How to smoke a pork butt in an electric smoker? Well, if you have a reliable electric smoker that you can utilize, making this sumptuous delicacy is really worth the try. I have seen a lot of people who want to recreate the juicy and exuberant taste of pork butt.
Typically, it was only the pitmasters that could achieve the perfection of this delicacy. However, let me tell you that even ordinary folks like us have the chance to make this recipe flawlessly.
Specifically, pork butt or pulled pork is one of the favorite weekend treats of many Americans. Recently, I have seen various online threads that speak about this glorifying dish. I want to be surprised by this, but on the other hand, I know that the wonders of this delicacy will soon be discovered.
You can do a lot of tweaks when it comes to a smoked pork butt. You can inject different marinades with the use of a meat injector and create new flavors out of it. You can also garnish the meat with your favorite barbecue sauce or include it as the main star of your sandwiches. Once you learn the right way of smoking pulled pork, you can utilize it any way you want it.
If you are planning a weekend cookout or picnic, I recommend that you try making a smoked pork butt. Don’t worry. I will teach you how to make this majestic smoked recipe. Let’s start!
How to Smoke a Pork Butt in an Electric Smoker
You can call pork butt different names. Some people call it pulled pork while others name it as the Boston butt. Specifically, this meat part is taken from the upper region of the front leg of the pork.
Typically, the said meat part is sliced in half. The upper half is called the Boston butt (pork butt for some) while the lower half is the shoulder.
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The pork butt is commonly used in various recipes. This is due to the fact that the said meat has a nice texture and moderate tenderness.
When the fat melts, this meat can provide a riveting taste in your mouth. For now, let’s focus on how to prepare a pork butt with the use of the best electric smoker. Here are the ingredients.
- Pork butt (10 pounds)
- Wood chips (Hickory, pecan, or apple)
- Smoked paprika (1/3 cup)
- Kosher salt (1/4 cup)
- Ground black pepper (1/4 cup)
- Brown sugar (1/4 cup)
- Ground cumin (3 tablespoons)
- Cayenne pepper (1 tablespoon)
- Ground coriander (2 tablespoons)
- Chili powder (1/4 cup)
- Apple cider (1 cup)
- Apple cider vinegar (1 cup)
The first thing that you need to do is to remove the extra layers of fat from the meat. Usually, you can see them on the sides and top of the pork butt. Use a sharp slicing knife to do this
Next, create around four long but shallow criss-cross slices on the fatty region of the meat (on its lower part). Its appearance should be similar to the shape of tic-tac-toe.
This type of slicing is known as “scoring.” The primary purpose of this method is to ensure that the meat can be as flavorful and tender as possible.
Do the initial preparations for setting up your electric smoker. You should fill its water box to the suggested amount. You can refer to the manufacturer’s manual and look up for this information.
Also, don’t forget to place the wood chips in their container. After this, you can ignite the electric smoker. Let it preheat to around 40 to 50 minutes.
While waiting for the device to get heated, you can start mixing all of the ingredients in the bowl (except for the apple cider and apple cider vinegar).
Use a spoon so that you can mix them thoroughly and adequately. Once done, rub the mixture onto the entire surface of the pork butt.
Once preheated, crank the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, put the pork butt in the device.
Make sure that the fatty side of the meat is placed upside.
Wait for five hours so that the heat and smoke can gradually cook the inside of the pork butt. Don’t worry if the process is long. After all, smoking is a slow-cooking method.
You don’t expose the meat to direct heat, which makes the cooking time a lot longer than other methods. This approach enables you to get the most flavor out of the ingredient.
After five hours, take out the meat from the electric smoker. Use an aluminum foil sheet. Make sure that the sheet is big enough to cover the meat thoroughly. But before doing so, mix the apple cider and vinegar.
Use this mixture to coat all the sides of the meat. I recommend that you use a food sprayer when doing this step. The meat could still be hot and direct hand contact could burn your hands.
If you are finished with coating the pork butt, cover it with aluminum foil and place it back in the smoker.
Let the smoking continue for around 6 to 8 hours. Alternatively, you can stop the smoking process if the internal temperature of the meat goes down to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
And since we don’t want to do the guessing game, I recommend that you use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the pork butt.
