How to Smoke a Pork Butt for Pulled Pork?

How to Smoke a Pork Butt for Pulled Pork

Smoking a pork butt is one of the best ways to make incredibly moist and flavorful pulled pork. The low and slow smoking method allows the pork to cook evenly while the smoke permeates into the meat, giving it a delicious smoky flavor. While it may seem daunting to smoke a pork butt for 6-12 hours, the preparation is actually quite straightforward. With the right equipment, ingredients and technique, you can make restaurant-quality smoked pulled pork from the comfort of your own backyard.

The combination of indirect heat from smoking and the long cooking time breaks down the connective tissues in the pork butt, resulting in meat so tender that it falls apart with the gentlest pull. The smoke not only adds incredible depth of flavor but also keeps the meat very moist.

Once the pork butt is seasoned and placed in the smoker, there is very little monitoring or maintenance required during the lengthy cooking time. You just let the smoker do the work as the pork slowly cooks to perfection.

What is Pork Butt?

What is Pork Butt?

Contrary to its name, the pork butt actually comes from the upper area of the front leg/shoulder of the pig. It contains a fair amount of fat and connective tissue which helps keep the meat moist during the prolonged smoking time.

For pulled pork, you want to select a bone-in pork butt also called Boston butt or Boston shoulder. The bone adds extra flavor during smoking. Plan for around 1/2 pound of bone-in pork butt per person. A 4-8 lb pork butt will feed 8-16 people.

How Long to Smoke Pork Butt for Pulled Pork?

To make the pork butt tender enough to pull or shred, it needs to be smoked for a sufficiently long period of time. This extended smoking time breaks down the tough connective tissues in the pork and is what gives the meat its characteristic fall-apart tenderness associated with pulled pork.

For the best pulled pork, the general recommendation is to smoke the pork butt low and slow at a temperature between 225-250°F. The smoking time can vary quite a bit depending on the size of the pork butt. Plan on 75-90 minutes of smoking time per pound. For example, a 5 lb pork butt will need 6-8 hours in the smoker while a 10 lb butt may take up to 15 hours.

The internal temperature of the pork butt should reach 195-205°F before removing it from the smoker. Use a meat thermometer to monitor the temperature during smoking.

How to Smoke a Pork Butt for Pulled Pork?

Smoking a pork butt requires a little prep work but the process itself is pretty simple. Here is a step-by-step guide:

Equipment and Ingredients Needed

  • Charcoal or wood smoker
  • Aluminum foil or foil pan (optional)
  • Digital meat thermometer
  • Sharp knife
  • Bone-in pork butt (4-8 lbs)
  • Sea salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • BBQ rub
  • Wood chips – Mesquite, hickory, applewood etc.

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Trim the Pork Butt

Trim off any loose fat or skin from the pork butt. Make sure to leave a thin layer of the fat cap intact to help keep the meat moist during smoking.

2. Season the Pork Butt

Generously season all sides of the pork butt with sea salt and black pepper. You can also apply a dry BBQ rub for additional flavor. Massage the seasoning into the meat.

3. Prepare the Smoker

Set up your charcoal or wood smoker for low and slow smoking at 225-250°F. Fill the water pan and preheat the smoker to the desired temperature before adding the pork.

4. Place the Pork Butt in the Smoker

For easier cleanup, place the seasoned pork butt in an aluminum foil pan and put it on the smoker grate. Add soaked wood chips to the charcoal for flavor.

5. Smoke the Pork Butt

Smoke the pork butt for 75-90 minutes per pound, until it reaches an internal temperature of 195-205°F. Replenish charcoal and wood chips as needed to maintain temperature.

6. Rest the Pork Butt

When the pork butt is fully cooked, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for 30-60 mins before pulling. This allows the juices to redistribute through the meat.

7. Pull the Pork Butt

Use forks or your fingers to pull and shred the smoked pork butt into bite-sized pieces. Be careful as the meat will be very tender and can fall apart easily.

Tips for Perfect Smoking Pork Butt for Pulled Pork

Tips for Perfect Smoking Pork Butt for Pulled Pork

Follow these tips for the best smoked pulled pork:

  • Regularly monitor the internal temperature using a meat thermometer.
  • Keep the smoker lid closed as much as possible for even cooking.
  • Soak the wood chips in water for 30 minutes before adding to the smoker.
  • Avoid frequent opening of the smoker which causes heat loss.
  • Maintain a consistent low temperature between 225-250°F.

How to Bake a Pork Butt for Pulled Pork in the Oven?

If you don’t have a smoker, you can still make delicious pulled pork by baking the pork butt in the oven.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Prepare pork butt as above and place in a roasting pan or dutch oven. Add 1 cup of liquid (water, apple juice etc.) to the bottom of the pan to help keep the meat moist.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 2 hours per pound, until fork tender. Check temperature periodically with a meat thermometer until it reaches 195-205°F internally.

