Smoking A Pork Butt(Shoulder)

Choosing the Right Pork Butt(Shoulder)

When choosing a pork butt(shoulder) for smoking, you need to determine how many people you are going to be serving. Are you going to be slicing or pulling? We are going to be pulling the pork at this time. Even if you are only going to be feeding 4-5 people, you can still smoke a pork butt that is 9 pounds or larger. The main reason for this is once you have tasted the smoky goodness of a properly smoked pork butt, all bets are off. That diet you just went on will go out the window faster than a summer’s breeze. The tenderness of the meat, the smoky flavor and the all around good time everyone is having will make you want to have more.

You will want a pork butt that has a good fat cap on it. If you do not know what a fat cap is here is a simple explanation, I needed someone to explain it to me when I first started to smoke meats. The fat cap is the side of the pork butt that has a layer of fat on it, you do not want one that is more than a 1/4 inch thick. You will want to make sure that the rest of the shoulder has good marbling to it. You will find that a pork butt(shoulder) has a bone in it. It may or may not go all the way through. This will help to make sure the meat is tender.

Some people marinate their pork butt to either to give it a different flavor or to make it more tender. Other people use a dry rub to enhance the flavor of the pork butt. Another thing you can do is use different types of wood. I do not recommend using more than one type of wood at a time, to me this causes the meat to have a bitter flavor. Some marinades will require that you inject them into the meat as well as soaking. I, personally, like the dry rub method myself. I seem to get better results. Using a marinade is one of personal choice, that is totally up to you. The more experience you have the more you will want to develop your own marinade or dry rub. Simply put, you know your tastes better than anyone else. By developing your own rub, you can help your nutritional needs better( lower sodium for example).

Preheating Your Grill(smoker)

Preheating your grill(smoker) is very important for best results. I, generally, preheat my smoker to 250F and get my grill toppers to the same temperature. This will help with a more even cooking time and helps to reduce the butt from sticking. Also, during preheat time of 10 to 20 minutes, you can add to your charcoal briquettes, lump charcoal or wood any aromatics that you want to get your smoke generated and at the right consistency before the smoking begins. Now, if you are using a gas or pellet grill for smoking they now have baskets you can use to put wood chips in to smoke your select meat. It does not matter which method you use as long as you soak your chips or wood chunks for smoking. The longer you soak the better the smoke. I generally soak mine overnight to get the best smoke results.

Cooking Your Pork Butt

Now you have the preheating out of the way, place your pork butt on the cool end of the grill/smoker. The most important reason is so you do not overcook or cook your pork butt too fast. By placing your pork butt on indirect heat it allows the smoke to penetrate deep into the meat and give it the flavor you are looking for. It helps prevent overcooking. Another thing you can do is put a pan underneath the pork butt with aromatics juices, for example apple cider, apple juice, orange juice or just plain water. This will help keep moisture in the air and also helps the smoke penetrate even deeper. Just use a disposable aluminum pan that is about 4 inches deep and fill halfway on the cooler end of the grill. The outer part of the pork butt will get darker during the cooking process until black. There is no need to worry that is just part of the process. It develops what is called bark.

Timing Your Smoking for Best Results

Timing your smoking for best results can be tricky if you are new to smoking meats. Typically, when smoking you want to allow 45 minutes per pound. This works out quite well since it cuts down on the guess work in how long you should have your pork butt smoking. Another way to determine if the pork shoulder is thoroughly smoked is by taking the internal temperature by inserting a thermometer and checking the temperature. I have found that on a pork shoulder the best temperature is 170F just before removing from the grill(smoker).


Resting the Pork Butt

Resting the pork butt(or any meat) is very important to the overall tenderness. By resting the meat for at least 30 minutes, you allow the meat to complete the cooking process and allow the juices to remain in the meat. If you cut or pull the pork butt before letting it rest, you will be losing a great deal of the flavor by allowing the juices to run out. The cooking process is still going when you remove something from the grill or smoker. The pork butt will still be slightly hot when slicing or pulling at first then will gradually begin to cool as you continue to pull or cut. Tasting the results by showing a bit of patience is spectacular. Those who end up tasting your pulled pork will ask you why you have not done this before now and PLEASE DO THIS AGAIN. You will be in high demand for having developed your smoking skills to a higher level.

