Discussion in 'Pork' started by gary s, Sep 26, 2015.

    Part One
    After thinking about this after getting started I decided to make this a two part topic.
    This first part will cover the basic Whole Pork Butt Smoke
    The second part (At a later date) will cover cooking time of cutting a Pork Butt in half, showing how the thickness, not weight effects cooking time.
    This post is mainly for newbies and first timers
    Pork Butt is one of the easiest pieces of meat to smoke because it is so forgiving.  So don’t let that Pork Butt intimidate you.

    I wrote an article a year or so ago on Briskets, some of the same principals applies to Pork Butts

                                            “How Long to Cook Brisket Or the

                               Misconception of the 1 to 1.5 hours per pound rule”

    In general  thickness  is a better predictor than  weight on how long it will take to cook.

    Similarly, a 4” thick pork but that is 10” wide and 10” long, will cook in the same amount of time as a 4” thick 8” wide and 8” long butt, even though one weighs more.

    Another example, Say you are grilling steaks, you have two pieces of meat, both weigh one pound but one is an inch thick and the other is two inches thick, you are cooking both to medium rare, “they both weigh a pound”, but which one will get to medium rare the quickest.

    Also Smoking temperature is one of the key factors, people smoke anywhere from 200° to 300° so how can your cooking time be based on weight, simply put it can’t.  

    What I am reading is most people are telling newbies to figure about 1, 1.5  to 2 hours per pound. I would also, figure for a long smoke and add extra time. (You don’t want to be standing around with you family and friends waiting for the Butt to be done).

    I am not saying TIME is not important, IT IS, it's just not the only thing to base your smoke on.

    Now, in saying that, How long will it take ? What time do I put it on? When will it be ready?

    All good questions that need to be answered. I would say typically a 7 - 8 lb. Butt takes me 10 - 12 hours

    so if I am wanting to eat around 6:00 PM  I'll start my Butt around 5:00 or 6:00 AM  If it finishes early, that's a bonus Wrap it up in a couple old towels and in a warm cooler and it will be fine till dinner. My typical smoking temp is 225º so I guess a 7 pound-er would figure out to about a 1.5 and 2 hours per lb. 
    1. How Long will it Take?   Good question, there is not an exact time, for several reasons. All pork butts are not the same, the age and breed of the hog, how the hog was fed, muscle and fat content, what temp you smoke at, etc, etc. All these are factors in “How long will it take”. But you need an idea so you will know when to start. Since I normally smoke at 225 ° I figure about 10 to 12 hours on 7 – 8 lb. Butts, which figures about an hour and a half per lb.
    1. What time do I put it on?   Let’s say you want to eat at 6:00 PM I would put it on by 5:00 or 6:00 AM. Just back up at least 10 – 12 hours from when you want to eat. Now if you are cooking at a higher temp than 225 ° naturally your cooking time won’t be as long.
    1. When will it be ready ?   What I was taught many years ago, “it’s ready when it’s ready”. When it reaches an Internal Temp (IT) of about 205 ° it’s ready for Pulled Pork. The best way to tell is wiggle the blade bone, if it is loose and start to pull out clean it’s ready. Check the IT periodically, epically if you are new to smoking. If you think you are coming down to the wire and your butt’s IT is still low a couple of things, crank up the heat and wrap it in foil. These will help it get up to temp quicker.
     After several butts, you will figure out the cooking time with getting to know your smoker and practice, practice. The more you do it the better and easier it gets.    

    OK- so lets get started: 

    We will see how a 7 pound-er does @ 275º

    I have a 7 lb. Butt I pulled out of the freezer a few days ago to thaw in the fridge. I look for sales, Back in July the store was running Pork butts buy one get one for a penny.

    (Pretty sure they were over stocked from the 4th of July) Oh well a good buy.

    I’ll pull the Butt out of the fridge and set it on the counter while I am firing up the smoker.

    Once the smoker is warming up, I start on the Butt,

    If it needs a little trimming, now is the time. (I’m not big on injecting or seasoning a day or so in advance)  Nothing wrong with doing either, but just starting out I would stick with the basics, then start experimenting with flavor profiles after you are comfortable and happy with the way your Pork Butt turns out.

    Sometimes I’ll rub it with a light coat of mustard, sometimes Olive Oil, and sometimes nothing at all. The mustard and oil only help your rub stick.

    Today, let’s go with  EVOO “Extra Virgin Olive Oil”  SPOG “ Salt, Pepper, Onion & Garlic Powder” and some rub.

