Pork Shoulder Vs. Pork Butt 

Comparing the differences between pork butt and pork shoulder.

Pork shoulder and pork butt are two parts of meat that are commonly mistaken, as well as misidentified. Many people are bewildered by the word “pork butt and pork shoulder. Furthermore, many individuals ask if it came from the tail end or shoulder of the pig! 

Little did you know that pork shoulder and pork butt are both products of the pig’s shoulder. Pork butt, also known as Boston Butt, emanates from the portion over the shoulder blades, whereas pork shoulder meats reach all the way to the pig’s front hooves. Pork butt has a higher concentration of fat and streaks of fat in lean meat than other cuts of meat, making it a superior choice for barbecue grilling and smoking.

In this article, we will cover the distinctions between pork shoulder and pork butt and when to utilize each in detail. You will also learn all you need to know about grilling or smoking the tastiest type of pork out there!

What is Pork Shoulder: An Overview

You can find pork shoulder straight underneath the pork butt. It came from the pig’s shoulder blade down to its front hooves. When compared to pork butt, it has a much distinct texture. It is a considerably thicker and tougher piece of meat, and it does not have nearly as much marbling as other cuts. Shoulders have a higher muscle to fat proportion than butts because they are more often grilled or cooked. Another type of meat, pork cushions, appears to come from this same part of the pig. It’s why it does indeed have a svelte and tougher texture.

Cooking, smoking, or grilling pork shoulder at a slow, low, to medium temperature is necessary due to the tougher structure of the meat. It will keep it from drying up and becoming too hard to chew. Pork shoulder is typically brined as part of the meat preparation process in order to retain as much of its water content as feasible. Pork shoulder is generally marketed with its skin still attached. After cooking or smoking, either leave the skin on or peel it off to sear the meat. That way, you can get a deliciously crunchy skin on your pork tenderloin!

What is Pork Butt: An Overview

As was previously explained, the pork butt is found on top of the pig’s shoulder blade just behind the pig’s head. Since it is not a highly used muscle from animals, it produces a very nice marble with high-quality intramuscular fat. This cut of meat is also known as Boston Butt. When compared to pork shoulder sub-primal, this portion of meat produces a more delicious and succulent cut of meat!

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When you buy pork butt, you will often find it with the shoulder blade bone still attached and the fat cap attached to one side. This pork meat cut is best suited to cooking methods like smoking or slow and low cooking (braising) because of its natural marbling.

However, you can cook pork butts in various ways, including low and slow, which is the most common method used. Try to cook your delicious pork butt in a slow cooking method, rendering its internal fats, resulting in succulent and tasty jerked pork meat. Depending on your preferences, you may have your pork butt cut in different forms, either if you want steaks cut for your grilling endeavor or sliced thinly for stir-frying. Please keep in mind that you should remove all the bones from the meat.

These sub-primal pork butts contain a 70:30 or 80:20 ratio of meat to fat, and it is ideal for sausages industrial production and meat processing and grinding. Pork butt is easily accessible and available at Costco or any reputable butcher. However, if you are having difficulty finding a high-quality supplier, Porter Road Meats is a great choice.


Which Pig Parts Are Made Into Pork Butts and Pork Shoulders?

To get the answer easily is to find where each of these meat cuts comes from. At this point, we can understand where the ambiguity stems from. As you can observe, either pork butt or pork shoulder are sourced from nearly the same portion of the pig: the shoulder! Butchers deal with primal cuts while preparing an animal body for butchering. These are enormous chunks of pork that have been chopped into common cuts such as tenderloin, spare ribs, as well as shoulder parts.

From this front shoulder of the pig, it is then separated into two portions, which are now known as shoulder and butt. Straight behind the pig’s head, on the upper side of the shoulder blade, is the pork butt. When people refer to pork as “butt,” they think it came from the back end, and this is a common mistake you can hear and find in the front shoulder of the pig. Meanwhile, the pork shoulder, commonly referred to as the picnic shoulder, is located underneath the butt at the top of the pig leg’s upper portion. After that, it makes its way to the front hoof of the pig.

