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Trying to make pulled pork, but I think the butcher gave me the wrong cut of meat! Please help!

Please help! I am trying to make the pulled pork recipe from the Joy of Cooking for the first time and am a total amateur when it comes to cooking large cuts of meat. When I went to the grocery store last night, the person at the butcher counter told me they didn't have boston butt and the only pork shoulder they had was 15 pounds. He ended up selling me a 4 lb pork roast. He assured me I could make pulled pork from it.

So last night I mixed up the BBQ sauce, cut the fat of the roast, covered it in TJOC's Southern Dry rub for barbeque, and wrapped it up in foil. I was planning on cooking it tonight as the recipe instructs, which calls for browning on all sides and baking at 325 degrees for 3 to 3.5 hours. But then I started googling around to make sure that a roast was going to cook similarly to a shoulder and from what I can gather is that it appears to be a leaner cut of meat. I'm worried that the meat may become dry and not shred if I cook it this way. Most of the pulled pork recipes I have found that use a roast call for cooking it in a crock pot with some sort of liquid.

I am trying to decide what I should do. Cook in the oven as the recipe instructs? Cook in the oven with some liquid to prevent it from drying out? Cook it in a crock pot for a much longer time in some sort of liquid?

Thank you for any advice. I am really hoping not to waste this expensive cut of meat!

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  1. I'm assuming you got pork loin, esp. if it was expensive. ("Roast" doesn't refer to the part of the pig; you can make a pork "roast" from loin or shoulder or even fresh ham, all different parts.) "Boston Butt," btw, is part of the shoulder (confusing, I know), and these are fatty and thus better for pulled pork.

    I wouldn't set out to make pulled pork from the loin, if that's what you have--not enough fat--I'd just roast the loin to 145-50 internal temp, let it rest, and slice thin. That said, I have cut cooked loin (it doesn't "pull" or "shred" very readily), doused it in sauce, and made sandwiches--but that's only when we've had leftover pork and run out of things to do with it. It's not what I'd set out to do.

    Roast pork loin can be delicious if not overcooked, but you really want a shoulder cut, imo, for pulled pork. Loin is usually cooked for a relatively short period. I start mine in a very hot oven to brown and then finish in a low oven.

    1. Do not cook this meat for 3-3.5 hours. You will wind up with dry crumbly pork and it will not shred -- it will just crumble to bits.. You are just going to have to roast this and serve it as a pork roast. Your butcher steered you wrong since you need a much fattier piece of meat for long and low cooking. And by the way -- 325 is way too high for pulled pork, not to mention that it should be done in a smoker or, at the very least, in a Webber with indirect heat.

      5 Replies
      1. re: roxlet

        That combination of temperature and meat is fine...if you had a shoulder. I cook eastern NC barbecue all the time, at 300-350 degrees, directly over top of wood coals or charcoal, and it comes out fine. I usually cook a shoulder that's around eight pounds, and it's done in 4-5 hours. Less if you chop it, which I do, but I usually leave it on a good 4-5 hours as I cook while doing things around the house and in the yard. The shoulder is the fattiest part of the hog- you have to work hard, and I mean really hard, to overcook it.

        Having said that, it does sound like the OP got sold a loin, which is much less fatty and isn't really going to work for this style of dish.

        1. re: Naco

          I have to disagree. My DH is from Atlanta and runs a small BBQ business, and he never cooks BBQ over direct heat. His temps are lower and he cooks pork butts for about 8-9 hours.

          1. re: roxlet

            You said yourself that you don't cook in this way, so how would you know whether or not it works?

            Eastern NC barbecue is always cooked over direct heat, at temperatures in the range mentioned by the OP. I realize that this isn't the case in the Deep South, but the point is, it works. I do it, and the barbecue restaurants here do it, and it's fine.

            1. re: roxlet

              The Joy of Cooking method does work at 325 degrees (which is what the OP was talking about), providing you have the proper cut of pork. It's baked inside a dutch oven. While the method you describe is obviously optimal for true BBQ pulled pork, this is a home-kitchen approach that is workable.

              1. re: roxlet

                Ed Mitchell cooks BBQ over direct heat. I'll go with Ed on this one.

