I recently cooked what turned out to be an excellent Boston Butt, and I decided to turn it into a How-To. As always, I welcome your feedback – just leave me a message here, go to the Contact page, or send me an email to FillYerHands at Gmail.
Being an engineer by training, I like to break up any project into steps. Here are the steps for Boston Butt.
So, here we go.
For this project you will need:
- Boston Butt – 5 to 7 pounds, not too lean.
- Charcoal – at least 10 pounds for a Boston Butt.
- Wood for smoking
The choice of wood to use is up to you. Meat like pork and beef can stand a strong smoke wood like mesquite or hickory, while more subtle meats like chicken do better with apple and other less pungent woods.
I find I use about a gallon of smoking wood chips or chunks for a Boston Butt. Have those handy. I have about 20 gallons of hickory that is left from the 30 gallons I got some time ago by a friend who was a carpenter. You are free to hate me.
(The coffee cans in the picture are full of spent 9mm and .223 brass, saved for the day when I finally buy my reloading equipment. Now you really hate me.)
In addition, you will need
- A cooler
- A smoker
- Plates and trays
Shop for the meat, clean the smoker, make sure you have enough charcoal and cold beer.
Some time before S Day, prepare the rub. I like Alton Brown’s “8 to 3 to 1 plus 1” rub:
8 tablespoons brown sugar, tightly packed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon “something else”
For the “something else” I use
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
I then put this in a mason jar, with a lid from an old parmesan cheese container, which will allow me to sprinkle the rub liberally. Shake well.
Get the charcoal and smoking wood handy, and get the smoker ready.
At least 8 to 14 hours before you plan to cook, remove the butt from the packaging and trim any really obvious extraneous fat. (I have to admit, I don’t trim butts very much.)
Then, in an appropriate sized cooler, mix up the brine:
- 1/2 gallon fresh water
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 cup salt
Submerge the butt in the brine, and add enough ice to cover the butt. I then set the cooler on the back porch, and let it brine for 12 hours.
The next morning, usually before the sun comes up, remove the butt from the brine and pat it down with paper towels.
Apply the rub. Applying the rub with gloves helps more of the rub stick to the meat and not your hands. Apply to both sides of the meat and let it rest at least an hour.
Meanwhile, light the grill. Start out with enough charcoal to fill the pan, but don’t add smoking wood yet.
When the coals are ready and the smoker is 210 degrees to 230 degrees, place the meat in the center of the top level of the smoker, fat up. Assuming your smoker allows, also place a pan of water under the meat, to catch drippings and keep them off the coals.
Add wood for smoking at this point.
At this point all you can do is keep the charcoal fed so that the temperature stays in the 210 to 230 range, and keep the smoking wood fed. I typically smoke the meat for about 4 hours, then stop adding smoke wood. I’ve found that the end result doesn’t change much beyond 4 hours, since the meat is pretty much saturated on the surface at that point.
For a long time I used a thermometer to test for doneness, but now I pretty much let it cook 10 hours, then test it. I don’t generally open the top of the smoker until then. When you can pull the meat off easily with a fork, the butt is done.
Remove the butt from the smoker, cover loosely with foil, and let it rest for at least an hour.
Then, pull the meat apart with two forks, for a shredded feel, or using your fingers, for a chunkier texture.
Serve with your favorite sauce. Mine is a topic for another post.