What Exactly is Pork Butt?

A butcher's chart showing different cuts of pork pork butt is in red.

: ilonitta

Pork butt isn’t actually the backend of the pig. That’s the ham. Pork butt is a squarish cut of meat that comes from the upper part of the pork shoulder of the pig and has lots of connective tissue and fat. It’s also known as Boston butt

Now, pork shoulder (or picnic roast) is the lower, triangular portion of the shoulder and is more muscular. 

Where things get confusing is many stores use the terms interchangeably. Luckily, both cuts work in this recipe, but opt for the butt when you can. 

david caricature

Why You’re Gonna Love This Recipe

My testers fell head over heels for this “excellent” oven-roasted pork butt. They loved how effortless, flavorful, and versatile it is. Plus it’s great for leftovers!

What You’ll Need to Make This

Ingredients for roast pork butt --pork shoulder, salt, cumin, paprika, light brown sugar, red pepper flakes, black pepper.
  • Pork butt–Use a well-marbled cut of pork butt or Boston butt for best results.  If your pork comes with the skin on, remove it before cooking.
  • Spice blend—Our blend includes brown sugar, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, creating a sweet, warm, slightly spicy flavor profile.
  • Diamond brand kosher salt—Since salt’s weight varies from brand to brand, please weigh your salt and use 9 grams for this recipe. If you don’t have a scale and aren’t using Diamond brand, use 2 teaspoons to avoid oversalting.

How to Make a Pork Butt Roast in the Oven

A man's hands mixing a bowl of spices; a baking sheet with a pork butt, a man's hand rubbing in spice mix.
  1. Stir together the salt, sugar, paprika, pepper flakes, cumin, and black pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Rub the pork all over with the spice mixture. It should be coated on all sides.
A pork butt wrapped in plastic on a white plate; a cooked roast pork butt on a rack over a baking sheet.
  1. Wrap the pork in plastic and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Roast the pork, fatty side up, on a roasting pan in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 190° to 195°F. Let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  3. Use two forks to shred the pork. Serve alone or with your favorite BBQ sauce, if desired.

Common Questions

How do I buy a pork butt?

When buying a pork butt (Boston butt pork roast), look for one around eight to ten pounds. You can find them trimmed down to five or six pounds, but they usually trim off a lot of fat to make that weight, and fat isn’t a bad thing, especially when roasting it.

Also, try to get the butt with the bone. The bone gives the meat much more flavor as it cooks. It also conducts and retains heat exceptionally well, allowing the meat to cook at such a low temperature.

Do I really need to use a meat thermometer for this recipe?

Absolutely. This pork recipe is almost impossible to pull off without a meat thermometer. You can’t judge the pork by sight or feel. I prefer a digital probe thermometer that can be left in the pork as it roasts.

When you insert the thermometer, stick it into the thickest part of the pork butt, and make sure it’s not touching the bone, or you’ll get a false reading.

Serving Suggestions

This Boston butt recipe is stupendously magnificent on its own, butt (get it?!), consider:

Storage

The pulled pork stores well in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days. If you’re freezing it for later, divvy it into 1-pound servings and freeze it in storage bags for up to 3 months. Reheat in a 300°F oven until warmed through.

Helpful Tips

  • Letting the pork sit overnight after rubbing it with the spice mixture is optional but I highly recommend it.
  • Make sure to let the pork butt rest before shredding it. It will be hot!
  • This recipe is suitable for gluten-free and dairy-free diets.

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

I made this recipe a month ago, and my whole family loved it! Now that my nephew’s in town, and because we all had it on our minds, I decided to make it again. I almost cried when I thought I lost the recipe! Thank you so much for sharing!

Melissa
A partially shredded roast pork butt in a roasting pan with a fork nearby.

Roast Pork Butt

4.79 / 421 votes
This roast pork butt, coated in a simple rub of brown sugar, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes, is an easy recipe to make and yields enough pulled pork to feed a small army. Perfect for Super Bowl, weekend bashes, and weeknight dinners. Best of all, it can me roasted in the oven.
David Leite
CourseMains
CuisineSouthern
Servings16 servings
Calories305 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time9 hours 40 minutes
Total Time10 hours

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon Diamond kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • One (6 1/2- to 8-pound) bone-in skinless pork butt (Boston butt), or pork shoulder or two 3 1/2- to 4-pound pork butts
  • Your favorite grocery store or homemade BBQ sauce, (optional)

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl, stir together the salt, sugar, paprika, pepper flakes, cumin, and black pepper.
  • Rub the pork butt all over with the spice mixture. The pork butt should be completely coated on all sides. If you have time, tightly wrap the pork in plastic wrap, place it on a plate, and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors mingle.
  • Crank the oven temperature to 250°F (121°C). Place a roasting rack in a large pan.
  • Place the pork butt, fat side up, on the rack. Roast the pork, uncovered, until the internal temperature reaches 190° to 195°F (88° to 91°C).
    By this point, the exterior should be crispy and dry. This is similar to what’s referred to as “bark” when smoking on a grill. This can take anywhere from 4 to 10 hours, depending on your oven and the size of your pork butt.
  • Remove the pork from the oven and let the roast rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: If you’re craving super-moist meat for pulled pork, remove the pan from the oven, tightly wrap the pork butt in a couple of layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, and let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes to soften the exterior.

