There’s something truly incredible about smoked pork butt. Easy and straightforward to prepare, its rich flavors will leave your guests impressed.
This recipe requires a pellet smoker; however, any type of smoker will do just as well. Be sure to have a thermometer handy so you can monitor its temperature.
Rubs are one of the easiest and tastiest ways to add great flavor to pork butt. Simply mix various spices together before coating your meat, typically brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder (sometimes chili powder is used) plus other seasonings such as cayenne pepper, rosemary or apple cider vinegar as needed for best results.
An instant read thermometer is the best way to tell whether or not your pork butt is ready for pulled pork, with 195 degrees Fahrenheit being your goal. As it cooks, temperatures will initially increase until reaching around 145 degrees and then begin to decrease; this phenomenon is known as the stall and is completely normal; with continued smoking, however, eventually reaching that target temperature will eventually occur.
Once your pork butt has reached 195 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for at least an hour to allow muscle fibers to relax, making shredding easier. Furthermore, this rest period gives it time to absorb all of the flavors and juices present in its rub.
Reserve all the leftover jus to serve with the shredded pork. It pairs beautifully with corn or salad; and, to reduce fat content in your sauce, run it through a fat separator before pouring over your pork.
Smoked pork butt becomes increasingly tender over time. A 12-pound butt will require 12-16 hours for complete tenderization. To avoid having to rush and risk overcooking it, prepare it the day before serving it; simply store in the refrigerator overnight before heating back up when ready. Be sure to place it securely wrapped in foil on a baking sheet; this will prevent it from overcooking while it rests.
Smoking meat involves the art of creating tender and flavorful masterpieces from tough cuts like pork butt or brisket by carefully controlling low cooking temperatures over an extended period. Protein fibers in these tough cuts are held together by networks of tissue which only break down at low cooking temperatures over time, making the slow-cooking method so essential to success in turning these tough cuts into succulent masterpieces.
At this stage, applying and wrapping meat are also key steps. Rub can help both enhance flavors and retain moisture during smoking – helping prevent dry out and chewy results. A quality dry rub should contain sugar, sweet or hot paprika (from either sweet or hot peppers), salt, pepper, garlic powder onion powder rosemary cayenne pepper – while also being free from fillers like corn starch flour or powdered milk powder.
Add your rub to a pork butt and massage it into all areas using your hands, making sure that it sticks evenly across the meat surface. Alternatively, using a shaker may provide more even coverage and limit how much clumps up while spreading on your surface coverage.
Once your pork butt has been covered with its rub, cover it in either foil or paper for optimal results. Some may opt for butcher paper which allows some moisture to escape while other believe it destroys its bark; which ever method you select it is essential that it stays sealed so it does not become overly dried and chewy.
As part of your six hour smoking process, every hour use your spray bottle to add apple cider vinegar/water mix in equal proportions to add acidity and moistness to the pork butt. When your pork butt has reached 165 degrees F in its thickest part, take it out from the smoker and set on two heavy duty aluminum foil sheets – using your spray bottle again, give a final heavy spritz with heavy amounts sprayed one last time and wrap tightly to let its juices redistribute before resting for 30 minutes so it has time for its juices to redistribute!
Utilizing a meat thermometer, carefully monitor your pork butt’s internal temperature. When it reaches 145F or above, remove from the smoker and allow it to rest before cutting it up for serving. Doing this ensures tender and gelatinized collagen-rich meat without overcooking or burning the outer surface.
As part of your smoking process, it is wise to add an apple cider vinegar-and-water mix as a light mist spray before smoking your pork butt to help retain moisture during its journey to completion. This step becomes especially crucial if opting out of brineing altogether.
Once the pork butt has been taken from the smoker, rest it in a cool area or cover it completely before placing in the fridge for further resting. This step allows its residual heat to break down any tough collagen without adding more hot air that could dry out its meat mass.
Resting provides another advantage of resting: it gives the surface juices a chance to seep back into the meat instead of spilling onto your cutting board and losing their flavor as they run down it. If you were to cut immediately after marinating or seasoning the pork loin, all these moist juices would spill onto your cutting board and work surface instead of being retained by it for future flavor enhancement.
Once the pork is cut up into bite-size chunks, add your chosen sauce (though be mindful not to oversauce as this could alter its texture).
Pork butt should be smoked low and slow (225F), until fork tender and its interior temperature falls between 195 and 204 degrees. You should periodically monitor smoke and coal levels as necessary; you may add additional wood or charcoal as required to maintain an ideal smoking temperature. When cooking is complete, let it rest for 30-60 minutes afterward to give its protein fibers time to relax and absorb any drippings accumulated while cooking, producing tender juicy pork meat.
Pork butts can be prepared ahead of time for a big BBQ event by smoking them in an electric smoker for approximately 2 hours per 8 pounds of meat, so that a whole pork butt should provide enough food for multiple meals while still leaving some for later consumption in your fridge.
Once your pork has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees, tightly wrap it in foil and allow it to rest. The longer it rests, the tastier and more tender it will become. Don’t rush this crucial step!
Apple cider vinegar may be recommended at this stage, though it’s not essential. While adding acidity may help break down muscle fibers for tenderizing purposes, adding apple cider vinegar also allows some moisture back into the meat as its internal temperature slows and takes time to reach 165 degrees – something stalls cannot achieve on their own. Furthermore, adding apple cider vinegar also allows more moisture into your dish at an earlier point during its cooking.
Once your wrapped pork has finished smoking, remove it and unwrap it. Reserve any juices that may have collected inside by pouring them into a bowl or gravy separator before shredding with your hands, forks, or another shredding device. Combine your freshly-shredded meat with its reserved juices to complete the meal!
Leftover pulled pork is best stored in the refrigerator for four days or frozen up to three months when stored in gallon-sized bags with all air squeezed out – this prevents freezer burn. For longer-term storage purposes, consider investing in a vacuum sealer to seal out air. Doing this will ensure that your deliciously moist shredded pork stays moist and delectable as long as possible; one will run you around $100 but is well worth the investment!