Turning a Pork Butt into Pulled Pork8 hour smoke

After you have let your pork butt rest for at least 30 minutes, you can begin to pull the butt. What is pulling? Pulling a pork butt is when you take either your fingers or bear claws and shredding the meat into slivers. This may take up to 30 minutes or longer to do. You want to keep at it until all of the meat is removed from the bone and it is of a consistency that is fine with no large clumps. This is not to be confused with chopped pork. Chopped uses a knife and you literally chop the meat into small pieces or cubes. That is not the same as pulled. Pulled is coarser but with great flavor.

Pairing Side Dishes For A Smoked Pork Butt

What do you use for sides with pulled pork? Sides are every bit as important as the main meat. I have found that grilled corn on the cob is amazing and you can do it several ways. One way is to put it in aluminum foil with butter and seasonings(my favorite seasoning is chipotle chili powder sprinkled on the corn), make your own potato wedges on the grill, grilled asparagus, grilled squash or zucchini. The list goes on.

How do you determine the right side? The main thing about sides is that you want them to complement the meat and not to detract from one another. You want to choose sides that will enhance the overall experience. You need to be certain that the majority of people will enjoy the sides as much as the meat.

Some people prefer to eat pulled pork as a sandwich. They may want the sides to be finger food, french fries, potato chips, corn chips, etc, If someone is having the pulled pork as a sandwich, they will generally want some type of sauce to put on it, barbeque sauce, hot sauce or their favorite sauce.

Some people like iced tea for a beverage and others like a beer. Whatever your drink of choice of drink is, you will find that you are drinking less because the flavor from the pulled pork is truly remarkable and you have become a hero to those you served for spectacular skills at smoking a pork butt and turning it into something noteworthy of high praise. Your friends and family will be talking about this for months while they anxiously await your next smoking endeavor.

You will want plenty of napkins on hand for everyone to use. Regardless, of whether you plate the pulled pork or have it in a sandwich, you are sure to have a spectacular event.

20 thoughts on “Smoking A Pork Butt(Shoulder)”

  1. Hi there , thanks for providing this wonderful informative article once again , I really find so much pleasure in reading your articles  because they are so helpful, with this article , I have the best insight on what type of pork is best for smoking and the size of pork to smoked for different numbers of people and I also gain some knowledge about fat cap , thank you for this great article.

    1. I always try to give the best information on how to make the grilling experience better for everyone. If you are the one grilling then you are held to a higher standard on your meals and meal experiences. I have looked at other sites and while they are informative they sometimes forget that not everyone has their level of experience. If you have any tips you would like to pass on I will be sure to share with others so they can increase their knowledge and their expertise grilling.

      Thanks for commenting

      Jerry

  2. There are several things I didn’t know they were so important before reading your post. And the first one is very simple, but I learn it here. It’s “Preheating my grill”. Yeah, now that I have read it, I know it makes a difference.

    The other one is timing our smoking. Yes 45 minutes per pound will be our guideline and I’ll pay careful attention to this one. Thank you very much!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting on this post. I did not realize until I accidentally found out how important preheating was. I had put my grill toppers on my grill and got distracted for about 15 minutes, I then realized I had not put my meat on too cook. I put my meat on and when it came time to turn it the ease it turned was absolutely beyond anything I had ever experienced before. I wanted to find out if this was a one time thing and did it again. The ease with I was able to turn my meat was like the first time and so I have been doing it ever since. I am getting better results and better flavor.  I no longer have any problems with sticking meat or vegetables. Another thing you can do is to use olive oil and put it on the grill grates or grill toppers, this will also help prevent sticking.

      Thanks for the comments and reading my post. If you ever have any questions about grilling just pm me and I will answer your questions.

