Comparison of Pork Butt done 2 ways

Discussion in 'Pork' started by GaryHibbert, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Pork Butt

    Low & Slow vs Hot & Fast

    Let’s talk pork.  Pork, and especially pork butt, is one of the most commonly seen meat coming out of a smoker.  Pork butt is, in my opinion, the most forgiving cut of meat out there.  It’s really hard to mess up when smoking a butt.  All a butt asks is that you cook it long enough to reach that magic number on the thermometer that will ensure that all the connective tissue and collagen has been broken down.  Once that temperature has been reached and the meat probes tender, it’s practically written in stone that the resulting pulled pork will be moist and tender.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?

    Well there seems to be quite a difference of opinion when it comes to smoking a pork butt.  A lot of members like to cook them hot and fast, while others swear by low and slow.  Personally, I’ve always been a fan of low and slow.  I’ve never even cooked one hot and fast.  This time, since I had 2 butts approximately 10 pounds apiece to smoke, I figured I would do a comparison of the two methods—I’d cook one each way.   [​IMG]

    Miss Linda and I had company coming for supper last week and I had promised the kids pulled pork.  Never having eaten a butt smoked hot and fast and not willing to chance it, the first butt would be smoked low and slow.  Also on the menu would be burnt ends from the point of the packer I had previously smoked, cubed, vac packed, and frozen.


    I seasoned up the butt with a healthy coating of Teddy’s Happy Hog Butt Rub, covered it with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge for 24 hours.


    The next morning at 6 o’clock, I fired up the MES 30 Gen 1 to get it preheated and went back inside to drink my morning coffee while the MES came up to 240 degrees.  At 7 AM the butt went into the smoker and I filled the AMNPS with a 70/30 mix of Pecan and Hickory.  Ten minutes later, when it was smoking nicely, the AMNPS went into the mailbox.  Now it was simply a matter of waiting.  Game on!!

    The MES dropped 45 degrees when the cold butt went in, but slowly the temperature came back up to 240.  For the next 9 hours, the MES held the temp at a reasonably steady 240ish degrees.  The fact that I opened the door only once (to insert the Maverick meat probe) helped enormously—my MES loses heat like crazy with even a quick open and close.

    Just after 5PM the butt stalled at 162 degrees, so I moved the show into the kitchen.  I double wrapped the butt in foil, inserted the Mav meat probe, and put it in a preheated 250 degree oven.  This time, I didn’t add any foiling liquid.  The butt had enough fat and juice that I decided extra liquid simply wasn’t needed. 


    Finally, the Mav alarm went off--the IT had reached 205*.  Total cook time was 12.25 hours, with smoke for 10 hours of the time.  I probed the butt in several places.  The probe just slid into the meat like it was butter.



    The unwrapped butt then sat on the counter cooling for 3 hours (dinner wasn’t until the following day).  The bone almost fell out—nice and clean.

    While it was cooling enough to pull, I emptied the catch pan from the smoker into a bowl and put it in the fridge to chill enough that degreasing would be fairly easy.

    Ten o’clock that night I pulled the pork.  Man was it tender and juicy. 

    Our share of the PP:



    All the fat from the butt went into a vac bag to be frozen and used later when I cooked up another batch of supplement to add to Roxy’s dry dog food—lucky hound!!  As you can see, almost 1/3 of the butt ended up in the scrap bowl.  Neither Miss Linda nor I eat any fat.

    Late the next afternoon I gave the thawed chunks of brisket point a heavy coat of the same rub I had used on the butt and coated all the pieces with honey/garlic BBQ sauce.  Then into the smoker at 240* for an hour and a half to carmalise.  Boy did they look good!!  They were fantastic.


    While the vac packed pulled pork was reheating in a couple of pots of simmering water, I headed to the fridge to get the dripping out and degrease them.  They weren’t there!!  As it turned out, Miss Linda thought it was just a bowl of grease.  She had emptied it into a Tupperware container that afternoon and put it in the freezer for Roxy.   [​IMG]      Since my momma didn’t raise no fools, I just bit my tongue, took it out of the freezer and degreased it (a couple of hours in the freezer actually made that job easier), and nuked it to add to the pulled pork.  That added tons of flavor to the PP.

    Dinner that night was pulled pork on buns served with coleslaw, SoFlaQuer’s finishing sauce, Miss Linda’s homemade potato salad, homemade jalapeno pickles, and of course, burnt ends.  Everything was delicious.  The puled pork was moist and tender, and the burnt ends were fantastic.  With 4 adults, a teenage boy, and a 6 year old girl all chowing down, I only managed to save enough pulled pork for 2 buns the next day.  The burnt ends had simply disappeared before I could get a pic.  [​IMG]


    That was butt #1.  Smoked low and slow.  Now onto butt #2.   Smoked hot and fast.