  • Shred the roast pork butt with a couple of forks, evenly mixing the crisp, dry edges with the insanely moist, tender pork inside.
    You may want to slather the pulled pork with barbecue sauce to impart flavor and sauciness, but I urge you to try it naked first.

Notes

  1. Rest--Letting the pork sit overnight after rubbing it with the spice mixture is optional but highly recommended.
  2. Cool–Make sure to let the pork butt sit before shredding it. It will be hot.
  3. Storage–The pulled pork will store well in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you’re freezing it for later, divvy it into 1-pound servings and freeze it in storage bags. Reheat in a 300°F oven until warmed through.
  4. Dietary–This recipe is suitable for gluten-free and dairy-free diets.
    Love Your Leftovers Cookbook

    Adapted From

    Love Your Leftovers

    Buy On Amazon

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1 servingCalories: 305 kcalCarbohydrates: 1 gProtein: 43 gFat: 13 gSaturated Fat: 5 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gTrans Fat: 0.1 gCholesterol: 136 mgSodium: 588 mgFiber: 0.2 gSugar: 1 g

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

    Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
    Recipe © 2014 Nick Evans. Photos © 2023 David Leite. All rights reserved.

    A partially shredded roast pork butt in a roasting pan with a fork nearby.

    More Great Pork Butt Recipes

    Recipe Testers’ Reviews

    The pork roast recipe  is excellent. I rubbed it on and then refrigerated the pork shoulder overnight so the flavors would meld.

    The hands-on time is minimal—about 15 minutes to assemble the spice mixture and rub it all over the pork butt. I used about 1/2 the stated amount of red pepper flakes because I thought 1 tablespoon would give too much heat for my taste. I used a bone-in pork shoulder roast that was four pounds, and it took 6 hours in a convection oven set to 225°F.

    I served the pork with the classic coleslaw recipe and a bit of barbecue sauce on a soft roll. The pork definitely needs some kind of sauce.

    Sometimes we either don’t have access to a smoker or can’t commit 6 or 8 hours to low and slow cooking on a grill. And while slow cookers can make WONDERFUL slow cooker pulled pork, one thing will be missing, and for me, that’s an essential part of pulled pork—the BARK!

    When you rub a piece of pork with a spice rub and cook it, low and slow, on a smoker, grill, or in an oven, after several hours, the rub mixes with the hot fat and juices and eventually gets a hard crust called a BARK.

    For my money, this is the VERY best part of ANY barbecue! Anyone who loves meat must LOVE a crisp, spice-rubbed exterior.) This bark can be achieved in your oven, and–as long as you have a clock and a thermometer–you can create a nice crust on your pork butt with this recipe. The rub mentioned here is great, but if you have your favorite rub on hand, by all means, use it.

    From here, shred the roast pork butt by any means necessary (two forks work nicely) and top it with your favorite sauce, coleslaw, or, as I do, both.




    About David Leite

    I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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    477 Comments

    1. We always inject the pork butt with our favorite Cajun flavor (the stuff you use to inject turkey for a fried turkey). This gets flavor inside the roast, too, and we’ve never had a dry roast. Works well, too, when we smoke the meat after its cooked.

    2. I made this last Sunday as a trial run for our annual labor day party (30+ people). I was able to make the rub and let the pork sit overnight in the refrigerator. I followed Larry’s advice on how to achieve that nice bark on the outside. It did take about 5 – 6 hours or so before I was able to wrap it in the foil (approximately 170). Because I started so late in the day, when the pork reached the 190 mark, I simply took the roast out of the oven, let it rest for an hour and then refrigerated it (it was after midnight at this point). To serve, I put it in my small counter top oven at 250 for about an hour or so still wrapped in foil until it was heated through. The crust on the roast was tasty with a variety of heat, sweetness and spice and the meat shredded beautifully. You could serve this roast many different ways. A 3.75 lb. shoulder with a small bone will serve a plenty. For Labor day, I plan on cooking 3 roasts for pulled pork sandwiches. Great to know this can be frozen.

      1. Terrific on all counts, cheriede. Many thanks for taking the time to let us know. And your approach is exactly how I served it this past Memorial Day. It was a dream. And the frozen leftovers warmed up very nicely over low heat in a covered pan, then I uncovered slightly and added a little lard and took the heat up a few notches just to crisp some of the edges. Have a lovely long weekend!

    3. Reads like Larry has it right. In my opinion, if you want to learn about pork, anything on the grill or in a smoker, go to amazing ribs.com. Meathead is amazing. No, I do not work for him, but he has a HUGE site covering grilling, smoking, etc. Me, I have become so lazy that I do not fire up my smoker/grill much any more. Approaching 85. I can get good steaks, etc. and a great sear on my cast iron skillet. So be it. And oven roasting after a sear or a reverse sear is how I do it now. Mostly. This is a great site. I love all the recipes and the commentary. David’s Appalachian cider-baked beans are my all time favorite.

      1. jimbobadger, agreed. Meathead is a great guy and his site is terrific. And, thanks for the compliment!

          1. Really think you’re going to love it. I know I do. And I typically don’t like that kind of book, but I think the author does a terrific job of taking something very personal—leftovers, that is—and making the proposed solutions really speak to everyone.