How To Smoke A Pork Butt

How To Smoke A Pork Butt?

When you want to make pulled pork there is one main ingredient, the pork butt. The pork butt comes from the upper part of the pig’s shoulder. This cut has a lot of connective tissue that breaks down into gelatin when it’s cooked low and slow. The fat content in this cut of meat makes it suitable for smoking because it can handle long cooking times without drying out. Learn How To Smoke A Pork Butt like a pro with this easy-to-follow guide!

Smoking a pork butt is not difficult but it does take time, patience, and practice. In this article, we will take you through the smoking pork butt process step by step, giving you plenty of tips along the way. Ready? Great!

How To Smoke A Pork Butt

What is a pork butt?

Pork butt (US) or pork shoulder (UK) is the upper part of a pig’s shoulder and contains lots of connective tissue. This is an ideal cut for smoking because after many hours of cooking, it gelatinizes and makes it fantastic for pulled pork.

The fat content in this cut also helps to keep the meat moist during cooking and it generally does not dry out like other cuts of meat such as chicken breasts do. Bone-in versions have more flavor but boneless will work just fine too. It’s medium-low in fat, high in protein, and has a wonderful smokey taste that you’re going to love. Pork butts come in many sizes and can weigh from 3lbs to 8lbs or more.

Nutrition Value of Pork Butt

Pork is good for us and has many health benefits. It’s an excellent source of B vitamins, a great source of protein, and with a minimal amount of fat, most of which is unsaturated. For most people, it’s a nutritious addition to their diet but moderation is key – don’t start smoking pork butt every weekend if you’re going to eat it all the time!

Smoked Pork Butt Nutrition Facts (per 100g) 

Energy: 193 kcal 

Protein: 26.2 g 

Total Fat: 9.8 g 

Saturated Fat: 3.3 g 

Cholesterol: 68 mg 

Carbohydrate 0 g 

Sugars 0 g 

Dietary Fiber 0 g 

Alcohol 0 g

Benefits of smoking pork butt.

People who are smoking pork don’t really care about its health benefits, no sorry… they want to know why is it so great to smoke a pig shoulder. Well, there are many reasons but here are some of the main ones:

It produces tender meat – After many hours in the smoker, the connective tissue will break down and make the meat very tender and easy to pull apart. You can easily shred this stuff with a fork.

Flavorsome fats – Pork has some wonderful tasting fats which melt away during cooking and add flavor to your meal. If you’re on a strict diet you may want to remove some of this fat before serving though…

Low-dose of cholesterol – Pork is low in cholesterol compared with other meats and is recommended by many health professionals as part of a balanced diet.

In addition, there are also some special techniques that you can use during smoking to make your pulled pork even better. For example: injecting the meat with a flavorful marinade, wrapping in foil, or cooking in a crock-pot to produce tender meat. This article will show you all of this and more!

What do I need before I start?

You don’t need much equipment to smoke a pork butt but here’s a list of everything you will need:

Rub – A rub is a mix of spices that are added to meat before cooking. There are many different varieties available with each having its own unique flavors. It’s up to you which one you choose but if you’re just starting out I would recommend this tasty Leggs Memphis BBQ Rub recipe.

Wood chips – Pork loves the flavor of smoke so smoke wood chips are needed to produce that delicious smoked pork butt taste. You can smoke the pork butt either using a gas or electric smoker or by using an offset firebox type smoker. Wood chips come in various types including hickory, oak, and mesquite which all have their own unique flavor. The best advice I can give is to try them all and see which ones your family loves the most.

Water – To produce moist smoked pork you have got to use some sort of liquid when it’s in the smoker. Whether it’s beer, apple juice or something else doesn’t really matter because you don’t need much of it, just enough to keep it moist while cooking. I’ll show you how later on in this article.

Smoker – This is where you’re going to cook all that deliciousness! There are various types of smokers available with each having its own benefits but if you’re just starting out then a charcoal type will do just fine for now. If possible choose one that has an offset firebox because these create more heat slowly rather than in one blast resulting in even cooking.

Aluminum Foil – Some people use aluminum foil when smoking a pork shoulder to keep the meat moist. It’s up to you whether you do this or not because it does produce a different taste and makes your pulled pork look different from others but if you don’t have any then that’s fine. After all, no one can judge how great your cooking tastes!

Tray – Oh yeah… what are we going to put all this stuff on? I recommend getting an oven tray that can be used for holding wood chips while cooking. In addition, get yourself some high-sided baking trays because these make things easier when removing something from the smoker and also protect the lower levels of the smoker from losing too much heat. They’re quite cheap so don’t worry about spending a few dollars on these.

