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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