I smoked my first picnic butt yesterday. I'm pleased with how it came out.
I did it very simply and to my wife and I's taste based on what we've kind of observed with the (small amount) of smoking I've done so far.
I didn't brine it. I just got it from the store, rinsed it off, then dried it off with some paper towels and applied my impromptu rub.
The rub was based on what we've come to like or dislike in our (again, limited) experience.
The rub had (approximately) 10 parts paprika, 1 part dry mustard, 1 part black pepper, 1 part chile powder, one part dried garlic, and 1 part kosher salt. That's it
No sugar and very little salt. We've noticed that almost always, I've been getting things too salty, and the sugar doesn't do much for either of us for some reason. So this blend was designed to maximize what we like and minimize what seemed to have been overdone or unnecessary in my previous recipes.
I left the skin and fat on, and put the meat into the smoker fat side up, and set things to achieve an actual smoker chamber temperature of about 230°F. I used an Amazin smoke generator with hickory pellets. I did use water in the drip pan, but that may be why my pellets went out about halfway through the "Z". It smoked overnight, starting at about 3AM (hey, I'm a night owl, I bought the butt at Wally World at about 1:30AM).
I re-lit the pellets at about noon, and the remainder of it burned after that. So maybe that worked out better that way anyhow.
Things started out like this:
Notice my foil baffles. Since I usually don't have much to load into the smoker, I've been able to "waste" some valuable real estate in the smoker to stop drippings from reaching the smoke generator on the lower left, and create a baffle to improve the smoke/heat distribution with the large baffle covering most of the top grill. That way, the smoke and heat has to pass up over the butt and go to the left before it can find its way over to the vent in the top right corner of the smoker. I can put one more grate in, so I think I could theoretically do four of these same sized butts at once and still keep my foil baffles in place. Anything over that, and I'd need to do something else to get the baffling accomplished.
I had the A-MAZE-N pellet smoker loaded with hickory pellets.
It cooked all night, and then all day until about 3:30PM when I turned the temperature down to about 210 actual smoker temp so I could go out to dinner and not worry about things. When I got back, I took it out at about 6:30PM. The smoker's meat probe was still reading 199. I then realized that perhaps that readout maxes out at 199. I wanted to get to the 205 I've seen recommended here for pulling with a picnic butt, and didn't realize that the display for the smoker probably doesn't show "overload" or go above 199. Instead, I think it just reads 199 even if the real reading is higher. Live and learn! But I probed the butt with a different thermometer right after taking it out of the smoker, and it was at about 195 internal temp in most places before I stole a few test bites and then wrapped it up to rest. So I think it was just perfect, actually.
I wrapped it in foil and then a bath towel and let it rest. But after an hour, we couldn't stand it and unwrapped it again to swipe more for a good snack. It was still pretty hot!
So we stole what we wanted and then I wrapped it again and let it sit for a few more hours. It was still pretty darned hot when I finally got around to pulling it. That's after at least three hours total resting time!
It really did come out nice. I was amazed at how juicy it was after reading that the picnic butts are often kind of dry and tough. This thing was plenty well lubed up.
Second bowl full:
Anyhow, I think it came out pretty good for my first try with a picnic butt and only my second pork butt ever.
We were planning on making some sandwiches with part of it and some green chile with the rest. I'm not sure it'll last long enough to get to the chile stage.
It only produced two and a half bowls this size of pulled pork. Well worth it, but maybe next time I'll buy two or three of these butts so we'll have a bigger dose of it. Now that I'm more confident in how it'll turn out, it'd be better use of the time and effort to get a larger yield.