      Jerry

  3. Thanks for this opportunity to read through this article, it is good to know of this interesting topic and I love eating pork but I’ve never tried smoking or making barbeque with one. I’d love to follow the instructions you have here and I’m sure it’s gonna be very resourceful.

    1. Thanks for reading and leaving your comments. When smoking your pork butt, remember to put the pork butt on the cool end of the grill. This helps keep the meat from overcooking or cooking too fast. The pork butt I used in this post took me about 8 hours to smoke and it was fantastic. If you use charcoal or wood you will have to replenish from time to time to keep the temperature right. That is not a problem with gas or pellet grills. Enjoy your smoked meats. If you ever need help please pm me and I will be glad to explain the solution to your grilling question.

      Thanks for the comments,

      Jerry

  4. Thus is a very interesting one to see here. Having a picnic very soon at my home and I am very wary of things to be in place and that is why I am putting everything that is required on the board. For what is worth, I value all that you shared here and it makes a lot of sense to see them here. I really like all that you have shared here and If I can, I will like to give trial to this too again. Surely good one here as the tips are very helpful in all

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting on my post. I am glad you have found value in the information I have provided. I always try to be thorough with the tips and information that I share.

      I hope you find ways to put this information to good use and have a successful event. It is always good to plan your event out ahead of time. This way you can not only have enough food prepared but have all other aspects of the event ready as well. This helps to eliminate any surprises you might encounter.

      If I can answer any grilling questions for you please contact me.

      Thank you,

      Jerry

  5. As much as I really love to have pork, I have never taken it as a thing to try to smoke it before and the way you explain it really shows you’re a pro at this. I didn’t know that I had to preheat my grill before having the meat on it. I also think the amount of people eating is the very first thing to understand.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting  on my post. I always try to be thorough in my explanations when it comes to grilling.

      I have been eating grilled or smoked pork most of my life. I have found that most people tend to cook it too long thus making it either tough or dry. Sometimes, both at the same time. One of the reasons for this is lack of proper planning for the cooking. Smoking a pork butt should be done at 250F allowing 45 minutes per pound. This way it cooks slowly locking in the moisture and flavor. 

      If you have any grilling questions please contact me and I will answer them.

      Thank you,

      Jerry

  6. Hello,thank you for sharing this article on choosing the right pork but(shoulder) for smoking.It is very educative and informative.I now have knowledge on what type of pork is best used for smoking and the size of pork to smoked for different numbers of people. Thank you for also writing the process for smoking the pork to perfection

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting on this post. I glad that you found it informative. I hope that you are able to put the information to good use. If I can ever be of assistance with any grilling related question please contact me.

      I always try to give the best information possible. Now that you have better information to work with you can start planning all sorts of lunch or dinner parties. You can also grill vegetables and fruits to add even more excitement to you parties. You guests will be amazed at how great your dishes are. On grilling vegetables as a side, you will want to experiment with them to see what you like and do not like grilled. Fruits can be grilled and used as a dessert and possibly topped with a caramel sauce or ice cream. 

      You will find a whole new world of flavors open to you now. There will be things that you can grill that at first thought you would not believe would be grilled. After trying these items you will be amazed at what you have been missing.

      Good luck and remember to grill for the thrill of having the best food around.

      Thank you,

      Jerry

  7. Hello Jerry, cooking is a very fun activity for me and it’s been something I really enjoy doing when I have my family around and every time it’s time to cook, I want to always deliver something new and good. I have been making pork butt for a while now and from last week I realised I haven’t been doing it the right way. More information has been added to my tab with all I have seen here and I hope to give feedback when I’ve done it better 

    1. Hi Lawson,

      You say that you have been doing it the wrong way, that may not be true. Each of us that grill have our own way of doing things. I just found that for me preheating my grill grates gave me better cooking, less waste and a more consistent cooking effort. I am sure that you are doing well with your efforts. I will always try to give any tips whenever I post. This may help you but it is not a right way or wrong way just a different way.

