by Smokin' Okie
today's lesson: Pork butt, Pork Shoulder, Picnics ... etc.
There are a lot of questions about pork shoulders and butts, so I’ve developed
this guide to help you with the basics. There
are many sources, lots of information, but I'll try to put
a little here for you to get started.
It won’t tell you everything! I’ve developed this guide to give you enough
information to start smoking your own.
Develop your own techniques and lessons and keep good notes.
purposes of this 101, I purchased a pair of butts at Sam's
(they use IBP [now Tyson] and I've had great success. This is NOT an
endorsement for them)
What are they?
A pork shoulder (front part) can be
divided into two parts:
- "Butt" end - so called because it is
the butt end of the shoulder (it isn't the actual "butt" of
the pig...just the shoulder)
- "Shank" end - so called because
it has the shank bone in it. The back "shoulder" of a pig
would be called a haunch or a ham.
You generally make
"pulled pork" from a pork shoulder cut (either butt or
shank). The butt portion is most popular because it has less
bone and less connective "stuff" in it. The shank portion
can make some tasty pulled pork as well, but it will have a
slightly different texture, and more connective "stuff" in
it, not to mention the big ol' shank bone (good for soup
Cook to Time or Cook to Temp?
The preferred method
of cooking pork is indeed to use a
Polder (or other remote probe thermometer) and cook to
internal temperature rather than time. There is some controversy
as to what temperature; I've seen mention of
everything from 180ºF to 205ºF.
I shoot for an internal of
205ºF (and I check several places before I'm sure - it's hard
to get a good consistent read on pork lots of fat can throw
the reading off). If it's a small pork butt, I might cook it
only to 190ºF. I go on my instincts more than my Polder.
recommendation: plan for 1 1/4 hours per pound, but don't do
this blindly. I start checking mine about 1/2 way through my
estimate and keep and eye on it when I'm mopping it. I've seen everything from 1 hour
per pound to up to 2 1/2 hours per pound ... yes
in my Model 150 (that's my big one guys) I've done up to 8
butts and it average almost 1.5 hours per pound total. These
each averaged about 12-14 pounds each.
A Note About the Plateau
When cooking butts, the internal temperature can
often stall while the connective tissues and fats break down; this occurs
usually around 180ºF. This can last 45 minutes or can last up to 2 hours ...
it's just one of those things. Sometimes, when I hit it and it's been a while,
I'll bump the cooker up to 250ºF. Remember, it's done when it's done.
To Foil or Not to Foil
not a fan of foil, but it does a great job of keeping the
moisture in. My complaint is that I want some of the
"renowned Mr. Brown" bark with my butt, and you can't get
that with foil - it's too "mushy".
It's also hard to get some mop onto the meat. A good vinegar
based mop does wonder for pulled pork. (See link to recipe
at the bottom of this 101).
Now, what I have done is
finish them off in foil to get them moist and then pop them
on the grill for 10-15 to crisp up the outside.
What Do You Do With a Butt after cooking?
Eat it ... ahh Grasshopper, come along on this journey we
call "pulled Pork". Being an Okie (go figure with my
handle) in the Air Force I had the pleasure of traveling the
world and the US, and I've always found time for learning how
different regions love their Q.
I've learned about Pulled
Pork from those in the South East, particularly the Carolina's. I
won't go into a full blown discussion of the virtues of
Lexington versions, East Carolina, and whether to use
vinegar, mustard or a tomato sauce.
suggestions for Pulled Pork
you've cooked it (remember cooking is a whole 'nother lesson
about vinegar mops), let it sit for 10-15 min (you always
let the meat you cook sit for a few minutes to let the
You can then pull (you can pull with your
fingers, you can pulled with forks, you can pull whatever
you got, you just pull). Some actually like it sliced, but
you have to cook it only to 180ºF to do that.
|Now, when you're
pulling, look for "Mr. Brown and Mrs. White" in the pork,
there will actually be two slightly different colors of
meat, hence the names. Look for these and taste them, they
WILL be different. Some swear by the Mr. Brown. If you
didn't cook in foil (you didn't did you? Shame on you)
then you'll also have some "bark" this is also something
many pork pullers look for and eat. When done right it's not
all dried and crusty, it just has a firmer texture and not
quite dried out. So, now you have this huge mass of pulled
two traditional ways to eat pulled pork is either on white
bread or cheap, small hamburger buns. And you know what,
it's great that way. Now for the hard part. Some will eat
this with cole slaw on the top - yup, on the sandwich (also
call a "samich" in some parts). Depending on which side of
the mountain in Carolina (Lexington) you'll either use a
mustard based sauce, a tomato based sauce or a vinegar
So there you have it, the pulled
pork tutorial (short version). Hope that helps, Grasshopper.
Enjoy, this pulled pork stuff is not native to Oklahoma, but
my friends swear by it now - and my Memphis Style Ribs
(oops, another lesson).
Welcome to the Pork Pulling Club,
Smokin Okies Vinegar Mop for Pulled Pork
Smokin's Pulled Pork Baste & Serving Sauce
Smokin Okie's Virgin Mustard Sauce