Smoked Pork Butt: A Guide to Mouthwatering Pulled Pork

Side view of a smoked pork butt with half of it as pulled pork on a cutting board.

If you’re craving tender and juicy pulled pork, then this smoked pork butt recipe is just what you need. Whether you have a dedicated smoker or a simple charcoal grill, I’ll guide you through every step to achieve the most incredible smoked pulled pork you’ve ever tasted!

Why Smoke a Pork Butt?

Let’s start with some compelling reasons to make smoked pork butt (pulled pork) for your next gathering:

  • It tastes absolutely amazing.
  • Everyone loves it, guaranteed.
  • You can make it ahead of time, which is a huge relief.
  • It’s a budget-friendly option.
  • It can easily feed a crowd.

That’s a WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN situation right there!

Smoking a pork butt requires time and patience, but the mouthwatering results are worth every minute.

What is Pork Butt?

Contrary to its name, pork butt doesn’t actually come from the pig’s rear end. It’s a medium-sized roast cut from the pig’s shoulder, weighing about 6-8 pounds. There are different names for this cut, such as pork butt, Boston butt, pork shoulder, and pork picnic. Don’t let the confusing terminology discourage you—whatever name it goes by, it will produce fabulous smoked pulled pork.

Close up view of pricing label on a pork butt showing the cost of $.99 per pound.

Choosing the right cut for your smoked pulled pork is easy: just go for whichever one is on sale. Look out for those great deals at your local grocery store, where they often sell these roasts for as low as $0.99 per pound. That’s an incredible bargain for feeding a group of 14 people!

How Long Does it Take to Smoke a Pork Butt?

The cooking time for smoked pork butt can vary depending on factors like cooking temperature, whether you wrap the meat, and its size. As a general rule, you can estimate about 1 hour of cooking time per pound of pork butt. Once it’s done on the grill, allow an additional 1-2 hours of resting time after removing it from the smoker.

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How Much Pulled Pork Per Person?

Planning how much pulled pork to smoke for your party is essential. Consider the following questions to estimate the right amount:

  • Is pulled pork the main course?
  • Will you be serving it as sandwiches?
  • How many side dishes and desserts will be available?
  • Are your guests big BBQ eaters?

As a rule of thumb, estimate about half a pound of uncooked pork butt per person. Adjust this amount based on your answers to the questions above. Keep in mind that a fully cooked and pulled pork butt will lose about 40% of its weight.

Preparing the Pork Butt

Before you start smoking the pork butt, there are three important preparation steps:

  1. Trim: Remove the thick fat cap from one side of the pork butt. This ensures that the salt and rub can penetrate the meat properly. You don’t have to remove every bit of fat, as it will render away during cooking. Save the fat trimmings to make homemade lard—a perfect addition when searing or reheating your pork.

  2. Rinse and Dry: Wash off any residual brine or blood on the meat and pat it dry with a paper towel.

  3. Dry Brine: Dry brining is a simple process of pre-salting the meat. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of pork butt all over the meat. Let the dry brine work its magic by refrigerating the pork butt, uncovered, for 12-48 hours. This step enhances the flavor and juiciness of the final pulled pork. (Note: Skip this step if your rub contains salt.)

Top view of rubbed pork butt just placed on charcoal grill to be smoked.

The Perfect Pork Butt Rub

Now it’s time to apply the rub to the pork butt. I have a go-to sweet rub recipe that I highly recommend. It’s simple, delicious, and doesn’t include salt. I prefer to salt the meat separately to ensure the right amount of saltiness. Make enough rub for two 8-pound pork butts:

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper, ground
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Apply the rub to the pork butt 1-2 hours before putting it on the smoker. Start by lathering the entire trimmed butt with yellow mustard. The mustard acts as a binder and doesn’t affect the taste. If you prefer, you can use water or oil instead.