You can skip this step if your electric smoker has a thermometer that accurately tracks its internal temperature.
If you have achieved the desired temperature, take the pork butt out of the smoker. Let it cool down for about an hour before you serve it to the hungry stomachs around you.
When working with the meat and the electric smoker, make sure that you are wearing a pair of barbecue gloves. Obviously, things could get extremely hot here. Having these protective gloves can ensure the safety of your hands and the smoothness of the cooking.
If you want to shred or pull the pork, use a meat claw. This tool can efficiently rip your meat without rendering too much waste.
Knowing how to smoke a pork butt in an electric smoker is pretty easy. As long as you have a decent and well-performing electric smoker, you can make this recipe anytime you want.
Moreover, you can use various marinades with pork butt, which makes it a very versatile ingredient.
Once you master the basics of smoking, you can explore new flavors and techniques. Trust me – doing all these experiments is worth your time. Not only can it make you fulfilled, but it can also fill your tummy, too!
Do you have any questions or suggestions? Feel free to share them in the comment section below. Also, don’t forget that sharing is caring!
How to smoke pork butt in a smoker
Let’s be honest. As amateur pit masters, we love to obsess about every little detail. This often ends up making everything more complicated than it needs to be.
If you’re just getting into smoking meat, the last thing you need is to be worrying about is what injection and brine to use. Especially when it comes to smoking pork butt, keeping it simple is always good advice.
There’s a reason we always recommend pork butt the first time you cook with a new smoker. The amount of fat makes it a very forgiving piece of meat. So even if you get the odd temperature flare up you can’t do too much damage.
Malcolm Reed from HowToBBQRight guides you through exactly how to smoke a basic pork butt in this YouTube video. Even if you’ve cooked dozens of pork butts before, there are some great tips for making mouth-watering pulled pork.
What you’ll need:
Before you get started, ensure you have:
- A smoker – In this video Malcolm uses a pellet smoker, but any kind of smoker will do.
- 5-10lb pork butt – You can also use the whole pork shoulder, but for this guide, we’ll be focusing on the Boston butt (the top half of the shoulder).
- A good digital thermometer – we always try and cook to temp, not to time
- Some foil or butcher paper to wrap your pork in
- A binding agent like yellow mustard or canola oil or apple juice and a good rub for pork or the ingredients to make your own
- 8 – 9 hours time until you need to eat. This isn’t something to start at one if the in-laws will be arriving at five.
The pork butt – how to choose and add prepare your pork butt
Malcolm uses an 8lb Compart Duroc pork butt. While you don’t need to buy that exact brand, there are a few guidelines for choosing the best pork butt to smoke. Even more so than with other meat, we recommend spending a little extra to select the right cut.
Don’t try and save five minutes here when you’re going to be cooking this for close to 10 hours!
Choosing a pork butt:
- Either talk to your butcher or inspect the label and look for something that’s been grass fed. This means the pigs were raised on pastured grass (not on grains which happens in big industrial productions).
- If you can afford a little extra, it’s worth going for certified free range (look for Animal Welfare Approved” or “Certified Humane” labels on the packaging). Steven Raichlen has a great guide for selecting pork if you want to learn more
You want to look for a cut with a good amount of fat marbling to keep everything moist and flavorful as you can see in the picture above.
Now that you’ve selected your pork butt you’re probably rearing to go. But before you can throw it on the smoker we need to make sure we maximize the flavor.
Preparing your pork butt:
So long as you’ve selected a pork butt (also known as a Boston butt) there isn’t a whole lot you need to do to get it ready. You shouldn’t need to do any trimming.
- Before applying a rub you need to apply a binding agent. Malcolm uses yellow mustard but you can use olive or canola oil, apple juice or apple cider vinegar. Basically, you just need something wet that will help the dry rub stick to the pork.
- It won’t actually provide a lot of flavor to the end product, although it does add a little bit of extra tenderness.
- Make sure you apply your binding agent of choice to all sides, including the fat side.