    A light coat of EVOO all over the Butt, then some SPOG and finally some rub. (On the rub, store bought, your own, whatever you like)

    Now to the smoker, (I usually smoke most of my stuff at 225° but today I am kicking it up to 275°. That way we will be checking the 1 to 1.5 hour rule ???.

    OK – Saturday Morning, time to get started.

    6:45 AM Pulled Butt out of the fridge and on the counter, then started getting the smoker ready. A little      charcoal in the basket and a full chimney on the burner.

    7:00 AM – dumped chimney of lit coals into basket and added a large split of pecan. Back to the butt. Rubbed Butt with EVOO, SPOG and my Rub, waiting on smoker.

    7:30 AM – Smoker up to 275 ° Butt on.

    9:00 AM – Had to have some baked beans, temp still at 275°.

    10:30 AM – Added another split and about half a chimney of charcoal, IT of Butt 137°

    11:30 AM – Pulled the beans after 2.5 hours (Boss said Not Too Smokey) IT was 155°

    12:00 PM – Added another split, still rocking along at 275 ° IT is 172º

    1:30 PM  -  Pork Butt at 202° - 205°  Ready , Ready  Wiggled the bone and it started pulling out clean

    Wow !!!

    Butt only took 6 hours from start to finish to reach 205º smoking at 275°

    I did not foil and the Butt is juicy, juicy. Wasn't expecting it to finish this fast.

    Here are the Pictures

    Last Pork Butt, I bought in July, buy one get one for a penny

    7 pound er

    Grandson holding the tape measure

    Butt ready for EVOO, SPOG & Rub

    Butt with EVOO & SPOG

    And with my Rub

    Charcoal getting Hot

    Waiting on the coals

    Almost TBS getting close to temp

    Up to temp  Pork Butt on

    Had to have a little bacon for breakfast and for my beans

    Mostly heat and VTBS

    A shot of the temp gauge

    3 hours in and IT at 137º

    Beans ready to come off, Looking Good

    12:00 PM  171º - 172º

    Aah  202º to 205º

    The bark is perfect, lots of flavor when pulled and mixed in

    Had a pkg. of sausage just begging to be smoked

    Bone slid out like butter

    Look at the color, ones pulled and mixed this will be some good stuff.

    Going to cover it up and in the warmer till game time later on.

    See how easy a Pork Butt is, Don't over think it, Don't get excited if it takes longer

    Allow plenty of time and enjoy your smoke.

    Bumping the temp up cuts down on the cooking time of this Butt,

    6 hours to get to an IT of 205º

    Now in saying this DO NOT EXPECT ALL 7 lb. Butts to cook in six hours.

    Remember at the start I said" I was bumping my regular cooking temp of 225º to 275º 

    to see how much less time it would take. Normally that size Butt takes me about 10 -12 hours

    I wanted to show all you new guys, NOT to just depend on time, Check your IT, and at the end

    wiggle the bone, if it starts to pull out clean it's ready.   KEEP it SIMPLE,, Don't Over Think It.

    Have fun.

    I have been smoking for a long time, I started before they had all these fancy gadgets, cell phones

    and computers. I am old school, that doesn't mean I don't like all the modern stuff, I love my lap top and cell phone

    But if you learn the basics, you can apply them to any smoker or situation.

    Again this was a thread to help show that Time is not the only factor.

    Thanks for Looking

    Last edited: Sep 29, 2015
  2. ats32

    ats32 Smoking Fanatic

    Great read. Some of you guys find such great deals on pork shoulder/butts its incredible. Here is what I have going right now! 

  3. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Good looking Butt and nice post of the cook! I read the Brisket Post and applauded your work. But I said then and still say that a Pork Butt is a different animal. A 10LB Brisket and a 15LB Brisket are about the same thickness, the 15LB one for the most part, will be wider and longer. But a 12LB Butt will be larger in every dimension compared to a 6LB Butt. Thickness timing for a 6 pounder is irrelavant for a 12 pound Butt. The times per pound are Guidelines. These are simply Time Tested " estimates " of what usually takes place at a given smoking temp and the average Butt. Many of us have smoked two or more similar sized Butts or Briskets and had them finish at different times. What caused that??? Who knows...[​IMG]

    The Newbie Question always starts the same..." I am smoking my first Butt for a gathering of family this weekend. About how long should it take at 225°F ??? "

    What is the best answer? " Load it in and give it plenty of time.."  " A thick Butt takes longer than a Thin Butt..." If you cut it in half lengthwise  it will cook faster than a whole one..."

