This past weekend we had some friends coming over, so I fired up my Meadow Creek SQ36 Offset Smoker to smoke a couple pork butts and chickens. We had grilled shrimp, pulled pork, and smoked chicken for dinner along with sides and dessert.
With the holiday coming up, I decided it would be fun to share my secrets and tips for smoking pork butts. I’ve compiled a recipe with simple instructions and mouth-watering photos to help you quickly master amazing pulled pork.
Pork butts are very forgiving, and so easy to cook, because of how fatty they are and the high meat to surface ratio. Even if you overdo the smoke, once you pull it and mix everything together, you probably won’t mind it. And you really can’t dry out a pork butt unless you try. Yet some people are still cooking bad pulled pork. Don’t be one of them!
I get my pork butts through special order at a local grocery store with really good meat sources. Your local grocery store will probably have a couple pork butts on display, but if you’re serious about this, go for the two pack 8-pounders, sealed in Cryovac. Make friends with your local grocer or butcher or check out Costco or a wholesale food supplier in your area. It helps immensely to start with quality meat.
There is a lot of debate on whether to put the fat cap up or down, but here’s one thing you have to keep in mind. The fat may not all render out while cooking, which means you would have to peel it off after it’s done. I actually prefer to trim some of the fat cap off before I cook the butt so I can keep all the bark. The butt on the right above could have been trimmed more, but it turned out just fine because of how I cooked it. Whether you cook it up or down, is up to you. In my opinion, it’s irrelevant to amazing pulled pork.
I seasoned both butts with Meadow Creek Brisket Rub. Just sprinkle it all over the surface of the meat.
After a few minutes, the seasoning will start blending with the moisture in the meat and start looking really nice..
I fired my Meadow Creek SQ36 Offset Smoker with 6–8 pounds of charcoal briquettes. I also added a chunk or two of apple wood. My target temperature was 250–275 degrees F. You can cook them slower if you want to. It’s more common to do low and slow around 225 degrees, but I’m not sure that it’s worth the longer cook time on a pork butt.
You may be using a smoker that can’t go above 225 degrees, and that’s perfectly fine. Work within the limits of your smoker and what it’s designed to do.
Here are the butts on the smoker.
A couple hours into the cook, it started pouring rain, so I had to move the smoker under a roof. Since I don’t have a covered porch right now, I parked it in the garage with the smokestack outside the overhead door and under the eaves.
In my early days, I would hardly wrap a pork butt for fear I’m breaking the laws of authentic barbecue. Smoking pork butts is a lot of fun and tending the fire is great, but a whole day of tending an offset smoker can get a little old. Once the butts have taken on a healthy dose of smoke, you might as well wrap them in aluminum foil and dramatically shorten the cook time. A good time to wrap them is around 170 degrees internal temperature.
As easy as it is to run a Meadow Creek smoker, the temperature does still depend on how you fire it. After I moved the smoker out of the rain, I fired it with more charcoal and a chunk of wood. I adjusted the firebox vents to give it slightly more draft to compensate for the weather and walked away. When I came back about 30 minutes later, the temperature was up to 325 degrees at the built-in thermometer (grate level must have been even hotter). Yikes! I closed the vents and smokestack for a while to get it back down and went on with life. I could not tell any negative effects in the finished product.
Once the meat reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees, it’s done cooking. Take it off the smoker and let it cool enough to pull it. If you have insulated gloves or bear paws, you can do it immediately. It’s time to make sandwiches!
These butts finished in 7–8 hours because I wrapped them in foil. (One of them was smaller and it finished before the other one.) I burned a few chunks of wood and close to 23 pounds of charcoal during this cook.
Flavor Boost: As awesome as freshly pulled pork is, I almost always ramp it up a notch by adding some barbecue sauce and seasoning after it’s pulled. Sweet Baby Rays or Meadow Creek Hickory Sauce would be a great choice. I wouldn’t add much; just enough to moisten and flavor it a little. Sprinkle a little Meadow Creek Brisket Rub over it and mix it all together. This is a great place to experiment with various flavors to discover what you like best.
Freezing Tip: Pulled pork freezes well. If you have some you can’t eat right away or keep in the fridge, just pack it into quart-sized zip-loc bags, then date and freeze it. This makes it easy to thaw the pork in small batches. You can thaw it in the fridge and heat it in a kettle of water (in the bag) on the stove or remove it from the bag and heat it in the microwave or oven. Be careful not to overheat it and it will taste great. Not quite like fresh, but still amazing as can be!
Any questions or comments, feel free to email me or leave a comment below.