Smoked Pork Butt

4.41 from 10 votes

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This Smoked Pork Butt is going to turn into the best Pulled Pork you’ve ever had. It literally just falls off the bone! Low and slow is the name of the game when preparing a Pork Butt. And smoking is (in my humble opinion) the BEST cooking process for this. Using my method, you will get the best results of your life! It’s so good paired with my favorite homemade Macaroni and Cheese and Coleslaw.

Smoked Pork Butt

Smoked pulled pork is my go-to choice for feeding a crowd because although it requires some planning and lots of time (like, a LONG time), it’s super hands off and easy-peasy, plus it’s a relatively inexpensive cut of meat. Try my Smoked Chicken Wings next!

What is Pulled Pork?

Pulled Pork is an American dish, originating from the South which uses shredded pork butt (also called pork shoulder) as the main ingredient with other regional-based sauces added on after cooking slowly over a smoker, wood fire, oven, or in a slow cooker.

What Cut of Meat is Best for Pulled Pork?

Pork Butt, sometimes referred to as Pork Shoulder or Boston Butt, is the cut of pork used for all Pulled Pork Recipes. It doesn’t actually come from the butt of the animal, but the shoulder. So, technically Pork Shoulder would be the correct term but most people know it as Pork Butt, so that’s what we will be calling it today. It is some of the most tender and flavorful meat after being cooked low and slow. Partly because it’s naturally very fatty, but also because it just falls off the bone after the right amount of cooking time.

When bone-in pork butt goes on sale at your local grocery store, pick up one or two, and make this easy meal for your family. It’s also a huge crowd pleaser so you may want to make it the star of your next gathering if you are into getting rave reviews.

Since this post involves a lot of information (we you should definitely read through in its entirety!), I wanted to give you a little shortcut chart right now, so you know what to expect when smoking a pork butt, especially if this is your first time. Just follow these for the BEST smoked pork butt ever.

1: Preheat smoker to 225° F. Place a disposable aluminum tray of water under the grate.

2: Pat your room temperature pork butt dry with paper towels and spread classic yellow mustard all over the meat. Then, generously apply any dry rub seasoning.

3: Place your fully seasoned pork butt directly on the smoker grate, fat side up and insert your smoker’s thermometer probe. Smoke for several hours until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160° F.

4: Once pork butt reaches 160° F, wrap it in non-coated butcher paper and place back on smoker to continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 203° F.

5: Remove from smoker and let the meat rest for one hour.

6: Unwrap pork butt and place in a large serving dish. Pull out the shoulder blade bone and discard. “Pull” your pork using heat-resistant grilling gloves or meat claws.

7: Add sauce and/or seasoning of choice and serve.

How Long to Smoke a Pork Butt

In order to break down the abundance of connective tissue in a pork butt, it takes several hours to smoke from start to finish, so plan ahead and start early and give yourself enough time. Every smoker is different, but for best results you will need about 1 1/2 – 2 hours per pound of pork if smoking at 225° F. There are many factors for how long it will take, including the size or your pork butt, the consistency of your smoker, even the outside temperature. It’s best to give yourself plenty of time and you can always keep your pork warm in a cooler until you’re ready to “pull”. More on that later. I used two 6.5 pound butts for the purposes of this pork butt recipe, and my total smoke time was about 10 hours. I’ve done larger 8 pound butts in the past that have taken 14-16 hours. You’ll then want to factor in about an hour of rest time.

What Temperature to Smoke Pork Butt

I recommend setting your smoker to 225° F and smoking your pork until it reaches an internal temperature of 160° F. You’ll then wrap and continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 203° F which is the sweet spot for this cut of meat. Let rest for one hour before pulling. If you find that you are running short on time and need to speed up the process a bit (just a bit!), wrapping your meat in aluminum foil and cranking the smoker to a higher temperature – up to 250° F will help. I wouldn’t go any higher that that, though. And I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are desperate.

Shredded Smoked Pork Butt

How to Smoke a Pork Butt

I’ve smoked so many pork butts over the years and have made all of the mistakes along the way…but you don’t have to. If you follow my instructions carefully, you should have the most delicious, smoky, tender, fall off the bone pulled pork that is sure to please. Printable recipe card will be found at the bottom of this post.

Prepare Smoker

Preheat your smoker to 225° F. Since every smoker is different, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer instructions for startup. I use a pellet smoker – the Traeger Wood Fired Pellet Grill, which is the new love of my life. Place a disposable aluminum tray of water under the grate. This will help regulate the temperature of your smoker, but is completely optional. My favorite wood (or wood pellets) to use for pork is Apple Wood as it just compliments the pork so well.

ingredients for pulled pork rub in bowl

Season Pork Butt with Mustard and Dry Rub

Pat your room temperature Pork Butt dry with paper towels and spread classic yellow mustard all over the meat. You will never even taste the mustard. It just ensures the spice rub adheres to the meat and can help to tenderize the meat as it contains vinegar. Then, generously apply any dry rub seasoning of your choice to all sides of the pork butt. I used my homemade Pulled Pork Dry Rub recipe (which uses simple ingredients like brown sugar, black pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and more that pairs well with any kind of pork or pork roast). I make this in huge batches so I never run out.

