Is Boston Butt Same As Pork Shoulder? The Full Guide

Are you confused about the difference between pork butt and pork shoulder?

You’re not alone.

Despite their similar names, these two cuts of meat actually come from different parts of the pig’s shoulder.

Pork butt, also known as Boston butt, is often used for pulled pork and has a higher fat content, while pork shoulder, sometimes called picnic shoulder, is leaner and tougher.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the nuances of these cuts and help you understand which one to use for your next recipe.

So let’s get started!

Is Boston Butt Same As Pork Shoulder?

The short answer is no, Boston butt is not the same as pork shoulder.

While both cuts come from the shoulder of the pig, they are actually two different sub-primal cuts. Pork shoulder is taken from the lower part of the shoulder, while Boston butt comes from the upper part.

The confusion around the names likely stems from the fact that in colonial New England, butchers would pack inexpensive cuts of meat into large barrels called “butts” for storage and transportation. The shoulder meat packed into these barrels became known as pork butt, and the name stuck.

But despite the misleading name, Boston butt is a great cut of meat for slow cooking methods like smoking or braising. It has a higher fat content than pork shoulder, which makes it more tender and juicy when cooked properly.

Pork shoulder, on the other hand, is leaner and tougher due to its high amount of connective tissue. But when cooked properly, it can be a very delicious piece of meat.

What Is Boston Butt?

Boston butt is a sub-primal cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the pig’s shoulder. It includes parts of the neck, shoulder blade, and upper leg. Despite its name, Boston butt is not actually from the rear end of the pig.

This cut of meat is known for its high fat content and marbling, which makes it ideal for slow cooking methods like smoking or braising. The fat helps to keep the meat moist and tender, while the connective tissue breaks down over time to create a melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Boston butt is often used to make pulled pork, a popular dish in barbecue restaurants. It can also be roasted or grilled, but it’s important to cook it low and slow to ensure that it stays juicy and tender.

What Is Pork Shoulder?

Pork shoulder, also known as “picnic shoulder” or “picnic roast,” is a cut of meat taken from the lower part of the pig’s shoulder, above the foreleg. It is considered a hardworking muscle and contains a high amount of connective tissue, which makes it tougher than other cuts of pork.

Despite being tougher, pork shoulder has a higher fat content compared to leaner cuts like pork chops. This makes it ideal for slow cooking methods like roasting, stewing, or braising. When cooked properly, the meat becomes tender and flavorful.

Pork shoulder also has a darker color due to the presence of myoglobin in the muscle. This oxygen-storing protein gives the meat a rich color and enhances its flavor.

While pork shoulder may not be as well-known as Boston butt, it is still a great option for those looking for an affordable and flavorful cut of pork. It can be used in a variety of recipes and is often used in dishes like pulled pork sandwiches, carnitas, and pork stews.

The Difference Between Boston Butt And Pork Shoulder

While both Boston butt and pork shoulder come from the shoulder of the pig, there are some key differences between the two cuts. Boston butt is taken from the top portion of the shoulder, closest to the spine, while pork shoulder comes from the lower part of the shoulder, closer to the leg.

Boston butt is a larger, rectangular cut of meat that is full of marbled fat and connective tissue. This makes it more tender and juicy when cooked low and slow, making it a popular choice for smoking or braising. Pork shoulder, on the other hand, is leaner and tougher due to its high amount of connective tissue. It requires longer cooking times to break down the tissue and become tender.

Another difference between the two cuts is their fat content. Boston butt contains more fat than pork shoulder, which contributes to its tenderness and flavor. However, this also means that it has a higher calorie count than pork shoulder.

When it comes to cooking methods, both cuts are great for low-and-slow cooking applications like barbecuing, braising, stewing, or cooking in a slow cooker or Instant Pot. However, Boston butt is better suited for smoking due to its higher fat content and marbling.

Cooking With Boston Butt

If you’re looking to cook with Boston butt, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s important to choose a good quality cut of meat. Look for a piece that has plenty of fat marbling throughout, as this will help keep the meat moist and tender during cooking.

One popular way to cook Boston butt is to smoke it. This method involves slow-cooking the meat over low heat for several hours, allowing the fat and connective tissue to break down and create a rich, juicy flavor.

To prepare your Boston butt for smoking, start by trimming off any excess fat or skin. Then, season the meat with your favorite rub or marinade. You can also inject the meat with a flavorful liquid to add even more flavor and moisture.

Next, set up your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat it to the desired temperature. Place the Boston butt on the smoker rack and let it cook for several hours, basting occasionally with a mop sauce or apple juice to keep it moist.

When the meat reaches an internal temperature of around 195-205°F, it’s ready to be taken off the smoker. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing or shredding.

Boston butt can also be cooked in a slow cooker or Instant Pot. Simply season the meat and place it in the cooker with your desired liquid (such as broth or barbecue sauce). Cook on low heat for several hours until the meat is tender and falling apart.

Cooking With Pork Shoulder

Cooking with pork shoulder can be a delicious and economical way to create a variety of dishes. This versatile cut of meat takes well to roasting, braising, stewing, and slow cooking. Low, moist heat is the key to making the meat tender and succulent, resulting in a mouthwatering dish that practically melts in your mouth.

One popular use of pork shoulder in the United States is for pulled pork. However, home cooks from other countries and cultures have their own delicious ways of preparing pork shoulder. Some of our favorite recipes from around the world include Slow-Cooker Pork Shoulder with Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glaze and a classic Southern-style pulled pork recipe.

When cooking pork shoulder, it’s important to note that smaller roasts will require less cooking time. For example, a 3-pound roast would require starting at high heat (450°F) for 20 minutes, then turning the heat down to 250°F and cooking for 4 to 5 hours until the middle of the roast registers 180°F. A 4-pound roast would require a similar process but with a cooking time of 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours. For a larger 5-pound roast, you would need to cook it for 5 1/2 to 7 hours.

To prepare pork shoulder for cooking, you can trim off any large pieces of fat from the outside but leave small pieces and the interior fat. Season the meat with salt, pepper, and any desired spices, then sear it in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat if desired. Next, add vegetables such as onions and garlic for added flavor before pouring in liquid such as broth or water.

Cover the Dutch oven and transfer it to the oven for slow cooking. Cook for 2 to 4 hours until fork-tender, then remove from heat and let rest before shredding the meat into pieces. For more moist and flavorful pulled pork, you can mix some of the cooking liquid back into the pork or add barbecue sauce.

Which Cut Should You Use?

When deciding which cut to use, it’s important to consider the cooking method and the desired outcome. If you’re planning on smoking or slow roasting the meat, Boston butt is the better choice due to its higher fat content. The fat will render down during cooking, resulting in a juicy and flavorful end product.

However, if you’re looking for a leaner cut that can still be delicious when cooked properly, pork shoulder is a good option. It’s best suited for cooking methods that involve liquid or braising, as the connective tissue will break down and result in tender meat.

Ultimately, both cuts have their strengths and can be used interchangeably in some recipes. It comes down to personal preference and the desired outcome of the dish.