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Everything You Need to Know About Pork Butts

Learn all there is to know about this delicious cut of pork.

What Is Pork Butt? Everything You Need To Know 

If you’re trying out some new recipes, chances are, you will come across some types of food that are alien to you. When it comes to preparing meat, there are many different cuts that can become quite confusing. One example is a pork butt.

Despite its intriguing name, this cut of meat doesn’t actually come from anywhere near “that” rear region of a pig. In fact, it comes from the opposite end. Pork butt is a cut from a pig’s shoulder (you can now breathe a sigh of relief). You have probably even tried pork butt without realizing it in the past as it is the cut most often used in pulled pork. 

a smoked pork butt and bbq sauce

Pork butt can be either roasted or cut into steaks. It is also extremely well-suited for stewing, braising, and the preparation of ground pork or sausages. 

If you’re still a little unsure of the best ways to use this meat, stay with us. In today’s article, we will be discussing everything about pork butt. We will show you the best method of cooking this cut of meat, the differences between pork butt and pork shoulder, and much, much more. 


Pork Butt: What is it? 

As we touched upon above, pork butt is a cut of meat from the neck, shoulder blade, and upper arm of a pig. Whatever anyone says tells you, it is not from the butt of a pig! The area of a pig where we may think of as the “but” is a big muscle on top of the legs. This is where ham (cooked, cured, or smoked) comes from. While it’s not the actual rear region of a pig, ham is cut from the thigh and a large portion of the gluteus maximus. This explains why ham is often so meaty. 

The term “butt” can refer to a thicker end of something or the “blunt” end. Think of sayings such as “the butt of the joke” or when we describe the “butt of a gun.” These are just the end of something. Unsurprisingly, pork butt is from the thicker end of a shoulder cut. 

When it comes to price, pork butts are generally quite inexpensive when compared to other regions of a pig. 


Where Can You Buy Pork Butt?

As you can probably guess, you can purchase pork butt from a butcher shop or a farm store. These are typically the best sources for buying meat. However, you should be able to find pork butt at your local grocery store and well-stocked supermarkets.

These come in either partial or whole forms and are usually boneless. Fortunately, a great deal of the meat’s exterior fat is also removed for easier cooking, chewing, and a healthier meal all around. 

a raw boneless pork butt

When you head to warehouse stores, whole boneless pork butts are usually sold in vacuum-sealed packages. However, these may still include the exterior fat which you can cut off before cooking.

Ask many chefs and they will agree that pork butts that have bones intact are better to cook with. This is because the bones are thought to add a stronger flavor to the meat. However, it has become increasingly more difficult to buy bone-in pork butts. If you want this, your best option is usually a butcher or farm shop.


The Best Way to Store Pork Butt 

You can safely refrigerate cooked meat for three to four days on average. If you intend to eat leftover cooked meat within four days, it should be stored in an airtight plastic bag. You can also use plastic storage containers (make sure you remove as much air as possible before you seal the container) and heavy-duty aluminum foil. If you need to store cooked meat for any longer than four days, it should be frozen. 


How do You Cook Pork Butt? 

You need to be patient when it comes to cooking a pork butt. As with pork shoulders, a pork butt is best after a long, slow cooking process. The great thing about pork butt is that it can be cooked in a variety of ways such as barbecued, roasted, braised, or used in different stews. You can also cook this cut in a slow-cooker if preferred. 

a bbq smoker cooking a pork butt

Pork butts tend to withstand robust flavors such as chiles pretty well, too. Why? Well, pork butts have their own distinctly strong flavors as well. This is because this cut of meat originates from a hard-working portion of a pig’s body. The shoulders and neck are used constantly as the pig moves resulting in a better-exercised part of the body than the rest. This is especially true of pastured pork. This is cut from pigs that have been raised in a free-roaming environment rather than stuck inside a cramped space unable to move. 


Pork Butt Recipes 

You can use pork butt in a variety of recipes and dishes. It is especially tasty in spicy stews (New Mexican Carne Adovada). This meat is often used exceptionally in green chilis and classic Posole too. The fat within the meat spreads delicious flavors throughout the meat and then through the chili flavor itself. When cooked correctly, chunks of pork butt are typically more tender than pork shoulder making it a preferred cut of pork for some dishes. 

For the best results, it’s usually down to the pork’s marbling. We could list hundreds of recipes for pork butt but we highly recommend using it in carnitas and to make pulled pork. When it comes to cooking pork butt, we suggest trying a slow cooker pulled pork barbecue recipe as well as a slow-roasted pork butt recipe. You will not be disappointed by the burst of meaty flavors this cut of meat exudes.


What Does Pork Butt Taste Like? 

There is no getting around the fact that pork butt has a high-fat content. This is not always a bad thing, however. This higher level of fat makes pork butts more flavorful than most other cuts of pork. As you cook the meat, these rich, meaty flavors intensify further and become wonderfully succulent. 

The slow, low heat and cooking method melts the fat from the meat drawing out the juices. These juices spread flavor around the meat as you cook it and with other ingredients in all kinds of recipes. The lower you cook pork butt, the more tender and delicious the cut will be.


Pork Butt vs Pork Shoulder: The Differences 

Okay, so, pork butt is not from the rear of a big. Instead, it’s from the neck and shoulder region. Pork shoulder is only from a part of the pig’s shoulder. That means they are the same cut of meat, right? Not quite. Confused? Don’t worry. Let’s clear up the differences between the two cuts of meat. 

butcher cutting pork

Pork butt and pork shoulder are often confused with each other. One thing they do have in common is that they are both from the shoulder of a pig. However, pork butt comes from a higher region on the foreleg whereas pork shoulder is cut from lower down. Both cuts are relatively tough and fatty. Therefore, they both benefit from long, slow cooking processes such as braising, stewing, or roasting. They may sound eerily similar but pork butts are usually the preferred meat out of the two. 

Pork butt is from the thicker part of the shoulder where there is more intense fat inside the meat and marbling. Pork butts can sometimes contain the shoulder blade bone but this is rare in modern times. 

Pork that is labeled as shoulder or picnic shoulder is from the thinner end of the shoulder which has a triangular shape. This meat would be attached to the pork butt but they are commonly separated into the form of smaller cuts. Pork shoulder also has less marbling and a lower fat content than pork butt. 

It is possible to use these two cuts of meat interchangeably in many recipes. However,  pork meat’s intense marbling makes it best for barbecuing and pulled pork. It’s also well suited for recipes where you want the meat to fall apart easily. Pork shoulder, on the other hand, is best suited if you want to chop or slice the meat into shape. Overall, pork butt comes out on top as the most flavorsome of the two.


Final Thoughts

When it comes down to cuts of meat, the pork butt is often overlooked because many people do not know much about it or how to cook it. Don’t be afraid to give pork butt a shot the next time you see one in your local grocery store or butcher shop!

What’s your favorite pork butt recipe? Leave a comment letting us know and we’ll check it out!

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Written by Rocco Smith

Rocco is from Sanibel Island, Florida, and a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor’s in Editing, Writing, and Media. With seven years’ experience in the restaurant industry as a cook, server, bartender, and more, he is deeply passionate about intertwining his fondness for food with his love of language.