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Originally published Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 3:00 PM

What's the difference between a ham butt and ham shank?

A reader has a question on ham names.

McClatchy Newspapers

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Q. What's the difference between a ham butt and ham shank?

A. We get so many cuts of meat from a pig that it takes a lot of names to cover it all. Unfortunately, that also makes it confusing.

A ham comes from the upper rear leg, while a shank would be the section farther down the leg. But some hams are cut to contain a portion of the leg. Shanks also turn up as ham hocks.

The butt, usually called a Boston butt, comes from the front of the pig. It's actually the upper part of the shoulder. It's easy to confuse the terms butt and ham. To make it even more confusing, the lower section of the shoulder is sometimes called the arm picnic, a phrase that is sometimes associated with ham.

The shoulder has more fat and connective tissue than the rear leg, making it a great choice for low, slow cooking methods, particularly Carolinas-style barbecue.

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