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Tasty and Tender Smoked Pulled Pork

tasty tender smoked pulled pork

Smoked pulled pork made from pork butt is a lot easier than most folks realize and although it does take 12 to 14 hours to produce at normal smoking temperatures, it can be done in almost any smoker and made to taste amazing regardless of your skill level. This version uses zesty Italian dressing too really zest it up.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12-14 hours
  • Smoker Temp:240°F (116°C)
  • Meat Finish Temp: 205°F (96°C)
  • Recommended Wood: Apple
What You’ll Need
Step 1: Unwrap and Rinse

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.

2015-IMG_7415

Step 2: Brush Dressing onto Meat

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 about 1 cup of the dressing over the top of the meat.

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Use a basting brush to make sure the meat is coated well with the dressing.

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Step 3: Apply Rub

Sprinkle my Jeff’s original 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.

2015-IMG_7420

It is now ready for the smoker.

Step 4: Smoke

Set up your smoker for indirect heat maintaining about 225°F (107°C)  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 (71°C)  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 (71°C):

2015-IMG_7426

When it reaches 205°F (96°C), 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 (71°C) it will not end up quite as dark however it can also end up soft on the outside rather than crispy.

2015-IMG_7429

Let it sit with foil tented over it for about an hour to cool before attempting to pull/shred the meat.

Step 5: Pull and Remove Fat

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.

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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  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!

Step 6: Serve

Serve the pulled pork piled high on a bun as a traditional pulled pork sandwich or use your imagination and let it run wild. Be sure to have some of my warmed barbecue sauce  on the side for your guests to enjoy!

Enjoy!

Notes:
  • 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 (116°C) 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 (63°C) 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 , that is always a great idea.
Print

Tasty and Tender Smoked Pulled Pork

Smoked pulled pork made from pork butt is a lot easier than most folks realize and although it does take more than 14 hours to produce at normal smoking temperatures, it can be done in almost any smoker and made to taste great regardless of skill level.

  • Author: Jeff Phillips
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 14 hours
  • Total Time: 14 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 10 1x
  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: Hot Smoking

Ingredients

Units Scale

Instructions

  1. Remove the pork butt from the packaging and rinse it under cold water.
  2. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  3. I recommend placing it in a pan during the seasoning process to make cleanup really easy.
  4. 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.
  5. Pour the dressing over the top of the meat.
  6. Use a basting brush to make sure the meat is coated well with the dressing.
  7. Sprinkle my Jeff's original rub onto all sides of the meat making sure you have good coverage.
  8. Be generous to create a nice crispy bark on the outside during the cooking process.
  9. It is now ready for the smoker.
  10. Set up your smoker for indirect heat maintaining about 225°F (107°C) for about 14 hours.
  11. When you are ready, place the pork butt directly on the grate.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. I recommend keeping the smoke flowing for at least 6 to 8 hours if you are using charcoal, electric or gas smokers.
  15. If your smoker has a water pan, use it.
  16. 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 (71°C) covered with foil to help it get done a little faster.
  17. I opted to not cover this one but left it directly on the grate with a pan under it for the entire time.
  18. When it reaches 205°F (96°C), it should be fall apart tender and can be removed from the smoker.
  19. 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.
  20. If you wrap the meat at 160°F (71°C) it will not end up quite as dark however it will also be soft on the outside rather than crispy.
  21. Let it sit with foil tented over it for about an hour to cool before attempting to pull/shred the meat.
  22. When you are ready, slide the bone out of the meat.
  23. Separate the meat into pieces removing any pieces of fat as you go.
  24. I generally use my hands only but some folks like to use large forks or special tools for this process such as bear paws.
  25. You can serve the pulled pork piled high on a bun as a traditional pulled pork sandwich or use your imagination and let it run wild.

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42 Comments

  1. Hello Jeff I useYour Rubs on my Ribbs And I want To cook aBrisket and Pull Pork ,But It came out Salt tee Ilove your Sauce.Am I putting Too much?

    1. Are you using the original rub or the Texas style rub.. both are low in salt but the original rub is the lowest.

      Considering my rubs don’t have a lot of salt, you’d have to put quite a bit for it to get to that point of being too salty. Of course, everyone’s salt tolerance is different.

      I recommend reducing the amount you are using and see if that helps to dial it in to what you like.

  2. Love using Jeff’s recipes aint always turn out good but smoking a pork butt is goof proof pretty much just have to maintain your temperature on your smoker and it turns out great the best part about that is grab ahold of bone and just pulled out it comes out clean

  3. Hi, the recipe calls for Jeff’s barbecue sauce, but I don’t see when you should add it?

    1. I serve warmed barbecue sauce on the side for those who like to dip or put it on their pulled pork sandwich.. I should have mentioned this in the recipe. We’ll get the recipe edited to include this.

