I decided to smoke two Pork Butts today to give away as “thank you” gifts. One was being made for the Schmidt’s, who had us over for a great Friday night and contributed to my post with the wonderful booze ideas. The other was for the neighbors who dropped off a cheese, potato, bacon and leek soup last night. They dropped off some excellent fish a few weeks ago. This was the least that we could do.
For those of you who have never cooked a pork butt, you are in for something special. Though it sounds like it may be from the back of the pig, the pork butt is the upper part of the front shoulder of the pig. It is a great blend of different types of pork and marbled with wonderful fat (known as flavor.) Most pork butts are between 7 and 10 pounds and sold with the bone in. You ideally want one that is also natural and not enhanced with a salt solution. Check your favorite butcher shop. I bought two that totalled to about 18 pounds.
The first thing that you want to do is trim off any bloody spots, check for any bone fragments, and trim off most of the fat cap and large areas of fat. The internal structure of the butt has enough fat that the large amount of external fat is pretty much useless. Also, by trimming the fat, you have the opportunity for a larger amount of bark to form. Bark is the dark, flavorful crust that forms during cooking.
Though the entire butt is delicious when it is done, the most delicious piece is referred to as the money muscle. It is referred to as the money muscle since many competitive BBQ teams use it as part of their winning strategy in competitions. Prior to cooking, it is pretty easy to find. First find the quarter sized oval bone that has been cut on one end of the butt.
On the opposite side of the butt, you will see a horizontally stranded section of meat that is surrounded by fat. That is your ticket to pig heaven. I like to lightly trim around the money muscle so that I can more easily find it once the cooking is done.
Once you have done your trimming, it is time to get some flavor added to the pork. The first thing that I do is cover the butts in yellow mustard. This is done to create a binding agent that helps the dry rub to the meat. Do not worry if you don’t like mustard, when you are done cooking, the mustard has been absorbed and you do not taste it at all. Rub it very liberally into every nook and cranny of the meat. My 5-year-old daughter is my super helper when it comes to this set of steps in the process. Since you will be working with raw meat, it is helpful to have someone else squirting the mustard onto the meat while you are rubbing it into the meat. Since this part of the process can get messy, I bought a large plastic storage tub that I use to work in. It is short enough to fit into my fridge but large enough to hold a couple of pork butts, a brisket, or a pile of ribs. Well worth the couple of bucks.
Once you have the meat coated with mustard, it is time to apply your dry rub to the meat. Once again, find your favorite helper and have them shake a large amount of rub onto the meat. Make sure that you work the flavor into all parts of the butt. I had been using Byron’s Butt Rub for my rub for the longest time. It is very good. Lately I have switched to Plow Boy’s Yardbird. It is a little sweeter than Butt Rub, and very good.
Once the rub is applied, I like to inject the butt to add some additional moisture and flavor. I have cooked a number of butt’s without injecting, and they turn out great. Since these were being given as gifts, I wanted to be sure that these were as tasty as they could be. The injection that I use is based on Chris Lily’s Six Time World Championship injection that he supposedly uses in the Big Bob Gibson’s restaraunts.
- 3/4 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup salt
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
To inject the pork butt, press the injector almost all the way through the meat and then press the plunger down while drawing the injector back up. I do this every inch or so on one side and then use the remaining injection around the sides of the meat, focusing on areas around the bone that I could not get to from above as well as ensuring the money muscle is fully injected.
Once the butt is injected, I cover the pork butts and refrigerate them over night.
In the morning, I fire up the smoker and add some hardwood for smoke flavor. I really like the flavor that fruit woods add to pork. One of my favorites is apple or peach. I was out of fruit wood so I chose hickory for this cook. Hickory smoked pork, especially with bacon and ham, is very popular. I like to put the butts onto the smoker when it stabilizes at 250 degrees.
I like to keep the temps between 225 and 275 if possible. This results in about an hour per pound of cooking time. You want to cook the butt until it allows your thermometer to push through the meat like it is warm butter. That typically happens around 195 degrees. One other thing that you should know about large cuts of meat, they typically stall at a temperature for a long period of time while the internal fat breaks down. In some cases, the temp may even drop in the meat while this happens. In most cases, this stall happens around 160 degrees for me for pork butts.
Once the meat is probe tender, I wrap it in aluminum foil and tuck it into a cooler packed with old towels. It is best to let the meat rest for a minimum of an hour before pulling it. I like to rest it for about 3 hours. It will stay hot enough to serve for up to 6 hours kept in a cooler. When you finally unwrap the meat, be sure that you have something to catch the juices.
Here is a shot of a pulled pork sandwich with slaw and Blues Hog BBQ sauce.