Asked about Boston butt vs pork barrel, a person, who is not particularly keen on what he eats, will surely say that both are the same; after all, he is just eating the same meat. But if you would ask an expert, the expert would tell you that there are similarities and differences between the two.

Boston Butt vs Pork Shoulder

Boston Butt and Pork Shoulder: Similarities and Differences

Some recipes will ask you to buy Boston butt while others will tell you to buy pork shoulder. Moreover, you may sometimes ask which is better to buy between the two. You can’t, however, resolve this question if you don’t know the differences and similarities between the two.

Boston Butt

Boston butt, of course, is an American name for a certain cut of pork. This cut is derived from the upper section of the pig’s shoulder, just right above the front leg. It may also contain the blade bone.

Boston Butt is also referred to as the “pork-shoulder-on-the-bone.” Moreover, it is the most common cut of pork for pulled pork which is the staple of barbecue popular in the southern parts of the United States. In the UK, however, Boston butt is referred to as “pork-shoulder-on-the-bone.”

The name “Boston butt” originated from the pre-revolutionary years of New England. In New England before, butchers usually took less-prized pork cuts like shoulders and hams, and then, packed them together using barrels for easy storage and transport.

These barrels were known as “butts”—a term that is etymologically derived from “buttis” which is a Latin word for barrel or cask. Soon after, the name “Boston butt” has been casually used to refer to a particular shoulder cut. The use of this term, however, first officially appeared in print in the year 1915.

Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder, on the other hand, is a cut of meat that refers to where it comes from. This cut specifically comes from the pig’s forelimb’s shoulder. Other terms for the pork shoulder include “picnic roast” and “picnic shoulder.” The pork shoulder is best cut-up for stews, braised, or used for making ground pork.

The pork shoulder is characterized by a triangular cut derived from the area of the pig’s body, right above the front leg. This cut is often not expensive. It also contains the skin and fat layer when sold. The picnic ham cut includes this cut and more often it contains the leg bone.

This pork shoulder cut is derived from an area that is well-exercised. Hence, it is flavorful, but it doesn’t contain much fat marbling. Moreover, the meat of this cut is tough and needs to be cooked properly.

The pork shoulder is best cooked using a long and slow cooking process. With slow cooking, you can tenderize it as well as melt its fat. You can best cook the pork shoulder by braising or by stewing it. It can also be baked or fried if it has been turned into ground pork. Furthermore, it is best for serving in slices

Boston Butt vs Pork Shoulder

The Boston butt and the pork shoulder are taken from the same section of the pig’s body. So, if you would ask me which between the two is better tasting, I would say they almost have the same taste. Pork shoulder, however, comes from the triangular-shaped end of the pork shoulder.

The Boston butt, however, is taken from the same area just above the pork shoulder. This area is thicker and more marbled than the pork shoulder. Both are also derived from the front limbs and not from the hindquarters.

When it comes to cooking, the pork shoulder is considered by many as best cooked when whole. The Boston butt, on the other hand, is best for other recipes and for making pulled pork wherein the meat is meant and allowed to fall apart. What I mean is that since the Boston butt has more marbled fat, this marbled fat usually falls apart easily once you cook or tenderize the Boston butt. 


Both Boston butt and the pork shoulder are great cuts. You can use them interchangeably in many recipes and you will find it hard to tell which is which when cooked. So, the phrase Boston butt vs pork shoulder is really irrelevant because both cuts are almost the same and are interchangeable in many recipes.

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