  4. Jeff, I have a brand new 6 rack digital Bradley smoker.
    Today was my 2 nd use. I put a 4.4 lb pork butt in @ 9:30 this morning @ 230. It’s now 8:05 pm and it’s only up to 147 both ny a wireless thermometer and thermopen. I see multiple recipes that say it will take 4 hrs and others say 10 hrs.
    I’m confused and dissapointed.
    I’m going to pull it off and put in the oven @ 350.
    Any ideas what the problem might be ?

    Thanks

    1. Marvin,

      Pork butts are sort of like brisket, it’s not done until it’s done and every one is different. There’s a lot of connective tissue, muscle, fat, etc. that the heat has to cut it’s way through in order to cook the center and bring it up to 207 °F. Sounds like yours is a half butt but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will only take half of the time of a full one. A full butt usually takes 14 hours at 225-240 °F in your smoker.

      Pork butts handle higher heat just as well so finishing in your oven is not a bad thing to do if you need to hurry up the process.

  5. I like to cut my 8-9 pound butts, bone in, into two pieces with a clean hacksaw. They cook a little faster and have lots more room for bark. It is the bark I’m after. Works well. I don’t foil during the stall.

    I left the site on my last comment and suspect it did not get posted. If it did, I apologize for the duplication.

  6. I’m smoking 4 12lb pork shoulder , no bone in my water weber smoker. How much charcoal should I buy and will it still be 14 or so hours or much longer?

  7. Jeff, How long your sauce keep in the fridge? I know, probably doesn’t last long because it is so good. Just wanted to know shelf life in fridge.
    Thanks,
    David Lewis

  8. This morning I started smoking 20lbs of pork for 36 inner-city kids. I used your rub cutting back on salt and spice (its for kids). Smoked it for 5 hours and finished it in 3 crock pots for control (used and American Test Kitchen recipe to finish it). I have a Brinkman electric smoker which I modified a bit (probably time to upgrade). Turned our great. Will serve it with your fantastic BBQ sauce.

  9. Made this recipe this last weekend and every one really enjoyed it. I finished the pork in the oven. I noticed that it was totally stalled at 199 degrees. After being there for 20 minutes I finally took it out to rest and the results were very good. Here in Colorado Springs, 199 degrees is the boiling temperature for water. Would I had an issue if I waited for it to reach 205? Would it have dried out?

    1. Hi Lee, I live in Littleton about 60 miles north of you. I have gotten pork butts up to about 203 F in maybe 14 hours. I think 199 would be fine took. I have had the same question and not received good answers. It seems to take quite a bit longer to BBQ here than it did in Houston, but I did not have near the experience there.

      Good Luck

  10. Meant to finish the comment—going to take a whole “stick” of Bologna, marinate it overnight, then smoke it for a few hours—then cut slices and grill a few minutes on each side for “fried boloney”—got that from one of Andrew Zimmer’s shows about places he goes and experiences their great foods.

  11. Since I now live mostly full time in Central Florida—in one of the largest 55+ Adult Communities—I first bought one of those propane box smokers from one of the big box home improvement centers—but I could never really get the sort of results that I like for my meat. Back “up north” in Ohio, we have a family lake house and in my yard there–I have one of those Texas barrel smoker that you use charcoal and or wood to do the smoking and heat. I got pretty good with it–but it is a lot of work and where I live now—no way I could have one. A few months ago, I picked up a close out Green Mountain Grill Electric Pellet Smoker/Grill at a local hardware store–the one without the new smartphone app. I am glad I got this one–since the smoker has the electronic controller unit–that is eazy-peazy turn on, let it go through start up, then set the cooking temp and meat probe then go–didn’t really need that app. I have now run enough meat through it now, that I have come up with a process that works for me with some kick butt results–loved by everyone who has tasted my meats including pulled pork, beef brisket, beef and pork ribs, chicken and fish. I use your recipe for doing most of that, making my own rubs and sauces. I am going to use your suggestion of using mustard on the Boston Butt—made ribs using your recipe calling for basting with mustard–man-those were great. I know it will be good on Boston Butt and Brisket too. I have modified my cooking time and temp though–because cooking at the temps you say—even over the long time—I don’t quite get enough good bark to form–so I upped the temp to around 300 and reduce the cooking time–I can make wonderfully barky, tasty and moist pulled pork or beef that way. Since they don’t provide a water pan for this unit–even when I load it up-I use a “tin can” filled with water. I have one more thing I am gonna try–got this from one of Andrew Zimmer’s shows—for

  12. Jeff, when I do my pork butts, I usually do them for about 5 hours on the smoker, then in the oven for about 5-7 hours more at 225 degrees. After I shred the pork, I take your rub and sprinkle that in with the meat and work it in with my hands. Then I pour some of the fat drippings in with it so it is moist. Best pulled pork ever.

