Years ago, large cuts of pork like shoulders and loins were packed into barrels, known as “butts”, for storage and shipping. The way the shoulder was cut in the Boston area became known, as in many areas, as “Boston butt”. The “Boston Butt” is marbled with fat which makes it a tender, juicy, and bursting with flavor piece of meat.
Boston butt cut of pork comes from the upper part of the shoulder from the front leg. This cut of pork combined with the way it is prepared and served, makes it a distinctly American dish. Smoked or barbecued Boston butt is a southern tradition. As a cuisine of the Deep South, particularly in Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia, it is often smoked or barbecued and served as “pulled pork”. You can buy it bone-in or boneless.
When I’m cooking one or several Butts I purchase the bone-in
“twin packs” (two butts in cryrovac) from Sam’s Club or local grocery, whom
ever has the best price. Butts can also be found in single packages also.
For the purpose of cooking in the backyard I’ve found no big difference in which meat packer I use. Try to stay around 16 pound package range if possible. That may give you two butts about the same size, 8 pounds each. Staying consistent as possible with weight will help you determine product yield as well as cooking times from cook to cook. You will need Yellow Mustard, Dry Rub, Latex Gloves, a pair of rubber bbq gloves, large foil pan/bus pan/large cookie sheet, and a sharp knife.
I cook at 220-225* and allow myself 1.25 hours per pound. 8 pound butt(s) will take approximately 12 hours to cook. I’ve had some butts get done sooner as well as some taking longer. A combination of Hickory and Cherry wood works great as smoke flavor.
While my fire is getting started and pit is getting up to temp I’ll start preparing the butt(s) for the pit. Start by cutting open the package, remove butt and place in/on pan/sheet to be rubbed. No need to do any trimming to meat. There will be one side of the butt(s) that will have a layer of fat on it. It’s called the “fat side”.
Apply a generous amount of mustard on butt and rub entire butt being sure to cover all areas. Mustard will hold more rub on meat making a thicker bark. If you desire a thinner bark try using Worcestershire Sauce instead of mustard. Whichever you use you will not taste it once cooking is completed. Once mustard is applied add several handfuls of your dry rub on butt and rub into butt coating all sides well. Add more as you see needed. Usually 3-5 handfuls will be enough depending on how much bark you want. When rubbing is completed and pit is up to cooking temp (220-225*) place butt(s), fat side down, on the pit, cooking with indirect heat. Close lid and let cook. You will notice that your pit temp will drop, and that’s normal. Don’t add fuel as your pit temp will rise as the meat inside begins to warm up and cook. The number of butts you have on your pit will determine how long before pit temp begins to rise. Outside weather conditions may also affect pit temps rising. Normally after 1-2 hours pit temps should begin to rise.
After cooking about 4 hours you need to check internal temp of meat. At approximately 160* internal temp remove and foil butt. Wrap butt
completely using two pieces of heavy duty foil. For added moisture and flavor add about 1/2-3/4 cup of your favorite fruit juice to foil before wrapping. I
like to add apple or pineapple. Combination of both not bad either.
No need to add juices if you don’t want to as butt will have plenty of
moisture of its own. Return wrapped butt to pit and continue to cook at 220-225* until internal meat temp reaches 200-205*. This temp is best for
pulling/shredding pork butts (you can tell it’s done when you can pull the bone
out and it’s clean with no meat on it). If you want to slice the butt you can remove at 185-190* internal temp. If you want a drier or crusty bark simply open foil once desired temp is reached and leave open on pit for additional 20-30 minutes, this will dry the outside of the butt. Be careful handling foiled butt at this time. There will be HOT juices in foil. If you have foil half pans butts can be
placed in them after foiling. This will help catch any escaping hot juices and
make handling butts easier. For maximum, dark, but great tasting bark you can cook butt the entire time without foiling. This will produce a great product also. Butt will be slightly drier. Your cook time will increase if you do not foil.
Now that butt is cooked it’s time to chop/pull/shred. This is where a good pair of bbq rubber gloves comes in handy for handing and pulling. Remove butt from foil and place on cutting board, fat side up. With your hand, gently scrape away and discard fat layer. With fat layer removed begin to separate butt by pulling apart different sections/muscles of the butt. Be careful as butt will be very hot. You may need to let butt rest 30 minutes or so in order to cool. If pulling, just pull apart chunks of meat into the size you want, thumb size works well. If
shredding, use large fork to shred butt apart, by using a racking motion. If chopping, use a large knife or meat clever to chop into texture you want.
Once you have the butt prepared now you want it placed into large bowl or foil pan. Sprinkle about ¾ cup dry rub over butt and lightly mix together.
The dry rub will melt into butt and “kick-up” the flavor (more or less according to your taste). If you want bbq sauce in mixture now is the time to add about 1 cup (more if needed for your taste) of your favorite sauce, gently mixing. If no sauce is needed just have it on the side in case someone wants it on their sandwich.
I’ve never been one to measure or serve by weighting portions. A good rule of thumb I have used over the years is that an 8 pound butt after cooking will give you approximately 5-5.5 pounds of meat which will make at least 20 nice sandwiches, using a regular sized (4 inch) bun.
I like my pork drizzled with a nice Vinegar base sauce, a spoonful of Cole slaw on it, and on a toasted Kaiser roll.