Difference between Pork Shoulder and Pork Butt

It is hard to get the best cut of pork meat when you go to the butcher, and thus it is essential to know which part to get. 

Pork butt and shoulder are two cuts of pork that are often mixed up. They are indeed both cut from pork shoulder. But the main distinction between them is that while the pork shoulder is cut from near the foreleg, the pork butt is cut further from the foreleg. Read on to find out:

  • If pork shoulder is good as pork butt
  • Why pork shoulder is called picnic ham
  • What does pork butt mean
  • If pulled pork recipe can be made from pork shoulder

The distinction between Pork shoulder and pork butt

When a butcher cuts a pig, the front shoulder of the pig is cut into two parts, the pork butt, a.k.a. ‘Boston butt,’ and the pork shoulder, also called ‘Picnic shoulder.’ 

However, pork butt does not come from the back of the pig but from the front, together with the shoulder cut. 

Similarly, the pork shoulder is cut right below the pork butt, closer to the foreleg, and the pork butt is cut right behind the head. 

Pork shoulder and butt might seem the same and are cut from the same part, but there is a slight difference. 

Style of cut

The pork butt can also be cut in a perfect rectangle shape since it’s cut above the foreleg, including more meat. However, the pork shoulder is mostly triangle in shape because it is cut just above the foreleg.

Fat and marbling

You can find more marbling on the pork butt compared to the shoulder. Thus when you buy a pork butt, you will see more fats in the meat while the skin mainly covers the pork shoulder. 

The excellent marbling in the pork butt makes it less likely to dry out while grilling. The pork shoulder does not have much marbling and hence is a stiffer cut of meat. 

Cooking style

You can opt for a pork butt for a barbecue or stewing since it includes more fats. Pork shoulder can be prepared as roasted pork with crispy skin since it comes with skin. 

Pork butt can be cooked softer than pork shoulder since it has more fats. Pork shoulder is tougher, so you can tear them into pieces or slice them to use in ramen, pizzas, or casseroles.

Dietary value

When we compare the nutritional value of the two types of cut, the pork shoulder is healthier because it contains low fat. You can also cut off the fat on top if you don’t want it though you won’t get a crispy touch when you roast it if you remove it.

Since pork butt has a lot of fat content, it is not considered healthy. However, apart from the difference in fat contained in both, meat has a lot of nutrients essential for health.


Both pork shoulder and pork butt are reasonable meat cuts, but if we have to compare the pricing, we can see that pork shoulder can be a little more expensive than pork butt. 

The main reason is that it can either be sold without skin or with skin and bones and without bones. Thus, the cost may differ depending on the pork shoulder cut.  

Why is pork shoulder called picnic ham?

Pork shoulder is also called picnic ham because it is cut from the shoulder of the forelegs. It is a fatty and hard part of the meat, and it often comes with bones. 

Picnic ham is a reasonable substitute for real ham, usually cut from the back legs. The pork shoulder or picnic ham is named picnic because it is great for informal gatherings like a picnic.  

Is pork shoulder as great as pork butt?

If you search for a well-marbled, fatty piece of meat, you should select the pork butt, but if you prefer a more crispy touch to your meat, go for the pork shoulder. 

You can use pork for roasting or stewing. Pork shoulder is mostly simmered. You can make a variety of items from pork shoulder. You can grind the meat and make meatloaves or meatballs. 

Also, when we look at the health benefits, the pork shoulder is healthier since it has fewer fats. 

What does pork butt mean?

Pork butt does not mean it comes from the butt of the pig. The part that is cut from the butt of the pork is called ham, while the ‘pork butt’ is cut from the shoulder of the pig. 

It includes some parts near the neck, the shoulder blade, and above the foreleg. It has several names like Boston butt, Boston roast, Boston shoulder, etc. 

The word butt can also mean an end that is broad and round. Thus, the pork butt makes sense even though it is not cut from the butt part.  

Can pulled pork be made from pork shoulder?

The US-style pulled pork is a delicious dish typical in the US. It is barbecued meat that can be torn off easily or ripped while serving, thus the name. 

Pork shoulder is excellent for making pulled pork because of its moderate fat content. But note that it should be simmered. 

Some believe pork shoulder with bones helps keep the meat juicy, but whichever part you choose will be great if cooked correctly. Just be sure to buy a great kind of meat. 

You can prepare pulled pork either through an oven, slow cooker, or a pot. You can serve it with side dishes, or it can be used in nachos, sandwiches, or even noodles. 

Do you remove the fat and skin from pork shoulder?

Since pork shoulder has a decent amount of fat, it will be wise to cut off the extra fat leaving only an ample amount for taste. 

When you cook the pork shoulder, you should keep the fat side up so that the fats will move down, moistening the meat while cooking. 

It will also be good to remove the skin so that the flavors will spread throughout the meat. You can then roast the skin until crisp and serve as an aside. 


Now you know the distinction between pork butt and pork shoulder, so you won’t be confused anymore. Both come from the same part of the pig, and both taste great when prepared in the right way. 

It is vital to know how each type of cut is prepared so that you will get the desired results. Since you now know the facts, you won’t be making any mistakes while making a pork dish related to the two.