Tender and juicy pork butt. That’s what there for. Find out how to cook this cut to perfection with the advice we have for you below.
Pork butt turns out best in the oven or smoker. Colloquially known as the “Boston butt,” this cut of meat contains a lot of tough, chewy collagen that, when cooked low and slow, turns into juicy gelatin.
The pork butt, simply put, is one of those cuts of meat that needs a whole day of cooking and doesn’t tolerate haste in the kitchen. Gentle temperature and plenty of time are essential to make it nice and tender.
The question that arises next, then, is can you overcook it?
Yes, you can overcook a pork butt, and it is a mess of mush if you happen to mess up. Any temperature over 200°F is considered overcooked and has lost its composure for presentation and eating. It will be challenging to even pull it out of the smoker or the oven when overcooked.
So, we will cover the perfect techniques for cooking a pork butt in the oven and in a smoker. For either-or, it is a split process that calls for the meat to cook uncovered for the first half and covered for the second half. The main thing to watch is the temperature.
The Importance of Seasoning the Pork Butt
Pork butt is a tougher cut of meat that benefits from a marinade, wet or dry.
What kind of marinade to use is up to you, the cook. We recommend that you try a wet marinade with apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic.
This mixture will give your pork butt a nice flavor and help make it nice and tender as it cooks. The acids in the marinade will help break down the muscle fibers and make the pork even more delectable.
How to Marinade Pork Butt
There are many ways to marinate meat, but we share our favorite techniques below.
For a wet marinade, we find the easiest way is to put all of the ingredients in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and then massage the bag to make sure the pork is coated with the marinade. Then, you will want to put the bag in the fridge and let it sit for 7-8 hours.
For a dry marinade, rub the meat liberally with salt, pepper, and the spices of your choice, then put it on a baking sheet, cover it in plastic wrap, and store it in the fridge overnight.
Through osmosis, the salt will draw the moisture to the surface of the meat. Once that happens, the salt, pepper, and spices will dissolve in the moisture, yielding a flavorsome brine that gets reabsorbed by the meat.
What is the Best Temperature to Cook a Pork Butt?
The best time to smoke a pork butt is when the temperature, whether in the oven or smoker, is between 225-250°F.
The two temperatures to remember for the internal portion of the meat are 170°F and 200°F. This is the threshold at which collagen—the connective tissue in pork butt that makes it tough—starts to melt into moist and succulent gelatin.
At the 170°F mark, you will want to pull the meat out to wrap it in aluminum foil then return it to cook until 200°F. To get the best results, preheat and leave the oven or smoker set to 250°F and leave it be.
Roasting a Pork Butt in an Oven
If you smoke a pork butt in an oven, you will want to put it in a roasting pan and cook it for the first two hours at 250°F. Then, you will want to cover the pork butt with foil and cook it for the last two hours at 225°F.
Two hours is a guessing timeframe because it depends on the size and weight of the meat. Some suggest lowering the temperature in the oven for round two while the meat is covered, but we recommend leaving it at 250°F and using a meat thermometer.
Once the internal temperature reaches 200°F, it is time to shut it down. Any temperature over 200°F is overcooked, which means you went too far with no turning back.
Smoking a Pork Butt in a Smoker
If you are smoking a pork butt in a smoker, you will want to put it in the smoker and smoke it for the first four hours (depending on how many pounds) at 250°F. By using a meat thermometer, go until the meat inside reaches 170°F. Follow the same procedure as the oven.
Wrap the pork butt in foil and cook it for the last couple of hours at 250°F. Keep a close eye on the pork butt temperature because it must be removed from the smoker once the internal temperature reaches 200°F. If the temperature goes above that, it will be overcooked and unsalvageable.
The Final Temperature Matters
No matter which cooking method you choose, ensure that your pork butt reaches an internal temperature of 200°F. This is the perfect temperature for pork butt, and it will be juicy and tender. Anything over 200°F is overcooked and will result in a dry and tough piece of meat. It will also fall apart and be very difficult to handle.
It is also vital to leave the meat to sit for at least 30 to 45 minutes. This allows the juices to settle. Remember, as it is resting, the meat is still cooking. If you cut the pork butt right away, all of the delicious juices will run out, and you will be left with a dry piece of meat.
Special Tips to Keep the Pork Butt Juicy
Here are some tips to follow. Some we already covered and are simply recapping, but you will find that each time you cook a pork butt, the juices and flavors will burst in your mouth with every bite.
Start with a layer of fat on top. This will help keep the meat juicy as it cooks.
Use a slow cooker or outside smoker for cooking the pork butt at a low temperature. This will help ensure that the meat stays juicy and tender.
Keep the lid on the cooker and don’t open the smoker, letting the pork butt cook without interruption for as much as possible. This will help retain moisture and heat.
Check the pork butt frequently after it reaches 170°F on the inside to make sure that it is not overcooked. You don’t want to end up with dry, tough meat.
Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the pork butt. Some use an instant-read meat thermometer, and others a leave-in thermometer; both will work. When it reaches 200°F, it is done cooking.
Allow the pork butt to rest for 30-45 minutes after cooking for carryover cooking to take place and for the juices to settle.
If you pull the meat off before 200°F, it will be cooked but will not have the pull-apart effect that most people desire when eating pork butt.
Serve the pork butt sliced or pulled. It will be juicy and delicious!
What Happens if You Overcook Pork Butt?
It is essential to keep a close eye on the pork butt to not overcook. If you overcook the pork butt, it will be dry and tough and feel like you are eating sawdust. The meat will not have that juicy, tender texture that everyone loves.
If perfection is what you seek, there is no salvaging the meat. That said, you may still find some salvaging by using your favorite bbq sauce to make it edible, but you can never get the juice back once it is cooked out by overcooking it.
There are many ways to serve pork butt. You can slice it or pull it apart. It is usually served with barbecue sauce, but you can also serve it with mustard sauce, applesauce, or any other type of sauce you prefer.
The joy is experimenting and finding out what suits you best. After all, that’s the excitement of home cooking, isn’t it?
Pork butt is a versatile meat and can be cooked in many different ways. You can bake it, smoke it, or cook it in a slow cooker. No matter how you cook it, the pork butt will be juicy and delicious every time.