Introduction: How to Make Smoked Pulled Pork Butt
In a previous Instructables I showed you my method for smoking beef brisket. While beef brisket is melty delicious when cooked properly. We have to give some love to the pork butt, it's similar to brisket in the fact you can feed a whole bunch of people with one. It's got a ton of connective tissue and it takes low and slow cooking to make it tender and melty delicious.
Again like the beef brisket, I like to go the Franklin BBQ method of cooking and let the flavor of the meat and smoke come through, I'm not doing any fancy rubs or brines. At the very basic level, you take meat, cook with heat and smoke for long time. It's that simple but there are things that need to be done to ensure a good result that I'll show.
Also if you are new to smoking meat and you want to tackle a beef brisket, trying your hand at smoking a pork butt first. It's a much less expensive cut of meat than brisket and it's pretty forgiving when cooking it.
I highly recommend you check out BBQ with Franklin for his videos or his book on smoking meat if you want to learn more on the topic.
This pulled pork will be great to just eat on it's own or on a nice grilled buttered white bun!
Step 1: About the Pork Shoulder
Before we get to it I want to mention a few things about the cut of meat. Ask your butcher for a pork butt with the blade bone in, they typically weight about 10-14 lbs and come in packs of two, but they will sell you just one.
The pork butt is technically the front shoulder of the pig. It's also called pork shoulder and a Boston butt.
Also you lose about 50% weight when cooking low and slow to water cooking out and fat rendering out. So starting with a 14 lbs pork butt you will end up with a 7 lbs of finished meat for serving. So keep that in mind when you are trying to figure out how much meat you need to feed your guests or event.
Step 2: Video
Check out my video where I go over the whole process to make smoked pulled pork. The written directions follow.
Step 3: Ingredients
- Pork Butt/Shoulder/Boston Butt with the Blade Bone
- Ground Black Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Canola Oil or Similar Oils
- Wood for smoking
Step 4: Preparation of the Pork Butt
- Leave the fat on the pork butt, you don't need to do any trimming, all of the fat will render down and what's left will be tasty.
- Cover with the meat with vegetable oil, I like using canola. This helps the seasoning stick to the meat.
- For seasoning, we are going to use salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder. Again we are keeping it simple, if you want to do something fancier go for it but I really recommend you try it first with just minimal seasoning and let the smoke do the flavoring.
- Apply the garlic powder and onion powder, you can make a rub ahead of time but I just like to apply it from the bottles..
- Next the paprika and finally the salt and pepper which I premixed half pepper and half salt.
- Also since this is such a big cut of meat, it can take a ton of salt and seasoning, we are going to pull the pork later so the salt will get distributed through out the meat.
Step 5: Smoking the Meat
To get the perfect smoke meat, the pork needs to be cooked low and slow. This will depend on your smoker and air temperature. The colder the temperature outside, the more it will affect your smoker's temperature so keep this in mind. I aim for about 10-12 hours of total cook time.
My go to temperature is between 250F-300F. Ideally 275F but if you can keep between these temps without any big temperature swings you will be in great shape.
Typically the way to smoke meat at home is to start a batch of charcoal and keep adding charcoal to maintain the heat and then throw a chunk of wood on to produce smoke.
While that works, I prefer to burn wood once I get a bed of coals started. This is not the easiest to do unless you have an offset smoker. So what I like to do is split and cut up small chunks of wood so they burn quickly producing clean blue smoke and heat. We want to avoid producing smoke by choking off the air and letting the wood smoulder which is what typically happens in small home smokers.
Burning actual wood is not always the easiest to do in a small smoker and you will need to experiment with your own set up to determine what works and doesn't work. Keep the fire smaller and feeding the smoker more often is how the heat can be controlled, don't get a raging fire going and control it by choking off the air. All this will do is produce creosote, which is bad!
The wood I like to use is maple and apple, but you can use whatever is available to you. Hickory and oak are very nice woods and avoid using resinous woods like pine.
Ideally for smoking meat you would use an indirect offset smoker, but you can get great results with any type of smoker. I'm using a vertical cabinet smoker and a Weber bullet smoker as I was smoking 4 pork butts at once.
Also it's easy to get good results using a electric smoker that burns little wooden saw dust pucks and self feeds but part of the fun of cooking good BBQ is using real wood.
- Start a bed of charcoal in the smoker. Bring the temperature of the smoker up to 250-275F
- Load the meat into the smoker.
- Add a water pan and if the meat is cooking directly over the coals. This protects the meat from direct heat and also the water acts as a moderator and heatsink, keeping the temperature steady.
- Maintain heat at 250-275F by adding wood chucks to keep the fire steady, this will depend on your smoker on how often you need to feed it wood. I usually have to feed every 15-20 minutes. It's a pain to feed this often but I use it as a chance to just chill out, good BBQ takes time.
- Spritz the meat with water every hour or so to maintain moisture if it starts looking dry (depends on the smoker), the water pan will really help with that anyways.
- After about 5 - 6 hours, see if the meat has started to take on some golden color on the fat and meat. If the fat starts splitting you know it's time to wrap.
- Lay out a few large sheets of aluminum foil, spritz with water and wrap the meat tightly.
- Place the wrapped meat in a pan so it collects the juices and fat that will cook out.
- Place the meat in preheated oven at 275F for another 5-6 hours. This is called a Texas cheat or crutch, you can place the meat back in the smoker and maintain heat but that takes time and the meat will not take on any more smoke since it's wrapped. So placing it in oven is a "cheat", but regardless it makes it easier.
- Check on the meat at the 8-9 hour mark, depending on how big the cut of meat is the cook time will vary. You can test by seeing if the meat will pull apart easily or if the internal temp hits around 190F-195F. If it's not done cook for another hour and recheck.
- Once it pulls apart or the internal temperature is 190F-195F, take the meat out and let rest for an hour before pulling.
- Use a water pan
- Make sure the keep the smoke clean and not white, open up the vents if it is.
- Check on the meat to make sure it's cooking but not so often that you are letting out all the heat.
Remember if you're looking you ain't cooking.
Step 6: Pulling the Meat
- After the meat has rested an hour, it's time to pull.
- Wear some gloves as the meat will still be quite hot.
- Remove the blade bone.
- Pull the meat apart.
- Cover the meat right away so it doesn't dry out.
- Keep warm and serve
To reheat the meat you can steam it or reheat in a covered pan in the oven adding some of the original juices.
This meat is so moist and tasty it does not even need BBQ sauce. But if you are serving it on a bun, make sure to steam or grill the bun with butter and add a BBQ sauce of your choice (something tangy).
Also if you vacuum seal the meat in packages they can be frozen for later use. To reheat use a pot of hot water and put the sealed packages of meat directly into the hot water. Or another really good method is pan frying the meat with some oil.