picture of smoked pork butt

In the beginning, I wanted to smoke and had no idea where to start.

Just about every book on the subject suggested using a pork butt for a test flight. The reason is simple: it is almost impossible to overcook. The abundance of fat and the sheer mass of the cut gives the beginner a lot of room to hide any loss of focus. Everyone loves a pulled pork sandwich and it is a great start for the backyard BBQ.

Because it is a massive muscle I find that with this much pork the meat next to the surface with the rub and the smoke holds the flavor but the rest of the cut can be pretty bland. Some folks hide this blandness with sauce.

The trick is using an injector to pump flavors deep into the pork. Also, your injection needs some good punch since this much fat and muscle dilutes the effect of the spices. This injection mixture may be too hot to handle in the bowl but after 10 hours in low heat it tones down and gives a nice subtle flavor. So hold back on the bbq sauce and let the meat speak for itself.

picture of smoked pork butt

Ingredients needed for this smoked pork butt recipe. (Photo ©Bryan Gooding)

1 medium size pork butt (approx. 6 – 7 lbs.) with a nice layer of fat on top.
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 cup of sriracha sauce
1 cup apple juice
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup apple vinegar
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup black pepper (cracked or coarse ground)

picture of smoked pork butt

Pork butt is injected with brown sugar, siracha sauce, apple juice and apple vinegar. (Photo ©Bryan Gooding)

5 steps to foolproof smoked pork butt

1. In a bowl mix the sriracha sauce, apple juice, and apple vinegar. Then slowly add the brown sugar while stirring to dissolve any solids. Using a meat injector push in the needle about 1 inch give a little squirt in a grid pattern on the surface about 2 inches apart on both sides. Dry excess. Set aside.

2. In another bowl mix the cayenne pepper, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Smear the pork butt with the Dijon mustard. The mustard gives the meat a good surface for the rub to stick (I got this from John Lewis when he was at La Barbecue). Apply the rub to all sides of the pork butt saving the fat side to last since it will be up in the smoker.

Since this a long smoke and you generally don’t wrap a pork butt in paper like you would a brisket, stay away from mesquite or alder since they can taste tarry or ashy when overused. Pecan, apple, cherry or oak generally work best for a long smoke.

picture of smoked pork butt

Rub is applied to pork butt. (Photo ©Bryan Gooding)

3. Get your cooking chamber temp to around 200 and put in the pork butt. Try to hold the fire at 200 but don’t worry if your fire jumps up to 300 when you add wood. Just dampen the flow air a bit and wait for it to fall back into line, then readjust your air. Variation in the heat will not hurt this cut of meat if kept with in reason.

A general rule is an hour per pound. The pork butt in the picture took about 9 hours. I could have pulled it at 8 hours. That is what I love about this cut of meat, it is very forgiving. I use a fork to test the tenderness of the butt to make sure it was done. The meat should pull apart easily.

4. When you remove the meat from the smoker wrap it in foil and let it rest for about 20 minutes. This will just add more juice to meat when you pull it.

5. When pulling the pork I generally break up the bark and scatter it through the meat to even out the flavor. I also remove the larger masses of fat. You will see concentrations of the coloring from the sriracha sauce but you will find that the flavors have spread evenly throughout the pork butt.


picture of smoked pork butt

Pork butt is placed on the smoker after rub was applied. (Photo ©Bryan Gooding)

picture of smoked pork butt

Finished smoked pork butt on the pit. (Photo ©Bryan Gooding)

Leave a comment

Erik Rhodes

1 year ago

Good recipe, thank you!!! In your picture above you have red grapefruit juice, is this a substitute for the apple juice?

Bryan Gooding

1 year ago

Good catch! Normally I just tell people apple juice because it’s a common base for a pork marinade. Actually I prefer unsweetened grapefruit juice but I can’t get it here on the island. The sweet and sour combo works wonders on meats and poultry. You will see it pop up in an upcoming chicken recipe. Type of fruit juice is a personal preference.

John Casey

1 year ago

any chance this could be adapted for the oven

Bryan Gooding

1 year ago

Okay, I’m going have to admit this but once I was under such a surprise deadline I had to try this and it worked (but not as well). You can follow the recipe but then put into an oven at 250 for eight hours tented in foil. Then set up your Weber with a chimney of charcoal. The coals need to be banked to one side of the grill up against the edge. The pork butt needs to be the opposite side of the grill. Once lit, put the wood of your choice (even alder or mesquite) and let it smoke the for an hour. Add more wood as the smoke dissipates. This will not give much bark or the deep smoke favor but it will get you through in an emergency.

Daniel Graham

4 weeks ago

What are you using the cummin and aregano for? Do you add to rub? Also on the wood, want do you use, combination of recommend woods or 1 or 2, 50/50 75/25 hard wood to fruit wood? Wonderful looking receipt. Going to try it this weekend for my Bday. Can’t wait!

Bryan Gooding

3 weeks ago

Good catch – missed that on the rub recipe. Here in Washington I sorely miss the Tex-Mex flavor and add cummin with some oregano. This last week we smoked a whole 35 lb. weaner for pulled pork one evening and then made rellanos the 2nd evening. In the recipe above I used all applewood but with this recent pig i smoked last week we used a dead cherry tree we broke down from a property down the road. The difference was tremendous. Cherry and pork are made for each other. If you can’t find enough cherry to smoke that long then I suggest pecan and throw in cherry chips!

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