Pork butt (aka pork shoulder) is a large and affordable cut of meat that is relatively easy to find and can feed a ton of people. We love pork butt in the smoker for feeding a crowd, but you can also meal plan and use all that shredded pork in a bunch of different ways with completely different flavor profiles. You just need to smoke it low and slow in the Traeger (Heather loves the Ironwood) to keep it juicy and full of flavor. You can use it for so many different things! But first, here are some basic steps to prep your meat and get that perfect smoke.
Prepare the Smoker
Now, a lot of people are intimidated by cooking pork butt because it is a big chunk of meat. It also takes a much longer smoke time, up to 8-12 hours depending on the size you get. Just make sure you have lots of pellets and give yourself plenty of time. Smoking larger pieces of meat can be unpredictable. This is because of what is known as a stall, or the point in cooking where moisture in the pork comes to the surface and tries to evaporate. One time, the meat could cook faster and the next time the meat could cook slower. So always give yourself lots of time and don’t rush the process. That is the best way to get the right flavor and texture. This is also why we usually cook pork butt overnight.
Trim the Fat and Cut Rivets
Next up for pork butt in the smoker is some simple preparation. Most butchers will do a pretty good job of trimming the fat. You can trim more of the fat from your meat, but we are of the firm opinion that fat means flavor. Then you will cut some rivets into the meat. Again, this isn’t necessary, but we like to do it to make sure the smoke and flavor gets all the way down into the meat. It also produces more of those delicious crispy bits. We cut some large hashmarks across the top of the meat, leaving about 1″ of the bottom still intact.
Time for the Rub
Then you will give the meat a good rubdown with Dijon mustard. It is a good way to protect the meat and keep the seasoning in place, but you really can’t taste it. So if you are someone that doesn’t love mustard, don’t worry. Once it is nice and covered, it is time to rub with the seasoning. We prefer the Traeger Perfect Pork because it has a more neutral flavor–that way we can use the pork in multiple ways. Once it is seasoned, cover it with plastic or foil and put it in the fridge. Give it a few hours to sit and for the flavor to work magic on the meat. At minimum, let it sit and soak up the flavors for a couple hours. If you have the time, keep it in the fridge overnight.
Turn Up the Heat
Now, it’s time to turn on that smoker (use the tips from this blog post if you need a refresher course). It will take about 15 to 20 minutes for your Traeger to heat up to 275℉ and you are ready to go. We choose to follow this recipe from Trager, and put our pork butt fat side down, directly on the rack. Cook it until the meat reaches 160-170℉. For these lower temperatures, we prefer the Meater wireless thermometer. It’s so easy to connect to your phone so you get automatic alerts when the meat is ready for the next steps.
After about five or six hours, we pull out the butt and place it fat side up in an aluminum pan. Sprinkled in some brown sugar, a few pats of butter, and some apple juice. Now it’s time to finish this baby off. Seal the pan with some tinfoil and return it to the Traeger. Now let the meat cook until it reaches 205℉. Take it off the grill and let it rest for about 45 minutes before you start shredding. And you will have some tender, juicy pork butt in the smoker to use over the next few days.