      Thank you for reading my post and commenting. If you ever need any grilling questions just get in touch and I will answer to the best of my ability.

      Whenever grilling always remember the thrill you get from the grill.

      Jerry

  8. Hello there! Thank you very much for dropping this article. I find it very useful, helpful and highly informative. I particularly love the unique nature of your website and I sincerely wish your traffic increases, well done. I’m a foodie so immediately I saw how to smoke a pork butt, I opened it very fast. I love pork meat, it’s literally the best. I was smiling all through while reading how to smoke a pork shoulder, I’m definitely going to make pork kebab immediately I drop my phone, well done. 

    1. Hi Sophie,

      Thanks for reading and commenting on my post.

      I am glad that you found my  post to be informative and helpful. I always try to give value to what I write about. When it comes to grilling, I always try to have a go at whatever I am writing about. I have found several great recipes over the years that I have not written about yet. I have that trying recipes gives me more time to gain experience that I can share with others.

      One of the things I like about pork kebabs is some of the other things you can grill with them. Myself, I like to do different types of sweet peppers as well as cherry tomatoes and finish the meal off with grilled peaches covered with caramel sauce.

      Happy grilling to you. If you ever have any questions about grilling please contact me.

      Thanks,

      Jerry

  9. I hope what I have learned from your article can become my great experience to make a good dish for my family. Allowed me to recap what I have learned from your article. 9 Lbs for five members, I can choose butt porks or shoulder porks for smoking. The meat must have some distribution of fat, especially at the side of the meat. I prefer using a dry rub to increase the flavor. Use only wood from one type of tree is the key point not to bitter the meat.

    Preheat to 250F for 10 to 20 minutes. Add any aromatics that we want to the wood overnight before use for smoking. Place the pork butt to the lower heat location for longer and deeper smoking. Put a pan with apple cider, apple juice, orange juice, or just plain water underneath the pork butt.

    The total time of smoking is 405 minutes for 9 Lbs of meat. Use a thermometer to confirm at 170F before removing from the hot grill. Resting for 30 minutes before pulling the pork butt for serving. Prepare some side dishes for serving.

    Thanks for your clear and very useful articles to ensure me confident to make a special dish for my son when he is coming back from Melbourne for holiday after the long-locked up. I appreciated your best recipe and method of cooking.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting on my post.

      The length of time for smoking is an approximate time and varies from grill to grill. If you are going to have a 9 pound pork butt you will probably have some left. That is no problem though, just put the rest in the freezer to have at a later date. Be sure to put the pork butt on the cooler end of the grill to allow better cooking and smoking time. I hope that you get good results for the information I have shared with you. I hope your son appreciates the hard work you put in for him.

      If you ever have a question about grilling just contact me and I will try to answer your questions.

      Thanks,

      Jerry

  10. Hi,

    From my research smoking a pork butt is obviously requires you to have a smoker and plenty of time to smoke it. It depend on the number of people you are serving and it can be slicing or pulling. Fire up those smokers and get ready to enjoy a perfect smoked pulled pork recipe that has the ultimate bark with a fantastic barbeque rub. 

    Thank you.

    Aluko.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. 

      No you do not have to have a smoker, you can make your own. Just do a little research and you will find that people from around the world use different  materials to make a smoker. For example, if you have some cinder blocks you can fit them together and seal the seams with mortar or mud(mortar works best) build your blocks up about 3 high and then put your grate in and add two more layers. Leave an opening at one end to put your wood or charcoal in. Use a thin  metal plate or tin as your cover, so you can check your pork butt and remove it at the right time. Always try to keep your temperature around 250 F  and be sure to keep your pork butt on the cool end. Check the temperature to make sure the internal temperature is 170 F. 

      People from around the world are creative finding ways to grill or smoke meat. There is a desire in every country for grilled meats. If you have any grilling questions please contact me and I will do my best to answer any question you may have.

      Thanks, 

      Jerry

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