How to Make Smoked Pork Boston Butt

A smoked pork butt is probably one of the most delicious pieces of meat you can pull off your smoker during the BBQ season.

Yeah, it will take several hours of preparation and cooking, but you will be amazed by the tender pulled pork, encased in a crispy, smokey crust.

I know that making a smoked pork butt has several variables and every one has its unique way to do it, so I tried to include everything you need to know when making this recipe, starting from the meat selection, preparation, seasoning, several smoking tips to have in mind and two different style recipes at the end.

Note: Since I will try to cover everything you need to know about smoking Boston butt, you may want to jump to the preferred section by using the table of contents below for quick navigation. 

Smoked Pork Butt vs Smoked Pork Shoulder

Pork Butt

Pork Shoulder

Also known as "Boston Butt" or "Boston Butt Pork"

  • Well Marbled w/ Intramuscular Fat
  • Often Sold w/ Fat Cap Intact
  • Rectangular, Uniform Shape
  • Hotjar
    Bone-In or Boneless

Also known as "Picnic Shoulder" or "Picnic Roast"

  • Less Intramuscular Fat & Marbling
  • Frequently Sold w/ Skin On
  • Tapered, Triangular Shape
  • Hotjar
    Bone-In or Boneless 

The whole pork shoulder consists of two portions: the butt, which is the upper portion of the shoulder and the picnic, which is the lower portion.

It is sold as bone-in or boneless, and if boneless, the whole roast is usually cut into half portions.

The butt pork cut comes from high on the hog, above the shoulder blade and has some connective tissue and a lot of juicy, marbled fat.

While the should is located below the butt. It includes most of the hog’s front leg quarter, and since the leg muscles work a little bit more than the back, this cut is tougher than the butt.

As for smoking, since pork shoulder has more muscle, it will require a little bit more smoking than the pork butt while the pork butt becomes more juicer and tender with less effort.

Which is the Best Pork Butt Grade for Smoking?

Although all pork is first inspected by the USDA, it is not graded for quality, like they do with beef.

The pork is only graded into two levels: “Acceptable” and “Utility.” The “Acceptable” grade can be found in any supermarket while “Utility” is mainly reserved for processed food.

So, unlike choosing beef quality, when shopping for pork butt, you don’t have to worry about quality grades. Just select cuts with bone-in or boneless and with exterior fat removed or not.

What you can have in mind instead, it to pick a pork cut which has a good amount of fat marbling and a red-pink color with a coarse grain.

The characteristics above will ensure you have picked a high-quality, ready-to-smoke pork butt.

Equipment Needed

To properly smoke a Boston Butt, you will need some equipment. Here is a list with the equipment I use when I make this recipe:

  • Smoker: Electric, Propane, or Pellet Smoker. I have previously used a Big Green Egg Smoker, and I had amazing results, but an electric smoker works great too even though the smoke quality is not the best. Additionally, you can try a pellet or charcoal smoker.
  • Meat Thermometer: I recommend a digital meat thermometer, with two-channel monitoring to have remote control over the temperature of your smoker and the internal meat temperature.
  • Wood Chunks: Even though it is not equipment, you should definitely buy upfront wood chunks if you are using a charcoal smoker. For this recipe, I prefer Apple & Cheery Wood chunks.
  • Drip Pans: Probably your smoker already has a drip pan, but if it doesn’t, you can buy some aluminum drip pans in bulk to save some money.

Best Electric Smoker for Smoking Pork

Since most people haven’t any deep knowledge of smoking meat, the best option to consider is picking an electric smoker. Using an electric smoker is much easier to control the temperature when compared to charcoal or other smoker types.

If you are looking for a recommendation, I would suggest the Masterbuilt 30-Inch Electric Digital Smoker. It is the best entry-level smoker, with decent performance and an affordable price tag for everyone.

If you want something more challenging or you plan to smoke meat occasionally in the future, you may consider a more ‘manual’ smoker, where you have more control over fire and temperature. Models like Big Green Egg, even though are a little bit expensive, provide a very good smoking performance, with you having control over the fire. You can read our Big Green Egg vs. Kamado comparison guide to have a better knowledge on which models works best.

How to Prepare the Pork

When it comes to preparing the pork for smoking, you don’t have to do much. Actually, this whole recipe is relatively simple. You only have to select the meat, apply the seasoning, and wait for the smoker to cook the pork. I may consider it more time consuming than hard to make recipe.

As for the meat, all you have to do before seasoning is remove any wrapping, pat it dry using paper towels and trim off any extended fat layers it may have.

