**Post written by The BBQ Brothers. For all meat prep, grill set up, temperature and humidity control, recommended tools, and techniques for The BBQ Brothers recipes, check out The BBQ Brothers Beginner’s Guide To Grilling first, then get to cookin!
What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear “pork butt”? Well you shouldn’t be thinking of a pig’s luscious booty! A pork butt is actually a cut from the shoulder of the pig. It is one of the classic BBQ cuts out there due to its high amount of fat and connective tissue that lends itself perfectly to low and slow cooking.
You’ll notice it has lots of great marbling and one side has a large layer of fat known as the fat cap. You’ll also see a little bone that is actually part of the shoulder blade. You’ll see it in stores under the name pork butt or Boston butt. But if it’s from the shoulder, why in the world are they labeled as butts? Is it a messed up translation from another country? Does it have something to do the anatomical terms for the shoulder? Is it a byproduct of Americas obsession with all things bootylicious?!?!? Nope, actually the reason is because back in colonial days the less desirable cuts of pork (such as the shoulder) would be put into wooden casks for shipping called butts. And “Boston butt” came about because butchers around New England developed the way of cutting a certain portion of the shoulder into a nice rectangle.
There are actually some other cuts that come off of the shoulder such as a picnic roast, but for now we’ll focus on the butt (because I mean seriously who doesn’t love butts?)
So now that the history lesson is over we can get down to business. Pork butt is what you’re eating whenever you see pulled pork anywhere you go. Pork butt is one of the most forgiving and versatile BBQ meats there are. Want to make some pulled pork sandwiches? Go for it. Remember that smoked mac and cheese you made? Throw some of this goodness in there, too. Got some left over pizza that needs something extra? You guessed it…pulled pork again. No doubt you’ll see us post some fun pulled pork recipes on here from time to time (keep your eyes peeled for some cheddar biscuits with pulled pork). But(t) for today we’ll focus on how to cook it and make some simple tacos which is a great way to feed a group since everyone can make their own to their own specifications.First things first is to get your butt prepped. Just like everything else we want a nice flavorful rub. We used our all purpose rub after giving it a nice coating of mustard so everything will stick and give us a great flavorful bark. At the end of the day, pork isn’t the most robust tasting thing in the world so feel free to get generous with your rub. I like to rub it down a day before so that we get a dry brining effect because of the salt. Our rub won’t penetrate the meat like you hear so many people claim, but it will keep it moister and give us a juicier product, and really who doesn’t like a juicy butt, right? 😛So the next thing we need to do is get the smoker up and going. We went indirect heat at 225-250F for the duration of the cook. (If you need help with the set up check out our beginners guide to BBQ).
Before you put the butt on there are two schools of thoughts of whether you should go fat side up or fat side down.
- The fat side up people say that as the meat cooks and the fat renders out, you will effectively be basting your meat as the fat runs down it.
- The fat side down people say that this has little effect on the final product and that sometimes your meat sticks to the grates and you lose a little of that precious bark that you’ve been working so hard for, so better it be just fat than the actual meat.
We’ve tried both and……it really doesn’t seem to matter that much. So go about your life and live in harmony with all your BBQ brethren fat side up or down (although we usually go fat side up). For this cook we used some hickory chips and added them about once every hour. We also spritzed the meat with a mixture of apple juice and brown sugar (make sure the sugar completely dissolves) at the same intervals to keep the meat from drying out too much. And really that’s it. You’ll want to wait until your internal temp reaches at least 200F and if you have the patience, go to 203F. You’re looking at about 1:15-1:30 per pound of meat but remember: every cook is different and cook to temp not time. If you are pressed for time you can wrap it in foil at any time but you will get a less smoky product as a result.Once you reach your target temp you can pull it off the heat and put it into a bowl so you can get to pulling. When it comes to pulling you can use just a pair of forks, or if you can wait for it to cool down a bit (or own some heat resistant gloves) the easiest way is by using your hands. You can also use the totally badass bear claws and go full on wolverine on it. Whenever you’re pulling just keep your eyes out for any excessively large pieces of fat that haven’t fully rendered and toss those out. At this point pat yourself on the back since you just made pulled pork!! Just make sure you take off the bear claws before you do any patting.To make the tacos I always think less is more but feel free to go crazy! I like a simple combo of pork, onion, lime, cilantro, and a dash of hot sauce. But you can go full on burrito bar if you want with rice, beans, guacamole, cheese, you know the drill, we’ve all been to chipotle, right?!
And don’t worry if you have left overs since pulled pork freezes great and is great to have on hand.
So that’s it! Pound a couple tacos, drink some cervezas and margaritas and get ready for a food induced siesta!
BBQ ESSENTIALS (Smoked Pork Butt Tacos Edition)
Meat used: one pork butt (size will vary depending on amount of guests. Note: You will lose about 30% of its size after cooking)
Seasoning: The BBQ Brothers All-purpose BBQ Rub
Wood Used: Hickory (add more every hour)
Grill Temperature: ~225-250 F
Smoke time: ~1:15 to 1:30 per pound of meat, indirect
- Add additional chips and spritz the pork with an apple juice/brown sugar mixture every hour during the cook
- Shred pork using forks, your hands (with heat resistant gloves), or bear claws
- Recommended taco garnishes are onion, cilantro and lime. They’re so good you don’t even need cheese!
So let us know what you think….did this recipe smoke the competition or go up in flames?