Cooking a pork butt is one of the easiest things you can do on a smoker. It’s really hard to mess this piece of meat up. You can over season it or under season it and the finished product will still be delicious. In this post I am going to go over my process for preparing and cooking a pork butt.
Preparation: The Game Plan
This is something I learned from watching Aaron Franklin’s Master Class on Texas Style BBQ. He always creates a road map for his cooks. He starts with the finish time, or the time he wants to serve his food, and works backward to figure out what time he needs to start to reach his target finish time.
You can see from the image above, that I wanted to pull the pork butt off the smoker by 5:30 pm, let it rest and we would have dinner between 6:00 or 6:30 pm. I was working with a six pound port butt which I gauged, from my experience, that it would take roughly 10 hours to cook at 270 degrees.
Once I determined that, I knew that I needed to put the pork butt on the smoker at 7:30 am, and I would have to have get the smoker going at 6:00 am. At the 8 hour mark I knew I would be wrapping the pork butt in foil to finish the cook. I set my time to wrap at 3:30 pm. I would determine that the pork butt was good to wrap when I could see the fat cap splitting on the top.
You can see in the picture that the fat cap has split. I also was happy with the color and amount of bark that had formed (completely subjective per individual taste) and it was ready to wrap.
When you wrap pork, you should do it with aluminum foil. You can use butcher paper, but I have always found foil to work best in keeping the juices in the pork. You always want to make sure that the shinny side of the foil is facing the inside. Reason for this is you want to make sure that heat is not reflecting off the foil. At this point in the cook the meat is not going to take on anymore smoke, so wrapping it accelerates the cook time and allows the pork butt to braise in its own juices. This is when you get tender and juicy results.
Pork Butt Prep:
There is very little prep work when it comes to trimming and seasoning a pork butt. Depending on what you get from the store, or the butcher, you may have to trim the fat cap down or remove from gray skin or hard pieces of fat that won’t render in the cook, but cleanup is minimal if any. On this particular cook the butcher did a great job trimming, so I went right to seasoning. I do this first to let the meat come up to room temperature. You don’t want to put a cold piece of meat on a smoker. Just takes longer to cook.
For this cook, I seasoned the pork butt with my go to rub for pork. That is Plowboys BBQ Yard Bird rub. I just love the flavor and the color it produces.
I have the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Smoker/Grill. My main source of fuel is all natural lump charcoal. The reason I use lump charcoal instead of briquettes is that a lot of briquettes on the market use additives and that is not something I want to have on the meat I am cooking. Also, lump charcoal produces less ash, so the cleanup is easier.
For my cooks I use two brands of lump charcoal for my cooks. The first is Cowboy All Natural Lump Charcoal. The second is B&B Hardwood Oak Lump Charcoal. Cowboy lump is what is usually widely available in my area. I like these two the best out of all the options because the burn times are longer and they both cook consistently and burn hotter than that other brands. The lump charcoal featured in the image is Cowboy Lump charcoal.
I do want to try the Masterbuilt lump charcoal they have specifically for the gravity series line, but I know I can always pick up a 20 pound bag of Cowboy or B&B at my local Ace Hardware. I also love my local Ace Hardware because they carry a wide variety of specialty rubs and sauces. Specifically PlowBoys BBQ and Meat Church BBQ products.
For this cook I went with B&B Maple Wood Chunks. I’ve not had a chance to cook with that type of wood yet, so I was excited to try it. Most of the time I use apple or post oak for my cooks with pork.
I fired up the Bandit (pit) at 270 degrees and let it come to temperature.
The Finished Product:
My game plan came together well. The pork butt finished about an hour ahead of what I had planned, but that is ok. I’d rather finish a little early and let it rest, instead of going over projected time and waiting for the pork butt to finish.
I topped off the sandwiches with Plowboys Sweet 180 and KC Crossroads sauces. Sweet 180 is my favorite for pork and chicken. Great sauce. The KC Crossroads was great as well. It was a savory sauce that worked really well with the pork.
The cook turned out fantastic. I was very happy with the results.