Pork butt comes from the shoulder of the pig and is also known as “Boston butt.” Pork shoulders can weight upwards of 10 pounds, but pork butts are cut to a more manageable size of 3 to 6 pounds each. A fatty, tough cut, pork butt turns tender when slow and well-cooked for a long period. It's the traditional cut used to make bo-ssam, Korean-style roast pork, as well as for pulled pork sandwiches.
Roasting Pork Butts
Pork butts take well to being cooked slowly, whether in the oven or in a closed grill. Because of their long cooking times, pork butts on a grill are most easily done on a gas grill, as a charcoal grill requires constant replenishment of hot coals to keep the temperature low and steady.
Preheat an oven or a gas grill to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, or, for a gas grill, set the flame to medium-low. Set the pork butt – some people brine or season it with a dry rub before hand, or rub it in a spicy paste of mustard, chili pepper and garlic – in a roasting tray and place on the grill or in a center rack on the oven. Add 2 cups of liquid, water, stock or wine to the tray and close the door. Cook for 4 to 5 hours for a 5-pound pork butt, averaging between 30 to 45 minutes per pound of meat. Do not cover the roasting tray with foil or a lid, as this raises the cooking temperature, and your roast will cook too quickly. Turn the roast two or three times during cooking to keep it evenly moist, and let the roast rest for at least 15 minutes after it is cooked.
Slow-Cooking Pork Butts
Pork butts, because they need to be cooked slowly, do well in a slow cooker, where you don't have to worry about basting or keeping the temperature even and steady. Add the seasoned pork butt with 1 cup of liquid to the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. Because the slow cooker is sealed, the pork won't need to be basted or turned to keep it from drying out.
Food Temperature and Doneness
While all pork is safe to consume when the meat reaches 145 F, pork butt benefits from overcooking. The hotter the meat gets, the softer and more tender it becomes as the cartilage and fat in the muscle break down. Because of the intramuscular fat found in pork butts, there is little worry about the roast becoming too dry because of overcooking. Cook the meat until it reaches 200 F, when it becomes fork tender. For pulled pork, this is when the meat can easily be shredded with two forks – knives are no longer necessary.
Pork butt roast can be shredded and seasoned with a tomato and vinegar sauce to make pulled pork sandwiches. Serve on warmed split rolls with a dollop of vinegary coleslaw. The pork but can also be sliced into thin slivers and added to warmed corn tortillas and salsa for a fast taco, or served alongside roast potatoes and glazed carrots for a winter-time Sunday supper. No matter how you serve it, take a few moments to pick out the visible seams of fat that separate and cover the roast's individual muscles. The cooking juices from the pork are filled with flavor and can be used to make any number of sauces. There's a lot of fat in the juices, but if you pour them into a tall, narrow measuring cup you can either skim off the fat or refrigerate it and let the fat harden so it's easier to remove.