -- contains 29 grams of fat, an amount that had rightfully given you pause. That, however, is not what you served. Now look at the amount of fat in a 4.8-ounce "lean only" serving, that is, one in which the fat drippings are not included in the calculation. This -- tinyurl.com/nktjlll -- lists the amount of fat at 18 grams per serving.
I recently had some delicious, not-too-fatty pork shoulder in Memphis, Tennessee, while there for the annual meeting of the Association of Food Journalists. During my days in that marvelous city, I had the chance to enjoy excellent barbecue using pork shoulder and just about every other cut of meat imaginable. There was also a memorable meal at Gus's Fried Chicken; it had been a long time since I'd had fried chicken.
There should be no problem enjoying fat-rich foods as long as the serving size is reasonable and you have a plant-based diet as a foundation. A healthful diet gives you that flexibility to make room for all the wonderful foods that please your palate. If you want to have an occasional meal that uses pork shoulder, or another fat-marbled cut, be sure to cook it properly -- you have that down -- and don't overdo it with the serving size. Surround it on your plate with healthy greens and grains. For example, at Gus's, I had fried chicken with servings of collard greens and coleslaw. With all rich meals, my goal is to eat slowly -- savoring each bite, enjoying the serving -- then filling up on the greens and grains. Great stuff: a real win-win!
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