Melt-in-your-mouth braised pork cheeks in a rich and flavorful sauce made with beer. This fantastic recipe transforms an inexpensive cut of pork into a true delicacy.
Learn how to cook the best pork cheek recipe; these easy braised pork cheeks are really to die for! Slow cooking ensures the cheeks are meltingly tender and incredibly flavorful, the beer gravy is luscious, and the whole meal is a complete delight.
And you can get all that for a fraction of the price you would pay to have pork cheeks in a restaurant!
Why does this recipe work?
- Pork or pig cheeks are an inexpensive cut of meat that delivers incredible results.
- Make ahead and reheat the dish; it gets even better when reheated.
- This is an elegant dish perfect for guests, but also a relatively simple meal for the weekend or any day of the week, actually.
What are pork cheeks?
- They are little pieces of meat found in the pig’s cheek, underneath its eyes. They should not be confused with the jowls of the pig, which are fattier and are used to make Guanciale – a particular sort of Italian bacon.
- The pig’s cheeks are only lightly marbled with fat; they are still lean meat connected by tissues and collagen.
- Pork cheeks: About 2 ½ lbs/ 1.3 kg. One piece weighs between 2.5 – 3 oz/ 75 – 90 g.
- Pancetta: Cut into cubes. Alternatively, bacon is also great, but try to get it in one piece or cut into thick slices and chop it yourself. Thinly sliced breakfast bacon is hard to work with in this kind of recipe.
- Braising liquids: Beer and chicken or beef stock.
- I used dark German beer, but use whatever dark beer is available in your area (it should not have sugar or sweeteners added). Guinness is a good choice. Alternatively, use Pils or a strong beer.
- Stock: Homemade or low-sodium beef or chicken stock; I tend to use chicken because it is always more likely to have homemade chicken stock in the freezer.
- Vegetables: A small piece of celeriac or one or two celery stalks, one carrot, one small to medium onion, and two garlic cloves.
- Spices: Sweet paprika powder, dried thyme, rosemary, fine sea or Kosher salt, and ground black pepper. You can also use fresh herbs if available: 1 sprig of rosemary and 3-4 smaller sprigs of thyme.
- Other ingredients: Vegetable or olive oil, all-purpose flour, and tomato paste.
How to braise pork cheeks?
- Prepare the cheeks: Trim any sinew and any other large, fatty membrane (1). Flour and season the pieces (2) and sear them on medium-high heat in two batches until nicely browned on all sides (3). Transfer cheeks to a plate or bowl.
- Sauté pancetta and diced vegetables (4). Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and all the spices, and scrape the bottom of the pan to release the browned bits while stirring.
Simmer: Pour in the beer and stock (5), return the cheeks to the pot (6), and simmer the cheeks on low heat for 2 hours, removing the lid from the pot during the last 30 minutes of the cooking time. This will allow the sauce to thicken slightly (7).
- Thicken the gravy with a bit of cornstarch slurry, if necessary; it should be slightly thicker but not too thick (8).
- Check and adjust the taste with a little bit of salt and pepper if required; depending on the stock you used, adding more spices might not be necessary.
- Remove all the sinew (tough fibrous tissue) and any other large and tough, fatty membrane from the pig’s cheeks; these parts will remain rather tough even after cooking.
- Stock: If using store-bought stock, ensure it is low in sodium. Otherwise, the dish might be too salty.
- Make in advance: I recommend cooking these delicious pork cheeks 1-2 days in advance; the flavor develops and improves with each reheating. Let the food come at room temperature and refrigerate until ready to reheat.
They are super moist cuts of meat. The connective tissues and collage break down during the slow cooking process, making the meat incredibly tender. The cheeks also absorb the flavors of the cooking liquid, so their taste is gloriously rich and intense.
They tend to shrink slightly during cooking, so 2-3 cheeks per person is a good portion size.
Yes. Brown the meat, vegetables, and spices as instructed in the recipe. Transfer everything to the slow cooker and cook on low for about 5 hours. Check; the tender meat should be fork tender.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Reheat on the stovetop before serving.
