Smoking Your First Pork Butt: Easy Pulled Pork

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Pulled pork is one of those barbecue mainstays that everyone should know how to make.

We usually recommend that you cook pig butt as soon as you have a new smoker.

Because of the abundance of fat, it is a highly forgiving cut of meat. So even if there is a temperature spike, it will not do too much harm.

There are several methods to prepare pulled pork. I’ll teach you how to prepare a simple bbq pork rub ahead of time, as well as a great homemade bbq sauce to match the smokey pulled pork.

I promise that if you follow my approach, you will not only finish up with some succulent pulled pork, but you will also gain some new friends as word spreads that you know how to make the tastiest pulled pork on the block.

What cut to use for pulled pork?

Smoking Your First Pork Butt: Easy Pulled Pork

There are a few hog cuts that are ideal for preparing pulled pork, and they all originate from the pig’s neck and shoulder region.

The collar butt (also known as the pig butt or pork scotch) and the pork shoulder (also known as the Boston butt or hog butt) are both densely coated with fat and perform well with low and slow cooking.

Choosing a pork butt:

  • Look for a cut with a lot of fat marbling to keep everything moist and delicious.
  • If you can afford it, opt for certified free-range chicken (look for Animal Welfare Approved or Certified Humane marks on the container).

If you can’t get nice pig butt locally, we suggest Porter Road Meat.

I used Pork Collar for this dish, but the procedure is the same. I prefer to smoke two at the same time with the goal of preserving some for future barbeque recipes and feasts.

Although several of these cuts have the word butt associated with them, they do not originate from the animal’s back end. The term butt comes from the Old English language, and it refers to the broadest region of a pig’s shoulders. So you can relax because you’re not eating, well, you know what.

Items that will help you cook these are:

  • A smoker (Im using a 22 Weber Smokey Mountain)
  • Lump charcoal
  • Various spices
  • Wire rack and tray
  • I’m using a Thermapen ONE instant-read thermometer.
  • An internal temperature probe thermometer and an ambient temperature probe thermometer (I’m using the Thermoworks Smoke X4)
  • Boning or trimming knife
  • A cooler or food cambro

If you’d rather see a video version of this recipe, watch our video below.

You may also be interested in our competition-style pork butt recipe.

Prepping the pork for the smoker

Smoking Your First Pork Butt: Easy Pulled Pork

Pork collars don’t need much cutting to prepare. As with other cuts, remove any silver skin and hard solid bits of fat; these will not render down and should be removed immediately.

Trim away any surplus soft fat. The soft solid fat has a highly creamy texture, which distinguishes it from the hard solid fat.

When I say take off any surplus fat, I mean a thin layer of this fat that will render down.

Next, remove any loose chunks of flesh that are hanging off. These will simply dry out while smoking, so get rid of them immediately.

I also cut my smoked meat to create good circular edges, so no pointed portions. I like to remove them since the sharp bits tend to dry out and overcook.

Next, generously coat the pork with our spice or pork rub. At the bottom of the article, you’ll find a recipe for pork rub. You can’t go wrong with our Smoke Kitchen house rub, either.

You may slather the pork with yellow mustard prior to help the rub adhere, but I feel it adds little taste.

I like to apply the rub using a spice shaker since it spreads more evenly. Hold the shaker 12 inches above the meat for the most equal surface covering and to avoid clumping.

Once the pig butt is entirely coated, do not massage the rub in, as this will cause the even application of spice to clump together.

If anything, give it a firm pat all over with an open palm and let it sweat.

The salt in the rub will naturally work on sweating pork, transforming the dry rub you applied into what seems to be a wet glaze within an hour of application.

What temperature is best for smoking pulled pork?

Nothing beats spending 10 to 12 hours in my backyard with family and friends while our food smokes away.

I couldnt even type that with a straight face.

While most pulled pork recipes recommend cooking at 225-250°F, I’ve been cranking up the heat on a lot of my roasts recently and getting wonderful results.

For this cook, I’m aiming for 300°F, although being completely tuned in isn’t critical.

Download a copy of our smoking periods and temperatures chart for a complete list of temperatures.

I’ll start by preparing my Weber Smokey Mountain for high heat. This will include filling the charcoal ring with lump charcoal and leaving a well area for burning charcoal.

I’ll light a lump charcoal chimney starter and put it in the well once it’s all hot and ashy.

I’ll assemble the bullet smoker, ensuring sure there’s hot water in the water tray since cold water absorbs a lot of heat. Now I’ll add a couple bits of smoldering wood.

Put the lid on and ensure sure all of the vents are completely open. I’ll start shutting down the vents once the temperature reaches 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which is close to our goal temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Smoking your pork butt

It’s ready to get your meat on when the temperatures have been consistent for around 30 minutes with no vent adjustments required. By now, the smoke should have fallen from a dense white to a thin, scarcely visible blue haze.

Insert an internal temperature probe into the pork and set and monitor the temperature until it reaches 160F.

Tips for smoking your pork butt

  • Grill racks may be used to make moving the butt simpler. Simply spray it with cooking oil to keep it from sticking. You can use this for any kind of smoking to make picking items up and moving them inside simpler. (You don’t want to be battling to unstick meat with one hand while keeping the lid up with the other, all while attempting to maintain your cool.)
  • Keep your hands clean and avoid cross-contamination by using Glovest.
  • You may use any nice smoking wood, such as apple wood, in this scenario.

I’m not going to look at the pork for at least two hours. At this time, our bark should be growing on the exterior, so we’re simply making sure there aren’t any dry spots.

If something seems to be dry, just spritz it with apple juice from a spray bottle. You may use any liquid you desire, however I find that apple juice helps the outside caramelize a bit more.

