BBQ Pork Butt

BBQ pork butt on the grill

I decided to BBQ some pork butt on Saturday for that night’s boxing match, Manny Pacquiao, from the Philipines, Vs Erik Morales, from Mexico. What a great fight it was. Morales was putting a whoopin’ on Pacquiao in the early rounds but Pacquiao eventually took out Morales in the 10th round.

I am trying to make good on my resolutions by cooking more BBQ and eventually competing in a local cook off. I have been reading two books on the subject, Mike Mills’ Peace Love, and Barbecue and Paul Kirk’s Championship Barbecue. They both offer tremendous insight into the world of competition BBQ. Eventually I would like to take a Paul Kirk BBQ class, there is one happening in Northern California next month, but I will probably end up waiting for something local. The sooner the better, I hear that one of his classes can significantly shorten the time it would take someone to learn how to do competition BBQ…by time, I’ve heard years!

There is a consensus on how to make your BBQ better and gain more consistency. First off, start keeping a journal. This seems to be easy enough since a blog is basically an online journal. I will do additional research as to what others put into their journals, but for now I will just be jotting down the basic info. Secondly, as with anything else, practice makes perfect. How do you practice BBQ? Well, I think that Nike said it best in their tag line.

“Just do it.”

I purchased two pork butt from the local market on Friday, one was 6 lbs and the other about 5.5 lbs. I started by tenderizing the butts by poking them all over with a fork. I then applied the rub and re-poked them. These were suggestions found in Peace, Love and Barbecue. I don’t have all of my ingredients handy yet (kitchen remodel is almost done) so I had to improvise a rub. It actually came out pretty good without using any paprika. One thing that I actually didn’t do with the rub was… ahem, rub it. I have been watching a lot of BBQ programming and reading BBQ book, so I am not sure where I heard this, but it is something that I wanted to try. What I heard was that by sprinkling your rub you allow the smoke to penetrate the meat better. Sure, why not?

BBQ Rub:

    2 parts chile powder
    1 part chipotle powder
    1 part onion powder
    1 part garlic powder
    3 parts brown sugar
    1 part kosher salt

I two types of wood on hand, some oak chunks and some apple chips. Put them in some water and get the charcoals started. I used Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes because most of all I wanted to pay attention to temperature control and I figured that they would behave well for that situation.

The following chart outlines the cooking process with my timer set to zero. Air temperature was in the mid sixties with gusts of wind that didn’t seem to affect the smoker too much. The smoker temp was taken from a thermometer at the top vent which reads anywhere from 4-9 degrees higher than the grill temperature. The meat temperature was taken with a digital thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the largest piece of meat that I had in the smoker. Oh, and the smoker is a WSM (Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker).

BBQ pork but smoking chart.

    Time — Smk Tmp — Meat tmp. — notes

    0:06 — 250
    0:19 — 249
    0:40 — 230
    1:00 — 230
    1:14 — 218
    1:33 — 230 — — — added more wood
    2:13 — 220
    3:17 — 270
    3:37 — 230 — — — no more wind
    4:17 — 210 — — — mop and flip
    4:51 — 252
    5:00 — 250 — — — mop and add wood
    5:17 — 230
    5:43 — 230 — 154 — mop
    6:25 — 230 — 158 — readjusted meat therm.
    7:00 — 230 — 156
    7:25 — 260 — 158
    8:00 — 270 — 160
    8:34 — 253 — 165 — mop
    9:15 — 245 — 165 — removed the meat.

I started the meat at around 10:00 am and took it out right before 7:30pm. The temperature reached was at the bottom end of what Mike Mills has listed for sliced pork, which is 165-170 degrees. For pulling the pork he suggests going to 180-185 degrees. I took the meat off early because I wanted to feed everyone before the main event started and Cutty was getting hungry. And, the internal meat temperature hadn’t gotten any higher in the last 45 minutes.

The meat did come out tougher than I would have liked so much so that I ended up chopping it up with a cleaver. The flavor was pretty good; a little (lot) more tender would have made it perfect. Next time I will take the internal temperature to 185 degrees. I mixed some of the rub in with the chopped up meat for additional flavor. The mop and BBQ sauce recipes were from the aforementioned books.

