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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 when preparing a Pork Butt. And smoking is (in my humble opinion) the BEST way to do this. Smoked pulled pork is my go-to choice for feeding a crowd because although it requires some planning and lots of time, it’s super hands off and easy-peasy, plus it’s a relatively inexpensive cut of meat. It’s so good paired with my favorite homemade Macaroni and Cheese and Coleslaw. 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. Not everyone has a smoker, so my Crockpot Pulled Pork recipe will be the next best thing.
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 cooking.
When pork butts go on sale, 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.
How Long to Smoke a Pork Butt
It takes several hours to smoke a pork butt from start to finish, so plan ahead and start early. Every smoker is different but roughly, 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 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 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.
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.
Preheat your smoker to 225° F. Since every smoker is different, you’ll want to follow the manufacturer instructions for startup. I use a 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.
Season Pork Butt with Mustard and Dry Rub
Pat your 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 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. I make this in huge batches so I never run out.
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 thermometer like this one.
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 I prefer butcher paper because it allows smoke to penetrate, while still sealing in juices, thus keeping your meat super tender and juicy. 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.
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 disposable aluminum pans since we’re outside and don’t need to be fancy. Pull out the shoulder blade bone and discard.
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. 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 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).
- Homemade Rolls to make sandwiches
- Mexican Street Corn because that is just delicious
- Tangy Baked Beans – another southern side that makes my heart sing
- Homemade Cornbread that is sweet and tender
- Macaroni and Cheese – a favorite you can get at any BBQ joint
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 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.
Love this Pulled Pork Recipe? Try These Recipes:
- Loaded Pulled Pork Nachos
- Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork Sandwich Recipe
- Carolina BBQ Pulled Pork Frito Bites
- Sweet Potato Pulled Pork Sliders
- Crispy Cheese Pulled Pork Tacos with Sesame Slaw
Below is the printable recipe card. Save it and enjoy, friends!
Smoked Pork Butt
- (2) 6.5 lb pork shoulder butts or larger
- 2 tbsp classic yellow mustard
- 1/2 cup dry rub for pork
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve on buns with BBQ sauce and coleslaw.