What to Serve with Pulled Pork?

Smoked pulled pork is incredibly versatile and pairs well with many flavors. Here are some serving ideas:

BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders

Pile pulled pork on small brioche buns with your favorite bbq sauce and creamy coleslaw.

Pulled Pork Nachos

Top corn tortilla chips with pulled pork, melted cheese, salsa, guacamole etc.

Southern Fried Pulled Pork

Toss bites of pulled pork in buttermilk, dredge in flour mixture and fry until crispy.

Pulled Pork Tacos

Fill soft taco shells with pulled pork, diced onions, cilantro, queso fresco and your favorite taco toppings.

Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

Mix shredded smoked pork with cheesy macaroni and bake until browned and bubbly.

Carolina-style BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

Top a bun with pulled pork doused in tangy Carolina vinegar based bbq sauce and coleslaw.

Cuban Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Combine pulled pork with ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on Cuban bread.

Suggested Side Dishes

Delicious sides to serve with pulled pork:

  • Coleslaw
  • Baked beans
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Mac and cheese
  • Potato salad

How to Freeze Smoked Pulled Pork?

Proper Storage and Freezing

Pulled pork can be frozen for 2-3 months for longer term storage. Let the pork cool completely before freezing. Portion the pork into air-tight freezer bags or containers, removing as much air as possible. Label with the date and use within 2-3 months for best quality.

Thawing and Reheating

Thaw frozen pulled pork overnight in the fridge before reheating. Reheat gently in the oven, on the stovetop or in the slow cooker with some broth until warmed through. Add your favorite bbq sauce just before serving.

FAQs

Get answers to some common questions about smoking pork butt for pulled pork:

Q: How long to smoke an 8 lb pork butt?

A: For an 8 lb pork butt, smoke at 225-250°F for 12-15 hours, until internal temp reaches 195-205°F.

Q: What is the shelf life of pulled pork in the fridge and freezer?

A: Properly stored, pulled pork lasts 3-4 days in the fridge and 2-3 months in the freezer.

Q: Is it possible to overcook pulled pork?

A: Due to the high fat and collagen content, it’s difficult to overcook pork butt. The meat just gets more tender the longer it smokes.

Q: Should you wrap pork butt in foil when smoking?

A: Wrapping partway through retains moisture so it’s recommended for leaner pork cuts. But pork butt has enough fat to stay moist, so wrapping is optional.

Q: What is the secret to perfect pulled pork?

A: Low and slow smoking for an extended period until fork tender is the key. Proper seasoning also adds lots of flavor.

Conclusion

Smoking a pork butt is one of the most fool-proof ways to make mouthwateringly good pulled pork with that quintessential barbecue flavor. While it does require a substantial time commitment, the preparation is straightforward and hands-off once the pork goes into the smoker. With the right seasoning and smoking technique, you can enjoy tender, smoky pulled pork that rivals the best barbecue joints from the comfort of home. Pulled pork is extremely versatile, making it easy to enjoy in everything from sandwiches and tacos to nachos and mac & cheese. For convenience, smoked pulled pork also freezes well. Give this classic barbecue meal a try and experience just how delicious DIY pulled pork can be!

How to Smoke a Pork Butt for Pulled Pork?

Ingredients

  • Charcoal or wood smoker

  • Aluminum foil or foil pan (optional)

  • Digital meat thermometer

  • Sharp knife

  • Bone-in pork butt (4-8 lbs)

  • Sea salt

  • Ground black pepper

  • BBQ rub

  • Wood chips – Mesquite, hickory, applewood etc.

Directions

  • Trim the Pork Butt: Trim off any loose fat or skin from the pork butt. Make sure to leave a thin layer of the fat cap intact to help keep the meat moist during smoking.
  • Season the Pork Butt: Generously season all sides of the pork butt with sea salt and black pepper. You can also apply a dry BBQ rub for additional flavor. Massage the seasoning into the meat.
  • Prepare the Smoker: Set up your charcoal or wood smoker for low and slow smoking at 225-250°F. Fill the water pan and preheat the smoker to the desired temperature before adding the pork.
  • Place the Pork Butt in the Smoker: For easier cleanup, place the seasoned pork butt in an aluminum foil pan and put it on the smoker grate. Add soaked wood chips to the charcoal for flavor.
  • Smoke the Pork Butt: Smoke the pork butt for 75-90 minutes per pound, until it reaches an internal temperature of 195-205°F. Replenish charcoal and wood chips as needed to maintain temperature.
  • Rest the Pork Butt: When the pork butt is fully cooked, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for 30-60 mins before pulling. This allows the juices to redistribute through the meat.
  • Pull the Pork Butt: Use forks or your fingers to pull and shred the smoked pork butt into bite-sized pieces. Be careful as the meat will be very tender and can fall apart easily.