How Long To Smoke A Pork Butt?


How Long To Smoke A Pork Butt?

Pork Butt is the cut of meat used in the preparation of pulled pork. As with any BBQ process, it can be done in many different ways, but the most common and easiest way is to cook it in a smoker and let the temperature and time do their thing.

Smoking a pork butt can be a fairly simple process or it can be a fairly complicated one. It all depends on what you like and how much time you have. This article is meant to be a guide for those who are new to smoking meats as well as those who already enjoy doing it and want to expand their knowledge and learn something new. Please remember that there is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” way to smoke meat, just the one that suits your taste and/or needs.

How Long To Smoke A Pork Butt

What is a pork butt?

The Pork Butt is the cut of meat that comes from the upper portion of a hog’s shoulder. This particular cut is very common because it has a good amount of marbling within the meat, which provides exceptional flavor and tenderness when cooked properly. The fat content in this area also helps to keep the muscle tissue moist as it cooks by basting it from within.

Pork Butt can also be called Boston butt or shoulder butt.

What types of smokers can I use to smoke a Pork Butt?

There are many different types of smokers on the market today, so picking one out for yourself can be quite a challenge. When it comes to smoking meats, there are four main common types of heat sources: electricity, propane, charcoal, and pellet.

Electric smokers are easy to use; simply plug them in and walk away until it’s done! Not only that, but they require virtually no maintenance (besides hosing out the water pan once every couple of smokes). The downfall with electric smokers is that their temperature range goes as low as 100°F (38°C) which is not ideal for long cooks like Pork Butt where you’ll be smoking at around 225°F (107°C). They also don’t produce any smoke flavor to speak of…a fact that I’m sure some will argue against.

Propane smokers are even easier than electric because all you need to do is turn a knob or two and go about your business. If you’ve ever gone camping and cooked a meal over a fire, then propane is going to be second nature. The temperature range is about the same as electric smokers but the heat source itself produces a great deal of smoke flavor. This will give you loads of options when it comes to how you want your finished meat to taste!

The biggest drawback with propane smokers is that they can be quite expensive for beginners or those on a budget. If you’re willing to shell out some extra cash though, this might just be the kind of smoker that you’re looking for…just remember, “you get what you pay for.”

Charcoal smokers are by far my favorite type of smoking unit because they work so well maintaining even temperatures throughout the cook. They are not as simple to operate as electric or propane smokers but that also means that they will be more economical in the long run. They require constant attention during the cook because you will need to replenish your charcoal supply at least once every couple of hours but it is well worth it if you’re looking for a nicely smoked piece of meat.

The main advantage of charcoal smokers is that they create fantastic smoke flavor! This, combined with the even heat distribution throughout the smoker means that no matter what type of wood you choose, your Pork Butt will come out delicious!

Pellet smokers are an up-and-coming trend in smoking meats because pellets are available everywhere these days. The best pellet smokers on the market today have a built-in computer chip that will regulate your cooking temperature automatically and a hopper on the side to hold all of your wood pellets. This is definitely a great thing for beginners to start with because you won’t have to think about anything except how much wood to add when the smoke starts dying down!

The big disadvantage with pellet smokers is that they can be quite expensive for those just starting out. They also do not produce near as much flavor as charcoal or propane smokers, but if you’re looking for an easy way to get into smoking meats then this might just be what you’ve been waiting for!

How long to smoke a pork butt?

It’s difficult to give an exact time when smoking with different types of smokers because it all depends on how much charcoal, wood, or pellets you use and what type of smoker that you’re using. Plus, there are so many variables in BBQing meat (weather conditions, the temperature outside, etc.) but here’s a general idea!

  • 4- 5 lbs – 8 hours or more 
  • 8 – 12 lbs – 10-12 hours 
  • 12 lbs and up – 12-14 hours or more

Electric smokers have a maximum temperature of about 225°F (107°C) which is good for smoking meats for around 4-8 hours depending on how much you’re trying to smoke. In my opinion, this isn’t long enough to get the full smoky flavor that I look for in my Pork Butts so I don’t recommend electric smokers.

Propane smokers are great because they have a relatively large range that will allow you to go anywhere from 100°F (38°C) up to 275°F (135°C). You can definitely use these types of smokers for some quick grilling but anything over 225°F (107°C) and you’re going to be able to hold some fantastic low and slow cooks for around 6-10 hours.

Charcoal smokers, on the other hand, have a more narrow temperature range of anywhere from about 150°F (66°C) up to 325°F (163°C). This range is great for smoking Pork Butt because you can smoke at low temperatures for about 5-12 hours or as high as 250°F (121°C) which will shorten the smoking time! This makes charcoal smokers one of the best options available when it comes to what kind of smoker you want to use.

