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 a writer and recipe developer 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., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.