With the continuing demand for pulled pork and the rise in popularity of home smoking and barbecuing, the pork butt has been steadily undergoing a resurgence in the U.K. over recent years. This is mainly because the butt, known in the U.S.A as a Boston butt, is widely regarded as the best joint for pulled pork, and is often used by BBQ pit-masters for competition level pulled pork.
Why is it called pork butt?
Despite what you might think, the name 'pork butt' actually has nothing to do with the meat coming from the rear of the pig. The butt is actually cut from the shoulder, and the reason it has it's name is more to do with the storage and transport of the joint throughout history.
Some suggest that in pre-revolutionary New England and into the American Revolutionary War, New England butchers tended to take less prized cuts of pork like hams and shoulders and pack them into barrels for storage and transport, known as a butt, which comes from the Latin word "Buttis" meaning cask or barrel.Wikipedia: "Boston Butt"
Where does the pork butt come from?
Pork butt comes from the top of the shoulder of the pig, behind the neck, and, although it is carefully butchered to remove most of the bones, it is technically a 'bone in' joint because the shoulder-blade bone is left in. It is this bone that gives the butt its characteristic edge for pulled pork. The shoulder-blade bone is uniquely long and flat, which helps to evenly distribute the heat throughout the meat while cooking, thus ensuring low temperatures can be held for lengthy periods of time. This low and slow method works to break down any tougher connective tissue and render any fat from the well marbled meat into melt in the mouth, delicious pork, with a wonderful depth of flavour. Are you hungry yet?..
What is the best way to cook pork butt?
First of all, as the butt comes from a hard working area of the pig, you're going to want to cook it longer in order to break down the tougher connective tissue and also render out any excess fat. If you're looking for a lean joint to roast and slice, then this isn't the joint for you. You'd be better off choosing a pork loin, or even pork leg.
Whether you're cooking your pork butt in a slow cooker, smoker, barbecue, or even in the oven, the best way to cook pork butt is low and slow. If you're cooking yours in the oven then pop it in a deep roasting dish and cook at gas mark 2 / 150°C/Fan 130°C for around 6 hours. After this time the meat will just fall away from the bone and you'll be able to shred what's left using two folks, or bear claws if you have them.
If you're cooking your pork butt on a BBQ, or smoker then cook on low until an internal temperature of 75C is reached in the center of the deepest part of the joint. The easiest way to check this is with a hand held temperature probe.
What is the difference between pork shoulder and Boston butt?
The butt is actually taken from the shoulder of the pig, so there is basically no difference at all. Having said that, the butt is cut from the top of the shoulder and sold with the shoulder-blade left in, whereas most shoulder joints are sold boneless and are cut from much closer to the hock. In terms of cooking, both are suited to low and slow methods, which help break down tougher tissue and also render out excess fat. Perfect for pulled pork.