Cook Time: 10-12 hours + Serves 10-15
Nothing says bbq like a pulled pork sandwich made from a smoked pork butt.. The juicy and sweet flavors, held together by a Smokey crust, there is truly nothing quite like it.
This recipe for the best smoked pork butt will take your pulled pork truly to another level and will have your friends and family asking non stop about how you did it and what seasonings you used.
Beware though, your neighbors will smell it cooking and may conveniently stop by to see how things are going at your household, let alone the dogs gathering around the smoker hoping for a scrap.
What is a Pork Butt?
Contrary to the name, a pork butt is not the actual butt of a pig. (that’s the ham) A pork butt is a section of the actual shoulder, called the boson butt. The Pork Butt is the thicker section, which often has much more intramuscular fat, giving it the juiciness we love in pulled pork. This fat breaks down perfectly when cooked on a smoker low and slow for a bbq. The top section of the shoulder is often called the picnic roast in the store.
If you are unable to find just a pork butt, purchase the whole pork shoulder instead. It will be just as good, and will serve more people, but make sure you at least have a full shoulder so you get the good fat content to render down.
Shopping List For Smoked Pork Butt
- Pork Butt Roast
- Smoking Wood Chunks, Chips- How to Choose the best smoking wood
- Favorite Pork Rub- spicy
- Favorite Pork Rub- savory/sweet
- Favorite BBQ sauce- We like this
- garlic powder
- apple juice or apple cider vinegar
- red pepper flakes- optional
- brown sugar- optional
How to Smoke a Pork Butt
The first step, as always, is to fire up your smoker and get it good and warmed up to 250 degrees. You want to go ahead and have your smoking wood chips mixed into the charcoal, and take it up to temperature slowly. Make sure you have a good clean smoke burning before putting your meat on the smoker. By this, I mean you need to have an almost clear smoke coming out of the smoker. This will make sure you don’t get any creosote buildup on the pork butt which can leave a nasty taste.
My favorite wood for smoking pork is cherry or apple. It gives a great sweet flavor that doesn’t overpower the meat. My smoking wood guide is here for more information.
While your smoker is warming up, it is time to season the pork butt.
Start by opening the package the pork butt came in, and give it a good rinse with cold water in the sink.
After you get it rinsed, pat it dry with paper towels.
Put the pork butt on a rack or baking sheet and lather the pork butt with mustard. The mustard will act as a binder for our seasonings. If the idea of mustard turns you off, you can use an olive oil. (seriously though, you won’t taste the mustard flavor, it renders down to a good binder for great bark)
To season, I like to think of it as building layers of flavor on the pork butt. I start with a blend of course salt, pepper, and garlic powder. You want equal parts salt and pepper, and about 10% of your mixture to be garlic powder. Make sure its blended well in shaker and give your pork butt a good, even coating. Patting it in as you go.
Next, I like to put a spicy rub. Give your pork butt an even coating of your favorite spicy rub. It doesn’t have to be thick, just enough to cover evenly.
Now it’s time for the savory/sweet layer. This layer will provide that sweetness you often get in pulled pork. I like to use this as the outer layer because I like a dark bark on my pork butts, and the sugars in the rub will provide that for us. Again, a good and even coating will do. Just don’t let it clump in thick spots, and pat it in.
Seasoning the pork butt in this way is what I believe to really set this recipe apart. As you pull the pork, the seasonings will all blend together, creating a sweet and spicy blend along with the juicy pork that is out of this world.
How to Smoke the Pork Butt
Now that we’ve got our pork butt seasoned, and our smoker warmed up, you can go ahead and place the pork butt right in the center, allowing for good smoke and heat flow around the butt.
During the cook, I always like to spritz the pork butt with a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar, mixed half and half. I do this about every 1.5 hours throughout the cook until I wrap.
You can also mop the pork butt, but I find it can mess up the rub and bark by the end of the cook.
Inevitably, your pork butt will reach an internal temperature near 160 degrees, and stop, for what seems like forever.
Don’t panic, don’t adjust your smoker temperature, as this is a very normal stage in cooking called the stall. The Stall is a point in cooking where the fats in the meat begin the process of breaking down and rendering into that juicy goodness we love in our pulled pork. It is important to keep your smoker at a steady temperature during this phase. You will be tempted to crank your smoker up, butt don’t, this stage just takes time.
Wrapping a Pork Butt (optional)
At this point, your meat is pretty much done taking on smoke flavor, so I wrap my meat in butcher paper. I feel that wrapping the pork butt allows me to do a few different things. It helps me retain my moisture in the pork , and seemingly helps shave a little time off the total cook by getting it through the stall a little faster.
Finish with bbq sauce
For a normal pork butt, I will let it cook all the way to done like this. However, we are making the best pork butt ever, so we have another step. When your temperature probe hits 195, unwrap it and slather the pork butt up in your favorite bbq sauce. Don’t go too heavy, just give a good coating. This will give us an incredible bark, and the bbq sauce will set up and be a sticky goodness that will truly set this recipe apart.
Stick the probe back in and put it back on the smoker.
This is a big cut of meat, so it’s going to take a long time to cook. A good rule of thumb is bout an hour per pound. So if you have a 10 lb pork but, your looking at something around 10 hours.
The only way to really know when it is done is to have an internal temperature probe throughout the cook. The pork butt is done when it hits 200-205 degrees. I’ve found the sweet spot to be bout 203 for pulling pork for sandwiches
Once you’ve hit the 203 mark, pull the pork but and lightly cover it in foil, in the pan you are going to pull the pork butt apart in. Let this pork butt rest for at least a half hour.
After the rest period you can begin to pull it for whatever you are going to use the pulled pork in. I like to use meat claws to pull the pork butt with, they make it easy and you won’t get burnt by the steaming hot pork.
Pulled Pork Finishing Sauce
Last step to the best pulled pork of your life, the finishing sauce. This is optional, but my goodness what it does to the pork will take it to another level all together.
In a microwave safe measuring cup, or even a squirt bottle, combine
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
a dash of red pepper flakes
Put in microwave for about 1 minute and stir up until brown sugar totally blends with the vinegar.
When you are done pulling the pork, pour in some of this mixture and mix it in well. You don’t have to use the entirety of the finishing sauce, tasting it as you go to make sure you like the flavor it is receiving from the sauce..
There you have it, the best pulled pork ever!
Serving the Pork Butt
There are countless ways to serve pulled pork from the smoked pork butt. Some of our favorites are:
Pulled Pork Sandwiches- Classic, tangy and juicy
Pulled Pork Nachos – Spicy and sweet!
BBQ Mac n Cheese – Kids love this
Pulled Pork Enchiladas – Twist on classic mexican dish
BBQ Baked Potato – Hearty and easy to make!
Quick Recipe For Pulled Pork
- Set Smoker for 250 degrees
- Rub Pork Butt
- Place Pork Butt on smoker until internal temp of 160, spritzed with apple juice every hr and half or so.
- Wrap Pork Butt
- Unwrap at 195
- lather in bbq sauce
- pull at 200-205 (203 is target)
- Let rest at least half hour, preferably full 1 hr.
- Apply finishing sauce as you pull the pork