Pulled pork is a favorite of many worldwide, particularly in the Southern US.
Most BBQ experts would agree that pork butt is also known as Boston but is the premium choice for pulled pork. This is due to its texture, tender meat, and flavor profile.
- Smoked Pork Butt vs. Smoked Pork Shoulder
- Should I Use Bone-in or Boneless Pork?
- Tips for Smoking Pork Butt
- How to Smoke a Pork Butt
- Final Thoughts
Smoked Pork Butt vs. Smoked Pork Shoulder
The vast majority of pork butt recipes use a bone-in pork shoulder.
Pork butt can also be labeled as Boston butt or pork butt, but all of these labels describe the same cut of pork.
Interestingly, none of these cuts are fabricated from the pig’s rear end.
Confusing, I know, but pork butt actually is carved from the upper portion of the animal’s shoulder.
Both pork butt and pork shoulder contain overlapping muscles fastened together by connective tissue.
These are used regularly, which makes it tough. Like brisket, this cut is only recommended for smoking.
Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to slice pork shoulder that was not cooked slowly at a low temperature because it breaks down the rigid muscles and connective fibers.
However, by smoking the pork butt over a wood fire for hours, the tissues break down and transform into tender strands of smoked pork.
Check out our detailed guide if you’re intrigued by the pork butt vs. pork shoulderdebate.
Should I Use Bone-in or Boneless Pork?
Most recipes call for a bone-in pork butt or pork shoulder. However, this decision is up to you.
It is worth noting that the bone in the pork butt will prevent moisture loss and promote even cooking.
Tips for Smoking Pork Butt
Although smoking pork butt is a relatively straightforward process, these valuable tips will make the smoking process more effortless.
Quality Pork Butt
Whether you are making a bottom round roast or smoking brisket, you must start with a quality cut of meat.
Beginning with a quality cut of meat is just as essential as cooking this cut of meat. Use these tips to select a quality pork butt.
Choose an organic pork butt from a small farm. Industrial pork products are loaded with additives.
In addition to this, do not buy pork that you can visibly see has been frozen for a while.
To get the best smoked pork butt, purchase a fresh pork butt that has been recently fabricated from the carcass.
Choose a pork butt that has a decent fat to meat ratio throughout the meat.
If it has too much fat, you will have to trim it off, which will impact the pork butts texture.
Alternatively, you can also ask your local butcher to select a pork butt for you to avoid having to trim it at home.
Ultimately, you want to choose a pork butt with the shoulder bone attached to it.
Not only will the bone help the meat stay together, but it will also act as a natural thermometer.
Once the pork butt is finished cooking, the bone will literally slide right out with a slight twist. Nevertheless, you can still cook a boneless pork butt.
Trim the Fat Away
Whether you select a trimmed or untrimmed pork butt, there will be a relatively thick layer of fat on one portion of the pork butt.
Trim the fat until it is approximately 1/4-inch in thickness. In addition to this, trim any cartilage or tough portions of the pork butt.
Trimming the pork butt leaves you with a relatively clean cut of meat to smoke and helps you avoid chewy portions of meat.
Speaking of trimming, if you want to know how to trim brisket, check out our detailed guide.
Inject Your Pork Butt
Most people assume that marinades perforate deep into the meat, adding extra flavor and tenderizing it.
However, this isn’t necessarily true with a large cut such as pork butt. The marinade may penetrate the outer layers of the pork butt, but it will certainly not reach the interior of the meat.
Injecting pork but using a meat injector will help the brining or braising liquid penetrate the inner layers of the meat.
In turn, this will result in a flavorful, moist, and delicious pork butt.
Prep The Pork Butt
Before attempting to add a BBQ rub to your pork butt, put on a pair of single-use plastic gloves and coat the meat in a layer of mustard.
I know what you’re thinking; mustard and pork butt?
However, the sharp flavor of the mustard will not affect the pork butt’s flavor.
The layer of mustard helps the rub adhere to the pork butt, which allows you to coat every square inch of the pork butts exterior with seasoning.
