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Sep 18, 2011 12:07 PM

Smoking a boston butt for pulled pork

I am sort of new to the "smoking" scene. I smoked my first butt on the gas grill using foil smoke packets and indirect heat. It turned out perfectly. Now have a Brinkmann electric smoker and have done three more since then. The second using the grill method and the last two on the smoker.

Have not had a decent one since the first one I did! Was that just beginners luck?
Yesterday smoked one on the electric smoker, about 4.5-5 lbs for 5 hours. Got to an internal temp of about 190 degrees. Perfect smoke ring. Wrapped it tightly in foil for about two hours and sat it in a dry cooler to "rest".
Bone did not come out cleanly, meat seemed fatty and would not shred.
This is the same thing that happened with butts 2 and 3.
What am I doing wrong???

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    1. You're not waiting long enough. Instead of believing your thermometer, next time grab the bone with a pair of tongs and give it a pull. If it comes out cleanly, it's done. If not, put the cover back on the cooker and let it go for another hour, then test again. Repeat until the bone comes out.

      A 5 lb butt at 275F should take more like 8-10 hours.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ricepad

        Thanks! I'll give that a try! Is there any way to look at the boston butt when you purchase it to make sure it is a better cut than another? Just wondering.

        1. re: ShannonF

          You mean as they sit in the meat counter? Generally speaking, a butt is a butt is a butt. Unless you're going to spring for, say, a Mangalitsa or Kurobuta butt.

          1. re: ricepad

            Yes, I was referring to how it looks in the meat counter.... just wondering. thanks

      2. I agree with Ricepad, it just needs more time. I usually do about 5 hrs on the smoker, then finish it in the oven at about 200 for another 2 hours or so.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jeanmarieok

          In my experience, the best butts turn out when smoked at 225°F, 250°F-ish also yields decent results. The goal is to render the fat sloooowly. Fruit woods (apple, cherry, etc) are my preference for flavor, but too much wood on the coals can give a bitter taste to the meat. Purists go for long smokes 10+hours, often overnight smokes. Many like to foil around 160°F-ish, when the meat stalls, and then take the meat out of the smoker when the bone wiggles freely, and even slides right out (usually about 190°F-205°F internal temp).

          Temps may be harder to control with an electric smoker, but if you know your gear well, you probably know how to regulate the temps to your liking. Resting for a few hours in a cooler (wrap the meat in foil and towels and fill the dead space with crumpled newspaper) finishes the process and should give you a butt that pulls easily.

          There are ways to do butts "hot and fast" at temps as high as 350°, you might want to experiment with foiling as mentioned above if trying this method. Obviously the time taken to cook will be shorter. I have even heard of some people doing a butt on a rotisserie.

          Hope this helps!

          [Sorry, I just noted that you were using a gas grill or electric smoker, so pardon the recs about smoking with charcoal. The point is the temps, which you should still be able to manage with your equipment].

        2. You might check out Alton brown smoking a boston butt with an electric smoker. He recommends 225 degrees F for 8 - 12 hours although you don't have to keep up the smoke that long. 4 hours is plenty. I would recommend smearing it with mustard and then applying a dry rub. Don't worry the smoke will get through.

          After the 4 hours in the smoker, you can wrap it in foil and continue in the smoker without the wood chips or move it to the oven (foil wrapped) for a few hours.

          I do agree with ricepad. Don't stop cooking it until the bone is loose.

          Even if you overcook it, the pork won't be dry. There is a lot of fat plus the collagen that you have been breaking down absorbs liquid so it won't be dry.

          1. Your pork butt is undercooked. The only thing you should use your thermometer for is to probe the meat for tenderness. It should slide in and out with no resistance. Additionally, you should be able to loosen the bone with just a slight tug.

            Don't look at the thermometer reading, and don't worry too much about cooking temperature. People cook pork butts as high as 300-325f and still turn out good barbecue. (I try to target 250-300 myself).

            2 Replies
            1. re: bagofwater

              I agree. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

              I have the same Elec. Brinkmann as the OP and have never had a problem. (I call my Brinkmann R2-D2. LOL.)

              Smoker is designed to hold an even 250 temp. and includes water bowl. I use chunk hardwood, usually hickory or apple wood.

              I suggest smoking the butt to 200 degrees internal temp or pull off smoker at 175 and finish in the oven to 200 internal temp covered in foil. Let rest at least 30 minutes to an hour and then pull.

              1. re: jjjrfoodie

                thanks to ALL!! @ Hank... I did do the mustard coating before the rub. I like that method.

                I felt like it was undercooked, but after 5 hours and a temp on my thermometer of 190, I really thought it was done! Think the "bone test" is the best method. Thanks for all the tips! Not going to give up and I'll let you all know how the next one turns out.