BBQ pork butt a few hours in
Pork butts a few hours in

BBQ pork butt meat
Chopped up meat, tasty

BBQ pulled pork sandwich
BBQ pulled pork sandwich-bun, meat, sauce and slaw.

Comments

  1. says

    I usually spray my butts and foil them at about 160-165. They won’t take anymore smoke after that and the foil will help them get past the sticking point faster. When are we going get the competition team together?

  2. SoCalBoy says

    I let mine go all the way to 190 before I pull and foil them. It seems to work out to about 2 hours per pound. The meat is easy to shred at that point. If you inject them, it will also speed up the cooking time. Your pork still looks great with a nice crust :)

  3. says

    Next time when faced with a similar situation, I will take one off an let one continue to cook. I am trying to work on my timing and temp. control. I don’t want to use foil yet… I would like to get good results without it first.

  4. SoCalBoy says

    Just to clarify, I wrap in foil after I take them off the grill to rest, not to put back on to the grill to cook. As you know the temperature of the meat will continue to rise even after it comes off the grill. The foil just happens to help hold the temperature until I am ready to “pull” the pork. I do the same with brisket. Wrap them in foil and put into a dry cooler with towels to let the juices redistribute before slicing.

    Btw, nice site!

  5. says

    For a phenomenal BBQ pulled pork sandwich, go to the Sequoia National Park and then to the restaurant in the Wuksachi Lodge (NOT the one in the main village.) Arguably the best BBQ pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had.

    But, you know Junkie… if you invite me to sample your BBQ pulled pork sandwich, I’m sure I’ll be able to write a favorable review. ;-)

  6. says

    Am I the only one that can’t keep a straight face when I read the word butts? Great job junkie. That sammie looks delicious too.

    butt, ha

  7. says

    Do I see bbq sauce on the meat pictured in the photo encaptioned, “Pork butts a few hours in”? I assume not, so how do you get that bright red color? This meat looks as bright red as Chinese bbq

  8. says

    Nice first attempt you had there. Next time start earlier, and savor the wait. The period of time when the butt apears to be doing nothing temperature-wise is the most important…..this is when the meat starts to break down. When you pull it out at 185º it will actually appear to be jello. Wrap it, toss it in a cooler for an hour, then pull it.

  9. Mat says

    I have also found that smoking for 2 hrs a pound gives unbelievable pork butt. I rub mine with plain brown mustard then sea salt, black pepper, Texas brisket rub and what ever else happens to be within arms reach, smoke at 2 hrs a pound with hickory. I also have done a traditional North Carolina vinegar sauce and haven’t been able to go with traditional BBQ sauce since.
    Vinegar sauce : 2 cups of cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons of ketchup, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of hot sauce, 2 teaspoons of hot pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons of black pepper.

    I got lazy and purchased a Bradly smoker, electric with a separate special “wood puck” feeder.
    I put my butt on at 11:00pm and hit the sack. Depending on the butt size, my pork is hickory smoked to a nice round brown lump by noon the next day, it falls apart all by itself. The Bradly smoker also allows me to “cold smoke” or smoke without cooking. Cheese and Salmon are cold smoked. I cold smoke burgers and steaks, then grill and boy is that really good.

  10. Green Giant says

    To get pork butt to be tender enough to easily “pull,” I find that the internal temp needs to get to 190 degrees. With this marbled cut, overcooking is tough to accomplish. I usually indirect cook / smoke my butts for up to 18 hrs at 200-225 degrees. Once internal temp hits 190, I take it off, wrap well in foil and a large towel, and then put in a small dry cooler. This “resting” allows the meat to slowly cool while the juices redistribute until I am ready to pull. Great stuff – and hard to mess up! :)

  11. Brian says

    I have been wanting to smoke some pork butt. I have been watching the Food channel for some suggestions but the shows are usually competitions and they don’t say how they cook them.

    I got some great suggestions from this site.

