Whether your plan is to barbecue, roast, smoke, braise, stew, or cure, pork shoulder is a popular choice for many home cooks. Whether it's called "pork butt" or "pork shoulder" depends on which portion of the front leg of the hog the meat comes from. Whichever one you prepare, both are versatile and economical cuts of meat.
What is commonly sold as a "pork butt" or "Boston butt" are the same cut of meat--the top portion of what is considered the "whole shoulder" of the hog. This cut is very marbled and often sold skinless, with a large portion of fat on top. The "butt" can be sold boneless or bone-in, and weighs on average between 6 lbs. and 9 lbs. bone-in, or between 4 lbs. and 7 lbs. boneless. In comparison, the "shoulder roast" or "pork picnic" is the lower portion of the shoulder below the joint and above the shank (leg). It is smaller than the "pork butt" and also contains more fat, bone and connective tissue. It is often sold complete with skin and is rarely sold boneless. These smaller roasts usually weigh between 4 to 5 lbs.
Uses for "Pork Butt" or "Boston Butt"
This diverse cut can be roasted whole, cut into meat for stews, braised, or barbecued. It is commonly used to make pulled pork in the south, and is well-suited to recipes prepared in a large slow cooker. The meat can also be used to make ground pork.
Uses for "Shoulder Picnic"
This economical cut can be roasted whole, with or without its skin. The skin can also be used to make "crackling," also known as "pork rinds." The picnic is also used for braising and slow cooker recipes, barbecued pulled pork, "Cuban pork" recipes, and is well-suited to smoke curing.