Pork Butt Vs Pork Shoulder – Which One Is Better?

Pork is one of the most used ingredients in the culinary world, especially the shoulder and butt portions. Although these two cuts of meat are not the same, they are often mistaken for one another. So the question here is, which one is the winner in the battle of pork butt vs pork shoulder?

To help you better understand, we have included all the information you need about these outstanding ingredients. We also provide several cooking recipes using pork butt and shoulder portions for you to follow. This way, you will never run out of ideas in the kitchen and always have delicious dishes to enjoy with friends and family.

What Is Pork Butt?

What Is Pork Butt
Boston Butt – Image Source: Screenshot

The name of this section has led to a lot of misconceptions. Although it is called the pork butt, it is not a butt. This upper portion, often known as the Boston butt, is a large muscle located above the front legs.

The surface of the raw pork butt cut is beautifully marbled. The marbling is the white marks that appear on many types of red meat surfaces, especially beef, lamb, and pork.

This marbling part, also known as intramuscular fat, can improve the meat flavor when smoked slowly at low heat. This fat can render and give the meat additional tastes and moisture in such cooking temperatures.

Suppose slow smoking is not your style; you can request the butcher cut the butt into bone-free pork steaks that are ideal for grilling. Or, you may also get it to be cut into chunks or thin strips for use in ramen or a stew.

When To Use Pork Butt

The butt part may withstand lengthy cooking times since it contains prominent fat marbling and is particularly high in connective tissue. This characteristic makes it ideal for BBQ, stewing, and braising. In any situation, you should have delightfully delicate meat that is simple to break apart after cooking.

Thus, add this meat portion to recipes like pulled, stew, or carnitas when you want meat that will come apart easily and has a deep, robust flavor. You can also roast or turn it into sausages.

What Is Pork Shoulder?

What Is Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder, also known as pork picnic shoulder, is the triangular piece of pork situated directly below the butt, extending from the pig’s shoulder blade down to the front hoof. It is a reasonably cheap cut frequently sold with the fat and skin still attached.

As it has a lot of connective tissue and stores oxygen, the meat from this labor-intensive region is tough and dark in color. It is also very fatty and can be very tasty if cooked properly.

The best cooking method is slow in low heat, which helps dissolve the pork fat and gelatinize the collagen in the meat. Plus, since it includes a higher fat ratio, this meat portion has a stronger flavor than thinner cuts like pork chops.

When To Use Pork Shoulder

This part is the best choice when you want your chopped or sliced meat to maintain its shape. You can roast it whole, slice it into small pieces, and serve it like ham. Or, you may want to braise and chop or slice it before serving. Alternatively, it can be sliced and used in chili or stew recipes. The decision is up to you.

Pork shoulder is also your finest option if you want to get crispy skin because it is sold with its skin on. Still, you can also trim the skin if desired. If you require a tougher cut of pork, pork shoulder meat is fantastic. For instance, pork strips for tacos filling, posole, or ramen.

It also works particularly well for reverse sear techniques, which call for finishing the meat over high temperatures. Slow cooking in low heat can deliver delicious taste, offering a sensitive inside and crisp outer.

Pork Butt Vs Pork Shoulder: Is Pork Butt The Same As Pork Shoulder?

Is pork shoulder the same as pork butt? Although these two pieces are not precisely the same, they are quite comparable. For your benefit, we have outlined some points of similarity and distinction between the two below.

Similarities

Pork Cuts
Pork Cuts – Image Source: Screenshot

Are pork shoulder and pork butt the same? They both originate from the pig’s shoulder. Consequently, there are many parallels between these two pieces of meat.

Both of these relatively tough meat pieces can benefit from lengthy, moist cooking techniques like braising. The meat’s tough connective tissues are broken down due to the lengthy, low-heat cooking, resulting in fork-tenderness. Moreover, both portions have a lot of fat marbling throughout, which gives the meat taste and keeps it juicy when cooking.

Differences

Is Boston butt the same as pork shoulder? Although the two slices of meat originate from the same shoulder region of the pig, there are still several significant differences between pork shoulder and butt.

Shape

You can easily distinguish these two pork cuts from one another in the butcher shop due to their shapes. Normally, the professional butchers trim the shoulder part into a triangle shape while leaving the skin on. Meanwhile, the butt portion will be delivered as a rectangular shape of skinless, bone-in meat.

Taste

When comparing the flavors of pork butt vs pork shoulder, the key difference is largely due to the fat content, especially intramuscular fat.

The shoulder portion has a stronger porky flavor than the leaner portion of the animal. Once properly cooked with enough moisture, the meat’s sweetness will come through in the flavor.

On the other hand, the butt tends to develop a richer flavor as it is taken from the pig’s shoulder blade area. This is why similar to the shoulder, the butt is rather adaptable, making it ready to give fantastic flavor to your dish.

Keep in mind that the cooking techniques and recipes can make a lot of difference to the flavor of both meat types. In general, they gain a lot from slow cooking at low temperatures. The meat will taste fantastic in any recipe when it is juicy and tender.