Some people believe that leaving the thick fat layer on top will baste the meat during cooking, but the truth is that the smoke and the rub will not penetrate a thick layer of fat.

In addition to that, a thick fat layer will make the pork requiring more time to cook. Also, pork butt is already rich in fat marbling inside, so there is no need for external fat. You will end up cutting and discarding it anyway after cooked, leaving you with spots which don’t have the delicious, dark, smoked crust that everyone enjoys so much. 

Seasoning the Meat

How-to-Prepare-Pork-Boston-Butt

Preparing the Pork - Flickr/Cayobo

After you have the meat ready and prepared, it is time to prepare the rubbing and season the meat. I prefer to do a dry rubbing for this recipe and an additional Cuban Mojo Marinade for injection.

Recommended Rubs for Boston Butt

When it comes to rubs and seasoning ingredients, you are free to combine and use what fits your preferences more. Below is a list with the rub ingredients I personally use. You are free to add or remove anything which you don’t like.

Ingredients

(For a 5-7 Pound Boston Butt)


  • 1 Tbs. Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Paprika
  • 1 Tbs. Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp. Ground White Pepper
  • 1 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tsp. Granulated Garlic
  • 1 Tsp. Dry Mustard
  • (Additional) 1 Cup Cuban Mojo Marinade, Strained (For injection syringe)
  • (Additional) BBQ Sauce

Directions

Seasoning-the-Meat-by-Dry-Rubbing

Dry Rubbing the Meat - Flickr/Cayobo

  • After you have gathered together all the rubbing ingredients, combine them all in a small bowl and make sure they are mixed well.
  • Now, make sure your pork butt doesn’t have any excess fat layers on top and start rubbing the mixture all over the meat. After the whole surface is covered, wrap it using a plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (If you end up with some extra dry rub, you can save it to sprinkle the finished pork later on.) Leaving the meat dry rubbed overnight will allow it to get absorbed and enhance the flavor.
  • The next day, remove the meat from the refrigerator about 1-2 hours before you plan on cooking it and unwrap from the plastic wrap.
  • (Additional Step) If you plan to do the injection of the Cuban Mojo Marinade, use a syringe to inject it into the pork and slowly push the Mojo in as you move the needle out of the meat. Doing this way will ensure that the Mojo marinade is evenly distributed. For better results, repeat this step several times at random spots.

Smoking the Pork Butt

After you finish seasoning and dry rubbing the pork, now it is finally the time to start cooking it. As I said before, take the pork out of the refrigerator around 1-2 hours before cooking it. Meanwhile, set up your smoker to preheat at 225-235°F and get ready to add the wood chips.

What is the Best Wood to Smoke Pork Butt?

Wood-Chips-for-Pork

As for the best wood chips to smoke a pork butt, I would suggest you use either apple, cherry, or hickory wood chips. All these types of wood chips are sweet and don’t overpower the taste of pork meat. Wood chips such as pecan are more powerful in flavor, much more than they should for pork butt.

Also, don’t forget to soak the wood chips in the water around 30-45 minutes before using them.

Low and Slow Smoking Method

Smoking-the-Pork

Smoking the Pork Butt - Flickr/Cayobo

Since this cut is rich in fat marbling but at the same time has a great deal of connective tissue since it comes from the animal’s shoulder, it is recommended to follow a low and slow smoking method.

To get most of the flavor from that fat marbling, the goal is to cook it at a low temperature, around 235°F for a long period of time, until the internal temperature of the pork butt reaches 195-205°F.

When this temperature is reached, the connective tissues will break down, and the meat will be super tender.

At this cooking temperature, it will take around 90 minutes per pound for a 4-pound pork butt to be cooked. During this time, it is important to monitor the internal temperature frequently, so you know exactly what is happening.

If you don’t like the meat to be super tender and “melt in your mouth” texture, you can remove it off the smoker when it reaches 160-170°F internal temperature. At this point, the connective tissues are not completely broken down, and the meat has a more compact texture but still is pretty tender and moist.

  • bolt
    Quick Tip: After you remove the pork from the smoker, cover it with aluminum foil or butcher paper and let it rest for at least 1 hour. This will make the juices settle, and the meat will stay juicy and moist after cutting/shredding.

How Long to Smoke Pork Butt

How-Long-to-Smoke-Boston-Butt

Measuring Pork's Internal Temperature - Flickr/Cayobo

The smoked pork butt cooking time depends on your cut, but in general, it should take around 1:30-2 hours per pound of pork to cook at 225-235°F. In average, an 8-pound pork butt should take around 16 hours to be completely cooked.