Even though they come within the similar part of the pigs, pork butt and pork shoulder have vastly distinct flavors and mouthfeel from one another. There are many various ways in which people may put them to use. Considering the distinctions can benefit you in selecting the healthiest piece of pork meat for your next cookout, as well as ensuring that you grill the most tender and flavorful piece of meat imaginable.

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Pork Shoulder vs. Pork Butt: What is the Difference?

Similarly, pork butt and pork shoulder are primal cuts that come from the pig’s shoulders. Whenever deciding between varied cuts of meat at the supermarket, it is helpful to be aware of each cut’s variations in texture and flavor. 

A couple of major factors distinguishes pork butt and pork shoulder meat:

The Amount of Marbling & Fat Content

Compared to pork shoulder, pork butt has a much higher fat and marbled content. Pork shoulder, on the other hand, is tougher and leaner.

Shapes

Typically, butchers would chop the pig shoulder into a triangle shape, leaving the skin on the meat. When you order pork butt, you will get a rectangular cut of meats with bones in them and no skin attached to it. Pork shoulder has a distinctive shape in triangular form because it goes from shoulder blades all the way down to the pig’s feet. However, the butt only extends slightly over the blades, making it look rectangular form.

Cooking Method

Several recipes allow stewing or slow-cooking pork butt to prepare pulled pork that can be shredded and used in recipes such as Mexican-style carnitas taco. Meanwhile, it is more widely known to barbecue, grill, or roast a pork shoulder, and it has a crunchy thinner crust on the outer that produce a delicious roasted crispy meat crackling.

Applications

Slow cooking pork shoulder, which has a higher fat content than other cuts of meat, results in soft, juicy pork shoulder meat. It is perfect for making the kind of pulled pork with a tear-away texture. Ramen and tacos demand thinly sliced or shredded pork meat, which is tougher primal cuts pork shoulder is the best choice for this ingredient requirement.

Application Pig Butt: Along with its high-fat content, pork butt is well-suited to slow-cooking methods, such as barbecue smoking, and may be used in various recipes. It comprises cooking methods such as braising, roasting, and stewing. Meat should always be soft and easy to tear out in all conditions, regardless of how you prepared it. It means the pork butt is an excellent choice for making pulled pork recipes. 

Several pulled pork recipes ask for primal pieces of pork shoulder. However, I would highly advise using pig butt instead of the other portions of meat. The meat’s marbling serves to make it ideal for producing the tender pork meat requisite for delicious pulled pork!

Application for Pig Shoulder: Pork shoulder is a versatile cut of meat that has many applications. Although it is more challenging to prepare, it is worth the effort when done well. However, although pig butt may be the finest option for pulled pork recipes, pork shoulder is the ideal candidate if you like your meats to be a little crispier. 

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Using pork shoulder for cracklings is an excellent idea because of the skin’s natural fat content. You can use a reverse sear process that calls for a high heat finish, and it is perfect for both low and slow cooking as well. As a result, the meat is tender on the within and crunchy on the outer. If you like a more solid cut of pork, go for pork shoulder.

 If you are making tacos or ramen, you may use pork strips as a filler. As an alternative to pig butt, pork shoulder is a more interesting and out-of-the-ordinary low and slow dinner to serve a crowd. Additionally, it is perfect for char siu, carnitas, and roasting as an entire roasting carcass.

Cost

The cost of goods varies significantly from one area of the country to another. Having said that, since picnic shoulder is typically a smaller cut than other cuts, it will be less expensive to purchase. Consider the number of individuals who will be eating before deciding which cut is the most cost-effective one. If you are just feeding your immediate household of four, then picnic shoulder will be enough. For a party of 10 or more, a pork butt may well be the preferable option.


Final Thoughts

Pork butt or pork shoulder are two portions of meat that are commonly mistaken and have deceptive names. Considering they are both tougher and fatty cuts, slow cooking methods and roasting, braising, as well as stewing are recommended for these cuts. However, the cuts are sufficiently distinct that people usually favor pork butts. If you take the time to read this article, you will likely know why!

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