When the internal temperature reaches 160°F, we remove the butt from the smoker and cover it in two layers of heavy-duty foil. The two layers exist just as a backup in case the first layer develops a hole or tears.

Return the butt to the smoker and monitor the temperature until it reaches 195F.

How do you know when pork butt is ready?

Pork butt is normally ready for resting somewhere between 195F and 210F, so I aim for the lower figure and then cook to feel.

Using a metal spear, probe the pork all over until there is no resistance anywhere on it. Being really cautious not to puncture the foil at the bottom, which is keeping all of those beautiful liquids we’ve spent hours preparing.

It’s time to remove and rest the pork collar after it’s probed tender all over. This will most likely take between 3 and 4 hours.

Resting and keeping pork butt warm

It is critical to constantly allow time for your pig butt to rest.

If you don’t have a professional food warmer, such as a Cambro, a cooler with a locking cover can suffice.

Line your cooler with an old towel, then arrange the foil-wrapped collars on top, then line them with another old towel and replace the lid.

Allow this to rest for at least an hour while cooking at lower temperatures ranging from 225F to 275F, but since we increased the cooking temperature, I feel an additional hour of resting is ideal. Give it a two-hour break.

Pulling pork and adding sauce

Transfer the collars to a tray after the rest, being careful not to spill the liquid gold. Pour in the whole amount of liquid.

Begin separating the pork now. I highly recommend getting some cotton gloves to wear beneath your nitrile food safe gloves to keep your hands from feeling hot or chilly. Begin by eliminating any hard gristle of fat that hasn’t been reduced down.

When the pork is completely torn apart, sprinkle it with extra rub and a spritz of BBQ sauce. Mix everything together well.

The perfect rub for your pork

Today, I’ll be producing a pork-friendly rub. The majority of pork rubs on the market are on the sweeter side. Mostly because the sweets complement the meat. We may add heat with chile or punch it up with a pepper kick to this.

So, in a mixing bowl, combine paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, cumin, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and a dash of cayenne pepper in the end.

Mix well, then transfer to a rub shaker and coat the pig collar well. I usually apply my rub from about 12 inches above the meat to get a beautiful uniform covering with no clumps.

I prefer to give pork a bit thicker coating than usual since it can tolerate it.

Do not massage the rub in; instead, pat it down and let it to sweat out. Within an hour, the dry rub will have drawn out moisture and will resemble a wet glaze rather than a dry rub.

If you want a complete list of ingredients, check out this rub I produced for turkey and how I adapted it for pork.

BBQ sauce with zing

What’s amazing barbecue without some killer sauce to go with it? Some would argue that it is just half of what it might be.

This is a terrific barbecue sauce recipe of mine that is sweet to taste but has a lovely peppery after bite to it, making it ideal for pig.

Into a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of ketchup, 1 and a cups of apple juice, cup of apple cider vinegar, cup of brown sugar, 4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 3 teaspoons of onion powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, teaspoon of black ground pepper and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Stir all of these ingredients together over a low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until they reduce and thicken somewhat.

Once cooled, transfer them to a sauce bottle.

Serving suggestions

Pulled pork is one of the most adaptable meats to smoke.

It compliments burgers, tacos, pies, and even rolls. Burritos, nachos, and so on.


How to smoke a pork shoulder for beginners?

Close the cover and place the pork shoulder on the grate. During the first few hours of smoking, keep the smoker temperature between 250 and 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Smoke for 4 hours, spritzing every hour with the spray bottle. Using a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature of the pork shoulder.

How long does it take to smoke a pork shoulder for pulled pork?

A good starting point, although not a perfect reference, is 90 minutes of smoking time per pound at 225° to 250°. Another option is to use a thermometer the whole time to determine when the pork is done. When it reaches an internal temperature of 165°, remove it from the smoker.

Is it better to smoke a pork shoulder at 225 or 250?

For the best results, smoke the pork shoulder at a low temperature of 250°F for 8-10 hours to prevent it from drying out.

What is the fastest way to smoke pulled pork?

Place the pulled pork on a foil pan after removing it from the grill. Wrap the top of the pan with a double sheet of aluminum foil, squeezing the edges together. This will help to keep the heat inside and cook the meat quicker.

How long to smoke a pork butt at 225?

At 225, consider 2 hours per pound of meat, thus the same piece of smoked pork shoulder will take between 12 and 16 hours. The length of time depends on a variety of elements, including the humidity in the air, the consistency with which the grill maintains temperature, the outside temperature, and others.

Should you rub a pork shoulder before smoking?

Coating your pig butt with a sufficient amount of rub will help season the meat, bring out the natural taste of the pork, and help develop that wonderful outside bark as it smokes. Many excellent pork rubs include variable amounts of salt, sugar, paprika, and pepper.

Should I wrap my pork butt?

Wrapping is the way to go if you want to take your pork butt game to the next level. Wrapping your pig butt throughout the cooking process has a number of advantages, including: Keeping moisture in to create a luscious final product. This allows for more even cooking.

How long should pork shoulder sit before shredding?

The ideal cooking time for pulled pork is 45 minutes.

For a six to eight-pound chunk of pork, the Bearded Butchers suggests a minimum rest period of 15 minutes, however 45 minutes is their sweet spot. The BBQ Host also recommends allowing the meat to rest for 30-45 minutes before shredding.

Can you overcook pulled pork at 225?

Can Pork Be Overcooked at 225°F? Yes, if the pork is left in the smoker for too long, it may overcook at 225°F (107°C). While smoking at a low temperature for a prolonged amount of time may result in soft and tasty meat, smoking the pork shoulder for an extended period of time might lead it to become dry and rough.

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