Thermometer – Most smokers nowadays come with a thermometer on the lid which takes the guesswork out of knowing when your pulled pork is ready to eat. If you’re using an offset firebox smoker then this may not be accurate and it’s recommended that you get yourself a remote digital thermometer for checking inside the smoker.

Hands – You can cook all day but if you don’t ever use your hands to touch and feel what’s going on inside the smoker, how do you know? Although smoking meat doesn’t require much attention after adding wood chips and water, there are times when things need adjusting so use your hands!

What types of smokers can I use?

Since we’re focusing on how to smoke a pork butt for pulled pork, let’s look at the types of smoker you can use:

Charcoal – These are probably the most common type of smokers and if you ever see one outside someone’s house then it’s usually charcoal. They come in many shapes and sizes with some even resembling an oven because they have multiple trays inside them. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose but I’ve seen plenty that was too small and didn’t cook enough meat at once so be careful when choosing one! 

Gas/Electric – These types of smokers don’t create much heat themselves and rely on the heating element to do all the work. This makes it easier to control when smoking because the heat will only reach the desired temperature when it’s on and we can use a thermostat to set it.

Offset firebox – This is my favorite type of smoker and probably what I use 90% of the time. It’s perfect for cooking large quantities and maintains a consistent temperature throughout so you don’t have to worry about hot/cold spots where some areas are over-cooked while others aren’t cooked enough. If you’re buying one then make sure it has an offset firebox otherwise they won’t be effective at smoking meat! 

Kamado or Egg – Although these don’t produce much smoke themselves they are very good for indirect heat grilling, baking, roasting, braising, etc which makes them great for smoking meat.

How to choose a good pork butt:

You have two options when choosing a pork butt for smoking. You can either get it from the butcher or supermarket or you can buy a whole pig and break it down yourself.

As I’ve only ever used butchers, all my knowledge is based on them so please use your own judgment if you’re buying from somewhere else!

The first thing to check is whether there are any bone fragments in the meat which you should remove before cooking. At the same time, make sure that the cuts of meat are still solid enough because there shouldn’t be much softness in any areas. If possible, lift up the part where the ribs connect to the bottom of the pork butt because this area holds onto most of its fat deposits. If they feel very soft then it’s not a good sign because this area will be full of fat which isn’t great when cutting up the meat for smoking. Before buying, make sure to ask whether you can get your pork butt sliced in half or into sections. If they refuse, go somewhere else!

If you’re buying from the supermarket then things are even easier because they’ll do all this work themselves and you probably won’t need to worry about anything except for where it was cut from on the pig and how much fat is in there. The best ones will have these white lines of hard fat running through them.

How to smoke a pork butt: 

First thing you need to do when smoking is set up your smoker and get it nice and hot. If you’re using a charcoal smoker then we’d recommend getting the coals burning about 30 minutes before you plan to put your meat in and if you’re using a gas or electric one, turn it on and wait until the thermostat reaches the desired temperature (usually around 220 degrees Fahrenheit). Make sure to get yourself some type of digital remote thermometer so that you can keep an eye on how much heat is still inside the smoker at all times because this will prove vital in helping us get perfect pulled pork!

As soon as the smoker has reached the right temperature, take out your pork butt(s) from either plastic wrap or brine and give them a dry rub with whatever spices you want. The meat should be rubbed on every side so that they are fully covered.

If you want to make it look even more impressive, try cooking the pork butts on some raised racks like this one which is great for presentations.

Once your pork butt(s) have had their dry rub applied, put them into the smoker as far away from the heat source as possible (if you’re using an offset firebox then put them in front of the opposite end). Smoke them for four hours at 220 degrees Fahrenheit (or whatever temperature your smoker goes to) without opening it up at all during this time. After 4 hours have passed, take out your pork butts and wrap them in aluminum foil.

Place your pork butts back into the smoker for another 6 hours without opening the lid at all until it’s time to check them again. Every hour after wrapping, you should be checking up on your meat by prodding it with tongs. The more ‘bouncy’ it feels, the better because this means that there is a good amount of moisture inside which will convert into delicious pulled pork!

When your meats are ready, unwrap them and put them back into the smoker for another 30 minutes. This final stage before being done will allow your pork butt to have that nice burnt/smoked crust that we all love.

After this, remove the pork butt from the smoker and place it on a chopping board before covering it in aluminum foil to let it rest for at least 30 minutes. This period of time is vital as the internal temperature will continue to rise which allows all those lovely juices to go back into the meat instead of spilling out when you first cut into it!