          2. You need a new butcher. Pork for pulled pork needs to be fatty and cooked, at a low temperature, for a long period of time. After 6-8 hours, I have never had one dry out and I don't add additional liquid of any kind. The instructions that you were given -- 3 - 3.5 hours at 325 degrees for a 4 pound piece of meat -- are MUCH too long if the meat is lean and the cooking temperature is too hot for pulled pork. As roxlet says, this will make for a dry piece of meat. You might as well chew on your shoe.

            Why couldn't the butcher put the 15# shoulder on the saw and cut a smaller piece for you? Back to my original comment, you need a new butcher.

            1. Pork shoulder is essentially the same as pork butt. A 4 lb piece is perfect for pulled pork. I make it all the time in a slow cooker and have also made it in the oven.

              In the slow cooker you really don't need any liquid especially if the meat has a bit of fat. I slice a large onion and lay the pieces on the bottom of the insert then place the meat on top. I usually use a dry rub on the meat first. Cook on low for 8 - 9 hours. I make a homemade BBQ sause from the Bon Appetit Y'All cookbook by Virginia Willis but The Joy must have some recipes as well.

              For the oven method use your rub and the foil... just follow the recipe as you were going to.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Gio

                I don't think she has shoulder, Gio; sounds like the butcher sold her loin.

                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                  Thanks for weighing in. I think he gave me a loin as nomadchowwoman said. I am thinking of either roasting it or cooking it at a low heat in my slow cooker in some sort of liquid. But it's already covered in a rub so I'm not sure what liquid would be best. Suggestions?

                  1. re: dcgirl123

                    Don't cook it at low heat in liquid if it is a loin. Although it is counter-intuitive, that will dry it out because it is so lean. SInce you have alrfeady seasoned it, go ahead and roast it as a roast and it will be delicious. I include a link for various roast pork loin recipes you can look at for method. It won't be pulled pork but roast pork is yummy too provided you do not overcook it. (I'd pull it out at 140 and let it rest and the temp will continue to rise up to somewhere between 145 and 150.) http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searc...

              2. Please clarify - the butcher DID NOT sell you shoulder because he wasn't willing to break down the primal into smaller cuts, and instead, sold you another cut that he called a 4lb pork roast?

                You should be able to tell if its very lean, looking at the fat visible in the cut.. shoulder's got a lot, loin really doesn't.

                2 Replies
                1. re: grant.cook

                  That's right. He said he would not cut the shoulder any smaller so he sold me what he called a 4 lb pork roast. There was a layer of fat around the top, which I cut off before adding the rub. Sorry for the confusion - this is my first attempt at cooking pork.

                  1. re: dcgirl123

                    Well that's OK... just use your rub, no need to use the foil. Roast in the oven at 350F/ 20 minutes per pound/internal temp. 160F

                2. Thanks everyone. Forgive my ignorance, but what is the difference between pork tenderloin and pork loin?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: dcgirl123

                    Pork tenderloin is a cut of meat roughly the size and shape of the tube of cardboard left over when you use up a roll of papertowels -- so about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Pork loin is much bigger, usually 3 or 4 inches in diameter. Both cuts are often misidentified as each other, even when I googled to try to find pictures for you. Probably a better researcher than I can do that for you.

                    1. re: dcgirl123

                      If what you have is 4 lbs., it is unlikely to be tenderloin. It is, as GretchenS, says, long, narrow, and tubular. It favors quick cooking, such as grilling or roasting, and it can be done in as little as 10-15 minutes, depending on the size. It's very, very tender, and as with beef tenderloin, the most expensive part.

                      And no need to apologize, dcgirl123; you learn by asking. None of us was born understanding the cuts of meat or how they are best cooked!

                    2. I am still trying to get past the fat being cut off!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: LaLa

                        Me too. I'd leave it on.

                        DC: The main difference between those two cuts is the position on the pig. They are both tender cuts from along the spine. The tenderloin is the most tender cut of the entire pig.

                        Here's a pretty good explaination with photos:

                        1. re: LaLa

                          This is a good idea if you're applying some sort of rub to it, as it basically doubles the surface area of the meat. But if you want to cook at high temperatures for shorter amounts of time like the OP mentioned, leaving the skin on is a good idea. Plus, you get cracklins. I always leave it on myself, unless I'm doing something different like cochinita pibil, which calls for a highly spiced rub.

