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Smoked Pork Butt for Pulled Pork 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 Compart Duroc 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.

If you don’t believe me cook the two side by side and taste the difference. Heritage pork like Compart taste the way pork was intended to be!

pork butt

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 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.

pork butt with rub

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.

pork butt on the smoker

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.

smoked pork butt recipe

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.

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.

pork butt wrapped in foil

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.

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.

pulled meat

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!


The BBQ Rub - a barbecue dry rub developed by The Killer Hogs

ChefAlarm Meat Thermometer
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Thermapens For Internal Meat Probe for Competition BBQ Cooks