How to Smoke a Pork Butt
One of the easiest and most impressive recipes you can cook on your new smoker is a classic smoked Boston Butt. A good smoked pork butt can be used for proper BBQ pulled pork, or you can simply slice or chop it. Once you have a Boston Butt smoked and ready to go it becomes very versatile. In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how to smoke a pork butt, including some tips, tricks and accessories to make your life easier.
What is a Pork Butt?
I’ve heard a lot of people ask, ‘What is the difference between a pork butt and a pork shoulder?’ Well there is no difference, they are the same cut with a different name. In fact, it can also be called a Boston Butt. All three names are referring to the cut of meat from the shoulder of the pig. There is rarely a cut called a pork shoulder chop, which is a very similar cut but with a bone in it. Today we’re focusing solely on the classic pork butt.
Before you start thinking about smoking the Boston Butt itself, you’re going to need the equipment to do it because this isn’t simply a home oven affair. If you’ve smoked meat before this might not be news to you so feel free to skip it.
Whilst it is possible to cook a pork butt in an oven, without a doubt the best way is in a dedicated smoker.
There are many, many types of smokers out there and it’s difficult to cover them all but if it cooks the meat with smoke then it will work. Some of the more expensive ones, such as pellet smokers, make the whole process an absolute breeze to the point that it feels a bit like cheating. Whereas some smokers, such as electric smokers make smoking a Boston Butt available to anyone.
Just remember to make sure that the pork butt fits into your smoker if you’re buying a smaller one.
A good digital BBQ thermometer
The most important accessory you need is a good wireless thermometer setup. Do not rely on the built-in thermometer on your smoker for anything, they cannot be trusted. If you speak to anyone that has smoked before they will tell you that a good digital wireless thermometer is a must. We’d recommend investing in a proper dual probe thermometer so you can measure the internal temperature of the meat and the surrounding air.
Read More: ‘Best Smoker Thermometers’
If you’re cooking on anything that isn’t electric, you’ll probably have to start a fire at some point. A chimney starter is by far the easiest and most effect way of starting a smoker.
Whilst this is not a necessity, it does make the job of pulling the pork but apart and much quicker (and more enjoyable) job. A good quality pair of claws will cost you around $10 but will last forever. A great investment if you’re planning on cooking more than one pork butt. If pulled pork isn’t your thing, then maybe sliced pork is. Check out our reviews of the best carving and slicing knives available today.
How to Prepare a Boston Butt
There are many different recipes to create a great tasting pork butt. Whilst this isn’t a traditional smoked Boston Butt recipe, more of an overall guide, we’ll include a few ingredient values here and there so you can try it out straight after reading.
Firstly, you have to start with a quality pork butt. We recommend a fresh Boston Butt around 8lbs. Your local butcher should be able to help you pick out a great quality butt. You’re looking for just the right amount of fat, which they should be able to guide you on.
When you have the perfect Boston Butt, it’s time to give it a quick wash and dry it down by patting it with paper towels.
Pork Butt Injection
Do you need to inject the pork butt with extra flavors? We think that the pork butt injection phase is very important. It gives the meat extra moisture and flavor on the inside that using dry rubs alone simply cannot do.
You can pick up a simple flavour injector online or at your local supermarket.
We’ve found combinations of the following to give the best taste and there’s enough for multiple Boston Butts:
- 1 cup of apple juice
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup brown sugar
- Table spoon of salt
- (Optional) Table spoon of honey
- (Optional) Table spoon of Worcestershire Sauce
- (Optional) Table spoon of Soy Sauce
If you’re looking for something easier or quicker, then simply fill up you flavor injector with apple juice. There are also a great selection of injectable marinades perfect for injecting your pork butt with.
Take the injector and inject the pork butt about 10-12 times at varying depths. Try to get an even distribution.
After this, you can add your favourite dry rub. You can use mustard or butter as a coat for the dry rub to stick to. Liberally smother the pork butt in the rub.
We’ve listed our favorite BBQ dry rubs you can buy online.
Cover the pork butt with plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge for 6-8 hours, preferably overnight.
About an hour before cooking, take the pork butt out of the fridge and let it settle. Before smoking the pork butt, the aim is to get it to room temperature.
How to Smoke a Pork Butt
Now to the actual smoking of the pork butt. Get your smoker to about 225°F (107°C). If you’re using a pellet smoker then this is a perfect opportunity to experiment with different flavored pellets.
Set up your digital thermometer to get the perfect temperature for smoking pork butt. The temperature is the most important part and we’re going to be aiming for an internal temperature of 190°F (88°C).
Read More: ‘Smoking Times and Temperatures’
This will take some time. A general rule of thumb is 1 hour per pound of meat. That may seem like a lot but there’s good reason for it. It will create the perfect low-and-slow tender meat. When the inside of the Boston Butt is bang on 190°F then it’s ready to be taken out.
When it’s done, remove your Boston Butt from the smoker and place in aluminum foil. Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour before unwrapping and pulling.
And that’s it, after leaving it for a while it’ll be ready to enjoy! A perfect treat for the 4th of July! …or the 5th …or any day. (Or every day)
Quick Tips and Tricks
If you’re feeling adventurous you can add another section into the smoking of your Boston Butt. When the butt has been smoking for 2 hours you can baste it. Mix together the following ingredients and place the mixture into a large cup or bowl:
- 2 Cups of olive oil.
- 2 Cups of Apple Cider vinegar.
- 2 Table Spoons of Worcestershire Sauce.
- (Optional) 1 Cup of your favourite dry rub.
- (Optional) Hot water to help dissolve the dry rub.
Grab a quality basting mop or marinade spray bottle and get lathing on the mixture every two hours to give an amazing outer coat. This will increase the cooking time as you’ll be opening the smoker, so remember to go by the internal temperature of the pork butt.
If you’re not going to be basting your Boston Butt then do not open the smoker or the aluminum foil to look at the butt. Just don’t do it. Let the smoker and the hours and hours of smoking time take its effect.
Be aware that if the outside temperature is continuously changing or if it’s really cold outside then the smoker will behave differently. We recommend keeping the smoker out of the wind and ideally under cover somewhere. Do anything to try and keep a constant temperature.
The last tip is make sure you’re having fun! Master the basics of smoking and then go out and experiment. There are a lot of great resources online and in books to give you a great basic understanding, but BBQ and smoking gets really fun when you’re trying your own thing and come up with your own recipes.
We have an extensive list of the best books for outdoor cooking where we look at the best books for BBQ, smoking and many other forms of outdoor cooking. Any of these books would make a great companion to your smoker.
If you have a lot of left over pulled pork, we recommend using a vacuum sealer to help preserve it. We’ve taken a look at the best vacuum sealers here.
Re-heating pulled pork is always tough to do right, but it’s made much easier if you vacuum seal the meat first. Vacuum sealing holds in as much moisture and flavor as possible so when you come to re-heating the pork, it’s going to taste very similar to how it originally tasted. The best way to re-heat it is to grab the bag that it’s stored in and throw that into a pot of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. This heats the bag and allows the juices to take on the same consistency as before. Lastly, cut the bag open and enjoy your pulled pork.
Let us know in the comments below our favourite smoked pork butt recipes and some tips and tricks you might have.