                        2. Everyone here has already given you good advice as to what to do with your pork LOIN.
                          What I'm wondering is, when are you going to go call the joint you got this meat from and advise them to educate their butchers a bit more? Anyone behind a butcher counter should be able to advise customers on cuts and cooking methods. It's a dieing art I realize, and too often not taken very seriously anymore.
                          Futhermore, why wouldn't he cut down the 15 lb. shoulder for you? I call BS on that one.
                          You're average customer is not buying shoulder in such quantities, it sounds like he just didn't want to make the extra effort.
                          A "butcher" at my local Whole Paycheck this weekend prepped a whole tenderloin for me very willingly. I asked him to trim it up and tie it.
                          He just tied it. Thats it. The chain was still on, as was all of the silverskin.
                          I'm sure he thought he knew what he was doing, the training just isn't there at these kinds of places.
                          I miss Bryan's!
                          eta: when I discovered the intact filet I chided myself to be more specific next time, like, 'please take off the chain and silverskin, and then tie it, thanks'. You got's to work with what you got's, I suppose.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: rabaja

                            You could trim a full shoulder into a picnic, but 15lbs. would be on the small side for a full shoulder. I'd guess that it was a very large picnic, and a picnic doesn't seem like something you could trim down significantly.

                            I also disagree about the "average customer" not buying in those quantities. Where I live, a pork shoulder tends to be 6-12lbs., and back quarters that are 15 pounds and up are also very popular.

                            1. re: Naco

                              Hey Naco: Not clear on your post. The full shoulder is the butt and picnic, unseparated. The shoulder yields the butt, which is the upper shoulder portion, and the picnic is the lower (think forearm) portion. Each tends to weigh about 6-8 lbs, thus about 15 lbs for a whole shoulder.

                              1. re: woodburner

                                When I said "pork shoulder" in that last paragraph, read that as "picnic shoulder".

                          2. Pork roast is a generic term that can mean any cut off meat.
                            Maybe it's too late, but is it possible to ask the butcher what cut he sold you? Loin, shoulder, ham?

                            TJOC recipes sounds off from the get go - browning all sides, cooking at 325 F seems much too high to do barbecued pulled pork, unless the recipe calls for slathering/ladling on bbq sauce at the end.

                            As mentioned above, cutting off the fat! That's put me back a minute. lol!

                            You may not end up with "pulled pork". However, with a good dry rub, you can still end up with some tasty pork.

                            Not knowing the exact cut of meat nor am I familiar with the recipe, it's difficult to give specific times.

                            If you trust your butcher, you can cook as stated on the recipe and sauce as needed at the end.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: dave_c

                              If they had a shoulder a good dutch oven at 325 will cook an 8 pound shoulder and have it falling off the bone. Not a traditional pulled pork but had great results at 4 hours. I like a high vinegar braising liquid maybe that makes a little difference. traditional smoking however, takes much longer.

                            2. Yeah, I think next time you will want to seek out a butcher who is willing to cut a shoulder to order for you - this guy seems like he sold you something unsuited to the recipe just to avoid any extra work, which is pretty unprofessional. And don't cut off the fat!! The fat keeps the meat moist during cooking - just skim it off the top at the end of cooking if you want. Good luck!

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: kathleen440

                                Thanks for the advice. I cut off the fat because that's what the recipe called for. http://books.google.com/books?id=tbyW...

                                1. re: dcgirl123

                                  If, as it sounds, you have a pork loin, it should be long and oval, about 4-5" in diameter.
                                  The fat cap would have protected it during roasting, so I would suggest laying some bacon or thin-sliced pancetta over the top before roasting it uncovered. Do not sear it first. I would recommend using lower heat, like 275-300. When the temp reaches 140-150, take it out and let it rest, under foil for 15-30 min. If the exterior is not brown enough, raise the oven temp - when it reaches 400-425, return the roast to the oven for a few minutes to brown the top. Remove the roast to a platter. Deglaze the pan with beer, cider, or orange juice and reduce the sauce, tasting often. You might want to add a splash of vinegar at the very end, to add piquancy. The absolute best pork loin roast I ever made happened serendipitously.
                                  It was halfway done when I learned my guests would be delayed, so I turned the oven down to 250. Then they called to say they'd be even later. I left the roast in the turned-off oven. All in all, a 4-5# roast was in the oven for nearly 6 hrs. It was spoon-tender, and the soy/cider/garlic marinade had formed an intense, syrupy glaze. Of course, I never was able to replicate exactly how I did it.

                                  1. re: dcgirl123

                                    One thing a few posters mentioned, and I want to echo, is cooking to temperature - don't cook to time.

