Slow-Smoked BBQ Pork Butt
If you want to produce delicious pulled pork, you MUST start with a good quality pork butt. Knowing how to select the perfect pork butt is crucial. It is best to cook fresh not frozen 8-10 lb. Boston Butts. Always try to get the pork as fresh as possible from your local butcher or store.
When selecting a pork butt it is very important to know exactly what to look for. You want a pork butt that has a large money muscle on the front. The Money Muscle is the best part of the pork butt. It is located on the end that is farthest from the round bone. It is very tender and when properly cooked, it can even be sliced with a sharp knife. Look for a pork butt that has a big horn muscle or meat under the “Y” of the blade bone. This meat is almost as tender as the money muscle and since it is right next to the bone, it is packed with flavor. You need to tell the butcher exactly what you are looking for, and they should be able to help you select the best cuts of meat.
Preparing your Pork Butt for cooking
Inject your pork butt is a good idea to get moisture and flavor on the inside of the meat that Dry Rub alone cannot accomplish. You should be able to get a cheap injector at the grocery store and it will get the job done.
Here is a good basic injection mixture:
- 1 cup Apple Juice
- 1 cup Water
- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 cup Salt
- 1 TBS Soy Sauce
- 1 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
This injection is enough to use for two 8-10lb Boston pork butts. Experiment and come up with your own special injection.
Place the meat in an aluminum pan and begin injecting. Insert the injection needle into the meat and press down on the plunger. Do not pull the needle all of the way out of the injection site. Instead, go in at a different angle and inject again. Do this 3 times at each injection site and move it around the entire piece of meat. There will be some injection that seeps out. This is normal.
Once you get the pork butt injected, place them in a large zip-lock bag, pour any injection that seeped out over the pork butt, and place in a refrigerator or on ice. You want the pork butt to marinate for at least 4 hours. (Overnight is best). After marinating, take the pork butt out of the zip-lock bag and place on a working surface. Drain it completely and pat dry with paper towel and let it come up to room temp for about 30 – 45 minutes.
The next step is to apply a good quality dry rub. You can use any dry rub that you like. Use our own recipe, or buy a commercially produced BBQ rub. There are many on the internet, but be sure to shop around.
Coat the butt with a couple of tablespoons of yellow mustard or vegetable oil. This will create a means for the rub to stick to the meat. Then liberally sprinkle the dry rub over the meat and gently massage it into the meat.
Proper Smoke Technique
Get your smoker up to proper temperature. 225 – 250 degrees is a good cooking temperature.
The length of cooking can be a little tricky to figure out, but a good rule of thumb is 1 to 1 (hours of smoke per lb of meat). But the best way is to always have a meat thermometer handy and strictly go by internal temperature. You are going for an internal temperature of 195 degrees for perfect pulled pork.
Once you have the pork butt on the smoker, you may want to make a mop. The basic mop may consist of this mixture:
- 16 oz Vegetable Oil
- 16 oz Cider Vinegar
- 32 oz very hot water to dissolve the rub
- 1 cup of dry rub
- 2 TBS Worcestershire
- 2 TBS Soy Sauce
Whisk all of these ingredients together. Apply the mop to the pork butt every 2 hours of smoking. After 6 hours of smoke and mopping, check the internal temperature. It should be around 165 degrees. At this point you have enough smoke now it is time to get the pork butts tender.
Remove the pork butt from the smoker and wrap in aluminum foil. Place the aluminum foil on the work surface, sit the butt on the aluminum foil, mop the butt and reapply a light dusting of the dry rub. Wrap the butt up tight in the aluminum foil and place it back on the smoker.
It is helpful to use a digital meat thermometer with a remote probe to monitor your internal temperature the entire cooking time. This is one piece of equipment that is extremely useful, and it keeps you from having to constantly open up the door to check with a manual thermometer. If you are constantly opening the door, then your meat will not achieve the proper tenderness. Every time the temperature in your smoker drops. You have to keep the temperature steady to keep the meat cooking. This is exactly why they say, “if you are looking, you are not cooking”.
If you BBQ often then invest in a good thermometer with a remote probe. They will run you between $20 – $60.
If you have a thermometer with a probe, place it inside the meat (careful not to get it against the bone or you will get a false reading) and wrap the aluminum foil around the butt. Place the meat back on the smoker and continue cooking.
Your pork has enough smoke, now you are simply rendering the tough connective tissue of the butt and producing tender, mouthwatering pork.
The butt needs to go to 195 degrees internal and this will take some time.
Typically, it will stall at about 175 and will sit there for what feels like an eternity. It is important to keep a constant pit temperature during this process. Do not open the smoker door and do not unwrap the pork butt for any reason, no exceptions!
The Final Steps
Once the pork butt has climbed to an internal temperature of 195 degrees you are ready to pull it off the smoker. BE CAREFUL. it will be extremely hot and there will be a lot of juice that has cooked out of the meat. Transferring the butt to an aluminum pan will make this process easier and allows you to catch the liquid.
Open the aluminum foil very carefully and allow some of the steam to escape. Drain off as much liquid as possible from the pork butt, re-rap it in aluminum foil and place it in a dry cooler for resting. It will keep hot for up to 4 hours.
Appearance Is Everything!
To create a beautiful Mahogany look on the outside of the pork butt, use a final glaze. This process takes about 30-45 minutes. Remove the butt from the holding cooler and unwrap as much foil as you can. It will tear away easy but you will want to use gloves because it will still be hot to the touch.
For the glaze use a BBQ sauce of your choice. Mix some of the warm pan drippings with the sauce usually just 2 to 3 tablespoons. This will thin the glaze down just a little and give it an extra punch of flavor. Brush the glaze over the pork butt and return it to the smoker at 245 for one hour. This increase in heat will caramelize the bark just right.
If you follow this procedure, then you should have BBQ pork butt you can actually brag about.