Though it's one of my favorite big-party dishes, a slow-roasted pork butt is also an ingenious way to get food on the table all week long, or parsed out over a month or two. A typical five or six pound boneless pork butt will yield a nice pile of cooked meat. Once you have your mountain of shredded pork, the possibilities are almost limitless.
Let's pause for a quick pig anatomy lesson. A pork butt is not, in fact, the hog's rear end. If anything, that's the ham. The butt comes from the upper shoulder of the pig, or the butt-end, while the slender end of the shoulder is called, simply, the "shoulder". Does that help? Pork shoulder and pork butt are often used interchangeably in recipes, but if you want better marbled flavor, go for the butt.
There are so many ways to cook the meat, but the main trick is to go low and slow. You can slow-roast it in the oven at about 300 degrees until the meat falls off the bone (5-6 hours), or you can simply plop it in your slow-cooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours. How satisfying is it to put a piece of pork in an appliance, go to bed, then wake up to pounds and pounds of succulent meat?
My ode to the pork butt also applies to its ability to serve a huge crowd with little effort. This past weekend we had a huge party with forty or so people in the house to celebrate Valentine's Day and we cooked everything. Four days before, I seasoned the meat Bo Ssam-style, then cooked it the morning of the party. "These are the best tacos I've ever had," is what I heard over and over again. No wonder I keep going back to the butt.
So whether you're having forty people over for dinner, or plan to pack the pork into the fridge to use throughout the week (or store it in the freezer to have on hand for the next month or two) here are ten ways to use pork butt.
Ten Ways to Use Pork Butt
- Pulled Pork Tacos
- Momofuko Bo Ssam from the New York Times (the recipe I'm preparing above)
- Pork Sinigang Soup (swap out the pork ribs)
- Baozi (Steamed Pork Buns) (swap out the ground pork)
- Cubano Sandwich
- Refry a few pinches of pork and place on top of fried or scrambled eggs.
- Mix some pork into a good old tomato sauce to make a pork ragu to go over pasta.
- Throw a handful of pork on top of a green salad for a quick and complete meal.
- Mix some pork with refried beans and/or a Mexican cheese like Cotija and use as a tamale filling.
- Make a pork pot pie, simply replacing the chicken with pork.
(Image credits: Nealey Dozier; Sara Kate Gillingham)