How To Get a Perfect Butt: A Really Long Guest Post

10 Sep

I am Derek, the other half of The Primal Smoke, but unlike my wife, I prefer more traditional BBQ.  As great as her cooking is, she is actually such a control freak in the kitchen she gave me an outline for how she wanted this written up.  If you are a beginner there is no better cut of meat to get your confidence up and impress your neighbors than Boston butt, it is very forgiving and doesn’t take a lot of skill, although I totally have skills.

That pink hue is the delicious smoke ring from the hickory

The cut of pork I used for this post was a nine and a half pound, bone-in, Boston butt. Boston butt is a cut from the pig’s shoulder and has nothing to do with the pig’s actual butt.  Pork shoulder is best cooked slow over low heat.  On average plan about an hour to an hour and a half per pound of meat at 225-250 degrees.

My wife calls him R2D2

We use a Weber 18.5” Smoky Mountain Cooker for all our long, slow cooks (ribs, pulled pork, brisket…etc.).  Weber offers a great smoker for an affordable price(I sound like a commercial, huh?).  There are tons of different quality ceramic cookers and offset smokers, but for the price and convenience of storage nothing beats the Weber.  On a side note, the 18.5” cooker is easier to keep the temperature stable than the 22.5” cooker.

Preparing the pork shoulder is easy.  One side will have a layer of fat about 1/2” to 1 ½”.   Start by trimming this fat off.  Leave a little fat on the bottom, but not much.

Post-mortem liposuction!

Next, apply your rub.  Rub your meat real good, heh.   There are some people who like to apply their rub the night before.  I don’t think this is necessary, but it won’t hurt either.  Let the cut of meat sit out for about an hour.  It should be close to room temperature when you put it on, just do it, don’t ask me why.  That is a whole other post entirely.  My rub was:

  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 2 TB ground ginger
  • 2 TB onion powder
  • 2TB cayenne
  • 2 TB black pepper

While you let you pork shoulder warm up, it is time to prep you smoker.  I like using hickory smoke for pulled pork.  Place a couple chunks of hickory (already soaked in water) in your cooker with some coals, light your charcoal chimney in a separate grill and dump it over top, and if you’re using a water smoker (like the Weber) fill up your water pan.  Make sure you line your water pan with aluminum foil or else you’ll have a pretty messy clean up.  Ready for a sh*t-ton of pictures?

Charcoal and wood goes in here, hot coals go over top.

This thing goes on top with some water to keep the heat low

Next comes your cooking grate and the meat

Once your cooker gets to 225 degrees put your pork shoulder on.  I highly suggest using a digital thermometer to monitor the temp of the meat.  A dual prong thermometer – measuring the smoker temp/meat temp are the best….btw don’t get a Big Green Egg thermometers, they make awesome ceramic cookers but horrible thermometers….mine lasted two uses.

R2D2 already has his own thermometer

Maintain the temp of the smoker between 225 and 250 degrees, adding a handful of hickory chunks every hour or two.  Smoking is half science, half art….bottom line you’ll be the judge of how much smoke you want.  Avoid using too much though or your meat will be bitter.

Also, get your ass up early, this could take a while

When the temp of the meat hits about 150 it will “stall” for an hour or two.  This is normal, don’t be a jackass and increase the temp or worry your thermometer is broken.  Just maintain your cookers temp and you’ll be fine.  Some folks wrap their pork shoulder in foil after it hits 170, but I don’t think this is necessary (we’ll talk foil when we cook ribs and brisket). This cut of meat has enough fat in it to keep it nice and moist.  Once your shoulder approaches 190 it is time to come off.  If it still seems tough at 190 leave it on for an extra half hour.

Also, when your meat turns black on the outside it is not burning.  This is called the “bark” and is the best d*mn part! It is a combination of caramelized meat rub and spices with the smoke.

This thing barks better than DMX

This nine and half pound Boston butt took about 11 hours, but that includes a brutal summer rain/wind storm which probably effected the cooking time. Once you remove the pork shoulder let it sit for about 45 minutes to an hour or until it cools…..or you’ll end up like me with blistered fingers. Pull the pork with forks or your hands, pour your favorite BBQ sauce over it and enjoy.

juiciest pork on the planet


Posted by on September 10, 2012 in basics, Favorites, Pork


10 responses to “How To Get a Perfect Butt: A Really Long Guest Post

  1. David

    September 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    I am new to smoking and planned on making pulled pork this weekend, thanks for the post! I use a modified ECB, how often do you add charcoal to keep the temp at 250? Do you light it before putting it in? And do you use wood chips or chunks? Thanks again for the post, I look forward to seeing what else you post!

    • Primal Smoke

      September 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      We put the charcoal in the bottom of the smoker unlit, and the poured the lit charcoal on top. I feel like this gives us a longer amount of time before we have to add any in and provides a more stable starting temp. Usually, it is every few hours, but you really have to monitor the temerature of your smoker to know when to add. Sometimes weather and temperature conditions make it so you have to add to you coals more or less frequently, so it is really hard to give an exact timeframe. We usually add a few more handfuls in when the temp starts to dip close to 225 degrees. We used wood chunks here, they last a bit longer. You will know when to add more wood because smoke will stop flowing out of your vent. Let me know if you have any more questions.

      Good luck on your first pulled pork!

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