Once your pork is nice and covered, it’s time to apply the rub. In this guide, Malcolm uses Killer Hog Barbecue Rub which has a combination of sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, and chili powder. If you want to go store bought we have a guide to the best barbecue rubs or you can make it yourself at home. I do find that whenever I try and make my own rub, I’m missing one of the ingredients, so I like to stock up on a few good store-bought rubs.
- Make sure you apply the rub evenly all over, including the fat side.
- Be careful you don’t over apply the rub. You should still be able to see the meat, we don’t want a thick crust of spice!
- It doesn’t need to sit overnight or anything like that. Just leave it to rest while you fire up your smoker.
You don’t need to inject anything into the pork butt like they would in a barbecue competition. The focus here is on creating a beautiful pork taste. The salt and sugar and herb flavors from the rub will help you develop the bark, which is what it’s all about with this classic pulled pork recipe.
The cook – how to manage your smoker while your butt is cooking
In the video, Malcolm skips over the steps he goes through to get the barbecue up to temp. If you’re smoking on a pellet grill like him, it’s as easy as dialing in the right temperature and making sure the hopper is full. For those of us cooking with charcoal, there are a few more steps.
Get your smoker setup
- We are going to be cooking low and slow around 225 to 235°F (up to 250 should be fine so don’t worry if you get a few temperature spikes).
- Place the pork on the rack in the center of your smoker. You want the thick layer of fat pointing towards the heat to help protect the meat. On most smokers, this will mean pointing it down.
- You can use grill racks to make it easier to move the butt around. Just make sure you spray it with cooking oil to prevent sticking. You can use this for any kind of smoking to make it easier to pick things up and move them inside. (You really don’t want to be fighting to un-stick meat with one hand while holding up the lid with the other, all while trying to keep your cool…)
- Use gloves to keep your hands clean and prevent cross contamination
- You can use any good smoking wood, in this case, we’re using pecan pellets mixed with cherry.
We let it smoke for about half the total cooking time to let the bark build up and get a great smoke flavor. Then we wrap it in butcher paper or foil. It’s hard to use generalizations for cooking time because every piece of meat is different. If you need to estimate, a good rule of thumb is an hour per pound at 225°.
Monitoring your pork during the cook
After about three hours you can start to monitor the butt. Malcolm uses a Chef Alarm which is an excellent single probe thermometer from Thermoworks. This is a great option if you only ever need to monitor one temperature.
Recently Thermoworks released a new dual probe thermometer called the ‘Smoke’. This allows you to monitor both the temperature inside your smoker and the temp of your meat.
A word of caution:
Malcolm mentions that he only monitors the temperature of the pork butt later on in the cooking process. If there’s one cut of meat you can get away with being a bit relaxed on it’s pork. Having said that, we always recommend using a dual probe thermometer setup so you can keep an eye on the temp in your smoker and the temp of the meat at the same time.
This is especially important if you are cooking with a more unpredictable heat source like charcoal.
There’s also the fact that Malcolm has smoked 100’s of pork butts. If you’re still new, do yourself a favor and use a proper thermometer.
Once you reach 160° the meat won’t take any more smoke. This is why it’s OK to wrap the meat to protect it and make sure it doesn’t get bitter from over smoking.
Wrapping your pork
Once the meat gets to around 160° internal temp (around the five-hour mark) is the perfect time to wrap. Your butt should have excellent color and bark at this point.
- Wrapping will hold the fat and moisture in and can help the meat cook a little bit quicker
- Use some insulated gloves while wrapping to make sure your hands don’t burn!
- Lay out a large sheet of foil or butcher paper, pull the pork off. At this point, you could add some apple juice but you really don’t need to. Especially with good quality meat, there should be enough internal fat to render so it will build up it’s own juice.
- Wrap the pork up and place it back on the smoker, making sure you keep your temp probe in and wrap the foil around it.
Now we need to sit back and wait until we get to 195° internal temperature. This is still going to take another two to three hours, so I hope you’ve got a few beers lying around. Try and resist the urge to slice off a piece!
The payoff – resting and pulling your pork butt
Once your best thermometer is reading 185° the pork is ready to pull. Transfer your pork inside where you can let it rest. If you have any dogs this is the part where you will be swarmed with attention!
