I have been to many BBQ restaurants with average pulled pork. It blows my mind, as it is such an easy task to pull off at home. I make this smoked pork butt a lot. It is perfect for large gatherings for all the right reasons. Reasons important to your guests, such as juicy and flavorful. Reasons important to you, such as the ability to serve 15 people with one piece of meat at a reasonable price. Either way you look at it, this is a great way to build rich flavors that everyone will love.
In order to build flavor and tenderness, we are going to inject the pork butt with a marinade, season it with a lot of rub, and then smoke it for 10 hours. First, we need to talk about pork butts. Pork butt and pork shoulder are referring to the same cut of meat. You can find them boneless and bone-in. For best results always go with bone-in, which enhances flavor and keeps the pork moist. Feel free to try boneless, but it is not the same. In the average grocery store, you want to buy a bone-in pork shoulder/butt between 6 and 9 pounds. It may say pork shoulder blade or boston butt. This just depends where you are at. Just ask the butcher if you are not sure.
First we want to trim up the pork butt. You will usually find a thick fat cap on top. I like to trim this down so you have less than 1/4″ of fat on top. I find boning knives work best for this task, slicing through the meat more easily than a chef’s knife. This is the knife I have used for for over 4 years. I like the semi-flexible version.
In the end you want to end up with some areas with a little more than 1/4″ and other areas with less than 1/4″ of fat. You want the end result to look something like this, below….
After trimming, add a lot of rub to all sides of the pork butt. The bigger the piece of meat and the longer the smoke, the more rub I use. You want to use several tablespoons for each pork butt. The pork butt self regulates this, as the rub will stop sticking when the pork is fully saturated with rub.
The next step is injecting the pork butt with a marinade. My Favorite Meat Injectors: Cajun Deluxe Marinade Injector or Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Meat Injector. I own both and use the cajun deluxe injector for chicken and more delicate tasks. I also find the cajun deluxe works well with pork butts. However, I do like to use the larger stainless model because it allows the granules of the Rub to pass through the injection needle without clogging.
I use a simple marinade containing BBQ rub, butter, vegetable oil, and apple cider vinegar. After rubbing, use a meat injector to inject 3-5 tablespoons of marinade into the meatiest parts of the pork butt. If you do not have a meat injector, skip this part for now. After you get an injector, give it another try.
Then you are ready to smoke. Heat the smoker up to 250 degrees and place a chunk of apple wood on the smoker. Place your pork butts on and let smoking begin. I use my Big Green Egg for this and I only add one chunk of wood every hour for the first 4 hours. After that, it is just the lump charcoal doing the smoking for the rest of the smoke. By not adding wood throughout the process, the meat does not get over smoked.
S&S Tip: If you are smoking overnight or during the day and cannot watch the smoker, smoke it for the first 4 hours and then transfer the pork butt to an uncovered pan in the oven at 250 degrees.
S&S Tip: If you find the pork is not cooking fast enough or you are running short of time, wrap it in foil tightly and place it back on the smoker. Up the temperature to 300 degrees and check after an hour for tenderness.
Check your pork butts at 8 hours, but they will probably need 10. You can check internal temperature, which should read about 200 degrees when done, but I usually go with looks and feel. When done, the bark will start to crack apart, revealing the pork. And if you stick a fork in it and pry, the meat should give in very easily.
If you are just getting the hang of smoking meat and grilling, internal temperature is the sure fire way to tell if the meat is done. ThermoPro makes my favorite “value” temperature monitors that monitor both meat and smoker temperature. This is my favorite wireless meat probe / smoker monitor for the money. Check the pork butt in multiple locations for 200 F, and it should be about right.
When it reaches this point, wrap it in foil and remove it from the heat to rest for an hour. After resting, transfer to a pan and rip apart the meat with a pair of forks or a set of meat claws. Remove the bone and any large pieces of fat that did not render out. Then you are ready to serve the pulled pork with buns and all the fixins.
I served these to the masses at Art in the Garden, which is a local art show we hold at our garden center. I got so into it, I forgot to take final pictures of the pulled pork…. guess I will just have to do it again! We sold out in about an hour, so I think they turned out OK. Give this recipe a try and let me know how it turns out.
Smoked Pork Butt
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 6 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons BBQ Rub
BBQ Rub - 4 Tablespoons or more of the following mix
- 12 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
- 4 Tablespoons Seasoned Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Celery Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Lemon Pepper Mix
- 2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
- 2 Tablespoons Onion Powder
- 4 Tablespoons Sweet Smoked Paprika
- 2 Tablespoons Ancho Chile
- 2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
- 2 teaspoons Cumin
- 2 teaspoons Oregano
- 2 teaspoons Thyme
- 2 teaspoons Rosemary
- 2 teaspoons Cayenne
- 2 teaspoons Mustard Powder
Trim excess fat from pork butt
Apply rub all over the pork butt. All areas should be well covered. Use at least 4 Tablespoons. You want a thick coating, but not so much it is "caking" on the pork.
Add all marinade ingredients to a microwavable container and melt together. Let cool until it is only warm. Stir vigorously before injecting.
Inject pork with the meat injector in the meatiest parts of the pork. Try to avoid the bone. Generally you cannot over inject the meat, but be gentle as the marinade might shoot back at you... its happened to me a few times.
Apply more rub after injecting if needed.
Heat smoker to 250 degrees with a heat shield between the meat and the heat source.
Add one chunk of apple wood to fire and place pork butt on the smoker.
Add a chunk of wood every hour for the first 4 hours.
Maintain 250 degrees. Check the pork butt at 8 hours, but expect 10 hours to be needed depending on pork butt size and smoking conditions.
The pork butt "bark" will start to crack when it becomes ready to eat. Check the tenderness with a fork when you think it is ready. The meat should easily move and separate when you probe it with a fork. Final internal temperature should be over 200 degrees.
Remove from heat, wrap with foil, and let rest for 1 hour before serving
Pull apart meat with two forks or meat claws and serve with buns, bbq sauce, and fixins.
You can finish this in the oven as well. Just maintain the 250 degrees after placing the pork butt in a baking pan.