Pork Butt vs Pork Shoulder: The Ultimate Meat Showdown

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Are you confused about the difference between pork butt and pork shoulder? Maybe you’ve seen both of these cuts at the grocery store and wondered which one to choose for your next recipe. Or perhaps you’re a seasoned griller looking to up your meat game. Regardless of your level of expertise, it’s essential to understand the distinctions between pork butt and pork shoulder to ensure that your dishes turn out perfectly. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about pork butt vs pork shoulder.

The Anatomy of Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder

Before diving into the differences and similarities between these two cuts, let’s first examine their anatomical location on the hog. Both pork butt and pork shoulder come from the shoulder region of the pig, but they are not the same exact cut.

Pork butt, also known as Boston butt, is taken from the upper part of the shoulder area, closer to the pig’s back. It comprises parts of the blade bone and the shoulder blade bone and is marbled with enough fat to make it flavorful and juicy.

On the other hand, the pork shoulder comes from the lower part of the shoulder area, closer to the front legs. It contains a higher amount of connective tissue and fat, which contributes to its succulent texture and rich flavor.

Distinguishing Characteristics of Pork Butt vs. Pork Shoulder


Pork butt is generally more uniform and consistent in shape than pork shoulder. It has a round or rectangular shape with some fat marbling dispersed throughout the meat. Pork shoulder is a bit more oddly shaped due to the presence of the shoulder blade, which makes it harder to slice uniformly.


Pork butt has a softer texture than pork shoulder and is easier to pull or shred, making it perfect for barbeque or slow-cooking. Pork shoulder, with its higher fat content and collagen, tends to be a bit chewier, which is ideal for roasts or braising.


Both cuts are flavorful and delicious, but pork butt is milder tasting, while pork shoulder has a richer, meatier flavor.

The Best Ways to Cook Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder

Now that you understand the differences and similarities between these cuts, let’s explore some tips for cooking them.

Pork Butt Recipes

  • Barbeque Pork Butt: Season with a dry rub or marinade and cook low and slow over indirect heat, then serve with your favorite BBQ sauce. This cut is perfect for all-day smoking on the grill.
  • Pulled Pork Tacos: Slow cook the pork butt in the oven, adding spices such as cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder. Once the meat is done, lightly shred and place in corn tortillas. Top it with fresh cilantro and chunky salsa to create the perfect taco.
  • Pork Butt Roast: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook pork butt as a roast for 2-3 hours until internal temperature reaches 145°F. You can add potatoes and carrots to the pan to make it a complete meal.

Pork Shoulder Recipes

  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches: Slow-cook pork shoulder on a bed of onions and garlic, then stack the meat on a bun and top it with coleslaw, pickles, and BBQ sauce.
  • Pork Shoulder Roast: Rub the pork shoulder with a seasoning blend and roast it in the oven over vegetables like celery and carrots. The drippings can be used to make a gravy to serve over the meat.
  • Braised Pork Shoulder: Coat the pork shoulder with a seasoning blend or rub, then sear it in a skillet, pour in beef broth or red wine and braise it in the oven for two hours for a savory, melt-in-your-mouth dish.

Concluding Thoughts on Pork Butt vs Pork Shoulder

In conclusion, both pork butt and pork shoulder are delicious cuts of meat that can be used in various dishes. Knowing their similarities and differences will help you choose the right cut and cooking method to achieve the texture and flavor you’re looking for. Whether you decide to slow-cook them, roast them in the oven, or smoke them on the grill, both cuts will make an excellent addition to your next meal.

FAQs about Pork Butt vs Pork Shoulder

1. Can pork butt and pork shoulder be used interchangeably?

While both cuts come from the shoulder area of the pig, they differ in fat content, texture, and flavor. Pork butt is better suited for barbeque or slow-cooking, while pork shoulder is ideal for roasts or braising. So, while you can use them interchangeably depending on what you’re making, it’s best to select the right cut for the recipe to get the best results.

2. Do I need to trim the fat from pork butt or pork shoulder?

It’s not necessary to trim the fat from these cuts, but you can trim off the excess to create a more uniform shape if needed. The fat will render down during cooking and contribute to the tenderness and flavor of the meat.

3. What temperature should I cook pork butt and pork shoulder to?

For both cuts, the USDA recommends cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145°F. However, certain recipes may require a higher or lower temperature, so be sure to follow the recipe’s instructions.

In conclusion, pork butt and pork shoulder are both excellent cuts of meat that you can’t go wrong with. No matter which cut you choose, carefully selecting the right technique based on the recipe will result in a delicious meal every time.


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