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Smoked Pork Butt

5 from 22 votes
Time: 16 hours 30 minutes
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You are going to love this melt in your mouth Smoked Pork Butt recipe. It is smoked low and slow giving you the most tender pulled pork with a caramelized crunchy bark.

Best part, this recipe is a collaboration between my dad and I. It has super detailed information, was tested in a vertical smoker and pellet grill smoker, and it comes loaded with information and tips. Hope you enjoy it like we do!

While you’ve got the smoker out, pair it with our Smoked Baked Beans and Smoked Peach Cobbler for dessert.

Smoked Pork Butt sitting on a tray ready to be shredded with two forks.

Get your smoker warmed up because we are making the BEST and most delicious pulled pork. I say it’s the best because my dad and I spent months perfecting this recipe together… and there’s nothing better than a family recipe.

Together we tried multiple spice blends, different binders, and have even tested this recipe in 2 smokers, his vertical smoker and my wood pellet grill. We quickly realized you can’t go wrong with seasoning a pork butt, but there is an art to making it fall off the bone, tender, and juicy.

We have claimed bragging rights to this Smoked Pork Butt recipe because…

  • It’s simple. There’s no spritzing, injections, brine, or over complicated steps. All you need is a couple ingredients, your smoker, some tin foil, and time.
  • Our low and slow smoking method breaks down the pork butt and tenderizes it with consistent heat.
  • Can be made into a lot of delicious things like pulled pork sandwiches, tacos, pizza, BBQ egg rolls. You can even throw it on a salad or in your morning eggs. The possibilities are endless.
  • It works in the both major smokers, vertical smokers and wood pellet grill smokers. By the way, there is a difference in how they cook meats. That information is further down if you’re interested.

What Is Pork Butt?

Spoiler alert! Pork butt is NOT from the butt of a pig.

Pork butt is actually from the shoulder region of the pig and has really great marbling throughout. It is a tough cut of meat with a lot of tight muscles, connective tissue, and fat which takes time to break down and tenderize. This makes it perfect for cooking slow in our smokers.

Pork butt is often referred to as a Boston butt or pork shoulder because they come from the same area of the pig. All three are actually different cuts of meat and that should be noted.

Let’s Smoke It Together! Watch My Quick Video Tutorial:

Smoked Pork Butt Ingredients

Let’s get to it! This recipe is 5 simple ingredients and you’ll want to keep reading for notes and potential substitutions on each ingredient.

  • Pork Butt: I used an 8 pound, bone in, pork butt. If you cannot find a pork butt, you can also use a pork shoulder or Boston butt (they are different cuts of meat but cook similar).
  • Mustard: This is used as a binder, or glue to stick the seasoning the pork butt. It is also what creates that delicious caramelized crust. I recommend using my Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce, but you can also use Dijon mustard, yellow mustard, or your favorite mustard.
  • BBQ Rub: I use Memphis BBQ Rub by Pit Boss, it has a blend of brown sugar, paprika, garlic, and smoke flavor in it.
  • Salt and Pepper: Salt and pepper is an essential. Please note, if your BBQ rub already contains salt and pepper you may need to omit this or not add as much.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: This is added to our aluminum pan later on, it tenderizes the pork and keeps it moist as it smokes. The acid in the apple cider vinegar is what makes the pork butt even juicier (apple juice can be used but it just isn’t the same).
Ingredients. Pork butt, Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce, Memphis BBQ Rub, Salt, and Pepper.

Smoker Equipment and Tools:

  • Smoker: This recipe was tested on the vertical smoker and wood pellet grill. I use Pit Boss smokers, but any wood pellet smoker will be great for this recipe.
  • Wood Pellets: Pork goes great with fruit, so think light and fruity wood pellets. I used a mixture of Apple and Competition Blend pellets by Pit Boss (it is my go to combo). Others you could use are cherry, maple, oak, pecan, or a combination. Stay away from mesquite or hickory because they tend to be a little too strong for pork.
  • Baking Pan: Disposable aluminum pans are the best because it keeps the moisture close to the pork butt. This is great if you want to make gravy with the juices too.
  • Digital Meat Thermometer: I use a ThermoPro and absolutely love it because I plug the probe right into my smoker and monitor the temperature throughout the cooking process.
  • Aluminum Foil: Heavy duty foil is used to wrap the partially cooked pork butt in. There is a stage called “stalling” which I explain later and this helps the pork butt get up to temperature quicker while reserving the use of your wood pellets.

Vertical Smoker versus Pellet Grill Smoker

If you didn’t know, there are two types of smokers: vertical smokers and pellet grill smokers. My dad and I own both and use them for different things.