What types of wood should you use to smoke your pork butt?

This is something that a lot of beginners get wrong. The only time it’s acceptable to use fruit woods like apple or cherry is when you’re cooking the pork butt at a very low temperature which doesn’t allow for much smoking but if it’s off a smoker that goes up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, then you should always stick with one of these wood types:

Oak – The heavy smoke from oak can make your meats bitter and unpleasant so this is not what we want here! Instead, try using Oak if you plan on giving away your meat because it has a subtle sweet note to it which adds some extra flavor.

Hickory – This type of wood produces strong-tasting foods which pair perfectly with pork. It can be overpowering if used too much of it though, so be careful.

Pecan – Believe it or not, pecan is actually a very subtle wood to use for smoking pork butt which still gives off quite a strong flavor. Just like oak, try using this if you plan on giving away your meat because the taste isn’t as powerful as hickories.

What about charcoal? Which types of charcoal should you use for the best smoked pork butt?

Charcoal is what people usually use to get their smokers going and for good reason! It’s a simple product that gets the job done but we’ll need something that can maintain heat without burning out too quickly. Some types of charcoal that we recommend are:

Briquettes – If you want something that can retain heat for a long time without having to be constantly tended to, then briquettes are your best bet. It’s cheap, widely available, and burns evenly which is why everyone uses it!

Mesquite Charcoal – A fully-burned lump will turn into embers just like any other type and these also produce a very strong flavor so it’s perfect if you plan on using your smoker for other things too such as grilling meat.

Lump Charcoal – The advantage of using this over briquettes is that they burn hotter and cleaner than them which gives much better results in the end. Make sure not to add wood to aid in starting these though otherwise, you’ll get a very strong flavor which will alter the taste of your meat.

What injections should you use?

This is a very important step in the process of making your own pork butt and it all starts with boiling some water before mixing it with your injection ingredients. The most commonly used injections are:

Dry Injection – This method mainly consists of adding salt and pepper but if you want to add any other flavors, then feel free to do so! Just remember that this injection should only be used if you’re planning on just eating the meat by itself.

Sweet & Sour Injection – If you plan on eating your pork butt together with buns or bread then we recommend using a sweeter flavor like cranberry juice which works great when mixed with garlic and honey.

Citrus Juice Injection – again, this one should only be used if it’s for sandwiches so use something like orange juice mixed with other things such as soy sauce.

All-Purpose Injection – The best all-purpose injection consists of melted butter, brown sugar, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, and garlic powder. It’s the only one that doesn’t need to be refrigerated before it’s used so this is perfect if you’re doing things last minute.

Some of these injections will require at least an hour to be ready, so plan accordingly!

Tips for smoking a pork butt

Now that you’ve got everything together, it’s time to get smoking! Here are some of our most useful tips for first-time pork butt makers.

Figure out how much food you’ll need first – Because this is a long process with no breaks in between, it’s best to make sure you have enough food ready at once. This way, all of your meat will be nice and warm by the time you finish smoking it which gives better results than keeping it cold.

Don’t overdo the rubs – Pork butts give off their own flavor so adding too many ingredients can alter the taste of your meat which isn’t good if you want people to compliment its overall flavor instead of just pointing out individual spices.

Get basting! – For this step, we recommend adding your favorite barbecue sauce every 15 minutes after your meat is done smoking. This adds both flavor and color which makes any dish more appealing and it’s also great for making sure you don’t run out of fixings too quickly.

Cover up that butt – When you’re smoking, make sure to cover up your pork butt with aluminum foil to prevent too much moisture from escaping. This is especially useful if you plan on doing things in advance because it will help keep everything fresh for longer periods of time.

Let the smoke do its job – The entire point of smoking is to let all of the flavors get absorbed by your pork butts so this is why we recommend cooking everything at a steady temperature until it’s finally done an hour or two later. There’s no need to rush anything because patience will get you much better results than overcooking everything!

Slice your meat properly – Once you’re finished smoking, take off the top layer of aluminum foil and go ahead with cutting into your pork butt to get the best results. Make sure to slice it just like you would a loaf of bread and don’t forget to cut against the grain as well!

What sides go with smoked pork butt?

As with any kind of meat, you can pair it with anything that sounds good to your taste buds. However, here are some side dishes which go especially well with smoked pork butts.

Potato salad – This is usually the most common choice for this type of meat since it’s sweet and savory at the same time so give it a try next time you want something different!