- Let the butt rest for about 30 mins so that the cooking can stop and moisture can redistribute throughout the meat.
- Even though you didn’t braise or spritz the meat, you should have a decent build up of juice.
- You’ll know you’ve cooked it perfectly if the bone on the side pulls out clean.
- Carefully slide the foil off so that it doesn’t rip and leave little pieces of foil behind and throw it away.
- Pour the juice and leave it off to the side. Once it’s cooled down you can remove the fat, reheat it and mix it back into the finished pulled pork.
At this point if you want to look cool you can bring out your pork shredder claws but the meat should be tender enough to pull apart in your fingers. So long as you have some gloves on to stop your hands from burning.
The only thing to do now is to tuck into some delicious pulled pork. This is a great guide for new pit masters who want to keep things basic. Having said that, it’s also an awesome way to smoke a pork butt and it always results in a big helping of pork you can use on sandwiches, burgers or even pizza.
If you want some ideas for what to do with all that leftover pork, check out this guide with 20 ideas for leftover pulled pork. Check out the video below to see these steps in action.
How to Barbeque Pork Butt – The Smoke or No-smoke Method
Pork butt is actually a section of meat that comes from a pig’s shoulder! It is called pork ‘butt’ mainly because of how it looks: it’s thicker (no pun intended) and cut from the more ‘blunt’ section of the shoulder. It may or may not contain the shoulder blade bone, but more often, the bone is absent.
Putting all the innuendos aside, it is a favorite among barbecue and grill enthusiasts, because of its intense amount of marbling – high-fat content and strong flavors. It can also adjust well with sauce or other kinds of flavors. So, if you are one of those meat-loving barbecuers wanting to try something different with pork, then read on to how the barbecue can be done in two simple mouth-watering methods.
Keep Calm and Smoke Butt!
If you want your smoked pork butt to reach perfection, then this method is a must-try.
- Take a piece of pork butt weighing around 8 lbs. Inject some brine into the pork butt into every 2 inches. Allow the pork butt to soak up the marinade at least for a few hours and then dust the meat with dry rub.
- To make the brine, combine 1 cup of apple juice, ½ cup water, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp granulated sugar and 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce or hot sauce. Once the sugar and salt dissolve, place the brine into a syringe. Brine is injected so that when the meat is heated the liquid would try to escape and thus add moisture and flavor to all parts of the meat.
- To make the barbecue marinade, add ½ cup chopped onions, ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce, ¼ cup water, 3 tbsp chopped garlic and 2 tbsp soy sauce to a blender to puree. Keep the mixture in an airtight container for later use.
- To make the dry rub, mix, ½ dark brown sugar, ½ cup paprika, 1 tbsp black pepper, ¼ kosher salt, ¼ cup chili powder, ½ tsp ginger grounded, ¼ cup dry mustard and 2 tbsp crab boil seasoning. Store the mixture inside a sealed container until needed. The dry rub is added to keep the flavors inside. You can add mustard glaze around the meat for the dry rub to properly stick to the meat.
- To make cider mop, combine 1 cup apple juice, ¼ cup cider vinegar and 1 cup water in a bowl and keep it refrigerated until needed.
- To make the barbecue sauce, heat 2 tbsp canola oil. Then cook ½ cup 1-inch size rectangle shaped bacon in this oil, until it turns brown. Reduce the heat, then add ½ cup minced onion, 5 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, and 2 tsp black pepper. Stir constantly and cook for 5 min. Add ½ cup brown sugar and add ½ cup water and allow the mixture to simmer. Add 1 cup tomato ketchup, ¼ cup yellow mustard, ½ cup honey, ½ cup apricot preserves, and ¼ cup apple juice and allow further simmering for 20 min. Remove the pan from the heat then season with cider vinegar. Puree the mixture with a blender and allow it to cool.
- Take a charcoal grill that you can preheat to around 225 degrees F. Add charcoal to one side and ½ cup pre-soaked wood chips, with 1 cup water in a drip pan on the opposite side. Once the brine injection, dusting rub, and marinade covering are done, place the meat over the grill, directly on top of the drip pan and start cooking. When temperature drops, add more charcoal and wood chips and water whenever necessary.