                                    When time is given for a roasting recipe, its an estimate.. and its often wrong - your oven might be a bit hotter or colder, the meat a different shape. Have a good thermometer and be prepared to stick it into the roast from time to time. Cook it to several degrees UNDER your goal temperature, because even after you take it out, the inside is going to over-run and continue to heat up.

                                    And don't be afraid of pork.. you don't have to kill it because of some old tale about trichinosis.

                                    1. re: dcgirl123

                                      With the pork roast that you got, one of the JofC recipes for boneless port loin is a better cooking guide. You can still use the pulled pork rub, and flavor the meat with a BBQ sauce. The meat is better sliced than pulled.

                                      I believe there are 2 traditional styles of pulled pork. In North Carolina the shoulder (butt) is slow smoked and then pulled. In South Caroline (more or less) the whole pig is slow smoked, and pulled/chopped. In the whole pig case, the leaner loin meat will be mixed in with the shoulder and ham. This lean meat is also protected during roasting by the cap layer of fat and skin.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        A couple of points here. There is no "traditional" pulled pork in North Carolina- no one uses that term. Wood or charcoal cooked pork is just called "barbecue". This is a universally recognized term. I'm about 99 per cent sure this is also true in South Carolina; I have never run across the term "pulled pork" in a South Carolina barbecue place or heard a South Carolinian use it.

                                        With regard to styles, there are two major styles in North Carolina. From the coast to about a half hour west of Raleigh, you have eastern style barbecue, which is traditionally the whole hog, very(and I mean *very*) lightly sauced with a vinegar and pepper sauce. The traditional way to cook is over direct heat at 300+ degrees F. This allows the skin to crisp up- this is either mixed into the barbecue or eaten as a side.

                                        In most of the Piedmont, you have Lexington style. They add some ketchup to the V&P sauce and only cook shoulders, and don't eat the skin. Note that this is not a thick, sweet tomato sauce- it's still very runny and vinegary.

                                        South Carolina is more of a patchwork. In the Pee Dee and most of the Low Country, the barbecue is basically the same as it is in eastern NC. Mustard sauce is popular in the Midlands, there's a streak of Lexington style sauce in the Upcountry, and they have the thick, tomato-based sauce near the Georgia border.

                                        1. re: Naco

                                          I should also add that eastern style is always chopped. Lexington style can often be ordered sliced- but most people still get chopped.

                                          1. re: Naco

                                            Just one quibble with Naco's post--eastern NC cooking temperatures are much lower, usually around 250 degrees or less, but never above 300. Long and slow, that's the trick.

                                            When cooking whole pigs in my younger days, we would splay him out on the grate and put a tiny pile of embers (maybe a half shovel-full) under the thickest part of each leg. That's all it takes. Pop open a cold beer, replenish the coals as needed to keep the temperature around 250, and baste with the vinegar/pepper sauce every couple of hours or so. Then you simply wait for about 14-16 hours. :)

                                            Now I usually just fire up some boston butts on my smoker grill, but otherwise the process is about the same.

                                            1. re: arbyunc

                                              You will never get the skin properly crisped at 250F or below. Learned that one the hard way!

                                              1. re: Naco

                                                Interesting...If only you had been around to tell all those pigs I've cooked at 250 that they aren't supposed to be crispy. Somehow they didn't get the message! :)

                                                1. re: arbyunc

                                                  The skin always comes out leathery for me at those temperatures. I asked around a bit, and got the advice to crank up the temperature, which worked.

                                            2. re: Naco

                                              Bingo, Naco!! Nice post.

                                              Note for everyone that cooking direct, over the coals, is still done at a distance of what, about 24 to 30 inches from the fire? This dissapates the heat a bit, so its not like cooking a steak directly over the fire when its close as possible.

                                      2. For pulled pork, you need a pork shoulder. The shoulder comes in two different cuts. The upper portion is usually referred to as "Boston Butt". The lower is usually referred to as Picnic Ham. Don't worry about the names - nothing to do with butts, hams, or picnics. Both can make very good pulled pork. The picnic ham tends to have a little more sinew and bone, and is a little more flavorful, but there's less meat, and it can take a little longer to cook. The boston butt has a lot of intramuscular fat - not marbling, but fat and connective tissue (collagen) that runs between some of the main muscle groups. For making pulled pork, fat and collagen are your friends.