    I needed to smoke up some pulled pork for a friend of mine down in Calgary.  I’ve been making a hunting knife out of an old butcher knife that had belonged to my grandma.  Everything was pretty much finished on the knife—except for the handle.  My abilities when it comes to woodwork are, to be kind, really second rate.  My friend Spencer, on the other hand, in addition to being a knife maker, is extremely talented at woodworking.  So, to make a long story short, in exchange for some of my pulled pork he’s crafting and installing a handle on my knife.  I figure that’s a great trade.

    So another 10 pound butt came out of the freezer to thaw.  I prepped it almost exactly as I had the first butt.  The only difference was that I cut this one in half, making two 5 pound butts.  I did this to add more flavor to the butt.  I felt that butt #1 could have used more flavoring from the rub.  So by cutting the butt into 2 smaller butts I had 2 more sides to cover in rub.  Sadly, this is the only remaining pic from this smoke—I have absolutely no idea what my computer did with the others.  [​IMG]


    This time I preheated the MES to maximum temp, which contrary to Masterbuilt’s claim 0f 275*, was only 265*.  Oh well it was closer than I expected. I used 100% hickory this time.  Miss Linda prefers the milder smoke of Pecan, but then, she wouldn’t be eating this pork.

    Start-up was basically the same as Butt #1.  At 8AM the two 5 pound butts went into the MES with the AMNPS happily smoking away in the mailbox.  4 ½ hours later the meat stalled, this time at 159 degrees.  Normally I would foil the butt when it hit the stall, but I decided to wait it out.  No increase in smoker temp to help with the stall—the MES was already at maximum temperature.  Finally, at 3:30 PM, the warning alarm on the Maverick went off—ITs were at 205 and 207 degrees when checked with my Instant Read Therm and both probed beautifully.  So I took both butts into the kitchen and let them rest for about 3 hours before pulling.  Again, the bone slid out easily and clean.  After the meat was pulled, I vac sealed it in 1 pound servings and froze it all.  I then mixed up and bottled a batch of SoFlaQuer’s Finishing Sauce to go with the PP.

    The meat from these butts was delicious—yeah I had to do some quality control checking.  The bark was harder than that on Butt #1, probably due to the higher cook temperature and not foiling at the stall.


    • Both butts were very moist and tender

    • Butt #1 took 4 ½ hours longer to cook that Butt #2

    • Butt #2, because it was cut into two 5 lb pieces had more flavor from the rub and cooked faster than Butt #1 at 10 lbs—much better IMO

    • Both butts had about the same amount of bark, but the hotter cook temp and not foiling at the stall made the bark on Butt #2 much harder

    • All in all, except for time and bark, I found no difference in the pulled pork, whether it was smoked low and slow or hot and fast
    I was really impressed with the difference in cooking times.  I’ll probably continue to cook pork butts low and slow since time is seldom a factor, but if I ever find myself under the gun, I’ll feel confident cooking at a higher temp knowing that the finished product will be just as good.  I do believe I’ll continue to foil the meat at the stall simply because it softens the bark.  This is just my personal preference, but I found that I like the bark soft a lot more that I like it hard and crunchy.

    Thanks for looking.

    natej, c farmer, chilerelleno and 6 others like this.
  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    The good thing about this experiment is that you really don't have to worry if your smoker runs at 225 or 300.

    If your having trouble holding steady temps, so what. The final result is going to be about the same.

    The only difference is the cooking time.

    So if you start at 225 & all of a sudden your smoker is running at 260, big deal, just close the damper a little & don't stress over it.

    When the butt hits 200-205 & it's probe tender. it really doesn't matter how it got there, even if you finish it in the oven!

    801driver and natej like this.
  3. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    That's right Al. It really just reinforces how forgiving a pork butt actually is. They are, in all probability, the original "set and forget" meat.

    801driver likes this.
  4. griz400

    griz400 Master of the Pit

    nice Gary .. Roxy is a lucky dog ...we don't eat the fat either, neighbors dog makes out .. all we have is 3 parrots ..[​IMG][​IMG]  
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017
  5. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Gary that is one heck of a write up I like cooking butts,shoulders make for some good chopped with a crispy skin treat Points


  6. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Thanks griz. And thanks for the point.

    I'm guessing you neighbor's dog is front and center every time you fire up the smoker.

    3 parrots?? My mom's neighbor had a batch of parrots about 2 blocks from her. Even from that distance you could still hear them most of the day.

