Know Your Butts: The Legendary Money Muscle
Pork is bland. Such a statement has never been so far from the truth, and yet, we hear it so often. Admittedly, pork does not have a prominent flavor profile. This, however, does not mean that it deserves to be overlooked in any case. Within the many muscles that compose our beloved porcine friends lies a small but sought-after muscle that any and all pro pit masters will try to master… All hail, the money muscle. If you’ve never heard about the money muscle, this tells me you’ve never witnessed or participated in a BBQ competition. Otherwise, you’d be converted by now.
What is the money muscle?
The money muscle is a very specific muscle that is known to be the holy grail of pork boxes.
It comes from the opposite end of the bone, from the bottom part of the pork shoulder. It resembles somewhat of a smaller pork loin, filled with stripes of fat running deep within. This is what makes it special as pork is usually known to have extra muscular fat rather than any significant marbling.
This fat slowly renders as you cook your pork butt, giving the money muscle a rich and deep buttery flavor.
Why haven’t I heard of it before?
Truth be told, it’s a competition thing.
A perfectly cooked money muscle will always be the highlight of a turn-in pork box. On the flip side, it takes a lot of sacrifices and even if your pork butt has a decent one, it’s never to be taken for granted.
Money muscles require a lot of care and can quickly become troublesome for many reasons:
1- Being located on the outer edge of the pork butt, it will cook much faster than the rest of the muscles. In most cases, pit masters will start their cook with the money muscle attached to the shoulder but will trim it away halfway through and cook it on its own to finish the process.
2- As it’s very fatty, it will shrink a lot. And this is where things can go south in a competition. A lot of pit masters will fail to make the smart decision and choose to turn in parts of the money muscle no matter what.
You must understand that, per competition rules, your box must have any meat for 6 bites. In a lot of situations, the final product of a money muscle will have shrunk so much that by the end, there isn’t enough for 6 bites or if there is, the bites are nothing close to symmetrical. Aesthetic points may be deduced for that so it’s sometimes best to just hold back and keep it out of the box even though it would be your best bite out of the whole pork butt.
3- Pulled pork is usually cooked all the way up to 203-205F. Money muscles don’t do well in such high temperatures, so they need to be removed at 185-188F.
You can now see why you never heard about this muscle if you’re an average barbecue aficionados. The money muscle would not be worth the trouble, or at least be underappreciated, if you were to go through such lengths for a Sunday backyard barbecue.
This does not mean you should not give it a shot now and then though!
For the love of BBQ
We aren’t all pro pit masters. We aren’t all interested in BBQ competitions. One thing is certain though, we all would like to improve our skills when it comes to cooking meat.
I always think it’s a good idea to test your mettle now and then, even if it’s just you cooking for yourself at home. If you’d like to try and cook a pork butt competition style and give a go at the money muscle, here are a few tips and tricks that have gotten me a long way throughout the years on the scene:
- Injecting your pork makes a big difference when it comes to competition barbecue. You need each bite to pack a punch. Butcher’s BBQ Pork Injection is a ready-to-go injection that’s been battle-tested on the competition scene for years and will allow you to give a lot of depth to your meat flavor profile.
- Isolate the money muscle by trimming it clean on all sides without fully detaching it. This will allow you to rub it evenly and make sure you serve 6 medallions that look as alike as possible.
- Remove the muscle once it hits 165F and sauce it gently in a mix of injection leftover and melted butter. You want to slowly bring it to the 185-188F mark where you can add a final layer of BBQ sauce before you wrap it and set aside as you finish the rest of the shoulder.
- Foil the shoulder once it hits 165F in a double layer of aluminum foil. You can add brown sugar, honey and 1/2cup of liquid to add moisture and flavor before wrapping as tightly as you can.
- Once you hit the 203-205F mark, loosely unwrap the foil, add a nice layer of bbq sauce and let cool down for at least 1hr. Carve out the muscles you want for presentation and give them a try.
You’ll find it very interesting to taste the nuances between chunks and shreds or pork, in contrast to the buttery and soft slices of the money muscle.
Follow these steps, trust the process, and I promise you that you will change your stance on pork and understand how much flavor can be well hidden in something you thought you’ve known for decades by now.