So you invited a few close friends for a cookout. But one of them asked if one or two of his friends could come along, and you absentmindedly said “sure, why not?” Then your sister called and said she was going to be in town with the kids that weekend…
It’s time for pork butt—lots of it! No problem. Just use our new Smoke X4 quad-channel thermometer with a Billows™ BBQ control fan to cook three butts at once and still have a probe for your pit. Bring the party on.
Cooking pork butt
We’ve covered pork butt before, but we’ve usually only cooked one at a time. The technique for cooking many butts is the same: rub them, cook them, wrap them, cook some more, then rest and shred. Here we cooked three in our stick burner. Let’s take a closer look at how this works and how you can do it even better with a multi-multi-channel leave-in probe thermometer like the Smoke X4.
Pork butt rub: season heavily
The rub to choose is up to you. We used three different rubs on ours, including one I improvised on a base of equal volumes of kosher salt and black pepper with some Mexican spices. Play around with mixing your rubs and trying new ones, but no matter what you do, be sure to not skimp. Pork butts are—to this old Physics major—approximately spherical, which means that there is a lot of volume for relatively little surface area. It is hard to overseason a pork butt: once you shred it all, that seasoning will be pretty thinly spread.
Use a binder like mustard if you like, but it’s a good idea to at least let the butts sit for a few minutes after you apply the rub so that the rub can draw some of the liquid from the meat out. That seasoning/protein-rich meatjuice combo will cook together to form the delicious bark that you want on your butts. Yum. If you want to, you can reseason with a second coat after the first one becomes damp. If not, then it’s off to the smoker.
Pork butt smoking temperature
The sheer thermal-dynamic truth about pork butts is that they are thick. Getting any heat to penetrate to the center takes time and the lower the heat the longer it takes. If you don’t want to spend 16 hours cooking your pork, turn the heat up a little bit. A smoker at 300°F (149°C) will get the job done faster with no appreciable change in quality when compared to a lower, slower 225°F (107°C).
The new Smoke X4 will be happy to help you maintain that temp, of course. As with the original Smoke®, the Smoke X4 has a channel you can use for monitoring the pit temp, relaying the information to the receiver so you can keep an eye on it across your house. But the Smoke X4 can also connect to the Billows BBQ control fan so you can not only monitor the temps, but control them.
Wrap those butts
We all want smoky pork with a rugged, richly colored bark. But you don’t have to smoke your butts bare for nine hours to achieve those goals. Smoke flavor stops penetrating the meat after only a few hours of cooking, and that bark will form up in only a few hours, also. So what? So wrap them.
Wrapping pork butt will get you through the stall faster, and it won’t prevent you from getting deep, smoky flavor or quality bark. Setting your meat probes’ high-temp alarms for 160°F (71°C) will get you to an optimal place between bark-creation and stall-beating. With three meat probes, you can wrap each one individually when it gets to temp.
Wrap them in a double-layer of foil, trying to make sure there are no leaks.
once your pork shoulders are wrapped, put them back in the smoker and continue to cook them until they reach 200°F (93°C) (set that high-temp alarm for each one again!), maintaining the smoker temp with the fan. Some people even like to increase the smoker temperature a little bit to 325°F (163°C) once the butts are safely wrapped. If you want to speed things up by doing that, go for it.
If your pit temp falls, even with the Billows fan engaged, it probably means you’re low on fuel. Add more as necessary.
Rest and shred
Whether you’re cooking one shoulder or three, you’ll still need to rest your pork once it comes to temp. The collagen dissolution that is at play in BBQ is a matter of both time and temperature, and giving your butts a rest in an insulated cooler, or even on the countertop will allow more collagen to melt without pumping more (potentially drying) heat into the pork.
As each butt’s high-temp alarm sounds , remove them from the smoker and let them sit for at least a half-hour, but preferably an hour to get the best texture.
Once you’ve waited through the excruciating rest period, open the pork up and shred it! Use two forks, some bear claw-shredders, a cleaver, or whatever you like to shred it down, just be sure to keep the delicious juices that have accumulated in the foil. Mix them in with the meat after shredding for meat that is more moist.
Have the horde grab a stack of paper plates and eat their hearts out. Buns, pickles, and sauce are great, as is some good slaw, but however you choose to serve it, if you monitored your critical temps along the way, you’re going to have a lot of happy people on your hands.
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