Pellet smokers are also a fantastic option because they generate an incredible amount of smoke flavor and maintain a relatively steady temperature throughout the cook.

Remember, it depends on the size of your Pork Butt and what kind of smoker that you’re using! So make sure you keep an eye on your Pork Butt at all times during the cook.

What to look for when shopping for a Pork Butt?

When purchasing a Pork Butt there are several important things that you should look for to ensure that it is a high-quality purchase.

First and foremost, you should look for any signs of separation within the meat. It is not very noticeable and can almost appear as a shadow, but it will be a darker color than the surrounding meat and feel different to the touch (rough).

If you find that you cannot see any separation then give it a gentle squeeze around the middle. Pork Butt comes in two different cuts; bone-in and boneless, either way, there should be little to no give when pressed with your fingers. You want to make sure that whatever cut you purchase has been well trimmed (no more than 1/4″ of fat) because excess fat can make cooking at low temps difficult and smoking for extended periods of time hazardous due to potential flare-ups.

Pork Butt also comes in two different grades; primal and sub-primal. Primal is the higher-quality cut of meat, so you will see this more often than sub-primal at your local butcher warehouse.

Primal cuts are used to make bacon, picnic hams, pork loins, baby back ribs, etc., whereas sub-primal are used to make spare ribs, ground pork, sausage meat, etc. Be sure that if you do purchase a primal cut that it has been well trimmed before leaving the shop because they usually have the skin on them which can be difficult to digest for some people.

A Pork Butt weighing anywhere from 5lbs – 10lbs is ideal for first-time smokers as it will feed roughly 8-10 people.

Charcoal or Pellet, which one is better for smoking a pork butt?

Both charcoal smokers and pellet smokers are fantastic ways to smoke a Pork Butt!

A charcoal smoker has a much more narrow temperature range compared to a pellet smoker which gives you greater control over how it is cooked, whereas a pellet smoker is usually very consistent making it great for beginners.

Because of the easy setup on most people’s parts, I believe that Pellet smokers have become more popular in recent years even though there have been charcoal smokers for hundreds of years. When using a charcoal smoker you will have to maintain your own fire during the entire cook, but with a pellet smoker, many of them will regulate their own heat source giving the user one less thing to worry about while smoking their Pork Butt.

How many types of charcoals are used when smoking a Pork Butt?

There are countless types of charcoal that can be used for smoking a Pork Butt, but here is the breakdown of the most popular.

Briquettes: Briquettes are made from different materials such as wood or coal and then mixed with binders like clay or other fillers, which is why you will see all those “pieces” within your briquette. The price of one brand over another usually comes down to the quality and type of filler put into the mix and not necessarily because it burns hotter or less hot so to speak. You should also know that there is no standard size for a briquette so they come in all sizes (small/large) and brands (Kingsford/Smokey Mountain, etc.).

Lump Charcoal: Lump charcoal is purely made up of 100% burned-down wood. There are no binders or fillers to make each piece uniform in size/shape as you see with briquettes. Lump charcoal can produce a higher temperature than briquettes, however, lump tends to burn quickly and not be as consistent throughout the entire cook due to varying densities within the pieces themselves. I recommend using lump coals for searing meats but nothing more than that!

How Long To Smoke A Pork Butt

What types of pellets are used when smoking a Pork Butt?

There are several types of pellets but it really boils down to what you want the flavor profile to be for your finished Pork Butt.

Hardwood Pellets: Hardwood pellets come from trees such as Maple, Oak, Hickory, and Pecan just to name a few. These flavors can add a smoky sweetness that compliments pork very nicely. If you have ever had BBQ brisket then most likely you have tasted hardwood.

Softwood Pellets: Softwoods come from trees such as Spruce, Fir, Pine, Redwood just to name a few. These flavors add more of an herbal essence (think Rosemary or Lavender). I like using softwood on my Pork Butts because it is not as strong as a hardwood. It’s almost like you are adding a pinch of the herb to your Pork Butt instead of soaking your meat in it.

Mesquite Pellets: Not everyone likes Mesquite but I’m sure most people have tried it at some point. Lately, there has been a lot of literature that describes Mesquite as being one of the most carcinogenic trees known to man due to the naturally occurring chemical compound called Benzopyrene which can cause cancer if smoked for an extended period of time. I will tell you this right now, don’t use mesquite pellets on or near any food! The bark on these trees must be completely burned off before being put into pellets so there is no bark left in your food when it’s done. Finding 100% Mesquite pellets like the ones made by Royal Oak is near impossible, but if you can get them then I would recommend using them for searing only, nothing more!

