Pork Shoulder vs Pork Butt: Choosing the Best Cut

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Last updatedLast updated: April 29, 2021
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Pork is a staple in most people’s diets, especially when it’s a must for a full-on breakfast. Whether it be bacon, pork sausages or pork shoulder, most people love pork. However, there can still be a bit of confusion between all the different types of pork and which one is better.

Deciding on which pork to get shouldn’t be overwhelming but it sometimes can be because different types of cuts need to be cooked in different ways. When it comes to pork shoulder vs pork butt, you may want to know the differences so you can make the most of your next meal.

In this article we will go through the differences between pork shoulder vs pork butt, how they taste, should be cooked and a few other facts. You’d be surprised by some of these facts so keep scrolling to find out which pork meat is up your alley!

 Pork shoulderPork butt
NamePicnic ShoulderBoston Butt
How it looksUnlike pork butt, pork shoulder has a lot less fat making it denser and tougher than pork butt.Pork butt has a marbling effect on the meat due to the fat that works its way through the meat.
Cut shapeBecause this cut comes from above the shoulder blade and runs down to the hooves, it has a triangular shapeRectangle in shape due to it being above the shoulder blade
Best cooked inPork shoulder is best suited for roast pork because the layer of skin that usually comes on top of it can be crisped up perfectly or slow-roasted for pulled porkIt would be better to cut the pork butt into thin slices for either ramen or tacos as it can become tough if cooked in thicker pieces
Fat levelHardly any fatMarbled with fat

Difference between pork shoulder and pork butt

You may be asking yourself, is pork butt the same as pork shoulder? Despite the difference in their names, there isn’t that much of a difference between pork shoulder and pork butt.  Technically, a pork butt isn’t even from the rear end of a pig because it’s actually from a part of the shoulder. Shocking, I know! Pork butt also goes by the name Boston butt and if you get confused with pork butt vs Boston butt, don’t worry! It’s the same thing.

Even though they’ve been given completely different names, they are situated rather close to each other. Because of their positions, pork shoulder has more muscle than pork butt which has more fat.

Pork Shoulder vs Pork Butt: Choosing the Best CutPrice

The price between these two different cuts of meat usually depends on the region but typically speaking, pork shoulder is cheaper. This is because pork butt is usually cut into bigger pieces. If you’re unsure which one you want to cook with, think of how much you need to cook and then decide if the price is worth it or not.

Cooking process

If you want to know how to cook either pork butt or pork shoulder then you’re in luck! These two cuts of meat need to be cooked differently due to their structure and with different recipes, some of them you can find in books, like Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book. As stated above, pork shoulder is better when it is cooked with the skin on for a crispy top. Cooking it as a roast will truly enhance the flavors.

Still a newbie at this? Check out this video on how to cook pork shoulder to perfection!


However, when it comes to cooking pork butt, it is suggested that slow cooking it in order to get that pulled pork effect is the right way to go. This way the fat that works its way through the pork will break down and give you that tender meat you’re looking for. The perfect way to cook this piece of meat would be to invest in an offset smoker, whether it’s an attachment or grill. We highly recommend Traeger Grills Pro Series 34 for its versatility and ability to bring the essence of flavor to any meat piece.

For a recipe to follow, look at this video:

Taste

Due to pork butt having a lot more fat in it, it tends to be a lot more flavorful than pork shoulder. However, the overall flavor of the meat depends on how you cook it. There are different recipes and techniques that can be used to cook these pieces of meat which will change the flavor.

For example, grilling pork shoulder once it’s been cut into smaller pieces can be the right method of cooking it as it will not get tough. A good charcoal grill should be considered. If you’re looking at different recipes, you can find a lot of good recipes online or in cooking books.

Safety

With regards to health, you may want to know which cut of meat is better. Well, simply put, pork shoulder would be a little healthier due to the fat layer on top as it can be cut off if needed. Doing this will change the way the meat turns out but it is an option for you to take if you don’t want any fat.

When it comes to pork butt, the fat is throughout the whole piece of meat, making it difficult to avoid. Of course, the fat does break down during cooking time but it doesn’t completely disappear.

Storage period

Pork Shoulder vs Pork Butt: Choosing the Best CutDepending on how you decide to cook your pork butt or pork shoulder will determine how long it lasts. With pork butt vs pork shoulder comparisons, there are huge differences in this aspect.

If you smoke your pork shoulder, it can last a good couple of days if stored properly which would mean an airtight container. This way no moisture can get in and ruin the structure of the meat.

However, if you use pork butt for pulled pork, then we suggest you consume it within a day or so. This is because it can become dry and tasteless if left out. As stated above, when storing it make sure it is in an airtight container.

It would also be good to make sure that both meats are completely cooled down before placing them in the fridge.

Final thoughts

Now that we’ve gone through the true differences between pork shoulder vs pork butt you’ll be able to make an informed decision on which piece you want to use. It’s best to know exactly how to cook specific cuts of meat to get the best results.

Pork shoulder vs pork butt is a pretty normal topic to consider when you’re shopping for the month’s meat. Now you’ll know if you’re making a good decision on what meat you’re picking as well as the way to cook it.

It is good to remember that cooking should also still be fun so make sure you’re experimenting. But be kind to yourself if it doesn’t come out as well as you hoped it would. There’s always another meal to have fun preparing.

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