                                        Get a 4-5 pound chunk of boston butt. Ask for a piece with a nice fat cap. Keep the fat on. Rub a good 1/2 cup worth of BBQ seasoning - make your own from one of the bamillion recipes out there, or buy some - into the meat, wrap in plastic wrap (double or triple layer for a piece of meat that big), and fridge it for a day.

                                        Keeping the fat piece on the top, roast, crock, or BBQ it. BBQ (smoking) is the preferred method - you'll get a beautiful crusty flavorful "bark" on it, and a smokey flavor you can only get from slow cooking on a BBQ (I'm not talking about grilling, mind you). Roasting it is preferred method #2, as you'll get a nice crust on it, but no smoke. Crocking it works, and you can throw it under the broiler when it's done to get a nice crust on the top. Works in a pinch.

                                        The key is to cook it slow and low - low temperature, long time. You want to get the fat and collagen to break down and "lubricate" the meat. Cook to an internal temperature of 195-200. You need to get above 190, minimum, and even at 190, there's will be some tough parts. 195-200 internal temp is ideal. At the point, you should be able to easily slide a fork into it, and pull off a large chunk of meat. For cook times, on a BBQ, you're looking at indirect heat, BBQ temp of about 250F, a 5 pound chunk will go for 6-8 hours. In an oven, 300F, 5 pound chunk for 4-6 hours (minimum). Go by internal temp, though, for this dish - that will never steer you wrong.

                                        This is only doable with: 1) A cut that contains a lot of fat and collagen (a loin does not). 2) Cooking to a high internal temp to break down said fat and collagen. Get a Boston Butt with a nice fat cap, get a nice rub on it, cook slow and low to 195. Some folks (like me) baste it periodically with a "mop sauce" - basically cider vinegar with a few tablespoons of your rub mixed in. Use a fat brush to "mop" this sauce over the meat every hour or so. The kick from the cider vinegar helps cut through the fat (in a taste way) in the finished dish.

                                        Good luck, and don't give up! A good pulled pork is one of the best dishes out there!

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: foreverhungry

                                          An excllent reply.

                                          If you don't have a smoker, you can grill it on a charcoal grill for an hour or so on indirect heat and then finish in the oven.

                                          1. re: foreverhungry

                                            The shoulder and the ham are two completely parts of the animal. The shoulder(and component parts) is the front leg(minus the shank), and the ham is the back leg. You can make barbecue from either or both. The ham is less fatty than the shoulder and can be more challenging to cook as a result. You just have to make sure that what you're getting is a "fresh ham". If you try to make barbecue or "pulled pork" from a Christmas ham, cured ham, or any of the precooked hams that constitute 90+ per cent of "hams" in your typical grocery store, it will end in tears.

                                            1. re: Naco

                                              Naco - the "ham" is not a cut on the back leg. Ham - what you get at the deli - is a finished product, just like prosciutto, bacon, and pancetta are finished products. It is made from a portion of the back leg.

                                              The picnic ham (also called picnic arm; terminology varies around the country, it makes it confusing) is a cut - it's the upper portion of the foreleg, extending into the shoulder. Above it sits what is usually referred to as the boston butt.

                                              Check out the description of the pork shoulder picnic near the middle of this page, referring to the picnic ham as the shoulder primal cut: http://www.askthemeatman.com/pork_pic...

                                              1. re: foreverhungry

                                                'Fresh ham' does mean the uncured rear leg.

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  Foreverhungry said PICNIC HAM, which is the part of the foreleg attached to the butt part of the shoulder.

                                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                                    That's called a picnic shoulder. The shoulder is from the front leg, the ham is from the back. I have never heard of a "picnic ham".

                                                    1. re: Naco

                                                      picnic ham is a common term for a cured front leg. However 'fresh picnic ham' is less common,
                                                      I suspect that in this ehow, the meat is actually cured, even though the title is 'fresh picnic ham'. In this case fresh probably distinguishes it from a canned picnic ham.

                                                      1. re: Naco

                                                        The terms vary across regions, just like most of the US refers to the top of the shoulder as a Boston Butt...except in the Boston area. Even among the pork industry, apparently, there's little agreement to the nomenclature of the front leg area. I've heard - and have seen in butchers - across the the US that portion referred to as picnic ham, picnic shoulder, shoulder picnic, and picnic shoulder ham, all referring to the same cut.

