How to make Awesome Smoked Pork Butt

Smoking, Pork Butt, Pulled Pork

The smell of a large hunk of Pork Butt slowly cooking over a hardwood fire can only be described as heavenly, experience it once, and you’ll want to know how to make awesome smoked pork butt for yourself.

Pork Butt or Boston Butt, is a cut that comes from the upper part of the the front shoulder on the Pig. Ironically the name has nothing to do with the behind of the pig. It actually comes from the fact that this piece of meat wasn’t highly valued in Pre-Revolutionary War America. So the pieces were thrown into barrels, which were also known as “butts”, and shipped out. The butchers in Boston had a particular way of cutting this piece of meat so,the name Boston Butt stuck. This cut is known for it’s ample marbling and prominent fat cap. It is a big, hard working muscle so it needs a long slow cook to turn it into something to be proud of. It is perfect for Southern style BBQ, Mexican Carnitas,  or Puerto Rican Pernil. Those who take the time to show this hunk of pork it’s due reverence, will be rewarded with a buttery, and velvety dish that will wow guests!

There are many different combinations of spices that can be rubbed onto a pork butt before it goes into the smoker, but sometimes the simplicity of salt and pepper can’t be beat. If you are going to go this route you are going to season the meat and not rub it. The difference is subtle but important! A rub will be put on rather heavy where a seasoning is only to enhance the natural flavor of the meat (Don’t worry here at Flames and Food we embrace both methods!). After the meat is seasoned wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 4 hours, but over-night is better.

When you are ready to start smoking do yourself a favor and take the meat of the fridge. Starting with a 40 degree piece of meat will needlessly lengthen the cooking time. An 8 pound Pork Butt can stand for an hour while the smoker heats up with no adverse effects.

Start bringing your smoker up to temp. Pork Butt loves a nice slow cook at right around 250 degrees. This Pork Butt loves a nice handful hickory chips thrown in. Hickory gives a strong traditional flavor, and the fatty richness of the pork just laps it up.

Unlike a brisket a Pork Butt goes into the smoker fatty side down. The ample marbling of provides a built in cushion against drying out the meat and it doesn’t need the extra self basting that the fat cap provides. You should figure on at least an hour a pound of cooking time. Careful monitoring of the meat and grill temperatures is important. A good wireless thermometer that does both is awesome for this (we like the one from Ivation ).

Every hour or so give the Pork Butt a spritz with some Apple Juice. Juice has extra sugar in it versus cider and this helps to build a good “bark” on the meat. The “bark” is a signature of a lovingly smoked pork butt.  When the meat starts to get up near 190 – 195 degrees, it is ready to come off. Now if you aren’t accustomed to smoking,  you might be concerned with such a high temp, but it is necessary to get the fat to render out of the meat, and for the tough muscle to break down. This is what gives good BBQ it’s characteristic tenderness.

Wrap the Smoked Pork Butt tightly in foil and let it rest for at  least half and hour. It will be hard! You’re the cook so pulling off a bit of the “bark” before you wrap it is only fair. Throwing an old towel over it to hold in the heat is welcome as well. (Note: after the Butt is wrapped in foil it can be wrapped in towels and placed in a cooler. It will stay hot for several hours. This is a great way to prepare BBQ ahead of time. It is always better to have your food waiting on the guests instead of your guests waiting on the food.)

The best part of a well made Smoked Pork Butt is the time when you grab the piece of shoulder blade still in the meat and pull it out with a flourish! It should slide easily and cleanly out. Then it is up to you whether to slice the meat, shred it with claws, or pull it by hand. It will be delicious either method you go with. However you decide to serve it this  meal needs a quality sauce. This one with it’s humble salt and pepper seasoning, loves a bold sauce like an Eastern North Carolina vinegar based sauce. Those Eastern NC sauces are nothing but vinegar, heat, salt and hate. Around here, our house one is known as Demon Spit.

Smoked Pork Butt, the Details:

Smoke between 225-250 degrees

An hour a pound (give or take)

Cook to an internal temp of 195 degrees

REST the meat for at least 30 minutes.

Have fun


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