Have you ever wondered why a cut of meat called “pork butt” isn’t actually from the rear end of the pig?
It’s a confusing name that has left many people scratching their heads. But fear not, we’ve done the research and have uncovered the fascinating history behind this cut of meat and its misleading name.
From colonial New England to modern-day BBQ culture, join us as we explore the origins of pork butt and why it’s called what it is.
Get ready to learn something new and impress your friends with your newfound knowledge of meat cuts!
Why Is It Called Pork Butt?
Contrary to popular belief, pork butt is not actually a cut of meat from the rear end of the pig. In fact, it’s a cut from the shoulder of the pig. So why is it called pork butt?
The answer lies in the history of butchery and meatpacking 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.
As this particular shoulder cut gained popularity across the country, it acquired the name “Boston Butt”. This was because New England was known for producing high-quality pork, and the cut became a specialty of the region.
Despite its confusing name, pork butt has become a beloved cut of meat in modern-day BBQ culture. It’s perfect for slow-cooking and smoking, resulting in tender and flavorful pulled pork.
The History Of Pork Butt: From Colonial New England To Modern-Day BBQ Culture
Pork butt has a fascinating history that dates back to colonial New England. In those days, butchers packed less expensive cuts of pork into large barrels, called butts, for transportation. This particular shoulder cut became known as pork butt and was shipped off to other places.
Interestingly, the name “Boston Butt” originated from this practice. New England was known for producing high-quality pork, and this shoulder cut became a specialty of the region. The name stuck and is still used today, despite the fact that the cut does not actually come from the pig’s hindquarters.
As pig farming became an integral part of life in the South, pork butt became a staple in Southern cuisine. Southern cooks learned to slow-roast tough cuts of pork over fire pits to make them tender. This cooking method was initially used for feeding many at large political rallies and church gatherings, which would often go on for hours. Over time, barbecue spread throughout the nation and evolved into many variations that we now enjoy with family and friends on special occasions.
It’s widely believed that the indigenous people of the Americas first recorded the traditional cooking technique that formed the basis of Southern barbecue. When Columbus arrived in America in 1492, he noticed Indians slow-cooking meat, a practice they called barbacoa. George Washington even spoke of “barbecuing it in the Indian manner” when procuring meat for his troops during the French & Indian War.
Despite its complex history, pork butt has become a beloved cut of meat in modern-day BBQ culture. It’s perfect for low and slow cooking methods like smoking and results in tender, flavorful pulled pork that is enjoyed by people all over the world.
The Misleading Name: Why Pork Butt Isn’t Actually From The Rear End Of The Pig
The term “pork butt” may be misleading, as it is not actually a cut of meat from the rear end of the pig. Instead, it is a cut from the upper portion of the pig’s front shoulder, above the pork shoulder cut. This cut is commonly used for barbecue pulled pork due to its high connective tissue content that requires slow smoking or braising at lower temperatures for an extended period.
But why is this particular cut of meat called pork butt when it’s not actually from the rear end of the pig? The answer lies in its history. During colonial times, 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.
Interestingly, this particular shoulder cut gained popularity across the country and acquired the name “Boston Butt”. This was because New England was known for producing high-quality pork, and the cut became a specialty of the region.
Despite its confusing name, pork butt remains a popular cut of meat in modern-day BBQ culture. It’s an affordable option that’s perfect for low and slow cooking methods like smoking or braising, resulting in tender and flavorful pulled pork. So next time you’re at the butcher, remember that pork butt isn’t actually a butt at all!
The Anatomy Of Pork Butt: What Makes This Cut Of Meat So Special
Pork butt is a unique cut of meat that comes from the thicker section of a pig’s shoulder. It includes parts of the neck, shoulder blade, and upper leg. The cut is characterized by its high fat content and connective tissue, which makes it perfect for low-and-slow cooking methods like barbecuing, braising, stewing, or cooking in a slow cooker or Instant Pot.
One of the most distinctive features of pork butt is the muscle known as the multifidus dorsi, or MM. This muscle runs the length of the butt and is also called a pork collar because of its shape. It has striations and stripes of fat running through its length, which makes it succulently tender and flavorful when cooked properly. The MM is a load-bearing muscle, which means it contains a lot of connective tissue, making it a tough piece of meat to manage. However, when cooked low and slow, the melting fat renders this part of the butt tender and delicious.
Another reason why pork butt is so special is its high fat content. The fat marbling throughout the meat makes it perfect for stewing and braising as well as for making fall-apart-tender pulled pork for a barbecue or for tacos. This marbling also makes pork butt particularly well-suited for barbecue, specifically making pulled pork or other recipes where you want the meat to fall apart into shreds easily.
The Versatility Of Pork Butt: How To Cook And Serve It In Different Ways
Pork butt is an incredibly versatile cut of meat that can be cooked and served in a variety of ways. One of the most popular ways to prepare it is by slow-cooking it until it’s tender and falls apart easily. This method is perfect for making pulled pork, which can be used in sandwiches, tacos, and even on top of pizza.
Another way to cook pork butt is by roasting it in the oven. This method produces a crispy exterior and juicy interior, making it perfect for serving as a main dish alongside roasted vegetables or mashed potatoes.
Pork butt can also be used as a filling for savory pies or empanadas. The rich, flavorful meat pairs well with vegetables like onions, peppers, and mushrooms.
For those who love to grill, pork butt can be smoked or barbecued to perfection. The low and slow cooking method results in a smoky flavor and tender texture that is sure to impress any BBQ enthusiast.
In addition to these traditional methods, pork butt can also be used in international dishes such as carnitas, a Mexican dish made with slow-cooked pork that’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It can also be used in Asian-inspired stir-fries or curries.
The Future Of Pork Butt: Trends And Innovations In The Meat Industry
The availability of new and innovative pork cuts is helping to ignite greater demand for UK pork products, both domestically and in foreign markets. This trend is contributing to higher overall carcass value by taking a lower-value primal cut and finding another way to cut and cook it. This is just one example of the many trends and innovations that are shaping the future of pork butt and the meat industry as a whole.
According to market research firm Packaged Facts, the US industry for animal protein is expected to continue growing despite challenges from plant protein alternatives. Total retail sales of meat, poultry, and meat substitutes are projected to be just shy of $100 billion in 2021. Meat will dominate dollar sales despite still trailing poultry in per-capita consumption volume due to its higher price point.
Consumers seeking out sustainable meat and poultry will be interested in specialty products like grass-fed or local beef, heritage poultry, and even wild boar. They will look to meat professionals to connect them with these products, explain the product benefits, and educate on how these products are best prepared and served.
Retail sales of pork are expected to increase during the next five years, supported by pork’s low cost advantage over beef. In addition, many previously overlooked cuts of pork (such as pork shoulder) are experiencing a resurgence in popularity both at retail and in restaurants. This trend is expected to continue as more consumers seek out unique and flavorful cuts of meat.
Innovations in artisanal meat products are also on the rise. These range from alternative BBQ sandwiches to curated meat boxes, spray-on BBQ sauces, and dry aging rubs that take the taste of any carnivore dish to new heights. DIY steak kits and meaty savory snacks round off this list and speak to consumers’ newfound appreciation for handcrafted, premium meat products.