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how to smoke a boston butt

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Smoking a Boston butt, also known as pork shoulder, is a delicious way to prepare tender and flavorful pulled pork. Here's a detailed guide to help you achieve smoky perfection:


  1. Select your Boston butt: Choose a bone-in or boneless Boston butt, depending on your preference. A bone-in roast adds extra flavor but takes longer to cook. Aim for a weight between 4 and 8 pounds, considering the number of people you're serving.
  2. Trim excess fat: You can trim some of the surface fat, leaving a thin layer (around ¼ inch) for moisture and flavor. Avoid removing too much, as it can dry out the meat.
  3. Seasoning: Apply a generous amount of your preferred rub all over the pork shoulder. You can use a store-bought rub or create your own using spices like paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and mustard powder. Let the roast sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight for deeper flavor penetration.

Smoking process:

  1. Prepare your smoker: Preheat your smoker to a consistent temperature between 225°F and 275°F (107°C and 135°C). Popular wood choices for smoking pork include hickory, apple, cherry, or a combination for a more complex flavor profile. Wood chunks or chips can be soaked in water for 30 minutes to prevent burning too quickly and add additional smoke flavor.
  2. Place the pork on the smoker: Position the seasoned pork roast on the smoker grate, fat side up for bone-in roasts. If using a smoker with a water pan, fill it with water to help regulate temperature and add moisture to the environment.
  3. Smoking time: The smoking time can vary depending on the size of the roast, your smoker's efficiency, and the desired level of doneness. Generally, plan for 6-8 hours for a 4-pound roast and 8-12 hours for a larger roast.
  4. Monitor and spritz (optional): It's helpful to monitor the internal temperature of the meat using a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast, not touching the bone. Spritzing the roast occasionally with apple cider vinegar or water can help prevent drying out, but it's not essential.
  5. Reaching target temperature: Aim for an internal temperature of 195°F (90°C) for pulled pork. This ensures the meat is tender and falls apart easily. Some prefer to go up to 205°F (96°C) for extra-shredable meat.

Resting and serving:

  1. Resting the meat: Once the internal temperature reaches your desired level, remove the roast from the smoker and wrap it tightly in foil. Allow it to rest for at least 1-2 hours. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in more tender and flavorful pulled pork.
  2. Pulling the pork: After resting, shred the pork using two forks or meat claws, pulling apart the meat fibers. Discard any large pieces of fat.
  3. Serve and enjoy: Enjoy your delicious pulled pork on buns with your favorite barbecue sauce, coleslaw, or other toppings. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for longer storage.

Additional tips:

  • Use a smoke tube: If your smoker doesn't have a good smoke generation capacity, consider using a smoke tube filled with wood pellets to supplement the smoke flavor.
  • Monitor smoker temperature: Maintaining a consistent smoker temperature is crucial for even cooking and optimal results.
  • Adjust seasoning to your preference: Feel free to adjust the amount and type of spices in your rub to suit your taste.
  • Experiment with finishing touches: You can add a finishing sauce to the pulled pork before serving for additional flavor, like barbecue sauce, honey mustard, or your own homemade sauce.

By following these steps and personalizing them to your preferences, you can master the art of smoking Boston butt and create a crowd-pleasing pulled pork experience.

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