How to season a pork butt for smoking?

Seasoning your Pork Butts is extremely important because the fat will only protect the meat while it’s cooking if you season it properly. If you just pile on salt and pepper before smoking then the meat will not get a chance to absorb all of that flavor creating an unseasoned, dry piece of meat at the end of your cook.

Brines: Brining your Pork Butt is the best way to season it for smoking. I recommend a solution of 2 gallons of water and 1 cup of salt for a 4-5lb Pork Butt. This allows you to really soak the meat with flavor so when the cook is over, every bite explodes with amazing flavor!

Marinades: Marinading your Pork Butt can be done but I do not recommend doing so because it does little more than add moisture to the surface of the meat. Just like a brine, marinades will only penetrate into the first 1/4″ or so of each piece giving you just surface flavors instead of deep down grilled goodness. The other reason that this method does not work well for Pork Butts is that the marinade will cause a stall in your cook thus creating a “bump” in the temperature of your smoker. It’s not a big bump but it can cause problems, trust me!

Rubs: The best rub to use on Pork Butts is one made up of brown sugar and spices such as chili powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, etc… Unlike other meats such as beef brisket, I do not recommend using any salt when cooking Pork Butt because there is enough naturally-occurring salt in the meat for this recipe. When you add more salt than what’s naturally available then you run the risk of drying out your finished product because salt removes moisture from food while it cooks.

What injections are good for a Pork Butt?

There are many injectable marinades that you can purchase or make at home, but I will give a rundown of the most popular.

Apple Juice: Apple juice is a great injection to use on Pork Butt and I personally love it. It has that sweet flavor that most people associate with traditional BBQ, and it’s also acidic meat so you will need some kind of acid to round out the flavor profile.

Water: Water is another popular injection because it doesn’t add extra weight or volume to your pork butt so you can inject more than if using apple juice for example. The downside is due to its lack of flavor many folks use water as an everyday household drink for injections so they might be missing the point of injecting in the first place!

Cider Vinegar: Cider vinegar adds a nice tangy flavor which will replicate a vinegar-based mop but is a lot more concentrated and easily absorbed within the meat.

Soy Sauce: Soy sauce is also very popular because it adds a nice salty flavor that compliments pork well.

I personally don’t care for injecting meats at all, but if you must inject then just be sure to inject from different angles so your flavors can spread throughout the entire piece of meat. Also, I would not recommend injecting more than an hour before putting your Pork Butt in the cooker as this will draw out some of the moisture and reduce overall weights.

How to smoke a pork butt?

Smoking a Pork Butt is a very straightforward process and can be considered a low-maintenance cook. I know some folks use a mop to baste the meat while it’s cooking but this is not necessary at all! A Pork Butt will take a few hours to reach its desired internal temperature depending upon the size of the butt and how many times you open your smoker.

Let’s get started!

1) Preparing your pork butts for smoking: After thawing out your Pork Butts, go ahead and pat them dry with paper towels then apply your favorite rubs or injections evenly over the entire piece of meat.

2) Loading the cooker: Once the smoker is preheated and you have a clean, empty water pan in place you can load your Pork Butts on the smoker grate. At this point, the temperature of your cooker should be between 250-275°F and you will want to leave it that way for the duration of the cook. My advice is to get a meat thermometer with a probe that has an alarm because once the alarm sounds then that’s when you check on your meat from here on out.

3) Maintaining your smoker: You will need to add new chunks of hardwood every couple of hours to keep the smoke going but do not open up your cooker during a cook unless there is some kind of emergency going on. The best thing about this method is its simplicity! If you are using a charcoal, electric, or gas smoker then you should be able to maintain 200-250°F

4) Preparing the meat for pulling: Once your Pork Butt is finished cooking you can let it rest on the countertop for about 30 minutes before attempting to pull out the bone. The reason I recommend resting is that when you start pulling everything will come apart really easy but in order to get uniformed pulled pork pieces, you need to do so while everything is still hot and held together firmly with juices. If you are planning on serving your BBQ immediately then this step isn’t necessary. Go ahead and cut around the bone until it comes loose from either end of the meat, once again being careful not to burn yourself. Once that is done use some tongs to pull out the bone.

