How To Tenderize Pork Butt (4 Simple Ways)

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Pork is easily one of the most versatile meat options you’ll find.
One of the most popular cuts of pork is the pork butt that comes from the pig’s shoulder.

It’s commonly used for pulled pork but it can be cut into steaks or roasted. Plus, it’s also great for braising and stewing. But don’t forget you need to tenderize the meat first.  

In this blog post, you’ll learn how to tenderize pork like a true grill master!.

Choosing the Meat 

It’s important to note that the terms pork shoulder and pork butt are used interchangeably in most meat markets or grocery stores. That’s because they are both similar cuts of meat from the shoulder. 

These cuts of pork are available as with or without bones. We recommend the bone-in pork shoulder if you’re looking for extra tender and more flavorful meat.

A bone-in shoulder requires a longer cooking time but adds strong flavors to the meat. In contrast, a boneless pork shoulder can be sliced into chunks for quicker cooking. 

Add a Tenderizing Marinade 

Marinades are an excellent want to achieve a piece of tender meat. Furthermore, it adds plenty of flavor to meats that you wouldn’t get from simply cooking them.

Consider adding acids such as vinegar, citrus juices, olive oil, and even wine. The acidic components of the marinade also help to break down the connective tissue.

Rubbing olive oil on the entire pork is a great way to mix in the spice and penetrate better while cooking. 

Brine The Pork Butt

Some people prefer to brine the pork instead of marinating it. When you brine the pork, it adds moisture inside, giving you juicy pork.

Brining requires soaking the meat in salt water along with other added flavorings such as rosemary, thyme, and sugar.

This includes a gallon of water, 3/4 cup kosher salt, black pepper, and 3/4 cup sugar that are added into a large bowl for stirring.

Then add the piece of meat to the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it before cooking. 

Slow Cooking the Pork 

Pork butt tends to be a tough piece of meat with lots of connective tissue.

Therefore, you want to cook in a slow cooker or dutch oven at a low and steady temperature. 

Follow these instructions when slow cooking: 

1. Place the pork in the slow cooker. 

2. Then pour a liquid onto the pieces of meat. The liquid is used to replace the lost moisture when cooking. Submerge the meat with a liquid of your choosing, such as a thick BBQ sauce, broth, cider vinegar, or apple juice. 

3. Cover the slow cooker and let it cook at a low temperature. Avoid cooking it at medium-high heat, as that will dry out the pork 

4. Once a few hours have passed, check on pork shoulder, if your making pulled pork you want an internal temperature of 204°F. This will ensure the tender pork should fall off the bone when poked with a fork. 

5. If you’re unsure whether the pork butt is cooked completely, you can place it back into the slow cooker or dutch oven pot for 30 additional minutes. It’s nearly impossible to overcook the meat when slow cooking. 

Shred the Meat If You Want to Too.

When finished cooking, take the juicy pork shoulder out of the cooker and place them into a large bowl. Use two forks to shred the cuts of pork apart into small pieces. Get rid of any excess pieces of fat or bones. 

Make sure to top off the pork recipe with some seasoning.

Feel free to add brown sugar, garlic powder, white pepper, onion powder, smoked paprika, cumin, and a bit of salt and pepper.

You can also add barbecue sauce to the pulled pork for additional moisture. 

Once you’re done, you can choose to serve the shredded pork with your favorite sides or as a pulled pork sandwich. 

Other Ways to Cook Pork Butt

Besides using a slow cooker, you may consider other ways to cook your meat. 

Braising the Pork Butt

There are many other ways to cook pork butt. Braising is another slow cooking method where you simmer the pork roast in the liquid. However, in a slow cooker, you can’t brown the meat like you can in a dutch oven pot or crock pot.

Braising shoulder roasts is a great way to tenderize the meat.

Additionally, the liquids used in braising can be used as gravy or sauce and served with rice or potatoes. 

Smoking the Pork Butt

One of my favorite ways to cook pork butt is in my pit boss smoker. Using pellets mean I don’t have to tend to a fire all day. You might find that your pork stalls at around 140°F, this is when you should wrap your pork, and this will help you beat the stall.

Sear and Bake the Pork 

Searing requires you to cook the pork quickly on medium-high heat to provide a crisp, flavorful crust. Then you’ll transfer the pork to a dutch oven pot for baking. 

The indirect heat of baking keeps the cuts of pork juicy and tender. Furthermore, indirect heat from an electric smoker or oven can ensure the pork is evenly cooked. 

Cooking up an entire pork butt can require a lengthy cook time. However, the reward of slow cooking is well worth it once it hits the table. 

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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