- After 6 hours have passed, use a spray bottle to spray cider mop on to the meat every half hour. Place a thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. If the temperature is around 195 degrees F, the cooking is done. Transfer the meat to a platter and serve with potato wedges and barbecue sauce.
Sounds delicious right? If you think this is not your style, you can also grill pork butt on a gas grill with slow cooking and low smoke. The next recipe will show you how to do that. Time to impress your family and friends!
If Smoking Is Not Your Thing…
If you do not have enough materials needed to smoke a pork butt or if you do not want to smoke your pork butt, then this is your go-to method.
- Take a 7-8 lbs pork butt section. The first step is to create a dry rub, comprising of 2 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp black pepper and 2 tbsp garlic powder. Mix well and carefully rub it around the meat. You can then cover the meat in a Ziploc bag or wrap it with plastic and refrigerate for around 2 days. You can also inject brine into every inch of the meat if you want. The brine would consist of ½ cup water, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp hot sauce. You can also cover the meat with marinade but since pork butts already contain unique flavors along with the rub, it is not totally necessary.
- A basting brush can be used to evenly coat the grill rack of a gas grill with vegetable oil. Then set the gas grill to medium heat, at a temperature of about 225 to 250 degrees F. This temperature should be constant.
- Place the pork butt on to the grill rack and flip and turn it every half an hour so that all parts of the meat are equally cooked. Continue the cooking for 6 hours until the meat is tender and the bone can be removed.
- Remove the pork butt from the grill and cover the meat with aluminum foil. Allow the meat to settle in the juices for at least 10 minutes.
- Serve the meat with barbecue sauce and potato wedges, and coleslaw. This recipe would serve around 8 people. You can also create pulled pork from this meat using two forks and separating the bones.
Miscellaneous Pork Butt Grilling Tips
Both these recipes are excellent ways to grill and cook pork butt meat. There are definitely many different ways to cook. Many people feel comfortable to bake pork butt in an oven or roast it, instead of grilling. We’ve compiled a list of general tips for cooking pork butts that might help you with other recipes.
- Maintaining the temperature of the cooking time period is extremely important. It should be somewhere between 220 degrees F and 250 degrees F. If you are smoke grilling then the temperature should be at a higher range. Always check the temperature of the meat, especially the inner parts with a thermometer and ensure it reaches around 200 degrees. That is when you know that the cooking is almost done. Ensure that the thermometer does not touch the blade bone if present, or else it would display a false reading.
- Brine injection is a smart idea if you want to add moisture and extra flavor to the pork butt fast. However, if you do not have syringes, low and slow cooking would do just that and break down the fats properly.
- The final meat can be trimmed for a better, smoother appearance but that is also a waste of delicious juicy meat.
- Allow the rub to sit on the meat for at least 30 minutes so that it can settle properly onto the meat. The rub should preferably be made the day before and refrigerated overnight. If the rub is good and properly added to the meat, the barbecue sauce is not needed either.
- Wrapping the pork butt in aluminum foil is also a good idea because it allows it to retain moisture. Often people cook the meat wrapped in foil during the last hour. This cooking period does not require further charcoal or wood or smoke. It can be done on the remaining fire or in an oven, then finish cooking.
- After removing foil you might encounter meat juices on the foil, also called jus. Save the ‘jus’ as it can be used with barbecue sauce while serving.
- Wood chips used in grilling can be from hickory, apple, fruitwood or oak trees. These chips can be soaked overnight. The soaking allows the wood to burn for a longer amount of time and hence create more smoke. Keeping a drip tray of water underneath the meat helps to prevent the meat from getting too dry.
- Always ensure to bring the pork butt to room temperature before barbecuing, if it was kept refrigerated.
Pork butt is usually served with buns, coleslaws or in sandwiches, or it is sometimes shredded into pulled pork which is also a sumptuous treat. Even if you do not get the taste right the first time, with practice you can confidently develop your backyard grilling skills and show them off to your loved ones in picnics, your backyard and camping spots. Pork butt is a delicacy loved by many people, so if you think these recipes will help you, then get set – go grilling!