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Mar 22, 2008 04:22 AM

What is pork butt?

What is pork butt if you don't live in America?

And how much is a quart?

Confused of London

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  1. For the answer to the first question here is the URL

    Quart = 32 ounces. or .9463 of a litre. have fun with this site.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jfood

      Great links. Just lost an hour.

      1. re: jfood

        Fantastic link! Page contains everything I need to know about pork butt for my homemade sausages. Mysteries of pork butt versus shoulder blade roasts ... and all other pork cuts, for that matter, have finally been unravelled. Thanks so much.

      2. I never heard the term until I moved to the south. It's more commonly called Boston butt, which I also never heard growing up in the Northeast. It's basically the most desirable cut for BBQ. It's from the shoulder of the hog.

        1. Butt is the front shoulder of the pig. It's a little confusing as most people would tend to think it comes from the end. The rear is ham. Shoulder needs long slow cooking to break down connective tissue.

          4 Replies
          1. re: tastelikechicken

            It's the butt end (as in larger, thicker) of a front leg/shoulder. 'Butt' meaning 'buttocks' is a derived, informal usage, and applies more to humans than to meat animals.

            1. re: paulj

              yes, I know. Unfortunately the public at large most often associates the term with what they believe it means.

              1. re: tastelikechicken

                That's why we snicker --- and love to order it off menus or put it on our shopping list...

              2. re: paulj

                Actually, the term butt came from the large barrels that used to be used to ship meat (to Boston). They were called butts. Therefore Boston Butt.


              1. re: greedygirl

                This is also the cut that is the essential BBQ cut. Cooked slowly and then sliced or "pulled" it is the perfect barbecue. Has lots of fat and it is difficult to overcook. Use lots of salt and pepper

              2. I've also always wondered what pulled pork was. So basically I need to ask for pork shoulder?

                17 Replies
                1. re: greedygirl

                  You may want to check out the Wikipedia pork entry - it has a pig chart comparing US & UK cuts as well as an entry on "Spare Rib Roast/Spare Rib Joint/Blade Shoulder/Shoulder Butt"


                  1. re: greedygirl

                    Pulled pork is the end-product from a properly cooked butt (shoulder). Ideally, the butt would be smoked for 8-10 hours with low, indirect heat. Alternatively, you could roast the butt or trap the moisture and bake/steam in a dutch oven, again very low and slow -- under 300 degrees -- for 6-8 hours. This process allows the connective tissues to soften and melt into gelatin, the fat bastes and moistens the meat, and the outside (which was liberally seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and other elements of a good rub) crisps up to a tasty crust. Properly done, the internal temp of the meat would have risen over 200 degrees, and the meat will be fall-off-the-bone tender. Once cooled to a point where it can be handled, it is pulled off of the bone in big chunks by hand, and then those chunks are pulled and separated into bite-size pieces. At that point, some regions would incorporate a vinegar-based sauce into the meat and let the flavors meld, others would place a healthy portion of the meat on a buttered and grilled or toasted bun, top with sauce, and top that with cole slaw.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      I believe the 'pull' refers to pulling or tearing the meat apart into shreds. Basically pork is cooked slowly till it is tender enough to pull apart (with fork or heavy duty rubber gloves), and then seasoned with salt and a vinegary sauce. Preferably the slow cooking is done with low, smoky heat (true BBQ), so the meat is partially seasoned before pulling. In South Carolina it is traditional to roast the whole pig this way, so the pulled pork is a mix of all parts. In other areas (North Carolina), the shoulder/butt is commonly used. Shoulder is a good choice because it is relatively inexpensive, and has enough connective tissue to stay juicy after long slow cooking.

                      Note that in many threads about pulled pork, people are talking about any method of cooking a cut like shoulder till it is very tender. It could be wrapped in foil and cooked in a slow oven; it could placed in a cover pot ('dutch oven'). It can even be fast-cooked in the pressure cooker. Obviously these methods don't contribute any smoky flavor, but you can still season the meat with the BBQ sauce.


                      1. re: paulj

                        Interesting posts, paulj and nosh. Obviously I need to travel to the Deep South to enjoy pulled pork, which sounds delicious.

                        A bit of an aside, but I've seen a lot of references to meat temperature on these boards. Meat thermometers are very rarely used here in the UK - is it more commonplace in the States?

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          BTW, greedygirl, a quart is 32 liquid ounces. This is a touch less than a liter, actually about .95 liters.

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            Meat thermoteters are essential to properly cooking meat. You can't rely just on how much time is needed to do the job since there are so many variables involved. Personally, I have a meat thermometer that I use to register the internal temperature of the meat while it cooks in the oven and I have an instant read digital thermometer that I use when we grill. Both types are easily available in stores here.

                            1. re: njtransplant

                              For this slow cooked pork shoulder a meat thermometer is not essential. I have used a digital probe thermometer to keep tabs on the temperature in the smoker, but not in the meat itself. This cooking method has been around a lot longer than thermometers.

