6 Pork Shoulder Substitutes For Exquisite Lunch Or Dinner Meals

Pork Shoulder Substitute

Pork shoulder is excellent for pulled pork, carnitas, and braised pork. It is one of the most popular cuts as it can be cooked in many different ways which you can serve for lunch and dinner. 

Because of its popularity, it can be difficult to find some pork shoulder unless you are quite familiar with your local market or local butcher shop’s delivery schedules. 

So if you came too late to the shop and can no longer find pork shoulder cuts, we have listed some pork shoulder substitutes that can be perfect for lunch or dinner meals. 

Some Important Things To Remember

Before we jump to our list of pork shoulder alternatives, there are a few important things we need to keep in mind:

  • Pork shoulder is often called ‘picnic shoulder’ or ‘picnic roast’.
  • Different cuts of pork will also require different preparation and cooking methods. Although they all come from the same animal, you can’t replace one cut for the other in a recipe and expect the same outcome. Depending on the cut, it will also take a shorter or a longer time to cook appropriately.
  • Fat content levels also vary per cut.
  • There are other cuts that come from the pig’s shoulder area aside from the pork shoulder cut or picnic cut that we are talking about in this article.
  • Butcher shops will have pork shoulder with the skin on, depending on the recipe you’re cooking, you can either have the skin on or have it removed. On a side note, pork roast is even better with the crackling-crisp skin.

1. Pork Butt 

Pork butt is not literally a cut from the pig’s derriere area. Pork butt, also called Boston Butt, is from the upper shoulder of the pig. It has a well-marbled intramuscular fat and is an even better choice for some recipes than the picnic shoulder.

This flavorful alternative to pork shoulder is well-suited for stewing, braising, and turning into sausages or ground pork. It’s also delicious as steak or roast.

2. Pork Escalope

A lean slice of pork meat that works as an alternative to pork shoulder. This cut is usually available in pounded form making it extra thinner and tender.

This small piece of filet is usually processed from different meat cuts including pork tenderloin and leg steak. Since it is thinner, pork escalopes don’t take a long cooking time, perfect for impatient cooks.

Escalopes are typically marinated or seasoned with breadcrumbs to be eaten as a main dish or side dish.

3. Top Loin Pork Roast

A wonderful piece of meat that is as delicious as pork shoulder on its own right. Top loin pork is used for a variety of culinary purposes and makes for an excellent dish.

Leaner than most shoulder cuts, this type of roast is cut from the center of the loin. It is otherwise known as a center-cut roast and weighs around 4 pounds.

As the name suggests, this meat is preferred for roasting. It gives a juicy taste and mouth-watering texture and aroma. 

4. Boneless Pork Leg

A great substitute for pork shoulder when it comes to stews is pork leg. It is also flavorful on its own if you need it for roasting.

When used for slow cooking, pork leg is quite similar to pork shoulder. It offers a juicy meaty taste and soft tender texture. Since it is a leaner cut compared to pork shoulder, adding some liquid to bring more moisture like apple juice, water or broth will make this meat taste even better.

Other red meat that works as pork shoulder substitutes 

5. Lamb Shoulder

If you’re up for some other red meat with the same bite and meaty goodness as pork shoulder, why not try lamb shoulder. It also works as a tasty replacement.

Lamb shoulder tastes more gamey compared to pork. Its sharper taste and denser flesh is packed with proteins, minerals and vitamins.

In terms of texture, lamb shoulder would be the best possible sub for pork shoulder meat. It’s great for slow-roasting and stews.

6. Ribeye Steak

An extremely popular choice for steak aficionados, ribeye is the most flavorful piece of meat that you can eat instead of pork shoulder.

Cut from the rib section of beef that falls between the shoulder and the loin, this meat cut is a fine combination of fat content, meaty flavor, and tender juicy texture.

This premium beef cut is rich in iron, vitamins, minerals, and protein. During cooking, the fat of ribeye melts producing a sweet buttery taste that coats the soft tender meat. 

If you’re looking for exquisite meat to try in place of pork shoulder, try ribeye steak. You can grill, roast or pan-fry it.

Relevant FAQs

What is pork shoulder called in a grocery store?

If you’re out to shop for some red meat, you’d be looking at lines of choices that may look confusing. When you check your choices, you might see ‘pork shoulder’ written on some or another similar-looking cut is available but named something else: picnic shoulder. 

Pork shoulder may also be called Boston butt which is typically sold as a boneless roast. There are a few differences between a picnic shoulder and Boston butt although they both come from the same parts of a pig.

Why is pork shoulder called a picnic shoulder?

It’s dubbed as a picnic shoulder because it comes from the front legs of a pig that includes the shoulder blade. Since the leg muscles in front work a lot more than the back, the meat is a little tougher and needs more time to tenderize.

Picnic shoulder is also referred to as picnic ham and this shoulder cut sometimes comes with the hock attached. 

Pork shoulder VS Pork butt

If you’re still unclear with the differences between pork shoulder and pork butt, here are some points to note. they both come from the shoulder of the pig. 

Pork butt is placed a little higher, close to the shoulder blades of a hog. Pork shoulder is placed lower, almost near the hock.

Pork butt is also named Boston butt while pork shoulder is referred to as picnic shoulder or picnic ham. You can use both cuts for practically the same cooking methods like roasting, braising, or stewing.

Learn more: 15 Pork Belly Substitutes That Are As Flavorful

Final Words

Pork shoulder is more than a simple piece of meat. It gives a delicious sweet meaty flavor and rich juicy texture. This inexpensive red meat is great for a variety of cooking including stews, roasts, and more.

The options listed above will give pretty much the same satisfying bite and mouth-watering taste. Each pork shoulder substitute has a distinct characteristic whether it’s the moisture level, the taste or preparation method. If you can work out the differences and adjust your recipe and cooking style accordingly, you will achieve the same deliciousness that pork shoulder offers.

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