PORK SHOULDER BUTT SMOKING BASICS
(Dan's) basic method of preparing and smoking an
Butt is as follows:
TYPES, AND PARTS OF A BUTT
words used in the world of butt are:
Butt, Butt, Shoulder, Picnic, what that basically means in the BBQ world, is:
The overall piece we derive the butt is the front shoulder and
lower leg of the pig
Divide the shoulder into two pieces, and upper (shoulder part) and a
lower (leg part)
Then you have the the two identified pieces.
The butt, or
Boston Butt, is the upper shoulder part.
The lower leg part is
called the Picnic.
The rear upper leg is not a butt, but is a ham.
I am guessing that the word "Boston" came about due to the butt being
enjoyed and cooked in a particular fashion in Boston during our
history and the term "butt" derived from the piece in
question "butting against" the main body/torso of
the pig. But am just guessing at that.
know for a fact, but I believe there are 7 different muscles that come
together in the butt that run all different directions. I also
ALWAYS cook bone-in. I just don't like the moisture content when
I cook bone-out, as an FYI.
typical butt that you will find in a store come in various cuts,
packages, and types.
At Costco for example you will NOT always find the Butt in the counter
for sale. However, it will be sold, or available, almost
always. It will arrive to the stores in the cryopac packer package (what all meats come in from a
slaughter house), 2 in a package, and will be sold to you typically in
that fashion. Usually the butt weighs between 7.5 & 9
pounds and sells typically at Costco for .99 - 1.29 cents per/lb.
Due to the neighborhood your Costco is in they handle it
differently. In my neighborhood the butchers opens the package
and slices the butts into strips. They then re-package and name
them "Country Style Ribs".
Even though they are not really a rib. They cook up nice and
people like them a lot. I however usually just cook the whole
butt. So, if I can catch them before they have sliced them all
up they will walk into the back room and pick up a package and price
it for me at the correct price of an un-cut butt.
- At Smart & Final, most supermarkets, and other stores, you will find
the butt typically comes in a cryopac package, a packer cut, and mostly
by the packing plant of IBP or Farmer John. I am more cautious of
Farmer John Pork in that it typically comes in a brine, or preservative
type liquid. That allows it probably a 3x shelf life in the
store. However, pork, unlike beef, will "turn" with
age. I use the word "turn" to mean it will smell bad and
the liquids will become gooey like. This is undesirable and
unacceptable. Costco's supplier does not use a brine type preservative
(this is good).
So, beware of the expiration date on the packages. If it says a
week out it is probably good. If it says a month out then you know
it has to have a preservative as it could not last that long
otherwise. Also, the brine, when used with ribs, can actually
break down the meats. Don't know if you have every tried to remove
the membrane from a Farmer John Rib and found it just fell apart.
Well, that happened for a reason. So, just making everybody aware
of what is out there and go get what you want. Also if I
suspect a problem I will always open the package of meat at the market
counter and smell it after the checker has rung it up. If it
smells fine, then no problem. I will take it like that. If
it has "turned" then I just hand it back for an exchange or refund.
There is no down side to this. You can tape it shut as home again,
freeze, or cook then and not worry about it. You might this might
very rarely happen. I can state here in the Los Angeles area I
will get a bad piece of butt or rib 1-2 times out of 5.
meat comes packaged in a cryopac package with a packer cut you get it
at the cheapest cost in that no labor costs are required to further
process it. Now you are charged less
and get to trim it the way you want and have all the fat on it you might
needless to say. I always buy and cook a full, uncut, butt and
recommend that. So, choose which method
pleases you. But, be warned each piece will cook differently
separated than it will if de-boned or sliced.
butt is the one piece of meat I need to trim the least. I trim most of the fat off the
butt. I leave about 1/8 inch in some places.
This is not a point I get to anal about. Compared to a brisket
there just is not that much trimming to do on a butt. Just leave a bit of
fat on to
self-baste, but not enough to bother you while slicing and eating.
After it is cooked it all taste crusty and great!
IN A SMOKER.
don't want to work, or stay up all night, watching a fire. So, I
usually don't put my butts or briskets in a big log-burning or off-set
type cooker. I will start with a Weber Smoky Mountain (WSM) which
can go unattended for up to 7 - 8 hours if packed with water and
fuel. I put as many as two, or three small, a rack in a WSM with no
problem with mesquite fuel and a chunk of oak and hickory, maybe, if
they are handy. And, I have three racks in my WSM's. So, I
can do a LOT of butts in a little WSM. My modification
instructions are in the "smoking" section section of www.BBQDan.com
& www.BBQbyDan.com .