Nutritional Value

100 grams (about 3 ounces) of fresh pork shoulder has around 186 calories, 60% of which come from fat. With this information in mind, moderate consumption of this meat type is advised. You can trim the fat from the portion before cooking it to lower the calorie count. This option makes the shoulder the healthier choice for your meal.

Pork shoulder is also a fantastic source of protein, giving you 35% of your daily value. Additionally, it contains B vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin, B12, and B6, as well as amino acids. This part also contains important minerals such as selenium, phosphorus, and zinc.

Pork butt, however, contains more calories than the shoulder, with 196 calories in 100 grams (around 3 ounces). Putting calories aside, butt meat is an excellent source of other minerals and vitamins such as zinc, selenium, zinc, and B vitamins. All the nutrients in this portion can support immunological and reproductive health.

Cooking Application

Picnic shoulder is adaptable and quite simple to prepare. It is crucial to note that this meat cut can be rough if it is not cooked properly. The shoulder can be prepared whole, cut up, or ground. Roast is the most typical method of preparation for complete pork shoulders.

They can also make excellent stew ingredients when cut into tiny pieces. As an alternative, if you own a meat grinder, you may grind this portion and use it to make patties, meatballs, or meatloaf.

Meanwhile, Boston butt or pork butt is typically utilized for pulled pork or roasting. Another common method is barbecue. When grilled slowly and thoroughly, the meat’s connective structure and fat make it luscious and juicy.

Plus, this portion is equally good for the slow cooking method, steaks, stewing, and braising as the shoulder part. You can also use it for grounding recipes, such as patties, sausages, or meatballs.

Price

Many also put pork loin vs pork shoulder and butt on the scale in terms of price. All of these are affordable portions of meat.

Still, to compare them with one another, the shoulder is typically the cheaper option since the butt portion is often bigger. Keep in mind that the pricing is typically influenced by whether these cuts of pork are offered with the skin on or off and with the bone in or out.

The price may vary for a pound of pork shoulder, starting from 2 dollars. On the other hand, pork butts typically sell for 3 dollars per pound on average. When deciding which portion you will get, it can be beneficial to think about how many servings you will make and then calculate the cost.

Pork Butt Recipes

Pulled Pork

You can prepare mouthwatering pulled pork even without a slow cooker. All the ingredients needed are a butt portion, a basic rub, an oven, and some perseverance. In the end, you get delicious, fall-apart tender pieces that can be served on top of soft bread with vinegary coleslaw.

If you can’t finish it in one meal, you can still be creative with the leftovers. For instance, add it to your salad, grain bowls, or quesadillas, or use it as wraps filling. The possibilities are endless with this delicious recipe.

Slow-Cooker Pork With Green Chili Stew

It is first split in half and spiced, then cooked in the slow cooker for 7 hours until it readily shreds into bite-sized pieces that are ideal for tucking inside warm tortillas. You can also make a nice meal from this dish by serving it over brown rice, with avocado slices, light sour cream, and yellow mustard.

This dish is incredibly adaptable. You may customize it by adding cilantro, tomatillos, and extra broth if you need more liquid. Suppose you do not have much time; use canned jalapeno and green chilies for this recipe.  

Pork Carnitas

Nothing beats homemade carnitas as tacos filling. In case you do not know what carnitas is, it is a famous Mexican dish equivalent to the traditional pulled pork dish.

The butt portion is cooked until fork-tender in a citrus-flavored broth made of bay leaves, thyme, and garlic. To add extra flavor and produce the dish’s distinctive crispy parts, it is worthwhile to crisp up the pork shreds after you have shredded them.

Pork Slow-Roasted With Garlic And Citrus

While the butt portion is praised for playing the lead in the pulled pork recipe, this dish demonstrates that it can also handle a whole roast. For this recipe, it would be best to leave the pork marinated for the entire night so the connective tissue can be broken down properly.

Once the marinating process is completed, take the meat out and roast it for around 2 hours at 350 oF. Let it rest for 10 minutes, cut it out, and serve it with the delectable pan juices for the finest flavors.

Ramen With Braised Pork

This recipe is for noodle fans and those who want to try cuisine from other cultures. The butt cut is first seared all around before being cooked slowly for hours with a blend of mirin, soy sauce, scallions, garlic, and ginger.

When the meat is ready, slice it into bite-size pieces. Then, place the noodles, meat slices, and other compliment ingredients into the bowl, top all off with the rich, flavorful broth, and serve to your family.

Pork Shoulder Recipes

Meal Preparation Slow-Roasted Pork

Meal prep can be a game changer for busy people. With this recipe for pork shoulder, you will have enough food for several days and save a ton of time while still enjoying wonderful meals.

The meat should first be slow-roasted until it is soft, covered, allowed to braise for around 30 minutes, and you are done. You can use it in multiple dishes throughout the week, such as for sandwiches or tacos filling, salads, etc.