    Ok...But how long? When should I put it in?

    I would answer, " I have found at 225°F an average 8 to10 pound Butt takes 2 hours per pound plus I add 2 hours to cover my A$$ and have time to rest..." The next guy says, " Mine usually takes 1.5 Hours per pound, and I rest a minimum of 2 hours in a Cooler..." A third says,"I Smoke it Hot and Fast, 30 minutes a pound at 350°F and rest 30 minutes on the counter..." Am I and the next two guys Wrong? No, it is just our experiences on the average Butt. Besides NOBODY that knows what they are doing will ever say, " 1.5 Hours per pound. " without specifying what Temp should be used to get that timing.

    Gary, you been Smoking a long time and are a trusted source with a wealth of experience. But, a single test of one Butt, is not the definitive test to refute a time tested guideline. Nor does it mean the next 7 pound Butt is going to take 6 hours, even if it is close to 3.25" X 9" X 7".. First off, that Hormel Butt is enhanced with 12% Solution. The next Butt may not be as many store bought Butts are not. Those Bi metal Therms are notorious for being inaccurate and even changing over time. Has yours been verified lately or prior to this smoke since you are running a test? The Butt changed dimensions as it cooked, ending up thicker and more uniform in thickness over time. So, can you accurately say, like in your Brisket post that the starting thickness is the only thing that matters? 

    I am seriously not trying to discredit you or your findings on this Butt, however, you have not really shown that X hours per pound at Y degree guidelines are useless for Butts. I am also just not seeing where you have shown that...At C inches thick it will take D hours to cook.    Based on thickness, How long does it take to smoke an 8 pound Butt that is 6 inches thick at 225°F?

    I am a little confused as to your point here. Help me see where you are going. Thanks...JJ
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2015
  4. ats32

    ats32 Smoking Fanatic

    ^ I can agree to that! I just finished a 6lber in my MES in 6 hours at 275F. Turned out incredible. 

  5. waterinholebrew

    waterinholebrew Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Nice starter thread for newbies Gary, gives them a baseline of where to start !
  6. Hey JJ, I appreciate the response, and very good questions. I agree with most of what you are saying.

    I AM NOT trying to disprove the "Hour Rule"  Just trying to show that Cooking by time is NOT the only factor. I think I said at the beginning of my post "I usually smoke at 225º" but I wanted to show that an increase in cooking temp changes the cooking time,

    I also said "I would figure for a long smoke and extra time". The measurements were to make people aware not to get caught up in all the min. or hours per inch. I also g agree Briskets are DIFFERENT than Pork Butts, I think I said SOME of the same principals apply to Pork Butt. 

    I have said in different post how sometimes it takes longer for Butts of similar size to cook. I sure didn't mean any confusion, and sure  don't want anyone to think all 7 lb. butts only take six hours. I am not comparing a brisket to a butt, totally different. Just comparing thickness vs cooking time, that's all.

    I will go back and make some clarifications.

    Again, thanks for the observation

    Last edited: Sep 26, 2015
    captturbo likes this.
  7. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Ok, the post just read like you were upset with guy's that say 1.5 hours per pound without specifying a Temp. I don't recall a post that didn't include a temp with that timing. I totally agree that at higher temps the Hours per Pound drops. I also was getting excited to see a new Smoking 101 Tutorial with a Formula or Plan to use Thickness as a means of determining time till done, at least that is format you seemed to be taking. My confusion and again, I meant no offense. Thanks...JJ 
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2015
  8. No problem, JJ, I appreciate the observation and comments.  I wish I knew a magic formula for hours per pound. But as you know as do I meat is different, and two identical butts may cook entirely different.  

    As always if you are anyone else sees something I have posted that is wrong, PLEASE let me know. I appreciate the help. As long as I have been smoking I still learn stuff all the time.

  9. Thanks WHB, and for the point

  10. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Hey Gary

    Good thread.  I totally agree with you that time is just a VERY loose guideline.  My first butt was a 5 pounder, and I was expecting it to be ready for supper.  LOL.  That 5 pounder took about 12 hours.  Miss Linda and I darn near starved waiting for it.  After that, I realized that the meat will be done when the meat is done.


  11. Thanks Gary,  That is exactly what I was wanting to everyone to understand,  A while back I smokes two, almost identical butts, smoked at 225º (My Usual) one butt took 10 hours the other took 11.5 hours,  This one took 6 ???    so time is not  the only factor, Like in my Brisket Post, Meat selection, age, type, cooking temp, maintaining temps, etc. lots of factors. 