5) Pulling/shredding the meat: Now that the pork butt is ready for pulling you can grab two forks and start tearing apart the larger chunks of pork by holding it down firmly with your hand or carving glove if you have one, using a pair of tongs to steady the roast as you proceed with shredding by pushing it down away from yourself. If there is any excess fat on top of your pulled pork then just scrape that off into the trashcan, now continue shredding until all of your meat has been shredded into uniform size pieces. There are folks who prefer chunkier pulled pork but I implore you to try this because it will be tender, juicy, and full of flavor. The reason you need to be careful not to burn yourself is that these are extremely hot pieces of pork which means they will transfer heat very quickly so wear gloves if necessary.

6) Finishing the meat: Now that your Pork Butt has been shredded it’s time for seasoning, but first be sure to pour out all of those juices at the bottom of your cooker into a cup or bowl then set them aside for later. Once this is done go ahead, add some sauce (if you wish), mix well with your hands then let it cook on the smoker grate for about 15 minutes or until everything is nice and warm throughout. If you want even more color on your pulled pork simply apply another layer of BBQ Sauce once you are done cooking it on the smoker grate, that’s alright too. The only thing left to do now is serve up your pulled pork, enjoy!

7) Cleaning up: Be sure to always clean out your ashtray before running meat through again because meat has a tendency of getting stuck in there pretty quickly which can affect future cooks. If necessary be sure to scrape down the inside of the water pan then replace it into your cooker after cleaning with hot soapy water then rinse well with cold water. You will most likely have to scrub out any excess char from the inside of your smoker because this will affect the flavor of whatever it is you plan on cooking next. If after replacing your water pan and cleaning the ashtray the interior of your smoker still has a distinct pork flavor to it then go ahead and wash down all surfaces with hot soapy water but be careful not to get any moisture into the electrical components, only leave nozzles and heat tents dry. Once everything is clean and dry simply replace everything back into its proper place for storage until your next cook.

Remember at all times while you are smoking your Pork Butts to not open the lid of your smoker unless it’s for emergencies or adding more wood chunks or charcoal

What sides do you recommend pairing with pulled pork?

I routinely serve up pulled pork with a variety of side dishes, but the one I recommend most is baked beans because this pairs really well with anything sweet and it’s easy to make. Another good choice is scalloped potatoes which are as simple as baking sliced or shredded spuds in cream then browning them under a broiler at the end.

For even more variety give my recipe for bourbon brown sugar-glazed carrots a try, they make an excellent side dish.

How do you keep the pulled pork warm while serving?

I recommend investing in one of those small electric or propane table-top grills because this will help solve your problem of keeping things hot while serving guests. Another good alternative would be to purchase a food carrier which is basically like a thin plastic storage container made specifically to fit entire pans and plates (roughly about 13″x19″) and can either be transported with ease or kept stationary at all times. If you need to transport the pulled pork then simply transfer it into another suitable container then cover it up before bringing it along with you wherever you plan ongoing.

What are some mistakes when smoking a pork butt?

When cooking Pork Butt people can easily fall into the common mistake of over-thinking things, one example would be to try and wrap your meat in foil along with liquid during the last few hours of cooking because this method will only serve to steam your meat which is counterproductive since you are trying to build flavor.

Another mistake that I’ve seen is for people to weigh their meat before placing it on the smoker grate because this could give you a false tare weight meaning that after removing it from the grill if there’s too much weight loss then you might not actually have cooked enough meat. 

And lastly, avoid opening the lid every 30 minutes like clockwork like everyone else does just turn down your heat (if) but don’t open up that lid because this will cause you to lose a lot of heat and can prolong cooking times considerably.



What are the benefits of smoking a pork butt?

There are several benefits of smoking pork butt which includes, but is not limited to the following:

  1. The meat is very succulent and juicy because it gets marinated in flavor-packed pork juices.
  2.  Meat will be fall-apart tender because of the breakdown of collagen within the connective tissues.
  3.  You can use the resulting smoky pork to make your own barbecue sauce since all you need to do is simply mix together ketchup, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, molasses, and Worcestershire Sauce then simmer for 30 minutes before brushing onto any type of pork butt during its last hour or so of cooking time.

How much money should I budget for smoking a pork butt?

The average price range would be anywhere from $10-15 per pound which means that after cooking and removing bones then you could end up with around 6-8 servings.

What’s the most challenging part of smoking a pork butt?

The most challenging aspect of cooking Pork Butt is simply trying to keep things consistent and holding temperatures for hours on end without any problems. This can be especially difficult if you don’t already own a good digital thermometer, but I would recommend buying one because this will allow you to monitor everything more closely and make corrections as needed instead of just poking around with your hand.

How much Pork Butt should I buy for my guests?

Plan 1/2 LB per person, which depending on how many are coming over will determine whether or not you need more meat. For example, if you are having 12 people over then go ahead and cook 1 & 1/2 LBS. which is roughly one full Boston Butt cut into three pieces before wrapping them individually with foil.

