The BEST Smoked Pork Butt {{thanks to one simple secret step}}

Hub­by & I have been mak­ing smoked Pork Butt for for years. It start­ed off as a Christ­mas Eve tra­di­tion ((serv­ing to 20 of our clos­est friends & fam­i­ly)) and then we start­ed doing them in the sum­mer as well. “Why pork butt?” — you might be won­der­ing. First of all, it SO SO tasty and fair­ly easy to pre­pare ((you just need a smok­er & some sea­son­ings)). But at the time this tra­di­tion began, we had no mon­ey. Feed­ing 20 peo­ple with no mon­ey is tough! Back then pork butt was cheap that we could eas­i­ly afford  to feed a hun­gry crowd. Even 15+ years lat­er it is still one of the most inex­pen­sive cuts of meat around. Which is why we have start­ed mak­ing it year round.

Our fam­i­ly has been going to Table Rock Lake every sum­mer for many decades. As our fam­i­ly has grown, a din­ner­time sys­tem devel­oped. I would say over the last 5 years we have real­ly per­fect­ed our sim­ple “sys­tem”. Here’s how it works:

There are 6 fam­i­lies that make up our big group. The 6 fam­i­lies com­bine into 3 pairs and each pair is respon­si­ble for 2 cook­ing nights. That way most of our time AT the lake is actu­al­ly spent ON the lake!

We have pret­ty much locked in our week­long menu — but are always open to new ways to sim­pli­fy it. Sev­er­al years ago, I start­ed serv­ing smoked pork butt on Mex­i­can night. Not only is it bud­get friend­ly and pow­er­ful­ly tasty, its per­fect for mak­ing ahead & freez­ing. To make ahead, fol­low the instruc­tions below, shred, cool and freeze in gal­lon size freez­er bag­gies. Just thaw in the fridge, then an hour before serv­ing spread it out on a cou­ple of bak­ing sheets in a sin­gle lay­er. Place in a hot oven for 30 min­utes or so, until hot and crisp.

Serve with taco fix­ings or atop a sal­ad. Left­overs are great with some BBQ on a sweet Hawai­ian bun.

As I said, this has become a sta­ple meal in our fam­i­ly and up until this week I have always pre­pared it the exact same way. (You can read that recipe HERE) But this week, I got the wild hair to switch it up a lit­tle and we brined the pork butt before sea­son­ing and smok­ing.

Sug­ar, kosher salt and water went into each 2 gal­lon bag along with the pork butt. They sat in the fridge overnight and in the morn­ing were removed from the brin­ing liq­uid, sea­soned and smoked. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out but I was hope­ful that the fla­vor would be max­i­mized through­out the entire butt while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly cre­at­ing a very ten­der smoked pork.

For this rub I com­bined:

  • Lawry’s sea­soned salt
  • brown sug­ar
  • cumin
  • crushed red pep­per flakes
  • hatch MILD chili pow­der

We used 2 —  7 to 8 lb pork butts and mea­sure­ments are rough. The idea is to gen­er­ous­ly coat all sides of the pork butt with sea­son­ing. So, start off by sprin­kling gen­er­ous­ly with Lawry’s Sea­soned Salt. Just when you think you have enough, give them anoth­er heavy sprin­kle.

Once the Lawry’s is on, pat the brown sug­ar mix­ture onto every side, includ­ing ends and bot­tom.

Doesn’t this look glo­ri­ous? One step remains before plac­ing these on the smok­er. I added a lit­tle extra zip by sprin­kling a table­spoon or so of lemon pep­per over each pork butt.

We smoked them in a tra­di­tion­al char­coal smok­er with mesquite chips — for 6 hours.

The brown sug­ar caramelized with the fat cap on the pork butts in such an addic­tive­ly deli­cious way. After smok­ing is com­plete, place them on a large roast­er & wrap tight­ly with foil. Bake at 300° for 3 addi­tion­al hours. This extra time in the oven allows the fla­vors of the rub to pen­e­trate all the way through the meat & helps ten­der­ize as well.

After 3 hours in the oven, remove the foil and change the set­ting to broil in order to devel­op a crisp out­er shell. Keep a close watch — that brown sug­ar will burn in a blink.

Can’t you almost taste it? And thanks to the brin­ing, this meat is fall-off-the-bone ten­der. Typ­i­cal­ly, the cen­ter has had a lit­tle chew — even with the extra time in the oven. But now, the meat fell off the bone and was eas­i­ly shred­ded into bite-sized pieces.

The Best Smoked Pork Butt
Serves 20
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
9 hr
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
9 hr
Ingre­di­ents
  1. 2 — 7 lb pork butts, fresh
Brine
  1. 16 c water*
  2. 1 c kosher salt, divid­ed
  3. 1 1/2 c gran­u­lat­ed sug­ar, divid­ed
Rub
  1. Lawry’s sea­soned salt
  2. 3 c brown sug­ar
  3. 1/4 c mild red hatch chili pow­der
  4. 2 T red pep­per flakes
  5. 2 T cumin
  6. 2 T lemon pep­per
Instruc­tions
  1. Pre­pare brine by por­ing 3 c warm water each into 2 — 2 gal­lon zip­per-top plas­tic bags. Add half of the salt & sug­ar to each bad. Seal and shake vig­or­ous­ly, until the salt and sug­ar dis­solve. Place one pork butt in each bag & fill each bag with enough water* to cov­er the pork butts.
  2. Refrig­er­ate over night.
  3. The next morn­ing, or 8 hours lat­er, pre­pare smok­er accord­ing to rec­om­mend­ed instruc­tions spe­cif­ic to your brand/type of smok­er. For added fla­vor, add a few chips of soaked mesquite chips.
  4. remove the pork butts from the brine & dis­card the brine. In a medi­um bowl, com­bine all rub ingre­di­ents, except the Lawry’s & lemon pep­per.
  5. Place each piece of meat on it’s own bak­ing sheet and lib­er­al­ly sprin­kle all side, top & bot­tom with Lawry’s.
  6. Sprin­kle the rub over all sides (includ­ing top and bot­tom), pat­ting so that it forms a shell. Sprin­kle lemon pep­per her the top and then place on the hot smok­er. Cov­er and smoke 5–6 hours.
  7. Once smok­ing is com­plete, place the meat on the rack of a large roast­ing pan. Tight­ly cov­er the roast­ing pan with foil and bake at 300° for 3 addi­tion­al hours.
  8. After 3 hours, remove foil and broil for 5–10 min­utes, until the exte­ri­or crips. Keep close watch while the pork butts are under the broil­er — that brown sug­ar rub can eas­i­ly burn.
  9. Once skin is crisp, remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 min­utes before shred­ding.
  10. Serve with rolls and BBQ, or make car­ni­tas tacos.
  11. Serves 20
Notes
  1. *approx­i­mate­ly 8 cups per bag — just enough to cov­er each pork butt.
Food for a Year: https://foodforayear.com/
Hope your fam­i­ly enjoys this recipe as much as my fam­i­ly does! *Ps — I think I have said “butt” enough to tide me over for the next year or so…

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