Pork Butt Vs Pork Shoulder: Comparison

If you’re a meat lover, chances are you’ve heard of pork butt and pork shoulder. But have you ever wondered what the difference is between these two cuts? Are they interchangeable in recipes or are there distinct advantages to using one over the other? Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or just starting out on your BBQ journey, understanding the nuances of these popular cuts can help elevate your dishes to new heights. In this blog post, we’ll break down everything you need to know about pork butt vs pork shoulder and give some tips on which cut may work best for specific culinary creations.

What is pork butt?

Pork butt, also known as Boston butt or pork shoulder butt, is a cut of meat that comes from the upper part of the pig’s shoulder. Despite its name, it doesn’t actually come from the pig’s hindquarters.

This particular cut is marbled with fat and has layers of collagen that make it ideal for slow cooking methods like smoking or braising. It can be bone-in or boneless and typically weighs between 5-10 pounds.

The term “butt” may have originated from butchering practices in colonial New England where cuts of meat were packed into barrels known as butts for storage and transport. Over time, this term became associated with certain cuts including pork shoulder.

In terms of flavor, pork butt has a rich taste due to its high-fat content and can handle bold seasonings well. When cooked low and slow over hardwood smoke, it becomes tender enough to shred easily for pulled pork sandwiches, tacos or other dishes requiring shredded meat.

What is pork shoulder?

Pork shoulder, also known as pork butt or Boston butt, is a large cut of meat that comes from the shoulder region of the pig. It’s a tough and fatty cut that requires slow cooking to become tender and juicy.

The pork shoulder contains both the blade bone and parts of the front leg bone, which gives it its unique flavor. It has a high amount of marbling throughout, making it perfect for slow roasting or braising.

There are two main types of pork shoulder: bone-in and boneless. The bone-in variety will have more flavor due to the presence of the bones while cooking but can be harder to carve compared to its counterpart.

This versatile cut of meat is great in many dishes such as pulled pork sandwiches, stews, curries, carnitas, and even tacos. Many BBQ enthusiasts swear by using pork shoulder for their smoked meats due to its rich flavor profile.

When purchasing pork shoulder at your local butcher or grocery store make sure you look for cuts with plenty of intramuscular fat (marbling) as this will help keep it moist during cooking.

What is the difference between pork butt and pork shoulder?

Pork butt and pork shoulder are both cut from the same part of the pig, which can be quite confusing. However, they do have some fundamental differences that set them apart from one another.

Firstly, pork butt is located higher up on the foreleg while pork shoulder is taken from lower down. As a result, pork butt tends to be more marbled with fat which makes it juicier and tenderer when cooked slowly over low heat.

On the other hand, pork shoulder has less fat than its counterpart but contains more connective tissue making it perfect for braising or roasting. The collagen in this cut breaks down during cooking resulting in succulent meat that falls off the bone.

Another difference between these two cuts is their shape; a typical Boston Butt (pork butt) will weigh around 6-8 pounds with a round shape whereas a Pork Shoulder will generally weigh over 10 pounds and have an oblong shape.

So if you’re looking for delicious pulled pork then go for Pork Butt as its high-fat content means it’s great for slow-cooking methods like BBQ smoking or oven-roasting. If you prefer something different like pot roast or carnitas then choose Pork Shoulder as its extra connective tissue gives your dish added character!

Which one is better for pulled pork?

When it comes to making pulled pork, both pork butt and pork shoulder can be excellent choices. The better choice for you will depend on your preferences in terms of texture and flavor.

Pork butt is known for its high fat content, which makes it more succulent and tender after cooking. This cut also has a slightly stronger flavor compared to the pork shoulder due to its marbling. On the other hand, pork shoulder has less fat but still produces delicious pulled pork with a milder taste.

If you prefer a juicier and melt-in-the-mouth texture in your pulled pork, then go for the fatty goodness of a well-marbled piece of pork butt. However, if you want something leaner but still flavorful and easy to cook, then opt for the versatile and affordable option that is the trimmed or boneless Boston Butt (a type of Pork Shoulder).

Whichever cut you choose, make sure that it’s cooked properly by giving it enough time to slow-cook at low temperatures until it falls apart easily. Whether smoked or roasted in an oven or even cooked sous-vide style – these two cuts have their unique characteristics that will surely satisfy your palate when turned into deliciously savory pulled-pork dishes!

Which one should you use for pulled pork?

When it comes to making pulled pork, both pork butt and pork shoulder are great choices. However, there are a few differences between the two that can affect your final dish.

Pork butt is generally fattier than pork shoulder, which makes it a bit more forgiving when cooking low and slow for hours on end. This extra fat content ensures that the meat stays moist throughout the cooking process. Pork shoulder, on the other hand, has less fat but still produces tender meat when cooked properly.

If you’re looking for convenience in terms of size and shape, then go for a boneless pork butt roast as it’s easier to handle and cook evenly compared to bone-in cuts like pork shoulder. However, if you want an authentic flavor profile with bone marrow contributing depth of flavor during smoking or braising then choose a bone-in cut.

