Pro Tips For Cooking Pork Shoulder Vs Pork Butt

Unless you're a pork aficionado, you may not know the difference between pork shoulder and pork butt. While the two are closely related, sourced from different parts of the shoulder of a pig, they aren't exactly the same, particularly since pork shoulder is a leaner cut than pork butt. So naturally, the best ways to prepare and serve these types of meat aren't the same either. To get some insight into ways to cook and serve them, we talked with celebrity chef and third-generation owner of Bear Creek Smokehouse, Robbie Shoults.

Shoults suggests smoking either of the cuts low and slow. "You can use the same equipment for either cut of pork," he explained. "The only thing I would recommend would be to smoke the pork shoulder at around 225 [degrees Fahrenheit] since it is leaner, and for the pork butt, I would crank it up to about 250 [degrees Fahrenheit]."

Cooking the pork at a low temperature for an extended period of time helps to melt both tough connective tissues and fat, so that the pork remains moist. While smoking is a solid option, because it also imparts flavor and can create a crunchy, flavorful bark on the exterior of the meat, you can also braise or roast the pork shoulder or pork butt at low temperatures if smoking is not an option. No matter the method you use, though, be sure to let it rest before slicing or shredding to ensure that it stays juicy.

Tips for serving pork shoulder vs pork butt

Once the meat has rested, you'll first want to be sure to handle it properly, which includes being sure to use your hands if you're intending to shred it (as opposed to using forks or other utensils). Then, it's time to dig in and devour it. But again, these two types of meat can serve different purposes. Robbie Shoults has a few preferred ways of using pork shoulder and pork butt.

"Since pork shoulder is leaner, it slices up nicely for things like sliced pork sandwiches," Shoults said. "The most popular thing to make with pork butts is pulled pork, a favorite from coast to coast."

In addition to making sandwiches, you can also serve sliced pork shoulder on its own with veggies and other sides, add it to soups and stews or even make it into chili. Or, you can slice it into smaller pieces and jazz up side dishes like baked beans or macaroni and cheese. While you can also pile pulled pork butt onto buns for sandwiches, there are also a number of other ways it can be used. Try making BBQ pulled pork nachos, use it for tacos, burritos or enchiladas, or take your grilled cheese to the next level with it. And don't sleep on making it part of breakfast by swapping it for the Canadian bacon in a classic eggs Benedict, too.