Raw Smoked Pork Butt on smoker with thermometer

Place Pork Butt on Smoker and Smoke for Several Hours

Place your fully seasoned pork butt directly on the smoker grate, fat side up and insert your smoker’s thermometer probe. Smoke for several hours until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160° F. Most smokers will have a built-in thermometer probe or you can use a quick read digital meat thermometer like this one.

Smoked Pork Butt wrapped in butcher paper on smoker

Wrap Your Pork Butt and Continue to Smoke

Once your pork butt reaches 160° F, wrap it in NON-COATED butcher paper and place back on smoker to continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 203° F. You can also use aluminum foil here, but for the best smoke flavor I prefer butcher paper because it allows smoke to penetrate, while still sealing in juices, thus giving you super juicy and tender meat. Butcher paper will also not ruin your bark (more on that later). This is my favorite butcher paper (mostly because it’s stinkin adorable!). 😉

The Temperature Stall

You may notice that your meat steadily comes up in temperature, all the way up to 150° or so and you think you’re home free and finishing way faster than you thought. But then, the dial stops moving. This is called “the stall” and is completely normal. It can last anywhere between 2-6 hours. Stay patient and you will get over that hump eventually. This is where all of those tough connective tissues start to break down and the bark starts to develop.

The Bark

At this point, you will start to notice the outside of your meat begin to look like it’s burning. It’s NOT! This is the oh-so-delicious BARK. It’s SCIENCE! It’s caramel-y, sweet, chewy and downright AMAZING when mixed in with the rest of the meat during the pulling process so this is a GOOD THING!

Remove Pork Butt from Smoker and Let Rest

Once your Pork Butt reaches an internal temperature of 203° F (remember, this should have taken about 1 1/2 – 2 hours per pound of meat), remove from smoker and let rest for one hour (still wrapped). You’ll be able to tell if it’s super tender because that shoulder blade bone will be literally pushing itself out of the meat. SUCCESS!

Pull the Pork

Unwrap your Pork Butt and place in a large serving dish. I just use a disposable aluminum pan since we’re outside and don’t need to be fancy. Pull out the shoulder blade bone and discard.

The easiest way I’ve found to shred (or “pull”) your pork is to use heat-resistant grilling gloves and just get in there with both hands. You could also use meat claws or even just a couple of forks.

Pulled Pork Sandwich on white plate

Add Sauce, Serve and Enjoy!

There are many different sauces you can add to the pork at this point, or you can serve it on the side. I feel like everyone has a favorite bbq sauce and for this application, I made pulled pork sandwiches with my Homemade BBQ Sauce and Coleslaw on buns, but we’ve been known to just eat it straight out of the roasting pan…no additions necessary! Next time, I think I’ll try them with my more vinegar-based Carolina BBQ Sauce.

What to Serve with Pulled Pork

Any kind of “picnic” foods would be great side dishes for Pulled Pork Butt, but here are some of my favorites (in addition to the Coleslaw mentioned above of course).

Can I Make Pulled Pork Ahead?

As hinted at before, you can totally make this Pork Butt ahead of time. BEFORE you pull the pork, keep it wrapped in the butcher paper and then wrap again in an old towel. Place in an empty cooler and it will stay warm for a few hours. I’ve had to do this a few times when the party hadn’t started yet but the pork cooked faster than planned. It can stay warm like this for up to 3 hours.

How to Store Leftover Pulled Pork

Any leftover Pulled Pork Butt can be saved by refrigerating in an airtight container or covered in plastic wrap for up to 4 days.

To reheat, simply warm in the microwave, lightly covered (to retain moisture), until heated through, stirring occasionally.

To freeze, place in an airtight freezer safe bag or container. If using a ziploc bag, be sure to remove as much of the air as possible. Pulled pork will stay fresh in the freezer for 3 months.

Smoked Pork Butt Recipe Tips and FAQ:

What temperature do I set my smoker to for smoked pork butt?

Pork Butt needs to be smoked low and slow, so I recommend setting your smoker to 225° F. If you are desperate to speed up the process, wrapping your meat in aluminum foil and cranking the smoker temperature up to 250° F will help. I wouldn’t go any higher that that, though.

How long does it take to smoke a pork butt?

Every smoker is different, but roughly you will need about 1 1/2 – 2 hours per pound of pork if smoking at 225° F. An average 8 pound pork butt will need to smoke for about 14-16 hours. You’ll then want to factor in about an hour of rest time.

What temperature is a pork butt done?

A smoked pork butt should reach an internal temperature of 203° F to be fall off the bone tender.

What is the stall when smoking a pork butt?

You may notice that your meat steadily comes up in temperature, all the way up to 150° or so and you think you’re home free and finishing way faster than you thought. But then, the dial stops moving. This is called “the stall” and is completely normal. It can last anywhere between 2-6 hours. Stay patient and you will get over that hump eventually. This is where all of those tough connective tissues start to break down and the bark starts to develop.

What is the bark on a smoked pork butt?