                              I find a meat thermometer more useful for a roast, where cooking temperatures are higher, and there is finer line between underdone and overdone.


                              1. re: paulj

                                It really is essential if you want good pulled pork. You can have good sliced pork if the meat is 180F but if you want pulled pork consistantly you need to get it to 195F, same for brisket. You may not consistantly get to 190-195 depending on the size of the roast, outside air temperature, humidity, family bugging you "lets eat", etc.

                            2. re: greedygirl


                              Depending on how crucial the quantity is, bear in mind that a US quart is diffferent from our quart - ours is 40 fluid ounces not 32.

                              Meat thermometer is a good idea - particularly for long slow roasting. Get a digital one. You set the temperature you want; stick the probe in and the display unit sits outside the oven and beeps at you when the temperature is reached. Readily available at Lakeland shops or John Lewis. Of course, ours are in Celsius so you have to make the conversion if you're following an American recipe.


                              1. re: Harters

                                I have got a meat thermometer, but I don't think it works properly because the meat never seems to get to the requisite temperature, even when it's definitely cooked. Unless I'm not using it properly - do you stick it in the oven with the meat, or put it in when you've taken it out of the oven, ifswim?

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  there are two kinds of meat thermometers. One is thick w/ a dial on top/head that you put in at the start of cooking.
                                  Then there's an "instant read" thermometer than has a thin probe with a wire attached to a electronic type read out -- so you can stick it in, and close the door and display is on outside of oven.
                                  it seems if you have the former, you should put into the meat at the beginning.
                                  my instant read never seems to work right, but that's a different matter.

                                  1. re: NYchowcook

                                    Instant read, to me, signifies the type with a thin straight probe with a meter attached on top - it can be either mechanical/analog or electronic/digital, but in any case, you simply stick it in and read. Then you pull it back out and put it back in its holder, which has a pocket clip so you can leave it in your sleeve pocket. (what, you don't wear your chef's gear at home?)

                                    I've found that it helps to read several times (in one reading) to insure that you're really getting to the middle, not near a bone. I take the average of the readings. But be careful not to use it too much and allow all the juices to drain.

                                    Here's one made by Taylor:

                                    If you look around, you'll see some other types - but I would be wary of the electronic ones you stick in the meat and leave there - I've had several of the probes go out. The true instant read ones seem to last for a much longer time.

                                    1. re: NYchowcook

                                      Mine's like this one:


                                      So I guess it's the kind you leave in the meat while it's in the oven. Which is where I've been going wrong, as I was using it to test once the meat had come out.

                                    2. re: greedygirl

                                      I meant this type:


                                      You set the required temperature at the beginning; stick the probe in the meat and the meat the oven. The display unit is connected by cable to the probe and sits outside the oven. You can see the temperature rising and it beeps when it hits the set level. Works great - although I found the recommended temp. that came with the thing slightly overcooked lamb & beef, so I did a bit of internet research to get different temperatures and experimented a bit with them. This is a good piece of kit - trust me on this.


                                      1. re: Harters

                                        NYChowcook was referring to the same, I believe, but they are not referred to as instant read, as he did, but digital meat thermometers. I have 3 different digital meat thermometer electronic displays in my drawer - all with broken probes (and btw, none of the probes work with other units - they're all different - and replacing the probes by mail order costs as much as buying a whole new unit). I have friends and relatives that have the same problem. I have not actually tried that brand, and it may prove to be the one that works for longer than a month.

                                        The instant read thermometers are used by chefs (and others) to check various temps, to insure meeting safety guidelines as well as to check meat doneness. I have found them to be much more reliable, accurate and useful. Even when the wired probes were working, I never trusted one to get it exactly right - I always went short of the time or temp so that I could make sure that I could monitor the final cooking. So, for me, the instant read works just as conveniently, and more accurately insofar as I can take multiple readings, as needed. I just start checking after a calculated time based on the meat, cooking temp. and desired doneness.

                                        Also - as others have said, I don't tend to use a thermometer on long cooking meat when braising in the oven. I generally just cook until the meat can be easily pulled apart - works for braised pulled pork, cochinita pibil, or short ribs. I do use the probe when roasting - beef, to get rare to medium rare (about 130-140F depending on the size), and pork (loin roasts) to get medium (140-145F), chicken to 160 in the thigh and/or 140 in the breast. I also use the probe when smoking briskets and shoulders/butts in my charcoal & wood smoker. It's important to get to only about 165F if you intend to slice the meat or to braise later (as in a pastrami), but if you intend to pull it apart, it needs to be at least 180F.

                                        1. re: applehome

                                          yes, I was referring to those #%$&@ digital probe thermometers. Why the swearing?? They're great in concept but I keep buying different brands and *none* seem to be accurate.
                                          (I'm a "she" BTW)

                                          1. re: NYchowcook

                                            Sorry for the gender mixup. Just use an instant read and set a timer. Or go ahead and use the digital meat thermometer, but set it low on purpose and then check it with the instant read. Pain in the butt (ha ha), but the instant read ones are much more accurate because you can take more than one reading quickly.