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If you dry brined the meat, apply the no-salt pork rub. If you didn’t dry brine, salt the pork butt on all sides with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt per pound. After salting, apply the no-salt rub evenly and work it into the meat using the back of a spoon. This trick keeps your fingers clean and ensures that the rub adheres well.

Smoking the Pork Butt

Smoking a pork butt can be done in multiple ways, but I recommend the wrapped method for the juiciest and most tender results. Here’s how to do it:

Phase 1 – Smoke the Pork Butt Unwrapped

Preheat your smoker or grill to 250 ºF. Place the rubbed pork butt on the smoker and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 ºF. This process takes about 5-6 hours.

If you’re using a charcoal grill, rotate your meat and grate after 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Phase 2 – Wrap the Pork Butt and Cook Until It’s Done

When the pork butt reaches an internal temperature of 165 ºF, it’s time to wrap it. Wrapping has several benefits, including stopping the absorption of smoke, shortening the cook time, and preserving the juiciness.

Double wrap the pork butt in foil to lock in the moisture. Place the wrapped butt back on the smoker with the seams of the foil facing up. Continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 203 ºF, which takes about 3 hours for a wrapped pork butt.

If you’re using a charcoal grill, rotate your meat and grate after 1.5 hours.

Resting and Serving the Pulled Pork

Once the pork butt is done, it’s crucial to let it rest. Place the wrapped pork butt on a baking sheet and let it rest at room temperature for 1-3 hours. This rest time allows the meat to relax and redistribute its juices.

Top view of smoked pork butt resting on a wooden cutting board about to be pulled into pulled pork.

After resting, unwrap the pork butt and start pulling the meat apart using forks or your hands. Remove any remaining pockets of fat as you work. For easier serving, cut the meat into 1-2 inch pieces using a butcher’s knife or cleaver.

Once you’ve pulled, cleaned, and cut the pork, transfer it to a crockpot to keep it warm. For an extra burst of flavor, mix in a tablespoon of the pork rub and some of the flavorful pork juice you saved earlier. You can also add your favorite BBQ sauce to enhance the taste.

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Serving Suggestions

Pulled pork is incredibly versatile and pairs well with various fixings. Here are some ideas to enjoy with your mouthwatering pulled pork:

  • Easy Soft Dinner Rolls
  • Your favorite barbecue sauce
  • Diced onions
  • Pickled red onions
  • Pickle chips

For side dishes, consider creamy pasta salad, chimichurri pasta salad, zippy coleslaw, traditional potato salad, tangy 3-bean salad, and deviled eggs with relish. And don’t forget dessert—a cast-iron chocolate chip cookie would be the perfect finish to your pulled pork feast.

Leftover Pulled Pork Ideas

When you have leftover pulled pork, the possibilities are endless. Here are some of our favorite recipes to make the most of those delicious leftovers:

  • Pulled Pork Nachos: Reheat the pulled pork with some lard (or oil) and taco seasoning, then layer it on tortilla chips with grated cheddar cheese. Bake in a 300 ºF oven for 10-15 minutes and add your favorite nacho toppings.
  • Pulled Pork Fajitas: Sauté sliced peppers and onions in a hot skillet until softened. Then sear the leftover pulled pork with some lard, taco seasoning, and toss it with the sautéed vegetables. Serve with lightly toasted corn tortillas and a squeeze of lime.
  • Pulled Pork Enchiladas with Green Sauce: Use the pulled pork instead of turkey in your favorite creamy green chile turkey enchilada recipe.
  • Pulled Pork Tacos and Quesadillas: Reheat the leftover pulled pork with taco seasoning and use it as a filling for tacos and quesadillas. It adds incredible flavor compared to ground beef.

Freezing Pulled Pork

You can also freeze leftover pulled pork for future meals. Tightly wrap the pulled pork in clear plastic wrap, then place it in a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Alternatively, vacuum seal it for optimal preservation. Frozen pulled pork is a convenient option when you’re short on time or just craving some amazing smoked goodness.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to smoking a pork butt and creating mouthwatering pulled pork. Good luck and happy smoking!

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