Pork butt is a product that we take very seriously here at ButcherBox despite its rather silly-sounding name. We take a bit of regional pride in the cut, which is also widely known in the U.S. as Boston butt.
Ahh, you got us, we have a tough time here not letting our provincialism get the best of us. Although the name — and history — pulls on our hometown heartstrings, there is a lot to like about pork butt.
An international food
First things first, let’s dig into the — let’s call it unique — name.
Believe it or not, pork butt does not actually come from any part of the hog that is close to its derriere. In fact, the cut actually comes from a pig’s shoulder. In other parts of the world, most notably Britain, the cut is called “pork hand and spring,” “pork hand,” or more commonly, “pork shoulder on the bone.” In Spanish, it is “paleta de puerco” or “espaldilla” which translate to “little back,” and in Korean, it is “moksal,” meaning “neck meat.”
If you haven’t figured out by now, pork butt is an extremely popular cut of meat across the globe. It is one of the more widely used cuts because of the quantity of food it provides and because it is simple to cook it over a long period of time without much fuss.
Enjoy a good pulled-pork sandwich? Most likely, you are eating pork butt. Carnitas for your burrito? Pork butt. A pork roast braised with barbecue sauce or brown sugar? Pork butt. Sweet and spicy bulgogi? You guessed it, pork butt.
You might be wondering why the cut has a different — and somewhat odd — name here in the U.S.
According to “Mental Floss,” New England butchers used to take the less popular cuts of pork and pack them away for storage and transport. This first started happening in the colonial days and the barrels they used to pack the pork were known back then as “butts.”
The pork in a butt, or pork butt for short, gained popularity over time. So how does Boston fit in here?
Well, as pork butt became a favorite cut across the country, it became connected to butchers and traditions primarily from New England — think pork roasts with aromatic vegetables — and was thus often referred to as Boston butt.
BBQ pork, braised pork, and more
We love the cut so much, we have a bunch of different recipes that we are experimenting with to share with our subscribers. Below, you will find one of ButcherBox Head Chef Yankel Polak’s favorite pork butt recipes as well as a video on how to braise a pork butt.
Chef Yankel can barely contain his enthusiasm for the cut and the creative ways you can make amazing meals with pork butt.
“I love to stab the pork with a sharp knife and insert garlic cloves and jalapeños into the holes,” he said.
This method brings in rich flavors and the stabbing breaks down the connective tissue.
“The key to a really good pork butt is steam, so — when using a Dutch oven or slow cooker — make sure there is plenty of liquid in the bottom and that it is well covered,” Yankel said.
He then suggests letting it rest in the liquid and shredding while it’s still hot, straight into the braising liquid, or cutting it up separately and then adding a sauce, like BBQ sauce or Worcestershire sauce.
“I love reusing the liquid to braise other things or skim the fat and make sauce,” he added.
Chef Yankel also suggests giving pork butt a dry rub and letting it sit overnight in a roasting pan uncovered in the fridge.
“This will dry out the surface a little and add some texture when you shred it,” he said.
But there is one way to cook pork butt that Chef Yankel rates above all others: Indirect heat with a long cook time.
Chef Yankel’s Smoky Coffee-Rubbed Pulled Pork
This dish serves six and takes about five minutes of preparation time and four hours of cooking time.
The trick to fork-tender pulled pork is slow cooking and low temperature. We want plenty of moisture as well; steam is crucial to a tender, juicy texture!
Dry rub the pork butt the day before and refrigerate overnight for the flavors to really set in. Be sure to use a tightly closed, oven-safe pot for this recipe. A Crock-Pot or other slow cooker works great too.
1 ButcherBox pork butt
2 Tbsp ground coffee
2 Tbsp chipotle powder
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp salt
1 c apple cider
1 onion, roughly chopped
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Place apple cider and onions in a Dutch oven and bring to boil.
3. Mix all remaining ingredients and dry rub all over pork butt.
4. Place pork butt into the Dutch oven, close tightly and place in oven.
5. Braise until pork is fork-tender, about 3 to 3.5 hours.
6. Turn oven to 425 degrees and roast pork butt uncovered an additional 15 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and let rest at room temperature in liquid 15 minutes before shredding with a fork.