Baked beans – If you don’t like the idea of mixing sweet flavors then feel free to go with something else such as baked beans which are naturally sweeter than other kinds. You can even make your own baked bean recipe!

Mac & cheese – Gooey cheese on top of creamy pasta will always work great together so this is perfect if you want something filling!

Steamed veggies – If you’d rather eat healthier then feel free to either steam your veggies on the side or just buy some pre-made packages of steamed vegetables. It’s a good way to make sure everyone won’t die from eating too much meat!

Mashed potatoes – Everyone loves creamier versions of mashed potatoes which is why this is one of the most common sides that people go with when cooking meats like smoked pork butts. You can even add extra ingredients to it if you want!

Try out new recipes regularly – Nowadays, there are so many different kinds of dishes available for anyone who loves experimenting with spices and flavors which makes it easy to try new things every time you smoke anything. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for suggestions, we guarantee that they’ll have plenty of ideas up their sleeves!

How to store smoked pork butt?

If you want to store your smoked pork butt, there are some steps you need to follow. First of all, make sure that the meat is already cooked and cooled down before starting this process so it won’t easily rot or go bad.

Then, wrap everything in aluminum foil – Place the pork butts on top of a sheet of aluminum foil and cover them with another layer. Make sure it’s tightly sealed on every side because that way moisture will be prevented from getting out which can cause spoilage.

Put everything in a container – After wrapping your meats properly, put the entire thing into an airtight container to prevent odors from seeping through since this is what usually tends to give away whether or not meat has gone bad.

Store in the freezer – If you’re not planning on using your smoked pork butts anytime soon, then feel free to put them into your freezer for up to six months. Use an airtight container so it won’t get any moisture inside which can cause everything to go bad.

Good smoked pork butt recipes

Pork Butt Sliders – You can’t resist starting off your day with these mouthwatering breakfast sandwiches because it has everything you need: Bread, eggs, bacon, cheese, and even an extra dose of protein from the smoked pork butt. They’re easy enough to make within minutes too!

Hawaiian Pork Butt Kabobs – You can’t go wrong with this light meal because it’s healthy, easy to make, and you’ll get to enjoy different flavors all in one bite!

Smoked Pulled Pork – If there are people in your life that are fans of pork then they’re going to love the addition of bourbon whiskey inside this dish because it gives it a true smoky taste. We guarantee that your loved ones will keep asking for more pork butt recipes from you!

Pork Butt Mac & Cheese – You get to enjoy all of your favorite flavors from mac and cheese but with a hint of smoked taste that’ll leave everyone asking for seconds. It’s good enough to serve on its own so there’s no need to add insides, but you can try if you want to.

Smoked Pork Butt Tacos – These tacos are as authentic as they can be because the pulled pork is marinated using simple ingredients from Mexico so you’ll be able to taste all of those good flavors. It’s perfect for lunch or dinner time plus it works well with most dining areas because you only need one tortilla per person.

Use BBQ sauce – Spicy flavors always work well with smoked pork butts so feel free to go ahead and pour on all of the barbecue sauce you want! If your family isn’t really into spicy food then just tone down the spiciness by adding more sugar.

Mix it with veggies – Some people don’t really care for the taste of meat so feel free to add some cooked vegetables on top! You can even try boiling them beforehand and adding them as a side dish next time you smoke your pork butts – It’s guaranteed that everyone will appreciate this healthier version.

Give it a more exotic twist – Most people love experimenting with new spices and flavors so give pork butts an Asian or Mexican-inspired taste by using traditional recipes from those countries. You’ll be surprised at how tasty they are!


How long does it take to smoke a pork butt?

It’s hard to say because it all depends on how big the pork butt is, the temperature inside your oven, and even its weight. If you’re using a smaller cut of meat then smoking can be done much faster compared to when you have a larger piece.

How do I know when my smoked pork butt is done? 

You need to check if it has passed the “fork test”. Once there are no more pink spots left in the meat, all you need to do is put a fork inside and see if it easily breaks apart without feeling mushy or sticking against your fork.

Where should I buy my pork butts? 

Farmers’ markets are always good options because they usually sell half primal cuts which give them equal parts of leaner areas like loin and fattier parts like shoulder.

What makes pork butts the best meat for smoking? 

It’s all about its fat content. Pork butts are known to be fattier than other types of meat which is good news for smokers because it guarantees tenderness once it has been cooked while giving your meat a nice flavor at the same time.

How long does smoked pork butt last in the fridge or freezer?