Use the Right Rub
Coating the pork butts exterior adequately with a rub will season the meat and enhance the porks’ natural flavor.
Additionally, this will also help create the beautiful bark as the pork butt is smoking.
If you are looking for a BBQ rub, we’ve got an in-depth review of the 15 best BBQ rubs on the market.
Most pork rubs feature a blend of sugar, salt, paprika, and pepper.
Nevertheless, you can also make your own seasoning blend by experimenting with different spices to determine which combinations work best.
Whether you use a store-bought rub or make your own rub ensure you coat your pork butt in an even layer of seasoning.
Let It Sit Out
Do not place a cold pork butt into your offset smoker under any circumstance.
A cold pork butt will cause the meat’s exterior to cook faster and burn in some cases, while the inside of the pork butt is raw.
Allow your pork butt to sit out at room temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes before placing it into your pellet smoker.
In addition to this, you can also coat the pork butt with seasoning at this time.
Snake the Charcoal
The snaking charcoal method works best with grills.
Snaking charcoal simply refers to arranging charcoal briquettes in a snake pattern around the outer edges of your *portable pellet grill.
Next, the charcoal is lit at one end of the snake and allowed to burn slowly throughout the day.
If you want to know how much charcoalto use or how to make charcoal check out our how-to guides.
Although there are many ways to use the snake method, depending on the size of your grill or smoker, 24 coals are usually enough to cook a 6-8 pound pork butt.
You can also add wood chips on top of the charcoal. Apple, hickory, maple, pecan, and oak all pair perfectly with pork.
Place 3-4 small chips between the individual charcoal pieces.
It is better to place the wood chips between the charcoal pieces at the beginning of the cook but space the wood chips further apart during the latter portion of the cook.
Once you have arranged your snake, fill your chimney a third of the way with charcoal.
If you are looking for a charcoal chimney starter, check out our reviews.
Light your charcoal chimney with a lighter cube or newspaper, and once the charcoal is an ashy white color, place the coals at the beginning of the snake with the most wood chips.
Set an aluminum foil pan in the center of the snake and fill it mid-way with boiling water.
Add the top grate and allow the grill to come up to temperature, and your grill will be ready to cook your pork butt.
Whether you are smoking brisket or smoking a pork butt, your smoker or grill must maintain stable temperatures throughout the entire smoking process.
The pork butt will be smoked slowly at a low temperature, which means you need to maintain a temperature of 250°F.
In addition to this, consistent temperatures will also help you get through the dreaded stall.
More importantly, make sure you have enough to last throughout the entire smoking process.
Unfortunately, there is no way around using an external thermometer.
Yes, most smokers usually have a thermometer mounted on the dome.
However, dome-mounted thermometers don’t necessarily do a good job of determining the temperature of the pork butt.
They may give you an accurate temperature of the smoker’s ambient temperature.
However, when it comes to determining the internal temperature of the pork, it is nearly impossible to know without a dual-probe thermometer.
A dual-probe thermometer lets you control the internal temperature of the pork butt and the temperature of the air circulating inside of your smoker.
Wrap the Pork Butt Midway
Wrap it with peach butcher paperonce your pork butt achieves an internal temperature between 155°F and 160°F degrees Fahrenheit.
Alternatively, you can also double wrap it with aluminum foil.
Wrapping the pork butt allows you to trap moisture inside, which will create a basting liquid you can use during the final hours of basting time.
Temperature vs. Time
How long to smoke pork butt is the question of the day.
However, Knowing how long it takes to smoke pork butt depends more on the temperature than the time. Like most cuts of beefare unique, every pork butt is unique.
Essentially, there is no universal pork smoking time, so you need to have a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the meat.
When pork butt is cooked at a temperature of 250°F, you should cook your pork butt until it has an internal temperature of 208°F.
Let It Rest
Although waiting for your pork butt to finish cooking is a long, tedious process, knowing that you cannot cut into it as soon as it comes off your smoker will test your patience.
However, you must resist the temptation of cutting or pulling your pork putt.
Check out our guide if you want to know how to cut and slice brisket.
