There are actually two different cuts that get called pork shoulder: “Boston butt” and “picnic shoulder.”
If you can, stick to the “Boston butt” cut. It’s more common in supermarkets, and it’s what most recipes call for.
Boston butt — also called Boston shoulder — is a fairly inexpensive piece of meat that comes from the top of the pig’s shoulder. It has lots of juicy, marbled fat, which keeps it tender during cooking. Often, it is sold without the bone (bone-out), which makes it easier to cut and serve, but some people opt for bone-in Boston butt, since the bone adds flavor. Usually, a recipe will indicate whether the cut should be bone-in or bone-out.
BUT, if you can only find a “picnic shoulder,” feel free to substitute.
The picnic shoulder cut has less fat and more connective tissue than the Boston butt, meaning it needs long time to make it tender. Most pork shoulder recipes have long cooking times anyway, though, so using a picnic shoulder is fine. The major difference is that picnic shoulders have a huge bone down the middle; it adds flavor, but you’ll have to cut around it to serve.
1. Bo Ssam, Momofuku Style
2. Sichuan Noodle and Pork Shoulder Soup
A seriously rich, flavorful soup for occasions when chicken noodle just won’t do. Recipe here.
3. Peachy Pork-A-Bobs
You don’t always have to roast the shoulder whole; cutting it into cubes and grilling individual skewers of meat is quicker and equally delicious. Recipe here.
4. Braised Pork Ragu
For the extreme beginner, this is near-impossible to screw up. Recipe here.
5. Braised Pork Shoulder
Simple is always a good way to go. Recipe here.
6. Pork Shoulder Roast with Citrus Mojo and Green Sauce
8. Chile-Braised Pork Shoulder Tacos
Pulled pork tacos > fish tacos > ground beef tacos > chicken tacos. Fact. Recipe here.
10. Chile Verde
A pretty edgy twist on classic Super Bowl chili. Recipe here.
11. Shortcut Smoked Pork Shoulder
Slow roast the shoulder before smoking, and you’ll get a similar flavor in far less time. Recipe here.
12. Pork, Apple, and Cider Pie
WARNING: recipe is written in British, without a translator. Recipe here.
13. 6-Hour Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder
All that time in the oven makes for some seriously crispy skin. Recipe here.
14. Porchetta Style Roast Pork Shoulder
Traditionally a pork loin rolled inside of a pork belly, porchetta works well with pork shoulder, as well. Just make sure to buy a skin-on cut. Recipe here.
15. Slow Cooker Kalua Pig
It’s amazing what good Hawaiian sea salt, three slices of bacon (just three!), a little garlic, and a slow cooker can do. This may be the most delicious pork shoulder I’ve ever tasted. I suggest using a bone-in pork shoulder for maximum perfection. Recipe here.
17. Pernil Asado
Low and slow, with an orange vinegar marinade. Recipe here.
19. Homesick Texan Carnitas
Taco fixin’s recommended, but not required. Recipe here.
21. Cherry Roasted Pork Shoulder with Pickled Cabbage and Crudites
Dainty raw vegetables really add some finesse to a giant hunk of meat. Recipe here.
22. Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder Pasta