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Pork Butt vs Pork Shoulder

Pig butt and pig shoulder are two pieces of pork that are frequently contrasted when it comes to cooking. Despite coming from the same general region of the pig, there are some significant variances between them that may have an impact on how they are prepared and taste. To help you choose wisely the next time you are at the meat counter, we will examine the distinctions between pig butt and pork shoulder in this post.

Two fresh raw boneless pork shoulder butt slices on black stone plate

The Basics of Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder Pork butt and pork shoulder are both meat cuts that are taken from the pig’s shoulder.

Both of these slices are fairly tough and thrive from slow cooking techniques like roasting, stewing, or braising.

But you should be aware of certain significant differences between the two.

Understanding pig Butt Pork butt, often referred to as Boston butt, is a cut from the upper region of the shoulder that has more marbling and fat than pig shoulder.

This makes it a fantastic option for roasting or smoking since the fat keeps the meat soft and juicy.

Additionally, because it shreds readily and has a rich, porky flavor, pork butt is frequently utilized to produce pulled pork.

Key Takeaways

  • Pork butt and pork shoulder are both cuts of meat that come from the shoulder of the pig.
  • Pork butt has more fat and marbling than pork shoulder, making it a great choice for smoking or roasting.
  • Pork shoulder is leaner than pork butt and is often used in stews or braises.

Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder: The Basics

Pork Butt

Pork butt, commonly referred to as Boston butt, is a piece of meat that is extracted from the pig’s thicker shoulder.

Pork chuck, on wooden background. Near herbs, rock salt and pepper

It encompasses a portion of the upper leg, shoulder, and neck. Contrary to its name, pork butt is not a product of the pig’s backside.

A pork cut with a moderate amount of fat marbling throughout is called pig butt.

This fat makes the meat perfect for slow cooking techniques like smoking or braising since it keeps the meat juicy and tender throughout the cooking process.

In various regions of the United States, pulled pork is a meal that is frequently prepared with hog butt.

Pork Shoulder

Although it comes from the same general part of the pig as pork butt, pork shoulder, also referred to as picnic shoulder, is a separate cut of meat.

Pork shoulderBoston Butt on cutting board prior to trimming for slow roast into pulled pork

Pork shoulder has more muscle than pork butt and includes the top of the pig’s foreleg.

Although hog shoulder is a tougher cut of meat than pork butt, many people favor it because of its deep, meaty flavor.

It is suitable for slow cooking techniques like smoking or braising, just like pig butt.

Carnitas, a pulled pork meal made in the style of Mexico, is one dish that frequently features pork shoulder.

Differences Between Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder

Pig butt and pig shoulder are similar to one another in many respects, but there are also some important distinctions to be aware of. Here is a brief summary:

  • Location on the Pig: Pork butt comes from the thicker section of the pig’s shoulder, while pork shoulder comes from the upper part of the foreleg.
  • Amount of Fat: Pork butt has more fat marbling throughout the meat, while pork shoulder has less fat and more muscle.
  • Texture and Flavor: Pork butt is a softer, more tender cut of meat with a slightly sweeter flavor, while pork shoulder is tougher and has a richer, meatier flavor.
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Pork butt and pork shoulder are both adaptable meats that may be utilized in a variety of methods when it comes to cooking.

Understanding the distinctions between these two kinds of meat will help you select the best one for your dish, whether you’re creating pulled pork, carnitas, or something else entirely.

Understanding Pork Butt

Pork butt is a cut of meat that contains pieces of the neck, shoulder blade, and upper leg and is taken from the thicker region of the pig’s shoulder.

Raw cut of pork shoulder on cutting board with knife

Boston butt and pork shoulder butt are some names for it. Contrary to its name, pork butt is not truly a part of the pig’s back.

Pork butt is a well-liked pork cut for roasting, grilling, and smoking. Due to its high fat content, it is perfect for slow cooking techniques.

Pork butt has a rich, smokey flavor and is soft and juicy when cooked correctly.