Usually after 9 hours, or about that
time, I will rotate, maybe put in the oven if at home (heck, the smoking
process is now over, why waste valuable smoking woods and time), or move
it to a big smoking pit, depending upon where I am and what I am doing.
I cook my
butts between 240 - 250 for 11-15 hours for a 7-8+ pounder. A
large rotisserie smoker takes a few hours less than a smaller,
static-shelf, unit. I
will start basting about 2/3'rds through the process and about every 90-120
minutes from that point on if on a small smoker. In a rotisserie
no basting is necessary as the meats will self-baste on each other
during rotation. However, they will taste VERY good
without ever basting!
For a butt, since it has so much meat that will never get the direct
contact of the smoke, I will use mesquite, some oak, and a bit of
hickory. But, mostly mesquite. This is due to the fact
that here in Southern California mesquite is the cheapest and easiest
to come by in 40lb bags for $8.99. Oak and hickory are hard to
find and expensive. I prefer however the taste of pecan and a
combination of oak and
hickory to mesquite. Some
folks think that Mesquite is a bit strong. To me it still is QUITE FINE either
way. Being that the butt is so thick when you cut or shred it up
it evens out any strong mesquite flavor in my mind. To be honest
I don't care either way. My wife does not like the mesquite.
BUTT COOKING PROCESS
said before I cook my butts between 240 - 250 for 11-15 hours for a 7-8+ pounder.
Then will rotate or turn and start basting about 2/3'rds through
the cooking process. In a non-rotisserie oven I would turn at
maybe 9 hours and marinade, or not, maybe at 90 minute intervals (if
you don't wrap). In a rotisserie smoker I will not turn.
If you like Mr. Brown, or a crispy crust, don't wrap
with foil during the later cooking timeframe. If you
like soft crust, then wrap. I have done an many wrapped as not
and normally don't wrap for myself or a contest but wrapping is
fine if you like it that way. I really like the BBQ
crispiness and taste that comes with a non-wrapped butt versus the more
steamed like taste that comes with wrapping. But, the meat on
the inside is still pretty much the same either way. It can have
overall more moisture if wrapped. Each to his own.
you reach a point where you think it might be done there are several
ways of testing. You can check the doneness after about 11 hours
by looking at the bone. If it is loose, meat pulled back, and
meat seems very tender. It is very close. I
would pull between 196 and 199 measured right in the middle.
This butt will be one of the best, tender, pull-apart, and moist piece of
meat you have ever had.
personally don't glaze while cooking. I prefer to dip or sauce
while eating. But, if you are going to glaze I would remove it
just when you find it is done to your liking. Put your
favorite glaze on, and then put it back in for 30 minutes. This will caramelize or glaze a
bit and make it taste better. Typically sweet does go well with
butts. But, hey, do what makes you feel good. I don't
glaze a butt like I would ribs. Instead I might just pull from
the oven and have sauce on the side to eat with it.
it gets done early I will wrap in film (cellophane) or foil, wrap in
multiple towels or blankets to hold heat, and then put
in an igloo type cooler. Or not wrap and put in a catering heat-holding box (Cambro
like) and let it continue to cook a bit. It can hold its heat for
many hours and get better yet. Might lose a bit of Mr. Brown
So, the bottom line is sometimes it is a tough thing to judge exactly.
I just find that cooking my butt for 11+ hours, basting some after
2/3'rds cooking time, and starting to check for doneness at about 11 - 13
hours gets me success most of the time in a WSM. In a rotisserie I
just let it go. If I am doing multiple butts, as in 4 - 24 I try
and let them self-baste themselves through the rotisserie action and
never open the door till 11 hours has passed. Check temp for 200
and all will be fine.
When I do them as described above they are moist, break apart perfectly, and they taste great with a bit of BBQbyDan
I will confess that when doing 6 - 60
butts at a time I will just slightly trim, spray with a mixture of
oil and apple juice, season with a rub, put in the Ole Hickory at
let them self-baste on the 15 rotisserie shelves, cook evenly
via the convection fan, and not open the door for 11 hours.
Then they will be absolutely perfect, moist, and I get to do other
things related to that event. I of course did not mention this
sooner as I wanted to describe how anybody can do it at home for
If you pull the butt at 188 - 191 you will be able to slice the meat.
It has about 7 different grains running many directions. If you pull it at 196- 200 it will
be very difficult to slice and is best enjoyed pulled, chunked, or
chopped (my favorite way). I typically like to put some of the collected juices,
if any, on the shredded or chunked and then mix a bit of BBQbyDan 5 Star
Fancy Glaze with it. BOY, that is good.