How to smoke a pork butt:
When you are new to all things BBQ you can definitely feel overwhelmed by the lingo, times, and temps. Luckily I have Ryan Lane to break it all down and step by step guide me in smoking my first pork butt.
We definitely want to start by saying - There are many debated ways to do barbecue all throughout the world. We are going to walk you through the Lane's way to make pulled pork with a pork butt. Specifically geared to someone who is new to BBQ.
Keep reading or if you like to watch video - Jump straight to the "How to Smoke a Pork Butt" video
Make sure you have the time
Smoking a butt takes roughly 8 to 10 hours from start to your belly. So don't think you can run to the store when you get off work grab a pork butt and be eating it anytime that night. It's not going to happen! Make sure you have the time from start to finish. This is the perfect thing to do if you happen to work from home.
Picking out the pork butt
I seriously thought this would be the easiest part. I went to the grocery store by my house and they did not have anything called "Pork Butt!" Probably a duh moment for everyone, but I had no idea the pork butt was actually part of the shoulder.
- Pork butt, which is apart of the shoulder, is also known as Boston butt.
- Bone in vs Boneless - Definitely suggest getting a bone in pork butt, that shoulder bone will keep the meat nice and tight. If you choose a boneless the butcher will have had to cut the bone out leaving the meat kind of flopping around and needing to be tied up.
- Try and get an 8 to 10lb Pork butt
Prepare your pork butt
- Trimming - this can be a hot topic in the bbq world, but for us we like to trim up that thick top fat cap. The reason we trim is because we want that nice bark connected to a nice piece of meat and not connected to a big chunk of fat. We suggest trimming immediately when you pull the butt out of the refrigerator. It is way easier to trim a cold firm piece of fat rather than a gooey slimy piece of fat on a butt that you have left out for 30 minutes. Your trimming doesn't have to be perfect just knock down that layer of fat closer to the meat - Trim away from your body and hands. Use a good knife, we suggest a good boning knife.
- Binders - binders are needed only to help keep the seasoning on the piece of meat, they do not add flavor to your butt. (I might get an email on this one, but this is where we stand) Most of the time the butt has been sitting in some liquid from the butcher and you can season without needing a binder. We like to use olive oil, mustard, or even mayonnaise as a binder. Just rub the butt down with your preferred binder, it does not need to be a thick layer. Just enough to hold your seasoning.
- Seasoning - Now it's time to season that huge piece of meat to help create a tasty bark. Even though we trim the fat cap down/off we still like to smoke the butt fat cap up. So when you are seasoning the butt be sure to start with the grate side of meat. Coat the bottom, sides, and top of the pork butt. Don't go light - the better seasoning layer the better bark you are going to get. Don't get crazy though.
Great Lane's Pork Butt Seasonings -
- Sweet Heat - Gives a really good sweetness and a nice kick of heat
- Spellbound Rub - Our preferred and the most popular for butts. Perfectly balanced sweet and smoky flavor with a great red color.
- Island Dust Rub - Very unique flavor with Granulated Honey and a bit of a spicy kick.
- Q-Nami Rub - Asian flavors with Togarashi sugar
- Lane's Signature Rub - If you are looking for a non sugar rub our Signature rub is exactly what you are looking for.
Setting up your smoker
Ok this is all about what you have or preference. We have smoked on them all and here are some key takeaways for each.
- Ceramic - Setup for indirect heat | Make sure your basket is full | Keep an eye on those temps | Add a water pan | Setup wood chunks for lasting smoke
- Pellet - Make sure your hopper is full of pellets | Great for not needing to manage temp | Great for full consistent smoke
- Electric - Watch your water pan | Make sure to keep good smoke on it | Great for not needing to manage temp
What type of wood chunks you use is completely up to you. We prefer Cherry Wood, Apple Wood, or the RecTec Pellet blend.
Our Smoking Method
We like to smoke our butts at 275 degrees for about 6 to 7 hours - until the butt internal temp is at about 180.
Then you will want to wrap the Butt and put it back on the smoker for 1 - 2 hours till the internal temp reaches 205
It's not burnt! Ok so we have had a few comments from people who don't do barbecue saying "Oh lawd, how can you eat that burnt piece of meat?" Let me tell it's definitely not burnt. That is called bark, that is where all that great flavor lives! So if you are new to bbq if it looks burnt but your internal temp is correct don't worry it's going to be perfect.
Let it rest or pay the price
Ok your butt is done cooking, but you have to let it rest in a cooler/oven/counter about an hour or more. The key is making sure its in a pan just in case any juices want to sneak out. That huge 8 to 10lb behemoth will be screaming hot for a while. If you try to pull it while its that hot you will pay the price... I was impatient and got burned.
Time to pull
Finally all the hard work is done it's all downhill from here. It's time to get pulling and get that goodness in your belly. Now all that good flavor is on the outside of the pork butt we like to do a little bit extra to add moisture and flavor throughout the pulled pork.
- Get a large bowl - add 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and a 1/2 cup light brown sugar. The apple cider vinegar will help keep the pulled pork moist even for next day leftovers.
- Pull out the shoulder bone, if you followed the process it should just come right out easily.
- If you have them use heat gloves with your food safe gloves.
- Start to pull - This is the fun part. Just get your hands in there and break it all apart. You will see just how tender it is and your mouth should be watering. You can chop it up if you'd like, but we just like to roughly pull it apart.
- Be on the look out - for gristle and cartilage - alot of times there is one thick piece of cartilage that is inedible. Get rid of it.
- Season and mix - We like to hit it one more time with some seasoning and mix up all the pulled pork with the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar.
Sauce and enjoy
There is no reason to wait any longer. You probably have snuck a few bites by now. So before you make your sandwich/plate you gotta think about sauces.
We got all the perfect sauces for bbq it really is up to preference.
- Kinda Sweet - Rich sweet bbq sauce
- Sorta White - Your savory Alabama mayo based white sauce
- Sweet n White - Mix Kinda sweet and Sorta White for a crazy good flavor
- Itsa Vinegar - Your classic vinegar based bbq sauce
- Carolina Mustard - Vinegar and mustard based bbq sauce
- Spicy n Sweet - We have Lil Spicy and Pineapple Chipotle both have a good bit of sweet and a good bit of heat.
Last tip - Be sure to sit down, eat, and enjoy the time spent with your friends and family.