Remove the pork butt from the packaging and rinse it under cold water.
Pat dry with a paper towel.
I recommend placing it in a pan during the seasoning process to make cleanup really easy.
Normally I use yellow mustard to help the rub to stick since it works so well however, you can use almost anything and to prove that, I am using zesty Italian dressing on this pork butt and it works like a charm and adds a ton of great zesty flavor to the meat as well.
Pour the dressing over the top of the meat.
Use a basting brush to make sure the meat is coated well with the dressing.
Sprinkle my Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) onto all sides of the meat making sure you have good coverage.
Be generous to create a nice crispy bark on the outside during the cooking process.
It is now ready for the smoker.
Set up your smoker for indirect heat maintaining about 225-240°F for about 12-14 hours.
When you are ready, place the pork butt directly on the grate.
I like to insert a digital probe meat thermometer such as the “Smoke” by Thermoworks to monitor the temperature while it cooks.
The “Smoke” has dual probes, is wireless between the unit at the smoker and the monitor you carry with you up to about 300 feet, has a backlight and is super easy to setup and use (no pairing involved, it just links up automatically).
I like to place a pan on a lower rack if I can to catch the juices that drip down. If your smoker is configured to allow for this, it's a great idea.
I used apple wood to impart a really wonderful flavor into the pork but you can use almost any smoking wood that you have available.
I recommend keeping the smoke flowing for at least 6 to 8 hours if you are using charcoal, electric or gas smokers.
If your smoker has a water pan, use it.
Let the pork butt smoke out in the open grate for the entire time or you can place it in a pan once it reaches about 160°F covered with foil to help it get done a little faster.
I opted to not cover this one but left it directly on the grate with a pan under it for the entire time.
Here is the pork butt at 160°F:
When it reaches 205°F, it should be fall apart tender and can be removed from the smoker.
Those not familiar with pork butts always wonder why it's so dark. The rub gets darker and darker as it cooks and this is what you usually want when you are making pulled pork.
If you wrap the meat at 160°F it will not end up quite as dark however it can also end up soft on the outside rather than crispy.
Let it sit with foil tented over it for about an hour to cool before attempting to pull/shred the meat.
When you are ready, slide the bone out of the meat.
Separate the meat into pieces removing any pieces of fat as you go.
I generally use my hands only but some folks like to use large forks or special tools for this process such as bear paws.
If you happened to catch some of the juices from the pork butt while it cooked in the smoker, you can remove the fat then pour some of that tasty au jus over the meat and stir it in.
Here's what I do as well to really amp up the flavor of that meat without making it salty:
Add about ½ cup of Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) to the pulled pork and mix that in real good with your hands. Taste it then add more if you want to.
Admire your mad smoking skills for a moment and then call in the troops for dinner!
Serve the pulled pork piled high on a bun as a traditional pulled pork sandwich or use your imagination and let it run wild.
- The pork butt in the pictures above weighed in at 8 lbs and was bone-in.
- There is no shame in finishing a long cook such as this in the home oven. If you are having trouble maintaining the temperature of your smoker, let it stay in the smoker for at least 6 hours if possible then move it to a pan and place it in the oven at 240°F for the remainder of the time. It will still turn out very tender and tasty and you'll be a lot less frustrated 😉
- I get a lot of questions about why you need to cook pork butts to such a high temperature.. lean pork is done and ready to eat at 145°F however, the pork butt as well as the rest of the pork shoulder is a tough hunk of meat that is not very lean and it takes lots of time to make it tender. Tender pulled pork is achieved by allowing it to cook to a very high internal temperature. Because of all the fat embedded in the meat, it handles it very well and will end up tender and juicy.
- To reheat pulled pork, place the meat into a large pot over medium low heat. Add a half stick of butter on the top of the meat and cover. Once the butter melts, stir it in to juice up the meat. If you want to stir in a little more of Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub), that is always a great idea.