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~ The Pigger than Life, Hog Heaven, Pork Sandwich~

6a0120a8551282970b017d3ccff6e1970cIf you've ever been to Iowa (or the midwest in general), even if just for a few seconds, you've learned:  pork rules. The flying pig is the Iowa State Bird, and, corn, which is the exalted hog's favorite food, is the Iowa State Flower.  Pork makes Iowans proud, to the tune of $2.5+ billion dollars added to their state economy each year.  One out of every three hogs in the US is Iowan.

6a0120a8551282970b013487d82768970c-320wiIf you have ever been to Iowa, even if it was just for a layover at an airport, at the very least you have had the astonishing, at-first-glance almost comical, pleasure of watching someone eat one of their famous batter-dipped, deep-fried pork sandwiches, affectionately referred to as the:

BPT (breaded pork tenderloin).  

I say astonishing, because:  the size of the pork cutlet is almost twice the size of the bun, and, honestly, in a food world that is currently under siege against super-sizing, this sandwich is worthy of a call to the food police.  

If you have ever been to Iowa and stayed for awhile, you have no doubt had the pleasure of eating a giant, juicy, astonishingly good BPT, and, you've come to the same conclusion as me:

No good can come from down-sizing certain foodie pleasures.

It just so happens that Penn State is playing Iowa in Iowa's Kinnick Stadium this coming Saturday at 8:00PM.  I've decided to beat them at their own game and serve my version of their sandwiches to my Happy Valley tailgaters when we gather to watch the game, here, on TV. My pork sandwiches are going to be a tad less dramatic to look at, meaning:  a little less overhang around the bun, or, a size that will fit comfortably into the basket of the average home-kitchen's deep-fryer.  Mine are a bit plumper, juicier and porkier than theirs.  New word:  porkier.

6a0120a8551282970b01675eb51084970b-320wiThe moment you bite into this sandwich, the super-crunchy outside breading combined with the super-succulent tender pork inside, is going to rock your world.  Take it from me, there is only one way to achieve the signature super-crunchy outside and a super-tender inside the way they do in Iowa:

Batter dip it and deep-fry it.  

Pan-frying, simply put, will not achieve what this sandwich is all about, so save yourself the exercise in futility.  The pan-fried version will be more akin to a schnitzle... not that there is anything wrong with that (I love schnitzle).

6a0120a8551282970b0154383e5645970c-320wiOut in the midwest, some folks make the breading for this sandwich using dry breadcrumbs while other boast saltine cracker crumbs.  Here I go again:  

Why in the name of crunchiness would anyone want to continue to use old-fashioned breadcrumbs to make a BPT if they knew about panko?  They wouldn't.

Here in my PA kitchen, we did the experiment.  The breadcrumbs and saltines lost.  The end. 

6a0120a8551282970b01675eb49e90970b-320wiThe ties that bind.  Out in the midwest, some folks add tang to the wet/egg mixture by adding buttermilk, others use Dijon mustard.  Pretty much everyone uses seasoned all-purpose flour for the dry coat.  After a showdown between the ordinary egg-milk mixture vs. my trendy beer batter, the beer batter won hands-down.  In fact, it wasn't even a competition. As for my dry coat? Scratch out flour and add pancake mix to the the new playbook too.

IMG_3444Let's talk pork.

IMG_3443You'll need a pork loin* (read about small pork tenderloins below).  I buy an entire 8-9-pound loin, which is quite economical.  I use what I need to make the sandwiches, and freeze the rest to make them again at a later date.

IMG_3462I'm making six sandwiches today. Using a chef's knife, simply slice the pork into 1" thick chops/discs, trimming and discarding the fat as you work.  

Note:  Each piece weighs about 6 ounces after trimming, so plan on starting out with 3 pounds of pork loin for six sandwiches.  

IMG_3452One at a time, place each chop/disc into a 1-gallon food storage bag, and, using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound each into a 1/2" thick, 5" round oval/circle.

The purpose of pounding meat is to tenderize it by making the surface area larger.  Always use a flat-sided meat mallet and be firm but don't go wild.  There is no need to smash the meat to smithereens in order to tenderize it.

*Note:  In the event you want to make a snack-sized or slider-sized version of the BPT, you can use a 1 pound pork tenderloin. Slice disks 1/2" thick and pound to 1/4" thickness.  Reduce deep-frying time by 45-60 seconds. 

