All-Star Ingredients: Pork Butt

Jun 14, 2021

If you’ve tried out our Simplest Pulled Pork, you know that pork butt is full-flavored and cooks up to be unbelievably tender.

But what exactly is pork butt? Contrary to how it may sound, it actually comes from the front leg of the hog, specifically the top portion, or shoulder. The cut we call ham comes from the back end, including some of the gluteus maximus. The butt, also called a Boston butt, is the upper half of the leg, while cuts labeled shoulder or picnic shoulder come from the lower half. Though the shoulder can be a little tougher, the two cuts can usually be used interchangeably, so it’s absolutely fine to swap the butt for shoulder in the Cuban Sandwiches and Carnitas Tacos on the App.

You can buy pork butt bone-in or boneless, and a whole cut usually weighs in at between 6 and 10 pounds, though you can buy smaller half portions. While you can go ahead and cook the butt as is, you may want to remove some of the thick layer of fat on top, or the fat cap, and any thick sections of fat. This will help any spices or other flavorings better penetrate the meat, and it leaves you with less fat to deal with at the end of cooking. If using the meat for stew, cut it into 1- to 2-inch pieces. If you’re roasting, you may want to tie it to make a more compact bundle.

Pitmasters prefer this pork butt due to the relatively high-fat content. The fat bastes the meat, keeping it moist during the cooking process and delivering a tender bite. The butt works well cut up in stews, while larger pieces may be roasted or braised. Because it’s a well-used muscle, it usually requires low and slow cooking to break it down and become tender. Pressure cooking, however, speeds up that process, which means you can cook pork butt in your Smart Cooker™ in a fraction of the time it would take in the oven or on the grill. That means if you have not already, you should try making succulent pulled pork, no ifs or ands—just butt.

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