When working with pork butt, bear the following points in mind:

  • Size: Pork butt is a large cut of meat, typically weighing between 6 and 10 pounds. It is often sold bone-in, but you can also find boneless varieties.
  • Fat: Pork butt has a lot of fat, which helps keep it moist during cooking. However, you may want to trim some of the excess fat before cooking to prevent flare-ups on the grill or smoker.
  • Seasoning: Pork butt can be seasoned with a variety of flavors, from sweet and spicy to savory and smoky. Many recipes call for a dry rub or marinade to infuse the meat with flavor.
  • Cooking time: Pork butt is a tough cut of meat that requires a long cooking time to become tender. Depending on the cooking method, it can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours to cook a pork butt to perfection.
  • Internal temperature: To ensure that your pork butt is fully cooked and safe to eat, it should reach an internal temperature of 195-205°F. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature in the thickest part of the meat.

Pork butt is a tasty and adaptable cut of meat that can be utilized in a variety of recipes.

Pork butt will dazzle whether it’s smoked for barbecue, roasted for a holiday meal, or used in a stew or chili.

Exploring Pork Shoulder

The upper portion of the pig’s front leg is where the tasty and adaptable pork shoulder is found.

Raw Shoulder Square Cut on a cutting board

Although it is frequently used interchangeably with pig butt, there are some significant distinctions between the two cuts.

The quantity of fat they contain is one of the primary distinctions between pork shoulder and pig butt.

Compared to pig butt, pork shoulder has less fat, making it a better option for meals where you need the meat to maintain its shape when sliced or chopped.

Pork shoulder can be used in stews, soups, and other meals either whole or split into smaller chunks and roasted and sliced.

The meat may be made tender and tasty by using slow cooking techniques like braising, and pork shoulder is a wonderful option for these.

It’s a common cut for pulled pork, which is created by slow-cooking the meat until it’s easily shreddable.

It’s critical to remember that pork shoulder might be rough if not cooked correctly when using it in a recipe.

This is due to the fact that it needs to be slowly cooked because it has a lot of connective tissue.

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Pork shoulder can be wonderfully delicate and tasty, though, when prepared properly.

In general, hog shoulder is a tasty and adaptable meat cut that may be utilized in a variety of recipes.

Pork shoulder is a fantastic option for any home cook trying to add some excellent pork flavor to their meals, whether you’re roasting it whole, slow-cooking it for pulled pork, or using it in stews and soups.

Comparison: Pork Butt vs Pork Shoulder

Pig shoulder and butt are two cuts that are frequently contrasted when it comes to cooking pig.

Raw meat Pork Shoulder front leg, on the bone

Although they both originate from the pig’s shoulder, there are some important distinctions between the two.

Appearance

The appearance of pig butt and pork shoulder is one of the most obvious distinctions.

Pork shoulder is leaner with less fat marbling, but pork butt is often bigger and has greater fat marbling throughout the flesh. pig butt is often marketed boneless, but pig shoulder is typically sold bone-in and skin-on.

Flavor and Texture

pig butt and pig shoulder have slightly different tastes and textures because of variances in fat content and marbling.

Pig butt is frequently referred to as being more juicy and tender, whereas pig shoulder can be a little bit drier and rougher.

When prepared properly, both slices can, nevertheless, be exquisite.

Cooking Methods

Long, slow cooking techniques like roasting, stewing, and braising are beneficial for both pork shoulder and hog butt.

Pulled pork is frequently made with hog butt, while roasts and stews are frequently made with pork shoulder.

The two slices, however, can be substituted for one another in many recipes.

Nutritional Information

Pork butt and pork shoulder are similar in terms of their nutritional content. Both cuts provide a lot of protein and are roughly equivalent in terms of calories and fat.

Pork butt, however, might have a little bit more fat because of its increased marbling.

Ultimately, the recipe you’re creating and your own preferences will determine whether you use pork shoulder or pig butt.

Both cuts have distinct qualities that make them excellent choices for specific recipes, and when prepared properly, both may be exquisite.

Common Misconceptions

There are a few widespread myths about pig butt and pork shoulder that people often hold. Here are some things to remember:

Sliced raw pork shoulder with spices and fork on wooden board.

Misconception 1: Pork Butt Comes from the Rear End of the Pig

Contrary to its name, pork butt does not originate from the pig’s hind end. In actuality, it originates from the pig’s shoulder region.

The term “pork butt” really refers to a chunk of meat called “Boston butt,” which was traditionally used to make Boston baked beans.