                                                        By the way - it's possible to make a ham out of the picnic shoulder. While a ham is typically made from the back leg, there are folks that cure the picnic shoulder, thus turning it into a ham. This just adds to the confusion.

                                                        Though, to be honest, pork cuts are less confusing than beef cuts, whose names really vary from one area to the next, and even among butchers in the same geographic area.

                                                        Bottom line - names vary. Back to the OP - we're all talking about the same thing - using a pork shoulder cut, whatever you want to call it. And you'll have 2 choices - the bottom portion of it, or the top portion of it.

                                                        1. re: foreverhungry

                                                          The nomenclature we use in my area is quite clear*, so I'll stick with that.

                                                          *A ham is a ham, a shoulder is a shoulder, and a cured shoulder is...a cured shoulder!

                                                          In any case, the point is: you can use the foreleg or the hindleg, or preferably both, to make barbecue!

                                                2. re: Naco

                                                  Foreverhungry referenced a "picnic ham," which is the leg portion of front leg connecting to the shoulder.

                                              2. Obviously the most important thing the OP has to find out is which cut she has. If, indeed, it is a loin as it appears to be, perhaps all is not lost. I would roast it to 140 as greygarious suggests. When I was in the Army living in North Carolina, we ate a lot of barbecue, and they were sandwiches of chopped, not pulled pork. I would slice that pork maybe 3/8" thick and chop it with a knife. Then dampen it with a bit of a vinegar based NC sauce, form into patties and lightly grill or saute to just brown them a bit. Then serve them on a roll topped with NC slaw (ketchup based or you other favorite slaw) and pass extra sauce. Just don't dry that poor piece of meat out.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: junescook

                                                  In general on the west coast and in competition bbq circles, the hams are sections of the upper rear legs.. The shoulder (aka Butt or Boston Butt) are the shoulder of the front legs, the picnic cut/section is below the shoulder/butt cut.

                                                  Either the Picnic or Boston Butt/shoulder can be used for slow cooked recipes but never heard of the hams cooked low and slow likely because the interior fat and muscles of the shoulder make for a far superior end product as compared to the hams. The picnic cut usually has a thick fat cap and bone. It should be cooked in the same way as the butt/shoulder but is a less tender cut.

                                                  For KCSB competitions every competitor than I know of uses the shoulder/butt section. The many muscles that make up the shoulder make for fall apart meat when it's cooked perperly.


                                                  1. re: bbqJohn

                                                    A fresh ham can roasted whole in much the same way as loin roast. In all mammals the front limb has more bones, more muscles and hence more connective tissue, so it benefits more from the long slow cooking that breaks this down. The simplicity of the rear muscle structure is evident in ham slices. The rear, if cooked long and slow can end up dry.

                                                    1. re: bbqJohn

                                                      Hey John,

                                                      Just got my pc back from shop -- had Trojan type virus.

                                                      Anyhow, I was not debating whether the shoulder cut would have been more appropriate. But, since in her original posting the OP had indicated that on the previous night she had already put her spice rub on and prepared the meat, she might be able to pull off a save by chopping up the loin and mixing in some sauce and grilling up for barbecue sandwiches.

                                                      Heck, last weekend I used a shoulder roast for roast pork rather than a loin becasue I'm so sick of the tastelessness of the leaner cuts nowadays, even when you're careful about not overcooking them.

                                                  2. As a separate issue. . . Does anyone else think the boston butt is disappearing? I too can only find the whole shoulder. I buy a few boston butt pieces for the freezer when i visit my folks.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: j8715

                                                      Maybe depends on the area. On the west coast butt/shoulder sections are available most anywhere. Costco sells a 2 pack of about 15 lbs total and seems to always have them. However the name Boston is not used very much anymore in favor of just Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder.

                                                      I've sometimes seen the Picnic labeled as a Picnic Roast or Picnic Shoulder Roast which may explain what the OP may have received from her butcher.


                                                    2. I have not yet made pulled pork with the loin, but I have made it with the tenderloin. (although I have a loin in the fridge now for this purpose) My winter version is to rub and then sear the tenderloin quickly, cut into 3" pieces, and simmer in a mixture of olive oil, barbque sauce, chopped onion, water and whatever spices you like. After an hour or two, the meat is tender enough to pull apart, although it is much more labor than a shoulder. I usually use 1/2 cup of oil in the mix for two tenderloins, and the added fat helps to get it moist and fall apart.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: forgedcu

                                                        Given that a pork tenderloin is A) already tender, B) costs about double that of a shoulder (per pound), and 3) has very little flavor on it's own, what's the point of using it to make pulled pork. Seems like a waste of money, effort, and an already very tender piece of meat.

