pulled pork recipe

Pulled Pork BBQ: Smoked Pork Butt Recipe

Sometimes you want to get down to the basics of smoking and I can’t think of a better cut of meat than the pork butt.

Now most of the time I’m cooking Pork Butt for competition and as you know that meat has to be kicked up to the highest level.  It’s judged on one single bite; Appearance, Taste, and Tenderness have to all be perfect.  I use things like marinades, injections, rubs, and glazes to achieve this “meat nirvana” but for cooking at home I like to keep it simple.

The meat itself should be the star of the show.  As long as you’re starting with a good product, the end result will be delicious.  I shot a video of my “grass roots” method of cooking a pork butt.

This method is about as easy as it gets for cooking good BBQ.The most important thing is to be able to control the temperature on whatever cooker you are comfortable using.  Today I’m using my Yoder YS480 pellet grill.  I filled it with Pecan and Cherry BBQr’s Delight pellets and set the temp to 235.  I’m a low and slow guy when it comes to Pork Butt.The fat needs time to break down to properly render, and since we’re not injecting, the lower temps will keep more moisture inside the meat as it cook.

For the pork butt today I’m cooking an 8lb Pork Butt.  I’ve been using this brand for the last several years and it makes a huge difference in the flavor of the meat.  Heritage bred hogs simply taste better.  They have better fat marbling throughout the meat, and we all know fat is flavor.

Supermarket hogs are bred to be lean which means the flavor has been bred out.  They try to make some of this “flavor loss” up by adding a salt water solution in the packaging process, but that just adds extra weight and sodium to the product.

smoked pork butt recipe

To get the pork butt ready for the smoker I keep it really simple.

There’s no trimming here unlike our competition method.  I’m not wasting any of the meat and the fat is extra insulation.  In competitions  we’re striving for a perfect appearance at the end of the cook, so we take off fat and shape the meat to how we want it to cook.  At home you’re not as concerned with the final appearance as long as it taste good.

For the seasoning I use my Killer Hogs BBQ rub.  It does need a light coat of “binder” and I use plain yellow mustard.  You can use whatever you like here but the mustard is easy, doesn’t add noticeable flavor, and the vinegar tenderizes the outside allowing the seasonings to penetrate into the meat.

I do let the butt sit for about 30 minutes before placing it on the smoker.  This lets the meat come to room temperature and gives the rub a little time to melt into the meat.

smoked pork butt recipe

The actual cooking of the pork butt is easy as long as you’re controlling your temperature as I mentioned earlier.

Just place the butt on the smoker and close the lid.  At this temperature, pork cooks at a rate of 1 hour per lb, so we’re looking at an 8 hour cook on average.

For the first half of the cook process I’m not concerned with internal temperature.  This stage is where smoke does its magic.  The pores in the meat open and absorb the flavor from the wood source.

Pork can take smoke flavor until the meat gets to 150-160 degrees so it’s important here to keep the lid closed and hold your fire just right.

Once again it doesn’t matter what type of smoker you’re using.  You need a good bed of coals for the heat source and some wood for flavor.  Don’t overload with wood or you’ll get end up with over smoked meat.  I suggest adding a few chunks at a time and keep proper air flow to the fire.  You should get a thin blue colored smoke rolling through the pit.

If the smoke is thick and white it’s not getting proper oxygen to the fire.  You’ll need to adjust the air flow and let it breath.

smoked pork butt recipe

After 3-4 hours in the smoke, it’s time to start monitoring the internal temperature.  I use a Chef Alarm probe thermometer inserted in a thick portion of the butt.  Be sure not to hit the blade bone or you’ll get a false reading.

At the 5 hour mark the internal temp should be in the 160 range, it’s time to wrap the butt in aluminum foil.  This keeps it from getting too much smoke and catches the moisture rendering out during the cooking process.

smoked pork butt recipe

You don’t need to add any more wood to the coals at this point; just maintain the fire and let the butt finish cooking.

The target finish temperature for pork butt is 195 degrees.  It should take about 3 more hours of cooking but go by the temp not the time.

smoked pork butt recipe

When the target temp is reached, pull the butt off the smoker and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.  You’ll want to get it into a pan or large platter because the foil is full of jus.

After the rest period, remove the butt from the foil and pour off the jus.  You’ll be surprised by how much liquid cooks out of the pork butt.

Don’t waste this flavor packed liquid because it can be mixed with meat once it’s pulled.

At 195 degrees pork is easily shredded.  You’ll want to wear a pair of thick gloves because the meat is still extremely hot.  I use cotton glove liners under a pair of nitrile gloves any time I’m working with hot meat.

smoked pork butt recipe

If you plan to serve the pulled pork right away, mix some of the jus back with the meat.

The pork butt can be packaged for later use as well, but instead of shredding, keep the pieces in large chunks.  When reheating, it will have a better texture if you store it this way.  I also pour a little of the jus in the freezer bag as well for added flavor and moisture.

