I was raised Jewish, which meant for most of my life I thought the only meat that anyone ever braised was brisket. My family’s go-to recipe requires, I don’t know, 87 ingredients and yields such a surplus of gravy that if the meat is ever dry—as brisket often is—you drown it accordingly and no one will ever know.
Then I moved to the South and met pork butt. Which, technically, isn’t a butt at all—it’s shoulder; literal pork butt is ham (a fun fact for your next dinner party). Because pork butt is oh-so generously marbled with fat, it’s rich in flavor. It’s also cheap as heck. While brisket averages at $3.64/pound, pork butt is $1.79/pound.
In her cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat calls her braised pork “the single most versatile recipe in this book.” Similarly, in Ten Dollar Dinners by Melissa d’Arabian, she writes: “Pork shoulder is incredibly versatile and a great flavor base for a lot of dinner options.”
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And a lot of dinners, period. Braise pork butt for a Sunday supper, then freeze the leftovers—and unless you’re hosting a Genus instant dinner party, there will be leftovers—for another dinner (or two) down the road.
In her book, d’Arabian lists a slew of ways to put ’em to good use, like tacos, BBQ-sauced sandwiches, chili, burritos, and turnovers. Some of my favorites: mac and cheese, grilled cheese, really anything with cheese, makeshift meat sauce (add marinara, ta-da), rice bowls, and ramen.
All of which to say, braise pork butt now, pat yourself on the back—or should I say shoulder?—later. Here are six recipes to get you started:
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.