Pellet Grill Smokers are what most people have. They are small, can smoke a wide-variety of foods, and are easier to manage. Vertical Smokers are not as common. They are a large, multi-rack smoker, that can smoke anything you want, but best handle large volumes or quantities.

So, what’s the difference when it comes to smoking a pork butt?

  • The vertical smoker was made for cooking large hunks of meat. It will use less wood chips, more efficiently smoke the pork butt, and make a more tender meat. On the downside, they require more energy and can take longer to cook because of the large chamber.
  • The pellet grill smoker creates the crunchiest bark exterior and cooks the pork butt faster due to the smaller chamber. On the downside, they use a lot more wood chips and the meat isn’t as tender (don’t worry it’s still tender).

ELIZABETH’S TIP: If you’re smoking a pork butt that is 8lb or more in a pellet grill smoker (not a vertical smoker), cut it in half! Trust my dad and I on this! You will have two manageable pieces of pork that will smoke much more efficiently.

Shredded and pulled smoked pork butt on a pan with two forks.

How To Smoke A Pork Butt

This is a short summary of the steps, the recipe card below will have complete details. I like to give you a “game plan” just so you know what to expect. Like I said before, this recipe is simple but there is an art to it.

1. PREHEAT SMOKER and allow your pork to sit at room temperature to take the chill off. A cold pork butt will take a lot longer smoke!

2. PREP THE PORK BUTT. Place it in a large baking pan, rub it with mustard, and then sprinkling with the seasoning. Make sure it ends fat side up, you want the juices to run down, around, and into the pork butt.

3. SMOKE IT until it hits an internal temperature of 145° F, then you will pour apple cider vinegar into the baking pan. The apple cider vinegar helps tenderize and keep the pork butt moist with it’s steam.

4. KEEP ON SMOKING IT until it reaches an internal temperature of 165° F. At this point you will remove the pork butt from the smoker and tightly wrap it in aluminum foil.

5. SMOKE IT UNTIL ITS DONE and hits an internal temperature of 195° F to 205° F. At this point you will remove the smoked pork butt from the smoker and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

6. SHRED IT with 2 forks and remove the bone and any fat or gristle. You may also want to sprinkle it with more seasoning or lightly coat it in a sauce before serving.

Notes on Internal Temperature

If you like monitoring temperatures frequently like we do, you will want to use a digital meat thermometer that comes with a cabled probe. They can either be plugged right into your smoker or magnetically sticks to the outside. We typically use 2 digital thermometers on big pieces of meat like this.

In terms of placement, you’re going to want to stick it into the thickest part of the pork butt for a most accurate read. Again, the internal temperature should be between 195° F and 205° F by the time it’s finished.

If you’re wondering, why such a high temperature? Remember how I told you earlier that pork butt is tough cut of meat? It needs to be cooked to a higher temperature for the tissue to break down and tenderizing. If you stopped at 165° F you would be chewing for decades. I like mine closer to 205° F because it’s a lot easier to pull (shred) apart and it’s the most tender too.

The Stall

As you’re smoking your pork butt you will notice the quick and consistent rise in internal temperature. But, once it gets to about 145° F this slows drastically and is what we call a “stall.”

When the temperature stalls we will wrap the pork butt in aluminum foil (or some people prefer butcher paper). This helps it to retain heat and moisture while getting it out of the stall and shortening smoker time. And don’t worry, your pork butt will still have a beautiful crust even if we are temporarily covering it.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Pork Butt?

I get this question a lot and it does vary based on a few different things like the temperature of your meat before it goes in the smoker, the outside temperatures, how large your pork butt is, and what type of smoker you are using.

A great rule is for every pound of pork, it takes about 2 hours to cook (at 225° F). For example, an 8 pound pork butt takes about 16 hours to smoke.

This is a great reminder to start your smoker early and plan ahead of time (it’s a labor of love but oh so worth it). If you are worried about getting it smoked in time, you can cook it the day before you plan on serving it. I also recommend investing in a really good digital meat thermometer or probe. You can easily keep track of the internal temperature throughout the day.

Shredded smoked pulled pork on a tray with two forks.

Fun Ways To Use Your Smoked Pork Butt

Let me tell you, the amount of ways my dad and I have used our smoked pork is ongoing.