Let your pork butt rest for 1 hour. Resting the pork butt allows the collagen to solidify and the juices to be redistributed throughout the meat.
The easiest way to rest pork butt is to loosely tent it with foil and place it into a lidded empty cooler.
This will keep your pork butt nice and warm.
How to Smoke a Pork Butt
As mentioned above, smoking pork butt is a relatively easy process.
You will need a grill or smoker, a 5-6 pound pork butt, 1/2 teaspoons of salt, mustard, and a BBQ rub.
One day before you intend to smoke your pork but, remove it from the fridge, take it out of its original packaging and trim the fat if necessary.
Rub the salt on every side of the pork butt, place it on a wire rack set over a rimmed cookie sheet and let it sit in the fridge uncovered for 12-24 hours.
Next, take the pork butt out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature while you prepare your grill or smoker.
Dry the pork butt with paper towels and set it aside. Ultimately, you want the pork butt to sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Load your hopper with pellets of your choice if you are using a wood pellet grill or electric smoker.
If you’re interested in purchasing an electric smoker, check out our review of the best electric smokers.
As mentioned above, you can select hardwood chips such as pecan, cherry, hickory, and apple.
However, avoid using softwoods such as pine and cedar as they are lacquered and can ruin the pork as well as your smoker.
If you are smoking your pork on a gas grill, soak your wood chips overnight.
Alternatively, you can soak them according to the manufacturer’s instructions as long as you drain the water before placing them into the smokebox.
Heat your grill or smoker to 250℉. Dry your pork butt with paper towels if necessary, then slather all sides of the pork butt with mustard and coat it with your desired BBQ rub.
The dry surface helps the mustard, and the seasonings stick to the pork’s exterior surface.
Arrange your charcoal in a snake pattern that has 24 double stacked, with two pieces of charcoal crosswise.
Place the wood chips on top of every other briquette. Make sure that most of the wood chips accumulate on the beginning part of the snake.
Load your chimney starter a third of the way full of charcoal, place a lighter cube or newspaper underneath the coals, and light it.
When the coals are an ashy white color, arrange the coals at the beginning of the snake, then place an aluminum foil pan that will act as a drip pan in the center of the snake. Fill the drip pan with boiling water.
Place the grill’s cooking grate on top of the snake, then arrange the pork butt on the grill so it is directly over the drip pan.
If you are using a smoker, add your pork butt to the cooking chamber.
Insert one probe of the dual probe thermometer into the thickest part of the pork butt, making sure that it is a minimum of 1-inch away from the bone.
Fasten the other probe directly onto the grill or smoker cooking grate.
Close the dome of your smoker or place the lid onto your kamado grill, then open the intake dampener completely and the exhaust dampener midway.
When your grill or smoker achieves a temperature of 200℉, switch the exhaust dampeners so they are mostly closed but slightly opened.
This will allow the smoker or grills the temperature to stabilize and allow you to adjust the exhaust dampeners as needed.
If the temperature needs to increase, open your smoker’s top vents more. If the temperature needs to decrease, close your smoker’s bottom vents more.
All in all, make sure the temperature of your grill or smoker stays between 225℉ and 250℉.
Cook the pork butt until it has an internal temperature of 208℉.
Once your pork butt is finished cooking, remove it from your smoker with a large spatula or meat claws and place it into a butcher block or pan.
If you are in need of a butcher block or grill spatula, check out the 5 best grill spatulas and the 5 best butcher block guides.
The pork butt may appear burnt. However, this is what is known as the bark, the delicious layer formed by the smoke and spice blend you used to season your pork butt.
Allow your pork butt to rest for 1 hour, then remove the bone and shred the meat into delicious pulled pork.
You can coat the pork with your favorite BBQ sauce and serve it on buns as a pulled pork sandwich.
Smoking pork butt is a beautiful process that yields a delicious end product. Smoking pork butt is very straightforward.
Although you cannot place the pork butt as it is into your smoker, once you have the right tools, useful tips, and fresh and simple ingredients, you are bound to have a tasty, smoky smoked pork butt.
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.