Q: I am looking to smoke a pork butt for the first time. It will be smoked in a smoker with an offset firebox. It weighs about 5 lbs and i was wondering how much smoke time do you think it should have and what would be the best rub for a beginner.

A: A 5 pound pork shoulder (pork butt, Boston butt, picnic etc.) will require 10-14 hours of total cook time. Smoke the meat until it reaches 180°F for slicing or about 207°F for pulling. If you prefer, you can wrap it once it reaches about 160°F to speed up the process.

If you do not have a thermometer.. you will know it is done when it is so tender it is falling apart and/or the bone will pull out easily with very little resistance. If you choose to wrap, just do so when it reaches a good mahogany brown color which is usually after about 6 hours of cooking.

Try to maintain 225-240 degrees during the entire process.

If you would like to speed up the process a lot, there is nothing wrong with that.

Here's a recipe that shows you how to get a pork butt done in only 5 hours

Regarding rubs.. I recommend a rub that is sweet and a little spicy without a lot of salt. You need the sugar to create a good bark on the outside.

You can find decent rubs at your local store or online however I am particularly partial to my own original rub. It is very low on salt and has just the right amount of brown sugar to create a perfect bark as well as many other smoked meats.

You can find my rub at thinbluefoods.com

Good luck on the pork butt.. if you have any more questions or need something clarified, please let me know.

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21 Comments

  1. Steven Roberts November 22, 2021 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    I tried your method of cooking a bone in pork shoulder at 300 deg. It worked out awesome. 3 hours of smoke to a temp of 160. Put in alu foil pan, covered and in oven at 300 deg for 3-1/2 hours to temp of 203. rested for 1-1/2 hours. Came out perfectly tender and moist. .Lots of leftovers and I will try the warm up in the oven at 250 deg Ive been smoking meat for many years and I found your methods always work out the best of all I have tried.

    Thanks,
    Steve

  2. Michael May 13, 2020 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    How do you feel 145 is fine for pork! Or you process. It’s all wrong. Smokers function at different temp but 145 is dangerous why not finish it slow! Go ahead finish in an oven.

    • Jeff Phillips May 14, 2020 at 12:17 am - Reply

      Michael, in 2011 the USDA changed the safe temperature on pork from 160 down to 145. This is the best thing that's happened to pork in over a hundred years. We used to worry about trichinosis but that has been eradicated since about 60+ years ago. The USDA article for that is HEREHERE.

    • Jim Jones June 6, 2020 at 3:36 am - Reply

      I can tell you don’t have a clue about smoking/grilling. Pork is actually done at 145, now pending on what you wanna do as far as your style of serving is up to you and that temp does make a huge difference. 180 for sliced sandwich style or 205 for pulled pork.

  3. Ronda July 3, 2019 at 11:22 pm - Reply

    I just purchased a Pit Boss vertical smoker. I'd like to smoke a 5.5# pork shoulder. How long should I expect it to take? some reviews say 1.5 hrs per # and others say 2 hrs per # at 225 degrees F. ??

    • Jeff Phillips July 4, 2019 at 10:20 am - Reply

      Ronda, I have not found the 1.5 hours per pound to work very well at estimating. How long it takes large pieces of meat like pork shoulder and brisket to cook is based more on the thickness rather than the weight. I would estimate a pork shoulder of that size to take between 12 and 14 hours to reach 205°F.

  4. Ann October 16, 2016 at 10:38 am - Reply

    I have a round electric smoker and can only use wood, it has bristles on the bottom, and a water pan how long would I smoke a 5 pound Boston butt?

  5. Angela Tsaroumis July 4, 2016 at 12:55 am - Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    I will be trying your ‘Pulled Pork Recipe' this weekend however, I would like to know that when I smoke a pork butt do I need to inject it with brine? As a lot of the you tube recipes that I've seen advise that you do this to soften the pork butt but i see that in your recipe you don't do this.

    Please let me know your thoughts on this as
    I'm really confused as to what to do?

    Regards, Angela

  6. Thomas Andrews August 11, 2015 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    I am smoking four 4-5# pork butts in my electric smoker for our wedding reception.I have four racks .What temp do I need to set it at and how long to assure they all get done and not dried out.It will be for pulled pork sliders.and do I need to stagger them on each rack?Please advise.

    • Jeff Phillips August 12, 2015 at 10:15 am - Reply

      I recommend setting the smoker to at least 225°F. 240°F is not a bad upper limit to help them get done a little faster and to help the smoker to overcome all of that cold mass.

      Pulled pork is not prone to drying out and the biggest mistake that folks make is to UNDERcook them. Undercooked they will be tough, dry and just not very tasty.

      Boston butts are best cooked to temperature in order to guarantee they end up tender and juicy. Cook to an internal temperature of 200-205 °F for the best pulled pork you have ever tasted.

      To speed things up, you can smoke them for the first 6-8 hours or so then wrap them in foil or place them in deep foil pans for the remainder of the time. It's not a crime to finish them in the oven once you place them in foil pans.