This is a sure fire way of cooking delicious pulled pork.  Yeah you can inject, sauce or add all types of flavor into the meat, but it’s hard to beat the natural taste of good quality smoked pork!

Malcom Reed
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Comments 22

    1. Post

      It all depends on the type of smoker you have. If you are using a water pan cooker – then you need to fill the water pan. Other than that, it’s all on you… and if you can set up a water pan in your smoker.

  1. Malcom,

    I’ve been grilling for over 30 years and apparently only THOUGHT I knew my thing before stumbling across your site. I’ve learned A LOT from you in the past few weeks. Just did a pork butt on my trusty Weber kettle (wishing I had what I’ve come to think of as a “real smoker”). Using the Minion method for fuel (this post ISN’T about the Minion method), along with your best practices for pork shoulder (THIS is what it’s really about), I produced the best butt I’ve ever tasted–from something as simple as a kettle-style charcoal grill. Maybe, I just got lucky. I’ve smoked chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, etc. on this thing for years and have historically had trouble regulating heat over the duration required; so, I’ve experienced temp swings +/- 100 degrees over the course of 8-12 hours. I’ve achieved some pretty good results over the years but rarely without a lot of hassle. With my first attempt using the “Minion method,” I ran it at an average of 225-235 degrees for over 8 hours (adding a little charcoal in the middle). This method meant no more than +/- 30 degrees over the duration. No BBQ Guru or any other temp management device was used. Yes, I did a bit of babysitting around the vents from time to time. I still want a “real smoker,” but you’ve shown me how to get unbelievable results–no matter what cooking equipment is used. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise in such a way that it makes simple sense for ANYONE to make THE BEST BBQ. You’re clearly a guru and greatly appreciated for sharing so much!! Thanks, brother!!!


  2. …”regulating your temperature” was one of the comments that resonated with me, so I took extra measure here (hence, using the Minion method, given my particular grill/”smoker” setup). Otherwise, I want to reiterate that my “breakthough” is coming from howtobbgright.com! Love this site!!


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  3. Super excited to use my smoker for the first time over the weekend and I’m glad I found your site to guide me. Picked up a 8lb pork butt, and when I got home realized it was actually two smaller ones crammed together. Should I cook these together for around 4 hours instead of 8?

    1. Post

      I would cook them and follow the internal temp. It won’t take as long to cook these, but I’m betting it will take longer than 4 hours. Just watch your internals and you’ll be fine.

  4. Used this recipe 4 times and it’s turned out great each time. I used 10 lb butts with hickory. Thanks alot! Are there any houses for sale next to yours? Lol

  5. I just recently started smoking..I’ve been dreaming of getting a smoker for a couple years. I finally pulled the trigger this year. If you’re a novice visitor and are reading this comment…Malcom knows what he’s talking about..Keeps it simple, easy to understand, and has really turned me on to smoking.

    Malcom, your advice and videos are SPOT ON PERFECT!! You’re making me look like I actually know what I’m doing. In less than a week I’ve done the recipes for:

    Competition Chicken Thighs (twice 🙂
    and I’ve currently got (2) 10 lb pork butts in the smoker right now for pulled pork sandwiches, as well as your cole slaw recipe for FATHERS DAY!! Just wrapped them in foil…

    Needless to say…I’m a Big Fan….Keep up the good work…. Thanks again.

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  6. Would you recommend spraying with apple juice, vinager, etc during smoking process. If so, what would you use and how often. Thanks for the great site and info!

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      Most of my pork butts for competition comes for The Butcher Shoppe in Pensacola, FL – Compart Farms or Allegiance. When I’m cooking at home I get my butts from Costco or Sam’s.

  7. Is there a way to print your recipe, it’s the first time we’re attempting to make pulled pork on the smoker and your recipe is the one that intrigued me the most, sounds awesome. I’ve been searching your page/site trying to fine a way to print the recipe rather than having to print everything above.

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  8. Malcom:

    two questions: 1) if I’m smoking 2 10lb Pork Butts at same time what does that do to the times?

    2) how come your smoked pulled pork recipe says cook at 225-235, but your Carolina Vinegar Sauce pulled pork is 250? any reason for that.


    1. Post

      It all depends on your cooker – if you have plenty of space to hold 2 pork butts it won’t increase the time much if at all. If your smoker is loaded down with the 2 pork butts and the airflow is decreased, it will increase the time.

      And it all depends on how I want to cook that day and what pit I’m using. There is no magic temp to smoke at – if you keep it around 250 you will get good results.

  9. Hello Malcom, First off I would like to thank you for all the great videos and recipes. I was looking for your competition smoked butt recipe but can not find it. I have used it in the past and it was the best. Is there a seach box available for when we are looking for a certain recipe?

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