    Thanks again 

    Gary  (the other one)
  12. Good post. I have never considered time unless I am cooking Ribs and I have a basic feel for rib times. As for butts and briskets, I have an old school approach with modern day utility; I season usually in the morning, then at night I place in my Smokin-It #2. Then program the Auber PID to desired cooking and meat temp and go to sleep. I wake up whenever I get up (since it is usually the weekend) and sometimes its ready to be pulled off and wrapped for a rest and sometimes not. 

    It takes a lot of work and skill to smoke while you sleep but someones gotta do it! 

    Thanks for all your informative posts Gary. I've learned a lot from you. 
  13. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member


    This is an Excellent Thread, Gary!![​IMG]---------------[​IMG]

    Everything looks Great, and I agree that Thickness is more important for the time it takes to smoke than weight is. And naturally the temp is a big factor too.

    If anyone wants to hurry things along they can cut the Butt in half (making a 4" Thick butt into 2 butts 2" thick). Then they can also get a lot more Bark too.

    I'm glad you only went up to 275° Smoker temp, because that's the Max for all my MES owning Smoking Brothers here!! Now I know if ever I'm in a hurry, I can run it up to 275° and still have a Great Butt !!!

    Thanks for another Great One Gary!![​IMG]

  14. Thanks Bear, appreciate it.  I thought you MES guys topped out at 275º so I wanted to stay within  what everybody could smoke at. You know me and I am really a 225º guy, but I was curious how much difference another 50º would make. Honestly I thought it was going to take 7 -8 hours at best, So I learned something too.

  15. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    First I must say that I agree with Jimmy, you would have been better served cooking two butts for comparison purposes.

    I have long thought that the "thickness" argument was specious at best for two reasons- thickness can be measured in all directions, which dimension should be used? And the "thickness" argument does not take muscles of varying density in the butt itself- i.e. the money muscle is less dense than the muscle under the blade bone and thus gets to 200° much more quickly.

    I have long contended that butts should be cooked at 300° minimum. I find that doing that gets you a cook time of one hour per pound or less regardless of any other consideration. YMMV.
  16. Thanks, this is all good information for new people like me.

    gary s, is there a thread about your smoker anywhere? 
  17. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Gary, A great post. As you said at the very beginning, "This post is for newbies and first timers". Newbies have so much stuff to remember and so many folks throwing ideas at them, it's a wonder more meat isn't ruined. They need something simple to work with. Your kind and gracious advice has always been appreciated and most helpful. Those with more experience and who want to strive for perfection, may do as they please. I will continue to keep it simple and enjoy what I smoke. I'll leave the worry and perfection to others.

    Great job. I wish these posts could be made into a sticky, Joe :points:
  18. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi Cliff,

    I don't think anyone said thickness is the only thing to go by, but neither is weight. However thickness is more important than weight IMHO, because you could have a 4 X 4 X 4 piece of meat that is 64 Cubic inches and weigh the same as a 2 X 4 X 8 piece of meat, which is also 64 Cubic inches, and I'll guarantee that second piece will finish hours quicker than the first.

    As for which way is "Thickness"---- Thickness should never be measured in ALL directions----I've always considered the thinnest dimension to be the thickness, like a normal run of the mill board---As in 1 1/2" Thick X 3 1/2" Wide, X 8' Long being a normal 2 X 4 X 8' Stud.

    So if a Butt is 4" X 6" X 8"----It is 4" Thick, 6" Wide, and 8" Long.

    And if someone wanted to do that in the shortest amount of time, by cutting it in half, that would be by cutting it into 2 pieces 2" X 6" X 8". Therefore the heat would only have to penetrate 1" on each side instead of 2" on each side to get to center.

    Last edited: Sep 27, 2015
  19. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    So if a Newbie asks, " I have a 4' X 6" X 8" Butt. How long will it take to cook? " What say you...JJ[​IMG]
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2015
  20. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    IMHO the 205 cubic inch measurement means everything to this predictive method.

    So if you take the absolute value of thickness, as I have highlighted in red in the "quote" from gary s' post, then a 205 cubic inch pork butt will take approximately 6 hours at 275° on gary s' offset.

    The point being that you need to use a value that represents all the variables of thickness of a butt and in this case cubic inches is it. Or you can avoid all the measuring and calculating and read the weight on the label[​IMG].

    For the record I predict, using cubic inches, Jimmy's butt as described will take 5.6 hours at 275° on gary s' offset.

    For those of you that want to do the math-


    Last edited: Sep 28, 2015

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