Misconception 2: Pork Shoulder is Tougher Than Pork Butt

Pig shoulder has more muscle than a pig butt, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s tougher. In fact, when prepared properly, both cuts can be equally sensitive.

The secret is to boil them slowly and thoroughly, which will dissolve the connective tissue and result in juicy, tender flesh.

Misconception 3: Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder are Interchangeable

Although pig butt and pork shoulder are comparable meat pieces, they cannot be used interchangeably.

Pork butt is more delicious and better suited for recipes like pulled pork since it has more fat than pork shoulder.

On the other hand, pig shoulder is leaner and more appropriate for recipes like roast pork.

Misconception 4: Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder are Difficult to Cook

Although cooking pork shoulder and butt can appear difficult, it is actually pretty easy.

The secret is to cook them slowly, which entails keeping the temperature low while doing so.

By dissolving the connective tissue, the flesh will become moist and soft. Depending on your preference, you can cook them in the oven, on the grill, or in a slow cooker.

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Misconception 5: Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder are Unhealthy

Pig butt and pig shoulder are not the leanest cuts of meat, but when eaten in moderation, they can be a part of a balanced diet.

They have important vitamins and minerals and are a rich source of protein. Just be careful to limit your portion amounts and eliminate any extra fat before cooking.

Frequently Asked Questions

fresh pork cuts. Raw meat with spices. shoulder butt part.. Black background. Top view

What is the difference between pork butt and pork shoulder?

Pork butt and pork shoulder are both cuts of meat that come from the shoulder of the pig, but they are not the same. Pork butt is a cut that comes from the upper part of the shoulder, while pork shoulder comes from the lower part of the shoulder. Pork butt is fattier and has more marbling, which makes it a great choice for slow cooking methods like braising or smoking. Pork shoulder has less fat and is a good choice for roasting or grilling.

Can you use pork butt and pork shoulder interchangeably?

While pork butt and pork shoulder are similar cuts of meat, they are not interchangeable. Pork butt has more fat and is better suited for slow cooking methods like smoking or braising, while pork shoulder has less fat and is better suited for roasting or grilling. If a recipe calls for pork butt and you use pork shoulder instead, the end result may be drier and less flavorful.

How do you cook pork butt and pork shoulder?

Pork butt and pork shoulder can be cooked in a variety of ways, depending on the recipe and your personal preference. Pork butt is often smoked or braised for several hours until it is tender and juicy. Pork shoulder can be roasted or grilled until it is cooked through and slightly charred on the outside. Both cuts of meat can also be used to make pulled pork, which involves slow cooking the meat until it is tender enough to be shredded with a fork.

Which cut of meat is best for making pulled pork?

Pork butt is the best cut of meat for making pulled pork, as it has more fat and marbling than pork shoulder. This fat helps keep the meat moist and flavorful during the long cooking process. While you can use pork shoulder to make pulled pork, it may not be as tender or flavorful as pork butt.

Can you freeze pork butt and pork shoulder?

Yes, you can freeze both pork butt and pork shoulder. To freeze the meat, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in an airtight container or freezer bag. Be sure to label the container or bag with the date and contents. Frozen pork butt and pork shoulder can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.

Raw Pork Shoulder Square Cut on kitchen cutting board

Conclusion

In conclusion, pig butt and pork shoulder are both excellent pieces of meat that are frequently substituted for one another in recipes.

When determining which to utilize, there are a few significant differences between the two that should be taken into account.

A fattier cut of meat called “pork butt” is taken from the top of the shoulder.

Because the fat keeps the meat moist and soft during slow cooking techniques like smoking, braising, and roasting, it is frequently used. Pulled pork can also be made with pork butt.

Pork shoulder, on the other hand, is a leaner meat cut that originates from the bottom region of the shoulder.

It is a wonderful option for recipes that call for a firmer texture because it contains more muscle and less fat than pig butt.

Stews, soups, and other foods that benefit from a meatier flavor are frequently made with pork shoulder.

Both cuts of beef need to be cooked for the same amount of time in order to break down the connective tissue and make the meat soft.

Due to its higher fat content, pig butt can take longer to cook than pork shoulder, but both cuts can be prepared to perfection with a little time and attention.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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