The Pork Shoulder/Pork Butt Roast

by John Smith


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The other day my store had pork butts on sale. However, we no longer call them pork butts. We call them pork shoulders. Pork shoulders are no longer called pork shoulders. They are called fresh shoulder picnics. It's a bit confusing even for us so-called professional meat guys. You see about ten years ago, or maybe it was twenty I don't remember, the government thought that the retail meat industry needed some help. Up until that time, butchers called the meat cuts pretty much whatever we wanted. I guess they didn't like the names that the butchers of America used for the different cuts of meat. For the most part we, the retail butchers across America, were on the same page. New York steaks were New York steaks even if you lived in Boring, Oregon or Walla Walla, Washington. On the other hand, rib eye steaks might be called Spencer steaks somewhere out East where they didn't know any better. So I guess it was a little confusing. As long as you didn't do any traveling, you were okay.

Now the government has all of us all squared away. New York steaks are now called top loin strip steaks, sirloin tip steaks are now round tip steaks and London broils are now called thick cut top round steaks to name but a few. Like I said, we're all squared away except us older meat guys can not communicate with the young meat guys or many of the customers. Us old guys still use the old names and the new guys use the new names, not even knowing the old names, and the customers are all over the place. To add to the confusion, there are still butchers out there that have refused to comply. In fact, some of them have made up new names for some of the cuts just to be difficult.

Like I was saying, pork butts were on sale the other day cheap at $1 a pound. When pork butts are this cheap, you know I'm going to get some. They are so versatile. I grind them up to make delicious and cheap hamburger, which can be used in any dish that ground beef is used in with great results. You can have the butcher cut them into pork steaks, which you can pan fry, shake and bake or barbecue just like pork chops. Or just throw the whole roast into a roasting pan with a little bit of water and cook until it reaches the desired internal temperature for pork, which I think is about 170 degrees F. Anyway you fix them, they are delicious.

The other day I got a nice big pork butt and took out the bone and butter-flied it. Butter-flied means that I cut it down the middle and laid it out flat in one big slab. Your butcher will be glad to do it for you. I then scored it several times and lathered it up with my homemade barbecue sauce. I placed it into the roasting pan and covered and baked it in the oven at 250 degrees F for about 3 hours or so. Actually I cooked it for quite a bit longer. I put it in the oven just before we went to church, and when we got back and changed back into our everyday duds, which was about 4 hours, I pulled it from the oven. It was quite well done and falling apart. I think it would have been better if it had been pulled earlier, maybe after 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

It was so tender I couldn't put it on my grill because I would lose a lot of it through the grates. Sometimes, no matter how painful it might be, a guy just has to use his brain. We have these pizza pans with holes all over them. So I grabbed one and placed the extremely delicate and tender meat on it, lathered it all up with my special barbecue sauce, and placed the whole thing on my barbecue grill and closed the lid. I allowed the heat and smoke to cook the sauce into the meat, turning and adding more sauce several times. It took about twenty minutes to get the meat to that award wining level of barbecued doneness. Even though I would have liked to have cooked the meat a little less to retain more of the juices, it turned out very good and very tender, which brought nothing but praise from the many critics that sit down at our large dinning room table at meal time. We served potato salad made from some nice little new golden fleshed potatoes from Herb Steinman, our spud farmer buddy from across the street, that was just outstanding, baked beans and potato rolls that were hot from the oven. Life is good.


John Smith has been a butcher/meat cutter for 30+ years. He's written the book Confessions of a Butcher - eat steak on a hamburger budget and save$$$. You can check out his book and some of his archived articles at www.all-about-meat.com or post any meat related question and get it answered usually within 24 hours. John, his wife Vickie and their 8 kids live in eastern Idaho in the shadow of the Tetons. ArkEssentialsPublishing.com. Used by permission.

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