We like topping ours with homemade BBQ sauces like this Apple Butter BBQ Sauce or Blackberry BBQ Sauce. And our favorite way to use it is in this Pulled Pork Sliders recipe or on top of a loaded baked potato. Here’s a few more fun ideas we have tried too:

  • on sandwiches, paninis, and hot dogs
  • piled in tacos, nachos, or we love it in this Pulled Pork Quesadilla
  • on a pulled pork pizza
  • in BBQ egg rolls
  • the protein for a fresh garden salad
  • in our morning eggs or omelets

How to Store and Reheat Smoked Pulled Pork

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days in a gallon bag or airtight container, just make sure to squeeze as much air from the bag as possible. It can also be frozen for 2-3 months in a gallon bag or vacuum sealed bag.

There are many easy ways to reheat smoked pork too.

  • In the smoker: Place the shredded pulled pork in a disposable aluminum pan with a little beef broth or water. Cover it with aluminum foil and place it in the smoker at 225° F for 2 hours (or until 165° F).
  • In the slow cooker: Place the shredded pulled pork in the slow cooker with a little beef broth or water. Set it at “keep warm” and let it heat up.
  • In the oven: Place the shredded pulled pork in a pan with a little beef broth or water. Cover it with aluminum foil and place it in the oven at 325° F for about 30 minutes (or until 165° F).
  • In the microwave: Place the shredded pulled pork in a heat safe bowl with a little beef broth or water. Reheat for 1 to 2 minutes or until it has warmed through.
Bowl of smoked pork butt shredded.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

How much pork butt do I need?

Every 1 pound of smoked pork shoulder serves 1 to 2 people. This means an 8 pound pork butt (used in this recipe) will serve about 12 to 16 people. I always plan to make more than what I need because it can always be frozen and used later.


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Enjoy Entirely, Elizabeth
Smoked Pork Butt sitting on a tray ready to be shredded with two forks.

Smoked Pork Butt

Elizabeth Swoish
Get your smoker warmed up because we are making the BEST pulled pork with this Smoked Pork Butt recipe. It is tender, juicy, flavorful and did I mention simple? Let's make it!
5 from 22 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
SMOKE TIME 16 hours
Total Time 16 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 16
Calories 274 kcal

EQUIPMENT

INGREDIENTS
 
 

  • 8 pound pork butt
  • ¼ cup mustard - I use my Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Pit Boss Memphis BBQ Rub - buy it here, or use your favorite BBQ rub
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar - or apple juice

INSTRUCTIONS
 

  • Remove the pork butt from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for an hour or so (to take the chill off).
    NOTE: It is important for the pork butt to warm up a bit so it smokes quicker and more evenly.
  • Preheat smoker to 225 °F and fill the hopper with wood pellets.
  • Place pork butt in a disposable aluminum pan and rub evenly with mustard. Sprinkle the BBQ rub, salt, and black pepper evenly over the entire pork butt.
  • Place the pork butt FAT SIDE UP in the pan and place the digital thermometer probe into the thickest part of the pork butt.
    NOTE: Placing the pork butt fat side up allows the juices from the fat to run down and in the meat as it smokes.
  • Place pork butt in the pre-heated smoker on the middle rack or in the middle of the smoker (avoiding direct heat). Move the thermometer probe wire to the outside of the smoker and plug it into the smoker or unit so internal temperatures can be monitored.
  • Smoke pork butt until it reaches 145 °F. Pour the apple cider vinegar into the disposable aluminum pan and continue to smoke until the pork butt reaches 165 °F.
    NOTE: During this time the internal temperature will slow and even stall, don't worry this is normal.
  • Remove the pork butt from the smoker and wrap it tightly with two layers of aluminum foil so the juice says contained with the pork butt.
  • Immediately place the pork butt back in the disposable aluminum pan and smoker. Continue to smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 195 °F to 205 °F.
    NOTE: The higher the internal temperature, the softer, tender, and juicier pulled pork will be.
  • Once it has reached 195 °F to 205 °F, remove the smoked pork butt from the smoker and allow it to rest for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Carefully unwrap the smoked pork butt and shred it with two forks. Discard the bone, and any chunks of fat or gristle.
  • Sprinkle the smoked pulled pork with an additional tablespoon of BBQ rub and serve.

VIDEO

RECIPE NOTES

How Long to Smoke A Pork Butt:

  • This will vary on the temperature of your meat before it goes in the smoker, the outside temperatures, and how large your pork butt is. A great rule is for every pound of pork, it takes about 2 hours to cook (at 225° F). This recipe takes about 16 hours to smoke (8 pounds multiplied by 2 hours equals 16 hours).
 

Storing Information:

  • In the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Store it in a gallon bag with as much of the air squeezed from it.
  • In the freezer for 2-3 months. Freeze the shredded pulled pork in gallon bags or vacuum sealed bags with the air removed. 
 