  7. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Thanks Richie. Appreciate the point.

    I've been wanting to try this for some time now. The timing finally worked out. I had 2 identical butts in the freezer and work is "between seasons" right now. It was the perfect opportunity.

  8. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I miss work don't get vacation or over time doing all I do

  9. Good Morning my Canadian Friend, What a great thread. Love the comparison. Great Pics and Info



    Gary  (The Other One)  [​IMG]
  10. chilerelleno

    chilerelleno Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Nice comparison cook, thanks for the effort.

    I only have one question.
    "How much of that time difference is due to the temps or the fact that #2 was split in half?"

    I guess someone needs to cook two whole butts of similar weight and fat content.
    Hmmm... Could be me, guess I need to start documenting more closely.

    Last edited: Sep 19, 2017
  11. Excellent post...I've always been a low and slow guy myself having done a dozen or more butts a season for several years.
    This spring I found myself in a situation where time was a factor on 6 butts. The folks wanted them smoked on the premises for a fund raiser but we're apprehensive about letting me set up and smoke overnight.
    So I headed here and queried and was sent to Clif Carter who advised me on hot and fast...long story short...Six butts 9-10 pound weight range were done in less than 10 hours at as close to 280° as I could maintain and I noticed absolutely NO difference between those six butts and any of the maybe a hundred I'd done previously...WHAT A REVELATION...
    One piece of advice Cliff gave me about rubs and hot and fast was sugar type and content.
    He said, and I've nothing to compare too as I heeded his advice, that using anything but raw sugar was unadvisable because it would burn and get hard at the higher temps...he also recommended only using about 50% the sugar a lot of rub recipes for pulled pork call for, for the same reason. He said, and I agree, if you want sweeter meat do it with your finishing sauce not the rub.
    While you're probably right that the harder bark on yours was due to not foil wrapping if you're at all heavy handed with the sugar in your rub, cliffs observations might have a little bit to do with it also.

  12. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Thanks Gary. Appreciate the point.

    This is something I've been wanting to do for while a while now. I never really had much interest in hot and fast since I get as much pleasure out of the actual cook as I do from eating the food. So there has been no reason for me to try it. But curiosity finally got the best of me.

  13. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Thanks Chile. Ive been wondering about that myself. It was unfortunate that I hadn't cut Butt #1 in half too. That would have given a better comparison.

    That said, I don't think cutting Butt #2 in half would have cut the time wuite as much. It would certainly have reduced the cook time--just not so dramatically IMO.

    If you do try another comparison, your post will have my full attention.

    I appreciate the point.

  14. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Now that's something I never considered Walt. Good point. I didnt really think it would be a factor since I wouldn't be exceeding 265 degrees.

    I use brown sugar as well as raw sugar in my rub but wasn't sure at what temp brown sugar would burn so i checked it out. According to the information I was able to get, brown sugar will start to char (discolor) at 300* and burn at 350*. This info courtesy of:

    Thanks for raising this question.

  15. Thanks for the link Gary.
    Good info. I never researched it as most everything I've been told or advised by folks here has been right and everything else Cliff suggested was spot on.

  16. hardcookin

    hardcookin Master of the Pit

    Nice post and good experiment. I'm a hot & fast guy myself.
  17. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    That's one of the reasons I did this comparison--seems like a lot of members are definite fans of one style ir the other.

    Appreciate the point.

  18. So low and slow has no benefit? Why have we been encouraged to smoke low and slow in the first place?
    Common sense tells me that the internal temp is most important and that it shouldn't matter how it gets there, so why do pit masters in competition go low and slow? Seems like they could use a little extra time getting their meats ready for the judges as they always seem to be running out of time at the end of their cooks and that's where mistakes are made in desperation.

  19. sauced

    sauced Master of the Pit

    Great comparison!! Myself, I am a hot and fast cook, so far everything comes out tasting the same and in way less time!

    Points to you!!  [​IMG]
  20. IN MY OPINION...
    Cooking (smoking) meat at any temp under 350°F is low to me, and by no means do I consider eight or more hours cooking anything to be "fast"...

    Using conventional oven time and temp recommendations as a standard even "hot and fast" is "low and slow" by comparison.
    Slow cooker or crock pot recipe cook times are usually in the 4-10 hour range...I think "low and slow" is subjective.

    Also, with growing popularity, our hobby is evolving and new or different techniques are being used and perfected more frequently.
    The "hotter and faster" guys just pushed the boundaries of low and slow and have expanded those parameters.
    Just my opinion and 2¢...

    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017

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