  13. Jeff, When you smoke a pork butt do you smoke one with bone in or no bone.

    PS- I think your rub is the best.

    Merry Christmas

    Thanks clete

  14. Jeff,

    I tried the process to a tee and it came out extremely dry. I had a water pan the entire time and took it out at 200, let it rest for 45 minutes and was still dry.

    1. Try to catch as much of the drippings that you can. After you shred the pork, pour some of the drippings back into the pork, and sprinkle some of Jeff’s rub in with it also. Great flavor and real moist.

    2. I have smoked several of these so far. The thing with recipes is you can change them to your liking. What I did to change is I place the pork in the pan from the biging. This allows me to catch all the juices. When it comes time to shred I drain all the juice with a turkeybaster and I put it in a tall cylinder and let it stand while I shred and clean the meat. When the meat is ready I use the turkeybaster to remove the oil on top and pour the juice that is left into the meat.

  15. I am planning on using this but on a venison roast. Any precautions since venison is more of a lean meat? Still a 200 degree internal temperature?

  16. Jeff,

    Do you recommend injecting the pork butt at all? if so what do you recommend? I am concerned that the meat will dry after cooking for so long?

  17. Hey Jeff, love your book and news letter…that said I have 2 butts in electric smoker I’m at 10 hrs. they are [email protected] 5lbs. stuck at 164 for the last 2 hrs. Really would like to finish them without foil. is this normal I usually use the foil wrap….also that slaw dressing is awesome. 1 more question do you recommend spritzing the butts and if so what to use

  18. A rookie question: I’m about to do my first 10-lb pork butt. Given the long smoking time can I do half the time one day and half the next? I realize the total time might end up being a little longer, but it will keep me from having to get up at 4:00 am.

    1. In a word, NO.

      The goal is to reach an internal temperature of around 200 degrees and that can’t be done in less time and all progress is lost if you take it out at the half-way point and start over the next day. In fact, taking out half-way and trying to refrigerate it may result in the meat remaining in the “danger zone” temperature-wise too long to be safe to eat!

      I’ve been smoking pork buts in the 8-10 lb range for years and rarely have to go beyond 12 hours… I usually plan to eat ribs on the day of smoke (6 hours or so) and pull the pork for later. When doing so, I will leave the butt on while we eat and then take it off and place in a 300 degree oven until the temp gets where I want it. Let it rest an hour and then PULL IT BEFORE IT COOLS ANY FURTHER. If you don’t pull it while it’s hot, it will be a bear to pull!

  19. It says surges 10-12. But how many lbs should the butt be? Won’t that effect time cooked? What size did you use in this recipe?

  20. Only thing I do any different is I will inject apple juice into the butt. Also I don’t rub mustard or dressing but just put the rub on, seems to work okay. Nothing wrong with mustard or dressing though.

  21. Only thing I do any different is I will inject apple juice into the butt. Also I don’t rub mustard or dressing but just put the rub on, seem sto work okay. Nothing wrong with mustard or dressing though.

  22. Interesting tip about the mustard/dressing before applying the rub, I’ve been doing pulled pork for about 12 years and I’ve never tried that. I usually just apply the rub and I’ve never had any issue with getting it to stick, but I’ll have to try it the next time. One odd thing about butts is that they tend to “stall” during the cooking process, which no one seems able to explain… they may sit a couple of hours with little temp increase and then suddenly resume the normal climb.

    For those attempting this for the first time, please don’t make the rookie mistake after a long cook of deciding to put the finished butt in the fridge and deal with the pulling the next day, it needs to be pulled while still hot or it will be much harder to do! Get it hot, let it rest, wear a good pair of frying gloves a pull away, you will be amazed how easy it will come apart! Don’t forget to sample while you pull, the flavor is AMAZING! :)

  23. Jeff, what is the weight of the pork butt that you used for this?
    I struggle with length of time in smoker by weight.
    Thanks,
    Betty

    1. This one was around 8 lbs I think but the weight of pork butts usually stay between 6-9 lbs.

      I know that everyone says 1.5 hours per pound for brisket, pork butt, etc. but in my experience, thickness is a more important factor than weigh where total cook time is concerned.

      With pork butts, I always figure on 14 hours of total cook time at 240 °F and then I give myself a 3-4 hour padding in case it takes longer. If it gets done in 14 hours or so, you just wrap it in foil and hold it in a warm oven or in an empty ice chest for 3-4 hours or until you are ready to let it cool down for pulling.