It's Time to Deep-Fry!  But first...

6a0120a8551282970b0154384a1015970c-800wiOrganize/set up what I like to refer as a "breading assembly line" as follows (from left to right):

1)  A plate of 6 pounded pork cutlets.  

2)  An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 2 1/2 cups of pancake mix.  

3)  A large mixing bowl containing 3 1/4 cups of pancake mix whisked together with 2 bottles of your favorite beer.  

4)  An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 8-ounces of panko breadcrumbs.  

5) A deep-fryer containing corn or peanut oil, preheated to 360 degrees according to manufacturer's specifications.  

6)  A baking pan lined with several layers of paper towels and a cooling rack placed on top of the paper towels.  

Note:  You will also need a pair of tongs, a salt grinder (or shaker), and, a timer (if your deep-fryer does not have one).

6a0120a8551282970b01675ec00748970b-320wi~ Step 1.  When everything is measured and in place as listed above, whisk together the pancake mix and beer.  Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the deep-frying process.  This will give the batter time to thicken to a drizzly consistency.  

Note:  If at any time during the frying process the batter gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer or some water.

IMG_3471~ Step 2.  NOW IT'S TIME TO FRY! One at a time, dredge each piece of pork in the dry pancake mix to coat it on all sides.  Give it a gentle shake, to let excess pancake mix fall back into the dish...










... Next, move up the assembly line and dip the pork into the beer batter.  When you lift it out of the batter, give it a second or two to allow the excess batter to drizzle back into the bowl.  Now...





IMG_3478... Move up the line again and dredge the pork into the panko breadcrumbs, making sure it is coated on all sides...

... Slowly lower the pork into the preheated oil in the deep-fryer. Close the lid and cook for 4 1/2-5 minutes... 

Note:  In case you haven't noticed, I've been doing the "breading" process using one hand.  You can use tongs, but trust me, it is faster and easier if you simply use your hand.

IMG_3501... Using a pair of tongs, remove the pork from the oil and transfer it to the rack in the baking pan that has been lined with several layers of paper towels.

IMMEDIATELY, sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt.

Repeat this process until all of the pork is dipped and deep-fried.

In Iowa-style, serve each sandwich on a freshly baked, untoasted Kaiser roll with country-style Dijon, sliced dill pickles and onions:  

6a0120a8551282970b017ee44331cc970dThe Pigger than Life, Hog Heaven, Pork Sandwich:  Recipe yields 6 very large sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon size food storage bag; flat-sided meat mallet; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 1 mixing bowl; tongs; deep-fryer; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; paper towels; large cooling rack; tongs; kitchen timer (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0177443dcf8d970d-800wiCook's Note:  Now if this sandwich isn't enough to give you heart palpitations just looking at it, out in Iowa, they typically serve it with a side order of ~ Creamy Baked Five-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese ~, and, you can find my recipe for that in Categories 4, 14, & 17.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


Dear BOSS: Thank-you so much. I searched some images, and, the meat was shredded -- which seemed like just another pulled pork sandwich. I am pretty certain I now "get" what the texture of the chunks should be -- soft and tender, but, with a bit-of-pull in every bite and a tad-of-succulent chew in your mouth. I am definitely making these sandwiches, and, am going to make homemade Portuguese rolls (pops) too. If all goes as planned, I will be featuring it on BSD next Thursday -- and you'll get credit for the inspiration!!!


You aren't shredding it! You should (1) chunk (2) marinade and then (3) cook.

Don't cook it too long! A good blade meat sandwich actually retains its chunk shape and, although it's tender and not tough to eat, you want a little texture to it and the chunks shouldn't fall apart. The texture is one of the things that makes it so unique. I like mine with a slice of melted and salty but not too strong cheese. Hope you enjoy!

PSUinBOSSton! We do not have them (that I know of) here in PA -- I've not run into them on my travels either (wish I would have known about them when I visited Boston twice back in the 1990's). As of this AM I have gotten my meaty mitts on a marinade recipe for the pork shoulder. I do have a question for you: For sandwiches, should I slice the meat before I marinate it (the recipe says to cut it into cubes, which, to me, implies it gets shredded prior to serving)? I do hope you get this message and respond -- with as much info as you can supply. Thanks! ~ Mel.


Do you have blade meat sandwiches out there? Or is that a Portugal --->Boston thing? If not, would recommend a try.

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