Pork Butt Vs. Pork Shoulder: What’s the Difference?

Most people think and assume a pork shoulder is the same as a pork butt because they are found within the shoulder region of a pig’s body. But this is not true because all cuts of a pig’s shoulder are not the same. They look and feel different from each cut of meat.

The shoulder of a pig is divided into two different cuts of pork meat, known as the pork butt and the pork shoulder. Pork meat has different cuts that taste differently. And these various cuts of pork are cooked differently because of their non-uniform texture. Some parts are tender, and others are tough.

Let’s find out the difference between pork butt vs. pork shoulder.

Pork Butt

A pork butt is also known as a Boston butt or Boston shoulder. It is gotten from the shoulder blades of a pig. Pork butt is one of the most expensive cuts of a pig. It is well shaped in the form of a rectangle when cut out from the other parts. The skin of a pork butt is removed. It can either be sold with the bones in or without the bones.

A pork butt is cut from the upper shoulder of a pig and in between the shoulder blades. This part contains a lot of fats, collagen, and tissues. It is well suited for ground meat and shoulder roast.

Pork butt is rich in fat with a definite shape. It is the perfect cut for braises and stews.

Pork Shoulder

A pork shoulder is also known as a picnic shoulder. This is the second part of a pig’s shoulder that extends into the foreleg of a pig. It always comes with its skin, which is great for making cracklins.

A pork shoulder is tougher and thicker because it is a workhorse muscle of a pig and has more muscle. You spend less cooking time when you cook your pork shoulder in an oven than the other cookware. It takes less than 40 minutes to get ready. However, when using a slow cooker, you would need up to 8 hours to get a slice of succulent meat. You would spend more than 15 hours when utilizing a smoker.

Pork shoulder is best for pork roast, hot dog, ground meat, sausage, pulled pork, arm roast, and stew. It is affordable, which makes it the best choice for cooking pulled pork in large quantities. The fat content is not as much as the other cuts of a shoulder. Pork shoulder is traced down to the pig hoof and is shaped in the form of a triangle when cut precisely from the other parts.

Pork Butt Vs. Pork Shoulder


One of the major similarities between a pork butt and pork shoulder is that they are both cuts from a pig. Both pork shoulder and pork butt are found at the shoulder region of a pig.

Both cuts of pork contain fats. The intramuscular fat of these meat enhances the flavor of your food as you cook. The cooking method suitable for the shoulder region of pork is roasting, braising, and slow cooking. The cook can utilize any of these methods that suit their preference and taste.


Although pork shoulder and pork butt are located close to each other, they serve different purposes and have distinct texture. The pork butt is located at the upper area of a pig’s shoulder, and the pork shoulder is located close to the foreleg.

The pork butt is tender than a pork shoulder and provides you with succulent, moist meat when cooked properly. A pork shoulder is tougher in texture and requires more cooking time than a pork butt. You get crispy pork from this cut.

The healthier cuts between pork shoulder and pork butt are the pork shoulder. It has less fat, less cholesterol, less sodium, and more protein than a pork butt. The upper area of the shoulder needs to be trimmed and debone before cooking. The excess fat needs to be taken off when making jerky to avoid smoke. The skin of the lower region needs to be detached when preparing some meals to minimize the time spent on cooking.

Pork Butt is expensive and often sold without trimming the fats. It is well marbled with intramuscular fats. The pork shoulder, on the other hand, is cheaper and has lesser intramuscular fats. It is not as marbled as pork butt and is often sold with the skin intact.


When you can distinguish between a pork shoulder and a pork butt, you will be able to identify and buy the best cut of pork that is perfect for the food you are about to prepare. Although they are from the same parts, they are distinctly different in texture, taste, and shape.

When next you visit a butcher shop, be specific on which cut of a shoulder you want.

Categorized as BBQ

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