    Thanks,
    Brian

  12. Cammie says

    I’m trying to figure out how much sauce per 100 lbs of shredded pork for sandwiches. Does anybody have a ballpark figure? We’re going to use 3 oz. of meat per 4 1/2 inch bun. It’s a new addition to our rodeo concession stand. Thanks!!

  13. Scott says

    Brian, I am a pulled pork junkie and also watch the Food Network. I caught an episode of Good Eats, where Alton Brown made a smoker out of 2 large flower pots, an electric hot plate and a Weber cooking grate. I was inspired by his show and although I broke down and bought a Weber Smoky Mountain Cooker, I did use his advise on brining (which you must do to keep the pork moist if you use his homemade set-up) and rub. If you do not want to buy a smoker, check out Alton’s section on the Food Network site and look for “Q”. Check out people’s reviews to get most of the specific’s.

  14. Whyit says

    Just did my first butt yesterday on an ECB.
    Turned out great, (12 Hrs,to 190 degrees) but wish I’d have found this site sooner.
    Lots of good info. Thanks

  15. Mr.Mike! says

    Hello all,

    I just stumbled onto this site and I also am an avid Butt-Smoker! I see many different styles and they all sound great. For what it’s worth, my two cents.

    I shop at a resturaunt supplystore where I get my butts in the cryovac packaging. They come 2, 5 pounders to a pack. Anywho….

    The day before the butt-munching commences, i put about 2 to 3 hours of smoke on a cheek (half the butt), on my propane grill – (2 burners, side by side – well rubbed cheek on one side on cast grate, and a cast skillet with woodchips on the other side where the fire is). This is also a very good way to make friends with your neighbors once they smell the smoke wafting through the air.

    After a couple of hours of smoking I put the cheek in an aluminum steamer tray (doubled incase of leaks) cover with foil and stick in fridge. clean up, then go to bed.

    Upon waking in the AM, before I go to work, I put the cheek in the oven and set the temp to 250 Farenheit. After shutting the oven, I leave and go to work. After my 10hour day and a half hour drive each way, I return home to the most HEAVENLY smell!

    The internal temp is usually between 195F and 205F.The temperature probe goes through like warm butter! The meat just FALLS APART. PLUS, it is sitting in a bubbling pool of rich golden juice.

    I then remove the cheek (sometimes in a few chunks) and pour the juice into a fat skimmer – a watering can looking thing with the spout at the bottom, pretty cheap at Wal-Mart. I save about 12 fl oz, or so, of the skimmed juice and add Brown sugar and some ketchup with just a bit of the pre-smoking butt rub, mix it all up and microwave for a bit to melt the brown sugar. Poof!Instant BBQ sauce.

    Shred the roast, throw some coleslaw on top, put between buns, apply BBQ sauce, devour, enjoy, repeat.

    Just my two cents

  16. Canadian BBQnut says

    The butts look great. I have tried numerous times and had limited success. Then I got some advise from a friend on the internet and the change in the flavour, moisture and the look turned 180 degrees over night. I used to do them just like you did. Now I coat the butts with either standard French’s mustard or honey. I prefer honey and then put the rub on. Up here in canada the normal person is to used to the after taste of propane so I need to be careful on the amount of smoke I use. I try to cook the butts for 2 hours a pound. When the butts get to 155-160 I wrap them in tin foil. never open the lid unless you have to and when you do make sure you spray the butts with warmed up apple juice. Try not to raise the lid unless you have to. When the meet hits around 165 degrees it could take well over an hour for the meat to “give up the ghost”. This is when the meat looses the battle of the bbq and gives into your commands to become fork tender. I prefer to rejoice at this time and crack a few beers in the celebration that the food that I have been babysitting for over half a day is close to being done. The meat during this time breaks down the connective tissue in the meat and becomes like candy in your mouth. Watch your meat temperature after the meat breaks through this magical zone as the meat will rise quickly there after to the 190 degree range. I did two butts on the weekend. I had to have them done by 1:00 pm so I could take them to my inlaws for supper at 5:30 pm. I just left them in the tin foil and wrapped them in two large beach towels and put them in a cooler. I taped the cooler shut because my brother-in-law can’t understand not opening the lid. At 5:00pm I opened the lid and the butts were as hot as they were when I took them off the grill 5 hours earlier. They were beyond moist and I expected that they would be at the most warm. They were hot. The butt was perfect. Now if I can get a brisket right than I would be laughing.
    All the best and good luck from Ontario Canada

