Pork shoulder, Boston butt has been used for barbecue throughout the U.S., especially through the Southeast. The Boston butt name implies that it originates from the posterior end of a hog, however, that is far from the truth. It actually is the upper or dorsal portion of the shoulder complex (see figure below). From a barbecue standpoint, it is one of the cuts that many aspiring barbecue pit masters learn to prepare first and generally have success preparing as long as they achieve a high enough endpoint internal temperature to insure adequate tenderness. Boston butts are composed of many locomotion muscles in the shoulder that vary in tenderness and contain substantial connective tissue, so low heat cooking for longer times tends to make them much more tender. Most often, Boston butts are allowed to reach internal temperatures approaching 200ºF, then shredded or “pulled” to use for pulled pork sandwiches.
Pork Boston butts typically are sold bone-in. The bone in a Boston butt generally can be seen from both the ventral and the posterior edge of the cut. As seen in the figure to the left, the bone in a Boston butt is the scapula or blade bone. Although it is the same bone, it will often often be mistaken as two different bones in the two cut faces because will be shaped completely different if the Boston butt has been cut/fabricated accurately. The bone as typically observed on the ventral face will appear round or oval in shape because the cut between the Boston butt and the picnic shoulder was made through the smaller rounded neck of the scapula. on the posterior face of the cut, the scapula will look like an elongated triangle or wedge with cartilage on the pointed end, or like a “7” with an additional piece along the main shaft. The difference will be how far posterior the cut was made through the scapula as to whether it occurred through the spine of the scapula or posterior to the spine and through both the caudal portion of the scapula and the scapular cartilage.