How to Reheat Leftovers:

  • In the smoker: Place the shredded pulled pork in a disposable aluminum pan with a little beef broth or water. Cover it with aluminum foil and place it in the smoker at 225° F for 2 hours (or until 165° F).
  • In the slow cooker: Place the shredded pulled pork in the slow cooker with a little beef broth or water. Set it at “keep warm” and let it heat up.
  • In the oven: Place the shredded pulled pork in a pan with a little beef broth or water. Cover it with aluminum foil and place it in the oven at 325° F for about 30 minutes (or until 165° F).
  • In the microwave: Place the shredded pulled pork in a heat safe bowl with a little beef broth or water. Reheat for 1 to 2 minutes or until it has warmed through.

Metric conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information.

Tried this recipe?Feel free to share a rating and comment below. Don’t forget to tag me on social media, or use the hashtag #EntirelyElizabeth – I would love to see what you’ve made!
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By Elizabeth Swoish on September 16th, 2022
Elizabeth Swoish holding a camera up to her eye taking a photo.

About Elizabeth Swoish

Elizabeth Swoish is the founder and CEO of Entirely Elizabeth. She is a self-taught foodie and mocktail enthusiast with a business degree in data analysis. Read Elizabeth's food journey or connect on your favorite social media channels.

23 thoughts on “Smoked Pork Butt”

  1. 5 stars
    This is a fantastic recipe. I used just straight yellow mustard and my own rub recipe. The butt fell apart as I tried to take it from the pan to a sheet to shred it and the bone just fell out at the lightest touch. I used the Pit Boss Pro vertical smoker with a combination of Hickory and Apple pellets.

    Reply
  2. 5 stars
    wow, I am so happy I found this recipe. The smoked pork came out so juicy and flavourful, I made sure to put some aside for the next day and followed your tips about reheating….I feel like it was even more delicious! Can’t wait to make it again.

    Reply
  3. 5 stars
    I really appreciate this no-fuss recipe! I am a rather lazy chef and was pleased that such a simple recipe produces something so delicious. We were able to use homegrown pork for this, which made it all the more enjoyable.

    Reply
  4. 5 stars
    This recipe was a game changer for us. Before, we could never get it tender enough to fall apart. I think your tip of letting the meat set out before cooking is what changed things for us. We love this recipe and it is the only one we use now! Thank you!

    Reply
  5. 5 stars
    This recipe is amazing!!! My husband just started to smoke things, so he’s been trying his hand at non-overwhelming recipes and this was exactly that – easy peasy breezy! And it came out delicious!!! Thank you!

    Reply
  6. 5 stars
    This recipe is a must-try. The combination of simple ingredients and careful detailed instructions made it easy and resulted to juicy, flavorful pork BBQ. Yum!

    Reply
  7. 5 stars
    I made this smoked pork butt yesterday, and it was a hit! The flavors are perfect, and I love how tender and juicy it turned out! This recipe is a must-try!

    Reply
  8. 5 stars
    Made this on a lazy Sunday, the aromas were so nice and the tenderness of the meat was amazing. Yum, will be making this again.

    Reply
  9. 5 stars
    This was so fun to whip up, the rub was simple yet tasty. The pork butt came out so tender and juicy I could have used one fork to pull it! I can’t wait to try it again but with some smoked peach cobbler.

    Reply
  10. 5 stars
    I love this recipe. It’s perfect for a weekend meal with the family, and it’s easy to make. The apple juice gives it just enough sweetness to balance out the smokey flavor of pork butt. I’ll definitely be making this again!

    Reply
  11. 5 stars
    Can you elaborate more on the vinegar use? I did a three and a half pound pork . Probably use too much vinegar. When I put it in the tin foil I took it out of the vinegar.
    We found the apple cider vinegar a bit too much for our pallet. Other than that the directions were very helpful.

    Reply
    • Hi Ralph;
      I am so glad you found my instructions helpful. The vinegar is used to give moisture to the pork butt and balance out the richness that comes from the fat breaking down.
      I agree, you used too much apple cider vinegar. If you only made a 3.5lb pork butt then you should have only used about 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. With the correct amount you would not have tasted it at all.
      ~Elizabeth

  12. 5 stars
    This was our first time using a smoker and damn that pork butt was delicious! Thank you for all the detailed information to make our experience a success

    Reply
  13. 5 stars
    This was by far the easiest smokey pork butt. I cooked for my bbq party and the meat was tender and smokey. My guests and I loved it.

    Reply
  14. 5 stars
    We got a Traeger for Christmas and have been trying new recipes every week. This one was delish and we will be making it again!

    Reply

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