Difference Between Pork Shoulder And Pork

You are buying a shoulder cut of pork, but the butcher asks you whether you want pork butt vs. pork shoulder, and you immediately get confused. Such an awkward situation!

You are wondering why she mentions butt while you’re looking for the shoulder part? And what is the difference between pork shoulder and pork butt? How can you choose the most suitable one for you? This article has all you need. Let’s read on and cut out your confusion once and for all!

Pork Shoulder And Pork Butt

Pork Shoulder Vs. Pork Butt: What Is The Difference?

Everyone can easily mistake shoulders for butt when it comes to pork. Whether you are a normal person or one who has BBQ-ingrained ADN, it’s still hard to tell them apart. If you still get confused about them and do not want to become a joke in front of the butcher, this part is for you.

Generally Explained

The first and foremost thing you need to know is pork butt does not come from the pig’s backside. Both pork shoulder and pork butt are referring to the shoulder, although they have different specific properties. 

Before clearing out the differences between these two cuts, let’s take a look at their features and where they come from.

What Is Pork Butt? 

Pork butt, or Boston butt, is a confusing piece of terminology. It has no connection with the rear of the pig. Strange enough, this cut is actually the upper part of the shoulder. The cut that is really relevant to the “butt” is called ham – the meat located at the top of the leg.

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difference between pork shoulder and pork butt

About the silly-sounding name, there is actually an explanation that makes a lot of sense. People living in the colonials tended to pack some cheap cuts of pork into barrels, which used to be known as “butts” in those days, for storage and transport. 

Plus, since this tradition came from New York butchers, we can also call pork butt as Boston butt, which explains the second title.

What Is Pork Shoulder? 

Pork shoulder is also commonly known as “picnic shoulder.” As you might expect from its name, pork shoulder is a part of the primal shoulder and can be found right below the pork butt. 

This very part, unlike its nextdoor neighbor, has no mystery-related title whatsoever, and definitely does not make our mind wander to… other things whenever we hear of it, so we do not feel the need to elaborate more on it. For now, let’s continue with another vital part, how to distinguish these types of meat.

Different Features Between Pork Shoulder And Pork Butt

Is pork butt the same as pork shoulder? No, the differences are caused by slightly different locations. As mentioned before, both come from the shoulder, but the pork butt is located right above the pork shoulder and just behind the neck of the pig. That’s why they have different nuances that we point out now.

  • Shape: A primal shoulder cut, when broken down, will create two parts, a rectangular pork butt, and a tapered pork shoulder. 

The pork shoulder has this unusual shape as it runs down from the shoulder blade down to the hooves while the pork butt is uniformed with rectangular shape because it is just above the blade.

  • Texture: The pork butt is a thicker section that contains more concentrated marbling and connective tissue. However, it is not as tough and sinewy as pork shoulder because pork shoulder is the most overworked part of a hog.
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Besides, pork butt is usually sold with a fat cap intact, bone-in or boneless, and especially with no skin on.  On the contrary, pork shoulder is frequently sold with skin and boneless.

  • Price: Both cuts are known as inexpensive cuts. However, the pork shoulder is often sold with a cheaper price than the pork butt. 

Pork Shoulder Vs. Pork Butt: When To Use?

Then, how should pork shoulder and pork butt prepared? Which cooking method best suits them and gives you a tasty meal in the end? Scroll down and we will solve this puzzle together!

  • Pork Shoulder: 

People usually cook pork shoulder for hours for tenderizing it as well as melting its fat. A tip is braising or stewing which makes the dishes become tasty and flavourful. Besides, turning it into ground pork can be fried or baked. 

When roasted, it must be covered with kitchen foil and filled with liquid such as water, beer, wine, juice, etc. in the pan to make it more succulent. 

Pork shoulder prefers to be cooked whole or slicing due to its characteristics. If not being cooked properly, the meat will be chewy and unappetizing.

  • Pork Butt: 

Unlike pork shoulder, pork butt is the best ingredient for a good pulled – pork recipe. Thanks to its well-marbled streaks, you can effortlessly tear it into shreds to have a perfect mouth-watering burger or sandwich.

If you are so done with the above ordinary recipe, here comes some recommendation to whet your appetite right away: barbecue pork butt, carnitas, Vietnamese Banh-Mi sliders, and several deletable dishes that your creative mind can come up with.

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See more: Difference Between Pork Steak and Pork Chop

Which Is Better Pork Shoulder or Boston Butt?

For the time being, you have known more about pork shoulder vs. pork butt – one is less fat and another is well-marbled with fat. Therefore, the butt is enjoyed because most buyers, who like this part’s juicy taste. On the contrary, those who love the pork roast flavor, they have tended to pick the shoulder as it is boneless. 

After all, the difference of both shown from the shape can somewhat help you to choose the “right kind” of pork which highly serves the dishes. Depending on your eating hobby, you decide to choose one.

Happy cooking!!!

Paul Goral

Paul Goral

I am the founder of Brooklyn Grill and I have a master’s degree in Engineering Acoustics. I love cooking, grilling, and trying new recipes. I also love camping and high-quality knives. I wanted to start this blog and share my passion with others.