After several hours of smoking your pork butt, you will notice the outside of your meat begin to look like it’s burning. It’s NOT! This is the oh-so-delicious BARK. It’s SCIENCE! It’s caramel-y, sweet, chewy and downright AMAZING when mixed in with the rest of the meat during the pulling process so this is a GOOD THING!

What is the best way to reheat pulled pork from smoked pork butt so it doesn’t dry out?

To reheat your smoked pulled pork, simply place in a baking dish in a 250° F oven until heated through. To retain the moisture, cover the dish in aluminum foil. You can also add apple juice, apple cider vinegar or barbeque sauce to the baking dish before covering and reheating. Alternatively, you can reheat in the microwave or even a slow cooker.

What is the best wood for smoking a pork butt?

Apple, Pecan, Hickory, Maple, and Oak are all great wood options for a pork butt – or try a combination of these!

Do I need to spritz my pork butt with a spray bottle of apple cider or other liquid?

I’ve seen some spraying their pork butt during the smoking process to add great flavor and moisture. This is totally up to you, but an unnecessary step in my opinion.

Love this Pulled Pork Recipe? Try These Recipes:

More Smoked Meat Recipes to Try!

More Favorites from Lauren’s Latest

Below is the printable recipe card. Save it and enjoy, friends!

If you make this recipe, I would really appreciate it if you would give it a star rating! If you have a picture of your finished dish, post it on Instagram using the hashtag #laurenslatest and tagging me @laurens_latest.

Smoked Pork Butt
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4.41 from 10 votes

Smoked Pork Butt

This Smoked Pork Butt is going to turn into the most delicious Pulled Pork you've ever had. Low and slow is the name of the game here!
servings 12 servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 16 hours

Ingredients

For cooking:

  • (2) 6.5 lb pork shoulder butts or larger
  • 2 tbsp classic yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup dry rub for pork

Instructions

  • Preheat your smoker to 225° F. Place a disposable aluminum tray of water under the grate.
  • Pat your Pork Butt dry with paper towels and spread classic yellow mustard all over the meat. Then, generously press any dry rub seasoning of your choice over all sides of the pork butt.
    ingredients for pulled pork rub in bowl
  • Place your fully seasoned pork butt directly on the smoker grate, fat side up and insert your smoker’s thermometer probe. Smoke for several hours until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160° F
    Raw Smoked Pork Butt on smoker with thermometer
  • Once your Pork Butt reaches 160° F, wrap it in NON-COATED butcher paper and place back on smoker to continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 203° F.
    Smoked Pork Butt wrapped in butcher paper on smoker
  • Once your Pork Butt reaches an internal temperature of 203° F (remember, this should have taken about 1 1/2 – 2 hours per pound of meat), remove from smoker and let rest for one hour (still wrapped).
  • Unwrap your Pork Butt and place in a large serving dish. Shred (or "pull") your pork using heat-resistant grilling gloves, meat claws or a couple of forks.
    Man shredding Smoked Pork Butt
  • Serve on buns with BBQ sauce and coleslaw.
    Pulled Pork Sandwich on white plate

Nutrition

Calories: 222kcal | Protein: 29g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 100mg | Sodium: 114mg | Potassium: 511mg | Vitamin A: 9IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pulled pork, pulled pork recipe, smoked pork butt, smoked pulled pork

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Recipe Rating




19 Responses
  1. Steve

    5 stars
    I just did a 7 pounder using this recipe, except I wrapped in foil with 2 cups apple cider added for the final cook. It took 3 and a half hour to reach 160, then I wrapped it and it took 6 hours and 20 minute to hit 204, I let it rest and it was absolutely perfect. I haven’t tried the butcher paper wrap because I needed foil to hold the apple cider. I’m wondering if I could just put the buts in a foil pan and cover the pan with foil instead of wrapping in foil. Anybody tried that?

  2. Terry

    1 star
    203°? Are you making jerky or dehydrated pork? At that temperature, then let it sit wrapped up and continuing to cook, there better be plenty of sauce and drinks cause the meat won’t have any moisture left

    1. Lauren's Latest

      Terry, I hope you tried the recipe before giving it a one-star rating. I assure you that 190-205° F is how it’s done. We’re not cooking chicken…this is a large piece of pork on the bone and the connective tissues need to reach this higher degrees in order to be fall apart tender and juicy – which is what my recipe delivers. You can see from my pictures that the bone just slides right out and the meat falls apart at the slightest touch. Give it a try!

    2. bryan

      5 stars
      Haha, Terry have you ever smoked a pork butt? 195-205 is perfect. Cook it less and you’ll be chewing for days. Follow the instructions and this recipe is killer! I know professional smokers who do it at this temp. Maybe you need a new smoker. Lots of good deals out there. Not cool throwing 1 star reviews out there for your misinformation. Not cool at all.

  3. Kendra

    5 stars
    I used this recipe last weekend for a family party. Every single person wanted leftovers because it was fall off the bone tender and delicious. Best recipe for the smoker hands down.

    1. Lauren's Latest

      Thank you Shirley! If cooking in the oven I would set your temperature to 250-300 degrees F and it will take roughly 45 min to an hour per pound of meat.

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