Have in mind that each cut is different and the amount of connective tissues and fat marbling impact the cooking duration. There might be situations where an 8-pound smoked pork butt takes 12 hours to finish while a 10-pound cut takes 10 hours. So, the exact cooking duration is a little bit relative, and it depends on your cut.

If you want to have more control over your Boston butt, you can invest in an instant-read thermometer. It will help you to keep track of the meat’s internal temperature.

When using such thermometer, you will notice that the meat will reach quickly up to 145°F, and then the smoking process will slow down a lot. It may take a few hours to cook from 145°F to 165°F. This phase is totally normal and is called ‘Stall,’ so don’t worry. The temperature will eventually start to rise again.

There are some techniques which may help speed up the Stall phase, and it consists of wrapping the meat in foil or butcher paper, but I am not a big fan of it since it will prevent the meat from creating the dark, caramelized exterior crust, which I think is absolutely delicious. 

Pork Butt Temperature & Cooking Times Table

Cooking Temperature

Cooking Time

Internal Meat Temperature

225-235°F

1:30-2 Hours per Pound of Pork

When meat reaches 195-205°F

Smoked Pork Butt Video

Smoked Pork Butt Recipe

Ingredients


(For a 5-7 Pound Boston Butt)

  • 1 Tbs. Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Paprika
  • 1 Tbs. Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp. Ground White Pepper
  • 1 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tsp. Granulated Garlic
  • 1 Tsp. Dry Mustard
  • (Additional) 1 Cup Cuban Mojo Marinade, Strained (For injection syringe)
  • (Additional) BBQ Sauce

Directions


  • Combine all the dry rub ingredients in a large bowl and mix them well together.
  • Make sure the pork doesn’t have any excess fat layer on top and start rubbing the mixture all over the surface. Be careful to cover the whole meat with dry rubbing.
  • Then, take the rubbed pork, wrap it with a plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or around 12 hours.
  • The next day, take it out of the refrigerator, remove the wrapping and leave it for around 1-2 hours at room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, prepare your smoker by preheating it at 225-235°F and adding your preferred wood chips.
  • Put the pork into the smoker and cook it until it reaches 165°F internal temperature. If you want to reach the “melt in mouth” texture and tenderness, cook it up to 195-205°F internal temperature.
  • It may take around 1:30-2 hours per pound of pork to be cooked, depending on the cut’s connective tissues and fat marbling amount.
  • After 10-12 hours on average for an 8-pound pork butt, remove it from the smoker and cover it in butcher paper or aluminum foil to rest for at least one hour before serving. This will make sure the juices are settled, and the meat will not become dry after cutting/shredding.

Texas Style Smoked Butt Recipe

Smoked-Pork-Butt

This recipe is from our friends from DadWithaPan. It is a Texas Style Smoked Butt for those who want a more Texas-style recipe and rubbing, with a nice dark crust, very similar to smoked brisket.

Ingredients


(Servings: 9-10 People) - (Prep Time: 30 Minutes - Cook Time: 8 Hours)

  • ½ Cup Kosher Salt
  • ½ Cup Ground Pepper
  • ½ Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. Granulated Garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. Granulated Onion
  • 1 Tbsp. Celery Salt
  • (For Pulled Pork) 8-10 Pound Shoulder Butt
  • (For Pulled Pork) 2 Tbsp. Yellow Mustard
  • (For Pulled Pork) 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Directions


  • Prepare your pork butt by trimming any excess fat and pat drying with a paper towel.
  • Take all the rub ingredients and mix them well in a bowl.
  • Spread a light coat of mustard all over the surface and then use the rub mixture to cover the whole surface of the meat with the rubbing.
  • Preheat your smoker at 235°F and put the meat after the temperature is reached.
  • After 3-4 hours of cooking, measure the internal temperature of the meat. If it has reached 160°F mark, wrap it using an aluminum foil. Make sure the meat is tightly wrapped and put it again on the smoker.
  • Cook it up to 195-205°F internal temperature. If you want to speed up the process a little bit, increase the cooking temperature to 275°F.
  • After the meat is completely cooked, let it rest off the smoker for around 45-60 minutes. This will allow the juices to settle and not dry out the meat when pulling it off.

Notes: For wood chips, I use a combination of a 30/70 blend of apple and hickory pellets.

If your pork is cooked earlier than you need, you can keep the wrapping and place it in a cooler. The wrapping will hold the temperature for around 2-3 hours.

Best-Smoked-Pork-Butt

About Kendrick

Just a passionate man about cooking, living in Kansas who loves to share his knowledge about cooking and grilling with everyone.

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