                                                        Same comment for the loin, except that it's A) not quite as tender, 2) not as expensive, and 3) a bit more flavorful than a tenderloin. All the same, it doesn't seem that that kind of treatment is what best suits either a loin or tenderloin.

                                                        Kinda like cooking scallops for 3 hours and mixing them with a bunch of spices. Can you do it? Sure. Is it the best use of that meat? No really.

                                                        1. re: foreverhungry

                                                          I totally agree. Using pork tenderloin for pulled pork is like using filet mignon for pot roast. It makes very little sense taste, texture and $$ wise.

                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                            Well, I wasn't saying it was the best use of the cut. I was simply saying if you absolutely want pulled pork and all you have is tenderloin or loin, it is possible to make an acceptable pulled pork sandwich with either of these cuts. I agree that there are much better solutions, but sometimes, you make do with what you have to get what you want.

                                                            1. re: forgedcu

                                                              I'm skeptical that a pork tenderloin can be gotten to the point where it easily shreds. Its muscle structure is simply so different than that of a shoulder. If you cook a tenderloin for a couple of hours, what happens to it? Doesn't it just dry and toughen? There's no connective tissue or fat to lubricate the muscle as it cooks.

                                                              If all I had was a tenderloin or loin and was dead set on making pulled pork, I'd simply rub with the spices, cook those cuts of meat as one normally cooks them whole. Cool, slice as thin as you can get it, then reheat gently in either a vinegar sauce or thinned BBQ sauce. Not pulled, per se, but at least it won't be tough.

                                                              1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                Is authentic pulled pork really in shreds? From what I've seen on TV docs. the meat (which may be a whole pig) is pulled apart into chunks, but these are chopped into bite size pieces. The pulling is done with industrial rubber gloves, the chopping with a couple a cleavers.

                                                                Some people may try to tease all the fibers apart with forks, but that's more likely to be a home style, not a whole hog Carolina BBQ shack.

                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                  It's pulled (into shreds) or chopped, depending on the place. I suspect whole hog might lean toward chopping.

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    I see what you are getting at. But regardless of whether it's hand shredded or chopped on a board with a cleaver, the point is that it's fall-apart tender. A slow-roasted shoulder could be hand shredded. A tenderloin could not.

                                                                    As for those that counter with the fact that the loins and tenderloins are included in a pulled pork when the whole hog is done, well that's very true. But those less-than tender cuts represent a relatively small percentage of the total meat that is tender and shredding - whose bulk are the shoulders and legs.

                                                                    It's the same with beef - there are a couple of cuts that, given the proper cooking technique, can be used for a shredded beef. Any beef cut, regardless of cooking method, can be chopped into small pieces. But that doesn't mean they are interchangeable.

                                                        2. I don't get why all of the posters here seem to be assuming the OP got pork loin, not shoulder. I've seen "roasts" at my local butcher that are indeed pork shoulder, just trimmed down to manageable roast size. It's the same cut as the butt, just trimmed down. Seems like that has to be established before any reasonable advice given.

                                                          Yes, I know this post is a month old. But I'm surprised how quickly folks piled on the butcher without knowing what exactly was provided.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: monopod

                                                            Piled on the butcher?

                                                            All indications from the OP were that this was a pork loin. I'm curious why think it wasn't.

                                                            1. re: monopod

                                                              Monopod -- quote from the OP " the person at the butcher counter told me they didn't have boston butt and the only pork shoulder they had was 15 pounds. He ended up selling me a 4 lb pork roast".

                                                              This description does not indicate the OP received a pork shoulder if the only one available weighed 15 pounds and she bought a 4 pound roast. I don't see why this is difficult to understand.

                                                              1. re: monopod

                                                                Fair enough, sorry - I misread the original post. I though the butcher had said that it was a shoulder roast, and people were assuming that it was actually a loin. Obviously it's my reading comprehension that needs attention here.

                                                              2. Crazy thread, my friends!!!! The pigs would be sooooo happy to hear us debate their body part labels with such passion!

                                                                What say we just pile up a nice concrete block cooker, with some rebar and chicken wire or some such, and lay a whole hog over that baby, with a big piece of cardboard on top, and shovel in some coals and have us a party!