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Boston Butt vs. Picnic Shoulder; what's the difference?

500500 Posts: 1,198
When making a choice for pulled pork, it seems Boston Butt is chosen more often than Picnic Shoulder. Picnic prices seem to be lower than Butt prices, last time I checked. Why is that? I was thinking of getting a Picnic next time I want pulled pork, just to try something different. Will I be disappointed in the moistness compared to Butt? What else is different in flavor and texture between the two cuts? I've read to score the skin (assuming they all come with a skin and fat cap), and when cooked, it becomes crispy cracklins to snack on. I think the cracklins could add some interesting texture and flavor to a pulled pork sandwich. To those who cook both, what are your thoughts?
Large BGE; Midlothian, Virginia
I like Pig Butts and I can not lie.
"Barbecue is a journey, one meal at a time."

Comments

  • I. like most others, prefer the butt.  It has more marbling, therefore its more moist and has better texture.  The cracklins do add a lot to pulled pork.  Ask anyone who has been to the famous Skylight Inn in Ayden, NC.  For the best pork in my opinion, cook the whole shoulder - then you get the best of both worlds. 

    Shucker

    Eastern North Carolina

    Go Pirates!

    Large Big Green Egg

    Medium Big Green Egg

  • paqmanpaqman Posts: 881
    edited February 2013
    I have a hard time finding Boston Butt where I live.  I have to special order a whole shoulder from my butcher (picnic + butt).  I usually make sausages with the picnic.  There was a super special last week on picnic roasts and I tried to make pulled pork with this cut for the first time.  I was quite happy with the result, moist, tender and almost no waste when compared to boston butt. I will do that again for sure.  I left a piece of skin on a placed the remaining strips in the drip pan - next time, I will not do that...  I will do the cracklings in the oven.

    http://eggheadforum.com/discussion/1147789/pulled-pork-11-5-pounds-bone-in-picnic-shoulder-roast



    ____________________
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  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 8,540
    It's probably lower due to lower demand and less work during slaughter and processing. Boston butt is higher up towards the back of the pig, almost on top of the shoulder. Picnic shoulder is the shoulder and below. It is worked harder on the animal, so it can be tougher. Less forgiving than Boston butt and can have a ham like taste, depending on the cook. I use these for pernil. The cracklins are the best part. I use Boston butt for pulled pork.
  • jfm0830jfm0830 Posts: 879
    edited February 2013
    Everything you wanted to know about Pork Butt and then some:


    This website is a great source of information about meat cuts you barbecue. The recipes are good and easily adapted to the Egg. This is the first place I check when I want to learn about a new (to me) cut of meat.
    BBQ Website: grillin' & smokin'

    Middlesex County, MA
    Two Large BGE's & Too Many Eggcessories to Count
  • gdenbygdenby Posts: 4,212
    In terms of total meat yield, butts are slightly better. Not so much bone, no skin. Nevertheless, I prefer picnics. I like the texture of the meat a little better, and they usually cook a somewhat faster. Haven't managed to make cracklins yet, but when I do, that will be another plus for the picnic.
  • thetrimthetrim Posts: 533
    jfm0830 said:
    Everything you wanted to know about Pork Butt and then some:


    This website is a great source of information about meat cuts you barbecue. The recipes are good and easily adapted to the Egg. This is the first place I check when I want to learn about a new (to me) cut of meat.
    Jim,
    Thanks for the recommendation on this site.  Very interesting and I was wondering how to waste away today...
    =======================================
    XL 6/06, Mini 6/12, L 10/12
    Tampa Bay, FL
  • SmokeyPittSmokeyPitt Posts: 4,817
    edited February 2013
    When I made this recipe from DDD, 


    ...I noticed the restaurant featured cooked the whole shoulder (butt and picnic).  I wanted to replicate this so I purchased a butt and a picnic and cooked them at the same time.  (I couldn't find a whole shoulder).  When I pulled I kept them separate so my guests and I could sample each cut individually, and I believe the majority rule was the picnic was better.  The picnic is a little sweeter...a little more "ham-like".

    My personal preference was to mix the two together and have some of each ;).    



    Which came first the chicken or the egg?  I egged the chicken and then I ate his leg wing. 
    2014 Wing King's Apprentice
  • 500500 Posts: 1,198
    It's probably lower due to lower demand and less work during slaughter and processing. Boston butt is higher up towards the back of the pig, almost on top of the shoulder. Picnic shoulder is the shoulder and below. It is worked harder on the animal, so it can be tougher. Less forgiving than Boston butt and can have a ham like taste, depending on the cook. I use these for pernil. The cracklins are the best part. I use Boston butt for pulled pork.
    I had to look up Pernil.  Found a recipe that looks good;

