December 26, 2017

Guide to Mastering Smoked Pork Butt (Like A True Pit Boss)

For everyone who loves barbecue, there is nothing like the flavor of a smoked pork butt, it's definitely one my favorites. Sometimes I think my kids almost love mine more than they love me!

The softness of the meat and the incredible smell will make everyone’s mouth water. Pork is also an inexpensive meat, that can be smoked and served in just a few hours.

This helps make it a perfect meat for starting cooks and gives you the incredible opportunity to learn to learn how to smoke your first pork butt.

Even though it is known as pork butt, this cut of meat doesn’t come from the rear of the pig, but from the shoulder. Also known as Boston butt, it is the thickest section of the upper shoulder, and it has more marbling, and it usually contains the shoulder blade. This is a slightly tougher cut of pork, so it is perfect for braising, stewing or smoking. Just a few hours cooking low and slow, and you will get a delicious and caramelized pork.

how to pull pork

What You'll Need To Smoke Pork Butt

Before starting to smoking your pork butt, you have to have some tools and ingredients at hand:

  • A smoker, you can use a charcoal, gas, pellet, however, electric smokers are our top pick for this cut of meat.
  • The pork butt, we will show you how to select the best pork later on.
  • Digital thermometer, because meat can cook at different times, so it’s easier to know if it’s cooked by measuring the temperature.
  • Tin Foil to wrap your Boston butt
  • Olive oil, apple juice, or mustard to adhere the rub onto the skin.
  • Sea salt, black pepper, sugar, paprika and chili powder to make your own dry rub or pre-made dry rub.

Choosing & Preparing Your Pork Butt

​There are a few things you should keep in mind when buying your pork butt, the size, weight, marbling, and the fat content. Before you smoke a great pork butt, you have to start with quality meat.

A regularly sized pork butt will be around 5 to 8 pounds and it can be sold as one whole piece at the butchers or split into two pieces at the supermarket.

Your butt should have a decent amount of fat, as the fat will help keep the meat moist, and it will melt away during the smoking process. Look for the cut with more marbling, which is the distribution that fat has amongst the lean parts of the meat. The more marbling your meat has, the better it will taste at the end.

For the best quality, you can buy grass fed hog, as grass-fed animals produce better meat than those raised on grain.

Preparing Your Pork Butt
First and foremost, If you're using a frozen pork butt you want to ensure that you safely defrost the meat.

One of the good things about pork butt is that it usually doesn’t require any trimming, so unless you have a loose piece of fat, you can leave the fat cap it has, as that will protect the meat from drying.

Before using a dry rub on the pork, you need to use a wet ingredient on the pork, to act as a binding agent and make sure that the rub adheres to the skin.

You can use olive oil, mustard and even apple juice, the important thing is to coat all of the skin (even the fat cap) as it will also tenderize the meat. Once the pork is coated is time to use the rub.

If you want to, you can create your own rub using a mixture of sea salt, black pepper, sugar, paprika and chili powder. If that is too much work for you, or you are unsure of the quantity of ingredients to use, you can always go for a store bought dry rub.

Just coat the pork butt with the rub, and don’t be afraid to use a heavier hand, this is a fattier meat so it can handle a lot of flavors.

Cooking Your Pork Butt (Lets Make it Juicy)

When smoking a cut of meat, you want to make sure that the smoker has been preheated and the temperature is set around 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pick a wood that will mix good with the taste of your meat, cherry or pecan goes well with pork.

Put the meat with the fat cap up, and set up a water pan on the side, to keep the meat moist.

How Long to Smoke Your Pork Butt

Let your pork smoke on a one to one ratio. One hour for every pound of meat. After the first five hours of smoking it is time to wrap your butt on foil or butcher paper

During the first three hours of cooking, is when your pork will absorb most of the smoke, that is the time where you just have to avoid opening up the lid.

After three hours you can start to monitor the temperature of the pork butt, using a digital thermometer.

If you need to watch both the temperature of your meat and the temperature of the smoker, it’s better to use a dual probe thermometer.

What About The Internal Temperature?

Around the five hour mark, you want pork butt internal temp to reach a temperature of 160°F before you actually remove it should be around 190°F. 

How To Wrap Your Pork

Around the five hour mark, you want the pork butt internal temp to reach a temperature of 160°F. 

At this point its time to wrap the meat because it will have absorbed most of the smoke, and if left unwrapped it can acquire a bitter taste. Wrapping your pork will help keep the moisture inside and maintain a beautiful bark.

Lay out two layers of tin foil or butcher paper, using protective gloves to avoid hand burns take the pork out of the fire and place it on top of the paper.

Wrap it tightly with the temperature probe in, and set it back on the fire. This should help rise the temperature and speed up the cooking time.

How Long To Rest Your Pulled Pork (This is an Important One)

When you reach a temperature of 190°F, take the pork out of the smoker. Set it on a board and let it rest, so the juices redistribute their way into the meat. If you let it rest for at least half an hour, the pork butt should be juicy.

One way to test if the butt is perfectly cooked is by pulling out the shoulder bone and seeing if it’s clean, or twisting a fork through the meat if it twists easily, the meat is perfect.

how to pull pork

Pulling Your Pork Butt (The Fun Part)

Slip the tin foil carefully, and the meat is ready to be pulled. The meat should be tender to touch and you should be able to pull it apart just using your hands.

Just use some protective gloves so you don’t burn yourself. If you don’t like getting your hands dirty, you can always use some pork shredder claws.

Final Thoughts

If you're still feeling a bit apprehensive, electric smokers can ensure you get the correct level of smoke for the entire cook.

For an amateur smoker, taking on your first pork butt can be intimidating, but pork is a really kind meat, but it's also very fatty. It can hard to dry it out or overcook it.

With just a few hours and some simple ingredients, you are ready to make magic on the smoker. And the greatest part about smoked pork butt?

You can use serve it with anything! On a plate with some coleslaw, as a part of your burger or a sandwich bun, the possibilities are endless!

If your after something a bit of an alternative for the holidays, find out our favourite way to smoke a turkey.

How do you tuck into your pulled pork?


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