Large Pork Roast (Boston Butt/Shoulder)

I talked awhile back about how I like to use Bone In Chicken Breasts and get the most out of them – here’s another favorite budget cut of mine – the Pork Butt or Boston Shoulder. Succulent and delicious, and downright cheap this is a cut that’s often overlooked by consumers.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

It’s hard to go wrong – except:

  • It’s so good, if I make a huge roast, for instance, pulled pork, my family would scarf down every available scrap like little gluttons! Not much cost savings there, then, eh?
  • Pork is NOT the healthiest meat to eat! I know, all you have to do is to turn on the television to almost any cooking show and pork fat is revered, but it’s wise to limit and manage.

Over the years, I’ve learned not only how to buy this roast at a great price, but how to store it and then how to break it down and use it in a cost-effective manner. Sometimes, I break it down upfront and other times I cook it and portion out the meat for different meals, but more on that, below.

What is a great price for Boston Butt?

Any of the meats, poultry or fish sold in today’s grocery stores is going to have different price points, depending on when it is sold. Generally there is what I call the “regular” price, a sales price, a good sales price and the rock bottom price and variable pricing in between.

I never sit around and decide, “I think I’ll make ________ and go to the store and buy it” because if one does that, one is paying whatever old price the grocer is deciding to sell that item to you that week. You’ll pay too much, and worse, you’ve very effectively told that grocer there is a market for protein at that price, and their sales won’t be affected by high prices.

This works much like a stock or perhaps a futures market. Most people don’t simply decide to buy a stock and buy it at whatever price it happens to be at. They track the stock or use a service who does, or consult someone who has tracked it, and knows that over a period of time it has certain lows and certain highs. You may set a “buy” price where the broker will buy the stock for you when it reaches the low, or even a near low.

It makes absolute sense to play the market when shopping for high budget items like proteins in the exact same way. Unlike stock, of course, you’re not going to sell it when it reaches a high, but you are going to eat it! Especially if you have a freezer (and you should.) When a week (or weeks) come along when nothing is on sale you can sit down to the table and eat without having to pay a high price for something else. So, know your rock bottom price and buy at that price.

Boston Butt is on sale now and them in my area at rock bottom prices of 89 to 99 cents a pound. A good sale is $1.99. The highs range from $3.49 to $3.99, and even higher when that same meat is sliced into chops. Knowing the lows allows me to identify when a sale is a good one or a great one, and pick up several to stash in my freezer.

By the way, if you don’t have a freezer, you should.

If you are able to identify a great price, buy at that great price, and store the item, you’ve already hit several of my “Strategies.” You’ve  hit “Know the Products You Buy” as well as used “Sound Investment Principles,” and you’ve stashed your item in your freezer, “Banking Your Food.”

Does the Price Really Make that Much Difference?

Yes, it does! And especially if you consider buying all your food in this manner – for most families it can amount to thousands, depending on buying habits.

A 10 pound Boston Butt at the lowest price of 89 cents is $8.90 (sorry, this example is almost too easy to write down) but at $3.99 it is $39.99. A thirty-one dollar difference. In my mind, that’s huge.

Project this type of savings over every single item you buy…do not discount how much money one can save by shopping well.

When to Buy?

The “right” answer is that you’ve tracked prices in your area, know the low prices and how often the cut goes on sale – but it’s a pretty safe to bet any large protein will be at it’s “rock bottom” price, or at least at a “good” price, around once a quarter.

Wouldn’t it by nice, though, to have an idea of when those sales might happen? Pork, like many proteins, is a “Cyclic” product. While some sales will happen in a seemingly spontaneous manner (and be prepared for those) there are certain times when it will be less expensive on a regular cycle.

Fall is a prime example, the traditional time of slaughtering pigs reaching prime weight. There are other times of the year when pork is traditionally inexpensive. Holidays have a huge demand for ham, and all those animals processed to take care of the needs for Ham during the Christmas/Thanksgiving and Easter cycles are going to produce large amounts of pork at a sales price. Look for great prices four to six months before either of these Holiday periods…

The Superbowl is another time when Pork Butt/Shoulder reaches a low price – along with all kinds of other pork items, like ribs.

How Much Should I Buy?

You need to figure out how much your family will eat, and how much you wish to serve this. These roasts are generally 8 to 10 pounds but vary wildly in size.

If you want to eat Pork Shoulder 2x a month for a family of four, and can get three meals out of each shoulder, you’ll want to buy at least two at the lowest price each quarter. Perhaps another to hedge your bet, and perhaps additional one or two if you’d like to have a couple on hand for parties or barbecues.

Boston Butt is a great party food – you can throw a really inexpensive party if you pull one out of your freezer you’ve bought to 99 cents a pound for pulled pork.

If you always have some in your freezer, you can “wait out” the next great sales price.

How to Store Boston Butt and Break Down

Boston Butt, or Pork Shoulder, are generally large roasts, and usually run from eight to 10 pounds.  Frozen whole, it takes up a lot of room in the freezer, and takes days  to thaw – then you’ll need to use it all or risk losing quality if it’s refrozen. You’ll want to cook it all and manage the left overs or break it down and freeze in reasonable sizes for your family.

It’s best to use a cutting board with a ridge around it for this kind of work. Lay our butt out with the bone to the left – and ta da – 10 minutes work and you’ll have three reasonable sized roasts for a family dinner (and probably a few left overs.) Remember the bone is an “L” shaped bone, bigger in the front with the “L” at the bottom left.

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So now I have three roasts, what do I do with them?

A roast like Boston Butt/Pork Shoulder has endless possibilities, but really benefits from long slow roasting, simmering, or braising. Smoking in a barbecue, low and slow is wonderful, too. Generally it should be cooked at no higher than 325 degrees. The slow cooking allows a lot of the fat and collagen in the roast to break down.

Because of the long cooking process and the fact that I have three roasts sitting on my counter, sometimes I’ll make a meal for dinner and cook the second and possibly even the third roast for other meals to stash in my freezer. Other times, I might just stash the smaller roasts, well wrapped for another time.

So, by planning ahead, from the $10.00 Pork Butt, I’ve made the main portion of multiple meals and set the foundation in place for the left overs for more. It’s very possible we’ll even have left overs from our left overs! Feel free of course, to make your favorite meals!

Pork Shoulder Recipes:

Here are some of our favorite meals using the Shoulder or Butt, each better than the next!

  • Oven Braised Pork with Vegetables is like a pot roast, and makes an easy second meal if there are left overs.
  • Shoulder is the basis for my Denver Green Chili, and I use more than needed so I’ll have extra to use in all kinds of Mexican cuisine.
  • The same goes for Mexican Style Shredded Pork; the beautifully flavored meat makes marvelous tacos, tostadas & burritos.
  • A huge favorite? Slow Cooker Pulled Pork – usually made with the largest roast I can find, keeps me in quick dinners planned from left overs.
Dishes made from Left Over Shoulder:

Follow the tag for Pork Shoulder Recipe or check the index for these  meals, appetizers and sandwiches!

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