    Never had much exposure to Latin American food.  May have to try this.  Care to share your recipe and technique?
    Large BGE; Midlothian, Virginia
    I like Pig Butts and I can not lie.
    "Barbecue is a journey, one meal at a time."
  • 500500 Posts: 1,198
    edited February 2013
    When I saw The Layover - Toronto, Bourdain ate a Porchetta sandwich.  When I saw how they made it, I literally said OMG to the television.  Start at 39:50.  Another one to try.
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xw1308_s2e5-ab-the-layover-toronto_lifestyle?start=106#.URPn_Wf4Z8F
    Large BGE; Midlothian, Virginia
    I like Pig Butts and I can not lie.
    "Barbecue is a journey, one meal at a time."
  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 8,540
    That video is pretty close to what I do. I have actually only ever done a picnic shoulder in the oven(pernil al horno). I have done a boston butt flavored the same way on the egg. My wife is Peurto Rican so I taught myself how to do some Caribbean dishes. Lechon Asado is the Puerto Rican "turkey" and is traditionally served for the holidays. It is a whole roasted pig, cooked outside on a spit.. Pernil is the at-home in the oven version. Traditionally, it is cooked to roast temperatures (160-180 degrees) and sliced. Some even take it to 185 so it starts to pull with resistance. Going to 195 is okay, it just become pulled pork instead of a roast, so slicing is no longer needed. The video above uses citrus and onion(in powder), which is more of a Cuban variation. Otherwise, the recipes are basically the same. It's basically a combination of pork, adobo, heat, and time.

    For the recipe:

    1 Picnic shoulder, I normally do 7-10 lbs.

    Adobo marinade:
    Lots of Garlic. I have seen 7-8 cloves to 30 cloves. I usually get a head of garlic and use the whole thing. I also eyeball everything, but I will give you the estimates.

    1 head of garlic
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup vinegar(white, red wine, cider.... i usually use white)
    2 tbsp of kosher/sea salt
    1 tbsp cracked black pepper
    1-2 tbsp Oregano
    2 packets Goya Sazon(optional, mostly for color from the achiote)
    1 tsp cumin

    Traditionally, this is all mixed together in a Pilón, which is a type of a mortar and pestle. It can be blended in a food processor or blender as well. Wear gloves with this stuff, unless you don't mind red, stinky hands. It will at least keep vampires at bay.

    The pork can be handled multiple ways. You can cut the skin back, like the video, to create a flap.  Then, cut slits at leas 1 inch x 1 inch deep every 1-2 inches, all over the shoulder.

    Otherwise, you can score the skin in a 1-inch diamond pattern or in horizontal lines 1/2 inch apart.  Make the pockets in the exposed areas or just rub it all over.

    Wrap this in saran wrap and let it sit overnight to 3 days. You then have the option to inject with Goya Mojo. 

    You can also get Goya Adobo(red top: with pepper) and use this instead of making your own. Still do the garlic and liquids. You can inject the shoulder with Mojo alone and sprinkle Adobo on it like a rub. Marinate overnight. This is a quicker version and still tastes great.

    Normally, I stick this in my 7.5 qt oval LC DO and oven roast at 350, uncovered, until 180-190ish.  It starts to fall apart, but comes off in chunks. I usually add a little Mojo to the pan for moisture during the cook.  Turn on the broiler to crisp up the skin, ~5-10 minutes.

    On the egg, I have done the same thing with boston butt, except gone to 195-200 and pulled it. This is awesome too. I do believe that doing the shoulder that way will be fantastic as well. This can be done low and slow, but the skin can get rubbery. The high heat is key to getting cueritos - crispy pork skin.  Just open the egg up at the end(pseudo- reverse sear) to crisp it. It isn't smoked, so don't add any wood. You could; it would just be garlicky bbq.

    The video gives good examples of the "how-to" aspect.




     
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 15,854
    boston butt is cleaner when you pull, picnic has more fatty substance between the muscles that needs to be removed, both make great pulled pork, alittle more flavor in a picnic
  • 500500 Posts: 1,198
    Thanks Eggcelsior.  So many ways to enjoy porky goodness.  On my to-do list.
    Large BGE; Midlothian, Virginia
    I like Pig Butts and I can not lie.
    "Barbecue is a journey, one meal at a time."
  • EggcelsiorEggcelsior Posts: 8,540
    500 said:
    Thanks Eggcelsior.  So many ways to enjoy porky goodness.  On my to-do list.
    Wegmans just received Picnics. I will pick one up and do a full post. I have some ideas that I want to try out before passing them on.

    This stuff is so awesome. It makes great taco/sandwich meat and is better the next day. If you have a Panini press, you'll make yourself the best Cuban outside of Ybor City/Miami
  • There is more waste in the picnic because you get the skin on usually and there is a good size bone.  I don't eat cracklins and I think the butts are a much better value, especially for sausage. 

    Simple ingredients, amazing results!
  • I think the cost difference is due to yield.  You have a lot more "waste" in a picnic since a larger percentage of total weight is bone. 

    I prefer butts to picnic but like them both.  I totally remove the skin when I do picnics instead of just scoring them.  (like this:  http://www.nibblemethis.com/2012/06/jerked-pork-with-pineapple-salsa.html)
  • 500500 Posts: 1,198
    edited February 2013
    Lots of great information here. Thanks. Glad I asked. Looking forward to expanding my pork cooking resume with Porchetta, Pernil, and Cuban sandwiches.
    Large BGE; Midlothian, Virginia
    I like Pig Butts and I can not lie.
    "Barbecue is a journey, one meal at a time."
  • ChubbsChubbs Posts: 3,590
    +1 for butts due to less waste, more marbling, therefore better flavor in my opinion.
    Columbia, SC --- LBGE 2011 -- MINI BGE 2013
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