Slow-Braised Pork Cheeks Are Where It’s At.

Juniper and Ginger Beer Slow-Braised Pork Cheeks

This is a post for my carnivores. True carnivores. The kind that will go that extra mile to attain a cut of meat you won’t see at the grocery store. The kind of carnivores that will do a little leg work to wrap their chops on pork cheeks. Because I know that rare is the butcher who keeps pig cheeks in stock. But this blog has never just been about the everyday kind of thing. Sometimes I like to make your work a little bit harder. Slow-braised pork cheeks are one of the most delicious things you can make. But whatever you do, don’t try to rush. Slow-braised is the way to go at it.

It’s no secret what pork cheeks are. They’re exactly what their name implies. The bit of meat in the hollow of the cheek, underneath the eye socket, and above the mandible. Whereas, guanciale, the famed Italian bacon, is made from the jowls of the pig – just so you get the distinction. The real secret is how cheap cheeks are! Even at the fancy butcher shop where the celebrities (and I sometimes) shop. Why buy ground beef when slow-braised pork cheeks go for about the same price? 

Slow-braised pork cheeks become meltingly tender, with a rich, deep flavor. Cook them for a long time, and the meat breaks down into neat, hockey-puck-sized nuggets of forkable flesh. Pork cheeks will be great slow-braised any which way you like. But I chose juniper and ginger beer. The sweet and spicy sauce, that makes itself in the pot, can be spooned over mashed potatoes, rice, or noodles. But I chose grits. 

So make some calls. Do some prodding. They may be an often-overlooked cut, but pork cheeks are where it’s at. GREG

Pork Cheeks
Juniper and Ginger Beer Slow-Braised Pork Cheeks
Juniper and Ginger Beer Slow-Braised Pork Cheeks

Juniper and Ginger Beer Slow-Braised Pork Cheeks 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6–8Source Adapted from Jason AlleyPublished
Juniper and Ginger Beer Slow-Braised Pork Cheeks


  • 3 pound pork cheeks (trimmed)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoon lightly crushed juniper berries
  • ½ cup olive oil (divided)
  • 1 large onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 3 medium carrots (peeled and chopped)
  • 4 stalks celery (chopped)
  • 1 head of garlic (cut in half)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 (12 oz) bottles Reed’s ginger beer
  • 2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • cooked grits, polenta, or mashed potatoes (for serving)
  • arugula (for serving)
  • lemon vinaigrette (for serving)


In a large bowl combine the pork cheeks, thyme, rosemary, sage, juniper berries, and ¼ cup of olive oil. Gently turn to coat the pork cheeks, cover the bowl and refrigerate the cheeks for 3 to 6 hours. 

When the cheeks have finished marinating remove them from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Heat a large lidded, heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pot over medium-high heat. Swirl in the remaining ¼ cup olive oil. 

Remove the cheeks from the marinade, reserve the marinade, and season them generously with salt and pepper. Carefully sear the cheeks on both sides until browned. Remove the cheeks from the pot and set them aside on a plate.

Lower the heat on the pot to medium and add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved marinade with all its herbs to the pot and continue to cook the vegetables until lightly browned for about 5 more minutes. Deglaze the pan with the ginger beer, scraping the bottom of the pot to release the browned bits.

Add both of the stocks, the browned pork cheeks, and any accumulated juices. Cover the pot with a lid and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, depending on the size of the cheeks. When the meat is fork-tender, carefully remove the cheeks from the pot and set them aside on a plate. Strain the braising liquid through a fine-meshed sieve. Let the liquid settle then skim all the fat from the top of the sauce. Move the skimmed sauce to the stove and turn the heat to medium. Allow the sauce to simmer until reduced by about 40%. Stir in the vinegar.

Gently re-heat the cheeks in the reduced braising liquid. 

Spoon some warm grits, polenta, or mashed potatoes into 6 to 8 shallow bowls, top with the pork checks then pour a little braising liquid over the top. Toss the arugula in the lemon vinaigrette and use to garnish the plate.