Posole Rojo

Posole Rojo (or pozole) is a classic soup in Mexico that is frequently served on Christmas night and Thursdays or Saturdays throughout much of the nation. It is often made with red chiles, pork shoulder, and hominy corn.

The shoulder meat gives this hearty stew with a chile base its delicious meat that keeps its shape even after being violently sliced. You could also use pig butt instead of the other meat in this recipe but bear in mind that because it contains more marbling, it renders more fat, resulting in a richer dish.

Pork Roast With Coriander

This dish is similar to pot roast but with pork. This one-pot dish calls for a bone-in shoulder pierced all over, coated with a herbaceous paste, and then cooked in a slow cooker with potatoes, rutabaga, and chicken broth. Keep in mind that the roast must be tied with kitchen twine to maintain its form.

After cooking it for 8 hours, take it out, remove the kitchen twine, and cut. It would be best to serve this dish with cooking liquid and vegetables. Although the cooking process is quite long, the final result guarantee will not disappoint you.

Pork And Pumpkin Chili

Trim and slice the boneless shoulder into bite-sized cubes. Then, simmer the meat with beer, pumpkin puree, and a mixture of poblanos and tomatoes. Serve this filling with homemade salsa and tortilla chips, or smother it in cheese and pass around some garlic focaccia.

Pork and pumpkin chili is an excellent yet simple-to-make dish to add to your menu. Everything comes together to make a hearty, creamy dish that must be incorporated into your comfort food collection.

Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos

Slow-cooked pork taco is another outstanding tacos recipe for you to try. The best part is that this tacos recipe is ridiculously simple to make, particularly in a slow cooker.

Garlic, Mexican chiles, vinegar, and honey are all included in the pureed concoction, giving the fork-tender meat a rich flavor. This vibrant, flavorful sauce that goes with the slow-cooked pork shoulder requires some effort to prepare, but it is well worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which One Is Better: Pork Butt Or Pork Shoulder?

This is hard to say which one is better since it depends on which aspect you put on the scale. For instance, the shoulder portion can be better in terms of nutritional value. Still, the butt might come up as the better choice when it is about the taste.

Moreover, the answer to this question also depends on your personal preference and cooking plans. Different people have different food preferences. Some find the butt portion tastier due to its tenderness; others prefer the opposite for its low-fat content.

Regarding the cooking plans, the recipe will decide which type is the optimal choice. For example, the butt is ideal for stewing, while the shoulder is perfect for grill or roast recipes. Thus, in the end, the decision of the winner in this battle is up to you.

How Come My Pork Shoulder Is So Tough?

Poor cooking techniques lead to tough shoulder portions. Since the shoulder contains a high connective tissue level, it requires more cooking time to break down the tissues and melt them completely. Thus, if you do not give it its needed time, then the meat will be rubbery and tough.

When you try the meat and find it is still tough, re-cook it at 145 oF until it becomes more tender as you try to cut it. Still, pay attention while you are cooking. You will not want to over-cook the shoulder cut since it will also be tough and hard to chew.

Can I Use Pork Butt For A Pork Shoulder Recipe?

It depends on what recipes you plan to use. While some recipes call for a certain meat cut, others allow you to interchange these two cuts.

For instance, both portions can be used for slow cooking techniques such as braising or stewing. Still, you should use the shoulder part instead of the butt for the best results when it comes to grilling. So, it would be best to stick to the recipes and their requirements on which portion to choose.

How Long Can I Store Pork Shoulder And Pork Butt?

If your butt and shoulder meat are fresh, they can stay in the fridge for around three to four days. Suppose you cook the cuts within this period of time; you do not need to freeze them.

Once they are cooked, you can continue to eat them for a further three to four days before they need to be frozen or thrown away. It would be best to freeze it right away to maintain the quality if you know you will not be able to consume the meat by the fourth day.

A rule of thumb to keep the cuts staying nice and fresh is to place them at the back of your fridge. This way, the portions will be farther from the door and colder. Also, ensure the refrigerator’s temperature is set lower than 40oF (about 4oC).

How To Pick The Perfect Pork Butt And Pork Shoulder?

There are some considerations you should make while choosing between the two.

  • Freshness: You can estimate the freshness of a meat portion based on its color. Pink and slightly glossy are the proper colors for fresh pork. Steer clear of any meat with a dull hue or spoiled-looking indications.
  • Fat content: As previously indicated, the shoulder part often has higher-fat content than the pork butt. Thus, the butt portion might be a better option if you are seeking to reduce your intake of fat.
  • Cooking plan: Stewing or braising are preferable long and slow cooking techniques for pork shoulder. Contrarily, the butt is the better choice for rapid cooking techniques such as frying or grilling.

The Bottom Line

Above is all the information you need to know about the shoulder and butt meat. Each comes with its own characteristics that suit different uses and recipes. So, the winner in the battle of pork butt vs pork shoulder is up to you to decide.

Hopefully, this post has partially answered some of your questions about these two ingredients. Now, the final question we have for you is: which meals are you eager to prepare with each cut?

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