Ultimately, choosing between these two cuts will come down to your personal preference – do you prefer leaner meat or something with more marbling? Take into consideration how much time and effort you’re willing to put into preparing your pulled pork dish too: if time isn’t an issue then either option works well!

Which one is better for other dishes?

Apart from being used for pulled pork, both the pork butt and shoulder have their unique uses in other dishes.

For instance, the pork butt is perfect for slow-cooking recipes like stews and casseroles because it’s a well-marbled cut with plenty of connective tissue that breaks down during cooking to tenderize the meat. The fat content also makes it great for making sausages or ground meat.

On the other hand, pork shoulder can be used in dishes like roast pork or schnitzel due to its leaner texture compared to pork butt. It’s also perfect for braising since it has enough fat content to keep it moist while cooking.

If you’re looking to make some delicious Mexican delicacies like carnitas or chile verde, then go for the pork shoulder as it absorbs flavors easily and retains moisture better than the butt.

In summary, both cuts are versatile options depending on what you’re preparing. Just ensure you choose wisely based on your recipe requirements!

Other uses for pork butt and pork shoulder

Aside from being the go-to cuts for making pulled pork, both pork butt and pork shoulder can be used in a variety of other dishes. Here are some examples:

Pork butt or shoulder can be cubed and cooked with vegetables to make a flavorful stew. This cut is also perfect for slow-cooked curries or as the meat component in chili.

If you’re looking for an alternative to beef burgers, ground pork butt or shoulder makes delicious patties that are juicy and full of flavor. You can also use this ground meat mixture to make homemade sausage links.

For those who love their tacos, shredded pork butt or shoulder is a great filling option. Simply season the meat with your favorite spices before slow cooking until tender.

Another tasty way to use these cuts is by slicing them into thin strips and stir-frying with veggies and sauce for an Asian-inspired dish like sweet and sour pork or moo shu pork.

If you want to try something really different, smoke your pork butt or shoulder over wood chips on your grill until it’s perfectly smoked through – then slice thinly for incredibly flavorful sandwiches!

With so many ways to cook these versatile cuts of meat, there’s no excuse not to add them onto your weekly meal plan!

RecipesRecipes for Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder

When it comes to cooking pork butt vs pork shoulder, the possibilities are endless. Both cuts of meat lend themselves well to a variety of dishes, from classic pulled pork sandwiches to flavorful stews and soups.

One popular recipe for pork butt is slow-cooked barbecue pulled pork. Rub the meat with your favorite spices and cook it low and slow in a smoker or on a grill until tender. Shred the meat and mix it with your favorite barbecue sauce for an irresistible sandwich filling.

For something different, try making Cuban-style roasted pork shoulder. Marinate the meat overnight in garlic, lime juice, oregano, cumin, and other spices before roasting it in the oven until crispy on the outside but juicy on the inside. Serve with rice and beans for an authentic taste of Cuba.

Pork shoulder also works well in hearty casseroles like chili verde or carnitas tacos. Slow-cook chunks of seasoned meat until they’re fall-apart tender before tossing them into your dish of choice.

Don’t be afraid to get creative when cooking with these versatile cuts of meat – you never know what delicious creation you might come up with!

FAQs about Pork Butt vs. Pork Shoulder

1. What is the difference between pork butt and pork shoulder?
Pork butt is actually a part of the pig’s shoulder, specifically the upper section, while pork shoulder refers to the entire cut of meat.

2. Which one should you use for pulled pork?
Both cuts can be used for pulled pork, but many people prefer using pork butt because it has more marbling which helps keep the meat moist during cooking.

3. Can you use either cut for other dishes besides pulled pork?
Yes! Both cuts are versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes such as stews, roasts, tacos or even ground up into sausage.

4. How do I know if my butcher labeled it correctly?
Sometimes butchers will label both cuts as “pork shoulder” so don’t hesitate to ask your butcher where their specific cut comes from on the pig!

5. Should I trim any excess fat off before cooking?
It’s not necessary to completely remove all visible fat since some of that will render out during cooking and add flavor to your dish! However, you may want to trim large chunks off if they hinder your ability to season or cook evenly.

6. Do I need special equipment to cook these cuts properly?
Not necessarily – both can be cooked in an oven or slow cooker with delicious results! However, some people prefer smoking their meats on a grill or smoker for added flavor and texture.

7. How long does it take to cook each cut?
This depends on several factors such as size/weight of meat and method of preparation (oven vs grill). It’s best practice to use a meat thermometer and check internal temperature until done (145°F-160°F)


Both pork butt and pork shoulder are delicious cuts of meat that can be used in a variety of recipes. While they have some differences in terms of where on the pig they come from and their fat content, both cuts can be excellent choices for pulled pork or other slow-cooked dishes.

Ultimately, the decision between using pork butt or pork shoulder may come down to personal preference, availability at your local grocery store or butcher shop, and the specific recipe you plan to make. However, armed with this information about their similarities and differences, you can confidently choose the best cut for your next meal.

So whether you’re planning to smoke a juicy pulled pork sandwich or create a flavorful stew with tender chunks of meat, consider giving both options a try. With these versatile cuts in your culinary arsenal, there’s no limit to what delicious creations you can cook up!

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