Photo Credit: Ty Nigh
Whether you’re a fan of pulled pork sliders or you love serving slow-cooked barbecue pork at your family gatherings and backyard parties, you should learn how to smoke a Boston butt in your electric smoker.
This simple process results in an intensely flavorful cut of meat that has a soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture your friends and family will enjoy.
Our step-by-step guide provides tips on how to choose, prepare, trim, smoke, and wrap your Boston butt, as well as some useful tips on how you can keep the meat moist and tender throughout the whole process.
1. Choosing the Right Boston Butt
Photo: by Marco Verch
The Boston butt is a sizable cut of meat from the shoulder of a pig, just above the picnic shoulder section. If you’re looking to make your own pulled pork, this is the cut to buy. It contains a relatively high-fat content and has a lot of marbling, making it a flavorful and juicy piece of meat.
You should also opt for pork that’s been grass-fed if possible. Pigs raised on pastured grass make for pork that’s especially high in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.
2. Prepping the Boston Butt
Photo by jeffreyw
Once you’ve picked your Boston butt meat, you’ll need to prepare the cut before putting it in the electric smoker. Many Boston butt cuts are already trimmed. However, if you buy an untrimmed piece of meat, you should use a sharp knife to remove the top layer of thick skin from the cut. After you’ve done this, check both sides of the Boston butt to see if there are any places where the outer fat layer is thicker than ¼- ⅓” in depth. Trim this fat, but leave the thinner chunks on the meat’s surface.
Next, you can apply a binding agent or starch to the Boston butt. Mustard, vegetable oils, apple cider vinegar, and apple juice are all good options if you’re trying to infuse the meat with extra moisture before the smoking process. An effective binding agent also prevents your dry rub from falling off the pork when you’re cooking it.
You can combine your favorite ingredients to make a dry rub for your Boston butt. If you’re struggling for inspiration, try mixing some brown sugar with salt, freshly ground pepper, chili powder, and paprika, and then apply this rub to the cut. Try not to use all your dry rub straight away: you don’t want to create a thick, impermeable membrane of seasoning that covers the meat and prevents the grill’s smoke from cooking the cut properly. Instead, apply the rub, so there’s a light coating, and reserve the rest for applying before wrapping the butt.
3. Smoking the Meat
Boston butt is a relatively tough and sinewy cut of meat, despite its high-fat content. That means you’ll need to slow cook this slice of pork to break down the connective tissue layers and the meat’s collagen. If you don’t, you’ll serve up some smoked pork that’s chewy and unpleasant to eat.
Preheat your smoker, so it reaches a temperature of between 225-240°F. Try to keep the heat levels relatively constant throughout this whole process. When your grill is ready, put the seasoned and trimmed Boston butt cut in the center of the smoker container or box. Make sure the butt’s fatty side is facing upward, toward the lid. This ensures that when the fat starts to melt, the juices and lipids trickle down into the meat, infusing the pork cut with moisture and tenderizing the butt.
Close the smoker’s lid and leave your Boston butt to cook for several hours. The whole smoking process should take between 6-10 hours, but you should check the meat’s internal temperature after 3-4 hours. Use a dual probe digital thermometer to monitor the smoker box’s heat levels and the pork.
4. Wrapping the Boston Butt
Photo by Cayobo
When the meat reaches 160-165°F, you’ll need to remove it from the grill and wrap it up in aluminum foil. Keep the smoker on while you do this. This wrapping method helps the pork retain its juices and melted fat for the remainder of the smoking process.
If you notice the meat’s a bit dry, use a turkey baster to spray it with more of the binding agent substance you used before, like apple juice or cider vinegar, and add any leftover dry seasoning. You’ll need to wear gloves when you wrap the smoked butt because it’s been cooking at a high temperature for the past 3-5 hours.
When you’ve finished wrapping the cut, open your smoker’s lid and put the meat back in the container. Close the lid, then leave the pork to cook for another 2-3 hours, checking the butt’s internal temperature every hour or so. When the meat’s internal temperature reaches 195°F, you can remove it from the smoker and put it on the kitchen counter to rest for between 20-30 minutes. You want to give the juices and fatty oils time to settle back down into the meat and create a more flavorful cut.
5. Make Pulled Pork Out of the Boston Butt
After you’ve let the Boston butt rest for half an hour, gently remove the aluminum wrapping. You might want to add some more binding agent to the meat if you think it looks dry or dehydrated.
Now you’ve learned how to smoke a Boston butt in an electric smoker. At any point you feel that you need to get a better smoker, then you can read our guide for the top rated electric smokers.
After cooking the meat, you can set about taking the meat off the bone. Making sure you’re wearing high-quality insulated gloves, start pulling the pork away from the main cut gently. The pork should come off pretty easily because it’s been slow cooking for a long time. If it doesn’t, this is a sign that you haven’t cooked it for long enough or haven’t kept it moist during the smoking process.
6. Create Tender and Juicy Pulled Pork by Smoking a Boston Butt
When you learn how to smoke a Boston butt cut, you’ll create a tender and juicy piece of pork that has a melt-in-the-mouth texture and a smoky taste. You should be able to tear the meat off the bone with ease or shred it to create homemade pulled pork sandwiches or sliders for your next cookout.