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Most of us love pulled pork recipes, carnitas, or roasted pork shoulder. It’s one of the best go-to food options when you need to feed a crowd or make a meal with leftovers to spare. So, how can we master this cut of meat?
Pork shoulder is a relatively tough and inexpensive cut of meat layered with fat that comes from the pig’s shoulder region. You may also see this cut labeled as pork butt, but this is actually shoulder meat. Don’t fall for the belief that this cut of meat is rough. Cook it low and slow for a few hours and it will be transformed into tender, juicy shreds that fall apart with the touch of your fork.
So, first thing to know: pork shoulder and pork butt. While pork shoulder and pork butt come from the same basic region of the pig and can be used interchangeably, they are cut from opposite ends of the shoulder region. Pork shoulder is cut from the thinner end of the shoulder, contains slightly less fat, and can be better for cooking and slicing whole. Pork butt, on the other hand, is cut from the thicker, fattier end of the shoulder, and excels in recipes like pulled pork where the meat is meant to be shredded. This is the cut that’s typically used for ground pork. You can also get freshly ground at our butcher shop. Just ask our staff to assist you with this.
It’s best to cook pork shoulder soon after buying it, although it will keep for two to three days in the fridge. Any longer than three days and it’s best to store it in the freezer, where it will keep for up to six months. Plan to give frozen pork shoulder roughly 24 hours (for every five pounds of meat) to thaw in the refrigerator. Pork shoulder is super versatile, forgiving, and quite easy to cook. Unlike the more lean tenderloin and chops, pork shoulder is an incredibly forgiving cut of meat. It becomes more tender as it cooks and benefits from a lengthy cook time, so even if it stays on the heat a few minutes too long, you won’t suddenly end up with something dry or rubbery. Part of the versatility that comes with pork shoulder is the form in which you choose to cook it. This cut can be cooked whole, as with a slow-cooked pork roast; cut into large chunks, for making pulled meat; prepped and cooked as smaller chunks, for stews and chili; or even ground for meatballs and patties.
Last, but not least, braise it in the oven, stew it, braise it in the slow cooker, cook it in the pressure cooker.