Cut of pork can be confusing, especially if you don’t go to the butcher often or if you do not know your meat. The terms can be overwhelming. For the uninitiated, it is easy to be baffled.
Among others, pork butt and pork shoulders are two terms that are always used interchangeably. Despite the use of the name butt, this is not from the butt of the pig. Both are from the shoulder, but they are in slightly different locations.
If you are confused, we are here to extend a helping hand. Keep on reading and we’ll talk about pork butt vs pork shoulder. The next time you need to buy meat, it will be easier to grab what you need.
Where Is It From?
When it comes to pork butt vs pork shoulder, the most obvious difference is where they are from. While they both come from the shoulder, they are in different parts.
Pork butt is also called Boston butt. This is from the higher part of the hog. It is from the top part of the shoulder, which is also the portion that is closest to the spine. This is a large and rectangular cut without the skin.
If it isn’t from the butt of the hog, why is it called a pork butt? This is probably the question that many of you might have at this point. The simplest explanation to this is that butt is another word for a barrel, which refers to the shoulder, the part where the port butt is from.
On the other hand, pork shoulder is also called picnic shoulder or picnic roast. This is found directly below the butt. It is a sub-primal cut, which runs from the bottom of the butt to the front of the legs.
How It is Sold?
There are also differences on how they are sold or on how they appear once they are displayed in meat shops. The pork butt is usually sold with the shoulder blade still attached to the meat. The fat, on the other hand, is capped on one side. There is usually no skin. As for the shape, it is rectangular and uniform.
Meanwhile, when you buy pork shoulders, it still has the skin and it is also bone-in. For the shape, it is tapered and triangular. It is irregular, so you have to take that into account when thinking of the best ways to cook this cut of pork.
Which is Tougher?
When looking for pork meat, toughness is one of the most important considerations. Ideally, it shouldn’t be tough so that it will be easy to chew. With this, you should choose meat from a part that is not frequently used. If it is from over-used muscles, expect that the meat will be hard, and hence, will require a longer time cooking if you want it to be easier to chew.
Both pork butt and shoulder are from the muscles that the hog often use. So, they can be tough. However, the pork shoulder is usually tougher and denser. The secret is to cook them long enough to make it easier to chew.
Which has More Fat?
Fat is important because of marbling. Most people like their meat to have a bit of fat, which will also make it juicy. If there is no fat, then expect that the meat will be dry once it is cooked. This can also make it tougher.
If you are looking for juicy marbled fat, then you should go with pork butt. Also, when it is sold, it still has the fat on.
When Should You Use Pork Butt?
With the fat marbling in pork butt, this is best to use if you are cooking low and slow. Stewing and braising will also be great cooking methods for this part of a hog. It easily falls apart and it will be tender.
One of the best ways to use a pork butt is for a pulled pork sandwich. If you plan to do so, make sure to keep it in the oven until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 195 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, you will be assured that the muscles and tissues have already broken down. It will be tender, and hence, it will be easier to pull it using a fork.
It will also make a nice choice for barbecuing. The marbling or the fat in the meat is the reason for this. It will drip on the meat and will make it juicier. This can impart more flavor.
When Should You Use Pork Shoulder?
When you buy pork shoulder, it is sold with its skin on. Therefore, this is a great meat of choice if you want crackling and crispy skin to be on your meat.
Barbecuing and smoking are the best ways to use pork shoulder. Use hardwood chips and charcoal to infuse a strong smoky flavor on the meat. To achieve the dark and crusty interior of the pork shoulder, make sure that the temperature is from 225 to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spit roasting is another great way to cook pork shoulder. The meat will baste itself. The interior will be brown and crispy. This method of cooking requires a high temperature, so keep the heat at approximately 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now that you have reached the end of this guide, we hope that you were enlightened about pork butt vs pork shoulder. The two are from the shoulder of a hog, but pork butt is from the top part near the spine while pork shoulder is below and nearer the foreleg. Pork butt is well marbled with intramuscular fat. It is a great choice for pulled pork sandwiches, barbecues, and stews. Pork shoulder is leaner and has lesser fat. This is great for smoking and spit roasting, among other recipes where there should be a crispy skin.