Freeze the leftovers in a freezer container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight and reheat before serving.
What to serve with braised pork cheeks?
Our favorite side dishes are mashed potato or polenta. Try these Roasted Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, Creamy Spinach and Potato Mash, or Rich Truffle Mashed Potatoes. Or learn How to Cook Basic Polenta.
Bread: Easy Yogurt Soda Bread, Irish Guinness Brown Bread, French baguette, or any other crusty bread you like.
Vegetable side dishes: French-Style Green Beans, The Best Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Buttered Vegetables, or Green Peas with Butter.
More melt-in-your-mouth meat recipes
The Best Braised Pork Cheek Recipe
- A wide Dutch oven or another large heavy-bottomed pot
- 2 ½ lb pork cheeks 1.2 kg
- 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4.5 oz pancetta 125 g, Note 1
- ⅓ cup celeriac or celery diced, about 50 g
- ⅓ cup carrots diced, about 50 g
- ½ cup onion finely chopped, about 75 g
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
- ½ teaspoon rosemary
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt or Kosher
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 bottle dark beer 330 ml/ 11 oz, Note 2
- ½ cup beef stock or chicken stock, 125 ml
- 2-3 teaspoons cornstarch optional, to thicken the gravy
Prepare pork cheeks:
- Trim the cheeks of any sinew and any other large, fatty membrane.
- Flour pork cheeks: Mix flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Pass the cheeks through the flour, then shake and pat them over the bowl to remove the excess flour.1 ½ tablespoons flour + ½ teaspoon fine sea or Kosher salt + ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Sear pork cheeks: Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the Dutch oven. Sear ½ of the cheeks on high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side or until nicely browned (use tongs to turn them around). Remove them from the pan and repeat with the second batch of meat. Remove and set aside.
- Dice all the vegetables while the cheeks are searing. Keep the minced garlic separated from the rest.
- Sauté: Place the cubed pancetta (or bacon) in the still-hot Dutch oven. Stir it for about one minute until it starts releasing some fat (if there is not enough fat in the pot, add another tablespoon of oil). Next, add celeriac or celery, carrots, and onions. Cook the vegetables for about 3 minutes, often stirring, until slightly softer.4 ½ oz (150 g) pancetta, ⅓ cup (50 g) celery + ⅓ cup (50 g) carrots + ½ cup onion (75 g)
- Add the minced garlic, tomato paste, sweet paprika, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir well for about 1 minute, scraping the bottom of the pot.2 garlic cloves + 1 Tbsp tomato paste + 1 tsp sweet paprika + ½ tsp thyme + ½ tsp rosemary + ½ tsp fine sea or Kosher salt + ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- Simmer: Return the meat to the pot, and pour in the beer and the stock. Stir well, cover the pot, and simmer the cheeks for 2 hours until meltingly soft. Remove the lid during the last 30 minutes of the cooking time to allow the sauce to thicken.1 bottle (330 ml/ 11 oz) + ½ cup (125 ml) beef or chicken stock
- Thicken the gravy (optional – Note 3): Stir the cornstarch with a little cold water in a small bowl. Push the cheeks in the pot to make a little space and whisk in about half of the slurry. Stir well and only whisk in the remaining slurry if necessary. The gravy should be only slightly thickened and not too thick.3 tsp cornstarch + 1-2 tablespoons cold water
- Adjust the taste with salt and pepper if necessary.
- Pancetta: You can also use bacon, preferably thickly cut and then cubed bacon, smoked, or unsmoked.
- Beer: I used a dark German beer. Guinness is also great. Pils also works fine in this recipe if you can’t get a dark beer.
- Thickening the gravy with cornstarch is an optional step; you should only thicken the sauce if it hasn’t been reduced enough during cooking; it’s a matter of personal preference.
- Slow cooker instructions: Brown the cheeks, vegetables, and spices as instructed in the recipe. Transfer everything to the slow cooker and cook on low for about 5 hours. Check; the tender meat should be fork tender.