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.
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.
23. Matilda, Maple, and Garlic Pork Shoulder with Crispy Skin
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