      If you do not have a thermometer, I recommend you at least get an inexpensive one. You are looking at 14-16 hours and you'll know when they are done as you will be able to pull the bone right out and the meat will be extremely tender.

      Regarding placement, unless you have a fairly large electric smoker, it's going to be a tight fit most likely. Staggering is good if you can but you might just have to do the best you can to make them fit. Preheat the smoker to a hotter temperature than you need initially since you will lose heat while you are putting the meat in the smoker. Open the door only when you have to.

  7. Rick Castle December 21, 2014 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    I agree with Rich on time. I have a “hybrid” Frankenstein smoker. Well insulated Vertical propane cabinet with a offset firebox. I use the fire box for cold smoking in the cabinet and so I can burn large logs for long smokes as well as reduce my propane useage while maintaining constant temps. I am smoking a pork butt today. 5 pound butt has been in for 13 hours and is only at 191 degrees. The smoker has maintained a constant temp between 235 and 250. I typically plan on 2.5 to 3 hours per pound for pork butts at this temp range. I have done over a dozen this year and never got anywhere near 1.5 hours/pound

    • Jeff January 9, 2015 at 11:55 pm - Reply

      Wait…you say you agree with him on time but you then say a different number…Instead of 1.5 hour per pound you say something like 2-3 hour per pound…which is it?

      • Jeff Phillips January 12, 2015 at 5:34 pm - Reply

        If folks are cooking pork butts for 3 hours per pound, I would suspect that their smoker's thermometer is reading on the high side. Check factory smoker thermometers against a thermometer that has been tested in boiling water for comparison and so you'll know how to offset the temperature.

        • Webb January 16, 2015 at 10:00 pm - Reply

          The thermometer is key to all successful cooking. If I am cooking salmon it is 130 and off to sit and rest to 133 to 135. Smoking Pork Butt depends on butt size… no joke here. Larger butts take longer per hour and have a better chance of stalling for longer times (up to 3 or 4 hours at the 150 to 160 range) I generally rely on the 1.5 hrs per pound ratio with small (4 to 6 lbs) bone-in butts. The amount of calogen (sic?) is a huge factor in the stall phase but crucial to flavor. I smoke for 3 hours with fruit woods and then keep it going at 225 to 230 or so for duration. I add hot water in bucket as needed. The Thermapen is my best friend and I cook to 197 and let rest to 203. Then pull and eat. I also use an independent smoker thermometer that I slide through a potato and rest near the meat on the grates to monitor interior grill temp. Tomorrow will be a challenge as it is supposed to be below 20 degrees, windy and maybe snow, and I have 2 butts to cook. No one ever said smoking was easy… only good. I use a Weber Smoky Mtn… that I call “The Bullet”

  8. Jim December 17, 2014 at 1:07 pm - Reply

    We are haveing a New Years Day party and I am going to be smoking a Pork Butt and Pork Ribs and a Brisket. I plan on smoking and cooking the Pork Butt and Ribs a day or two ahead of time and then re-heating them. After cooking them I will wrap them in foil them place them in blankets inside of an ice chest. The brisket will be cooked the day of the party. Do you see any problems with this plan. Cooking ahead will make it so I and the wife can socialize more. Thanks for your website and your sauce and rub are the best.

    • John C January 19, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      Great idea smoking the ribs and butt ahead of the party. Reheat in a crockpot and enjoy the party!

  9. Rich June 12, 2014 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    I have yet to get 1.5 hours per pound with a steady temp of 230
    º. It's more like 2.5 or 3 hours per pound at 230º. And yes, I use a good quality thermometer (maverick).

  10. Ray May 22, 2013 at 8:29 am - Reply

    Smoking 3 butts this weekend on a charcoal grill with a side fire box. This is my first time trying this. Any tips?

  11. Tanya Lazarte April 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Dear Jeff,

    I have purchased your rub and sauce mix a couple of years ago. They are great. I am just getting back into smoking, after finding out I own a pretty good smoker. it's a Masterbuilt 30" electric. I want to smoke a pork butt and can't find the recipe on your site. I have looked through my newsletters and still can't. Can you help a beginner out. Thanks a million for all you do. Oh yeah, is there anyway a person who bought the recipes before can get the free gifts you offer now with the purchase of your rub and sauce?

    • Jeff Phillips April 29, 2013 at 11:23 am - Reply

      Tanya,

      Thank you for the kind words!

      Concerning the pork butt recipe, I have written several newsletters and articles on the subject and they can all be found at https://www.smoking-meat.com/tag/pork-butt

      I will get your gifts added right away and we'll send you an email with your account information so you can log on and download them.

    • John Burtman August 21, 2013 at 11:59 am - Reply

      Just purchased a Weber 18.5" Smoky Mountain Smoker.  Seasoned it the other day and was amazed how well it holds a temperature.  My question is when using 100% hardwood charcoal do you still get smoke after your smoking period (i.e boston butt on smoke for 4 hours) during the heat stage only to finish the butt?

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