  17. says

    I’ve got a ‘bullet’ smoker and have had trouble getting it to temperature. I’m trying again tommorrow to practice for an ametuer competion in 3 weeks. Its suppose to be 30 degrees when I light my fire so the temp problem is concerning me. Good site, If I remember, I’ll post my results.

  18. butt master nc says

    listen guys, i think i have mastered the process of smoking butts. first i use my brisket rub, after spraying butt with apple juice mixed with honey. let stand overnight in refridge. take out and let stand in room temp while getting coals ready. soak hickory and apple chips. cook 2hrs per pound at 200 degrees. i ad my chips ever 30 min. never lift lid. “IF YOU R LOOKING YOU R NOT COOKING”. once butt gets to 165-170, wrap in foil. put back on smoker and cook until 190. wrap butt in towels and put in anything insulated.(cooler) noice of course. let rest for several hours. this will keep very warm internially almost still cooking. make sure no holes in foil to keep all the juices in. cant give sauce recepie. nc family secret…. enjoy…..

  19. Frobozz says

    Probably too late but 75-100 pounds should do it. A pound for person is rather much even with shrinkage. I actually think 75 would be fine.

    The problem with foiling is that it hinders the development of bark — the crunchy outside part which is particularly yummy in pulled pork. You really shouldn’t have a tenderness problem with pulled pork, so the only reason to foil is to speed things up.

    You need to bring pulled pork to 190 or higher.

    At 165 you start to get the conversion of collagen to gelatin. This is why pork butts often ‘plateau’ here for hours before the temperature starts to move up again. The conversion is what makes the meat so fabulously tender.

    Paprika also assists in the creation of ‘bark.’ Use sweet paprika if you don’t like heat (actually I prefer it).

    I don’t know about the rubbing v. sprinkling conundrum, but rubbing *does* help you spread the seasoning evenly, and I typically put a LOT more rub on a butt than you see in this picture. I cake it on.

  20. Mark says

    Yo, Junkie!

    Great Site!

    Great success achieved last night with some tips I picked up here.

    Cooked a whole 10 lb butt in a 22″ Weber Kettle w/ hardwood charcoal & soaked hickory chips.I hear all you smoker guys laughing, but the results really were terrific!

    Pulled from fridge 2 hrs before cooking, rubbed w/ cheap yellow mustard and my bbq rub (sorry, I’d have to kill you). Like FROBOZZ, use a lot. Not quite caked on, but very heavy.

    Placed fire on one side of kettle in one of the charcoal baskets that came with the grill and let the temperature settle down before cooking. On the other side, a foil lasagna pan w/ water and placed the meat over that.

    Temp ranged from 180 to 220 most of the time but would get as high as 270 if I wasn’t paying attention… A windy day made me chase the temperature more than I’d like.

    Slipped in soaked hickory chips every 30 minutes and replenished charcoal as needed.

    Did not move it once on the grill. No mopping, no spraying, no injecting, no brining, no problem.

    7 hours to 165 internal temperature, then decided to try foiling as suggested by THE SURVIVAL GOURMET to 190. I made a “clamshell” out of heavy foil and sealed it up. Reached 190 1n about 2 hrs.

    So many on this site suggested placing the butt in a cooler to rest, so I tried it in a Styrofoam cooler I received some frozen meats in. No towel, just some newspaper on the bottom. After an hour and a half it was still very hot and two forks easily shredded the meat. The bone slipped right out and there was lots of juice inside the foil and the meat was very moist.

    Good smoke ring, great flavor.

    I missed the crispy bark. I sure foiling softens it up, but the wonderful juice I pulled out of the foil would be lost. Even resting it in foil would soften the exterior, I think.

    Thanks to everyone for the education!

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