If you were able to prepare everything properly, then it can last between 3-4 days inside the refrigerator while 6 months if kept inside the freezer. Remember that wrapping them up tightly prevents moisture from getting out so it stays fresh longer!

Can I get sick from undercooked pork butts?

Pork is one of the most common meats that can cause outbreaks of parasites and undercooked meat. It’s very easy for these harmful organisms to survive inside a pork butt because it has a large cut of fatty tissue where they can thrive in.

What is the best way to reheat pork butts?

For those that have been frozen, simply thaw them out in your refrigerator overnight. Otherwise, you can cook it inside a pan until its internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit then serve while keeping in mind that cooking it twice can dry up your meat so make sure you do this when you’re preparing it within the next few days.

Can you overcook smoked pork butt?

Absolutely. Because of all the fat inside, you always have to be careful with overcooking your meat because it becomes extremely tough once this occurs. Keep an eye on the cooking process so you know when it’s time to pull it out!

How much does 1 raw smoked pork butt weigh? 

It depends on how it’s cut and what weight they’re using. If you purchase half primal cuts then expect it to have about 10-20 pounds per piece if not they can be as small as 4 pounds each.

What are some tips on how to keep my leftover pulled pork warm? 

For those that have prepared more than what their family can eat during dinner, just wrap up all of your meat tightly using aluminum paper then cover them up with a blanket this will help them maintain its warmth for longer periods of time without getting cold or dry.

How many smoked pork butts should I cook for a party? 

If you’re serving approximately 100 people then you’ll need about 30 pounds of meat per person. This includes children and adults so if your recipe yields about 15 pounds each then you’ll need 4-5 pieces per person. Make sure to calculate the amount beforehand because no one likes running out of food during events like these! What time do I apply my rub on pulled pork butt?

It really depends on how much time you have in order to let it sit for at least an hour before cooking them or even overnight if possible. As long as you don’t add more salt after applying the dry rub while it’s still cooking then it should turn out just fine!

Why does smoked pork butt go bad? 

It’s not actually the meat that goes ‘bad’ but it’s the bacteria inside of it. Once this occurs, its natural juices are replaced with a mushy feeling so it simply won’t taste good anymore. Always avoid eating pieces of pork butt with pink spots or even slimy meat!

Why is my pork butt still pink after I’ve cooked it?

There are various reasons why this can happen including not adding enough seasoning or even letting the smoking process last too long. However, if you notice that your meat is a dark brown color then there’s no need to worry about anything at all! It means that the sugar inside has caramelized and turned into a darker shade so this will make them taste much better than before. 

Is it safe to eat a pork butt that is pink?

As long as you don’t see any signs of moldiness or slime then there’s no need to worry. If they’re still good, then you can keep them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days while freezing them will make them last 6 months! Just make sure all of your meat has been properly cooked before serving.

Which is better: smoked, grilled, or fried pulled pork butt?

It all depends on your preference. As long as you’re satisfied with the taste then it’s fine to go ahead and eat! Just know that there are unique methods of cooking each version so choose accordingly whether you’d rather enjoy this dish cooked inside a pan or perhaps over an open flame.

All of these cooking methods work well on their own but we recommend using an outdoor grill instead of an indoor stovetop especially when you’re preparing big chunks of pork like this one. It takes less time and doesn’t have any ‘burnt’ tastes in the end! 

How do you keep pulled pork warm for serving?

The best way to keep it warm throughout your entire party is by cooking them in advance. Just let the pieces sit inside a crockpot during this time then turn on the ‘keep warm’ setting once everyone’s arrived. You can even set up a buffet-style area so they can serve themselves whenever they please! 

Why does my pulled pork butt have a dry rub before smoking?

Sometimes salt will seep out during the cooking process so it can possibly absorb any remaining moisture in there. This will create a much different taste in the end even without adding black pepper which is what most people put on their meat when preparing them beforehand. Try doing things differently from now on!

Does smoked pork butt need a sauce?

Not necessarily but it can complement your dish if you’d like especially since there are various flavors available like barbeque, apple, and even spicy barbecue! There’s no rule about adding them or not so try different things until you find something that works well with your ingredients. 


Smoking your pork butt is the best way to add a unique flavor to this meat. As long as you’ve chosen a great cut of meat and applied new spices on top of it then you’ll be able to make them taste better than ever! Just make sure you don’t leave your pork sitting in the smoker for too long or even if it’s still pink inside after cooking. By doing so, you risk letting bacteria grow naturally which can cause serious health problems later on. Follow these steps closely while also providing yourself with enough time to prepare everything beforehand and that should turn out just fine.

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