What tools do you need to smoke a pork butt?

To smoke a Pork Butt you will need a good bit of equipment, almost everything that you see in the cooking chamber of my smoker is going to be necessary. On top of your smoker, you’ll need a grill grate which is where the meat rests, a water pan to help reduce temperatures and add moisture to the cooking environment, a heat source or controller such as an electric hot plate or propane burner for indirect heat, thermometers including one from the grill grate so you know exactly how many inches from the surface your meat is resting at, mop or basting brush for applying mop sauce along with tongs for rotating the meat if needed. In addition, I would also recommend having plenty of aluminum foil on just in case something unexpected happens.

What are some common mop sauces?

Some common mop sauce flavors include apple cider vinegar, hot water, Louisiana Gold Hot Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, honey-mango habanero sauce, ketchup mixed with brown sugar or molasses. There are literally hundreds of different types of mop sauces that you can use on Pork Butt while it cooks.

How do I know when my pork butt is done?

As far as using a digital thermometer goes then you’re looking for an internal temperature of 195 degrees Fahrenheit which usually takes around 10-11 hours.

How do I know if it’s overcooked?

If you think that your pork butt has been cooking for too long then the best thing to do is check the internal temperature and make sure that it hasn’t reached 205 degrees Fahrenheit which indicates well-done meat as opposed to moist and tender barbecue. The only way to really tell how much doneness has occurred is through testing with a thermometer or cutting into it and checking out its internal coloration.

Is smoking a Pork Butt healthy?

Smoking meats can actually be very healthy since you’re essentially baking everything instead of frying them in grease as most restaurants do, but if you’re still worried about eating pork then just remove all visible fat before cooking and make sure not to baste with sauce during the final stages of cooking.

Is there a way to avoid dry pork?

Yes, by following proper guidelines for smoking your Pork Butt then you should end up with very succulent thick-cut meat that is both cooked through as well as moist and tender on the inside. However, if you’re worried about potentially ending up with dry pork then try adding plump (thawed) frozen pearl onions into your mop sauce before basting it onto the surface of the meat while it cooks. The sugars in most fruit juice or wines can also help prevent overcooking which would result in dried-out barbecue so feel free to experiment with different marinades and sauces if necessary prior to cooking.

Do you smoke pork fat side up or down?

When smoking a Pork Butt then it’s recommended to lay the fat side up towards the top of your grill grate. This way, the melted fatty goodness will baste and flavor each individual slice as you cut it apart.

How can you tell if a smoked pork butt is bad?

If you’re wondering whether or not your pork butt has gone bad then the first thing to do is check for any noticeable changes in coloration although fresh barbecue should look slightly brownish while raw meat looks pink. Next, smell the surface of the meat and if it smells bad then this means that bacteria have already set up camp inside so it’s best to discard it as soon as possible.

Can a smoked pork butt be reheated?

Yes, Pork Butt can definitely be reheated after cooking provided that all leftovers were stored properly within a refrigerator prior to being placed into your freezer. To reheat, simply preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit before placing the leftovers on a wire rack above an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and cooking it for around 30 minutes. Then, you can enjoy a freshly-cooked meal from the comfort of your own home!

How long do you let a pork butt rest after smoking?

As with all meats, the internal temperature will continue to climb after you remove it from heat so it’s very important that you let your pork butt rest for around 15 minutes before slicing into it. This is because if you slice into it too soon then all of the moisture will end up on your cutting board instead of on your plate!

Why is my smoked pork tough?

Pork Butt can become tough if it is cooked for too long or at too high of a temperature so make sure to keep an eye on its internal temperature during the cooking process.

How should you store smoked pork butt?

To store your smoked Pork Butt, simply place it into a Ziploc baggie before placing it inside either your refrigerator or freezer. This should keep the pork fresh for around 2-3 days if stored properly.

How long can a smoked pork butt last in the fridge?

A smoked Pork Butt should be stored within either your refrigerator or freezer so that it doesn’t go bad. If stored properly within the freezer then you can expect it to still be good for around 3-4 months, but if instead you only store it with your refrigerator then it will only last for up to 2 weeks.

How long is pork smoked butt good for after cooking?

As mentioned above, all leftovers should be placed into an airtight container and stored within either your refrigerator or freezer. This way, they will keep fresh for anywhere from 1-2 days.



Smoking a Pork Butt is a very simple process and if done correctly then your friends, family members, and future dinner guests will for sure for more. So next time you’re planning on throwing a party or simply want to treat yourself and those you love to some tasty barbecue then be sure to remember these tips.


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