Not so Successful 1st Pork Butt... HELP!!

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Original poster
Jul 24, 2005
Okay, we are really dissapointed with the way our first smoked pork butt turned out. It was edible but that is about all we can say. If anyone can offer up suggestions we would really appreciate it! Here is what we did:

We did not rub. Had bad luck with this on tenderloin = way too salty. Maybe we should rub?

Smoked about 220° - 230° for about 15-17 hours for a 7.25 lb pork butt. Does this seem too long? We went to 185° internal temp and then pulled it.

We mopped every 1 1/2 hrs with a mixture of cider vinegar, water, garlic powder and brown sugar.

We used apple chips and only one pan. Maybe we should have used more?

First off, the meat hardly had any flavor at all and no smoke flavor. To be honest, it tasted more like turkey than pork.

Secondly, is there a better cut of meat we should use for pulled pork rather than the butt? I understand that you need fat for flavor but I would like a little less fat. Also, I thought it had more of a "dark taste" and not as much like the pork that I have had at restaurants.

For us, it is all about the flavor. The more the better for us. If anyone could point out some of the mistakes that we made we would sure appreciate it.

Jeff and Julie
Gee, I'm not sure. :oops:
That seems like a long time on the grill. The overall temperature sounds right . I took mine off at 190. It had been on for 15 hours and it weighed 8 lbs.

Was it dry? Did it pull apart easily?.

I know that there's a lot of people smarter than me on this forum. They will answer as soon as they see it.

There is a lot of help here.
Jeff & Julie, I would have used a rub. Check out the "Rubs" links to the left. Try a couple or three and find the one you like. You can alway adjust the salt to you liking. The rub on the pork butt adds to the flavor of the meat as you pull it (the rub on the outside mixes with the meat from the inside).

I normally mop/spray every hour (when I remember :oops: ) I can't really make any more comment about your mop without knowing the amount of each ingredient.

Pork pulls alot easier when it reaches 190*, pork butt at 180* is fine if your going to slice/chop the meat.

What did you use for a bbq sauce? The bbq sauce can make or break the way your finished product comes out. If you can, try hickory for your smoking wood.

Hope this helps
I too have found many rubs to be too salty for my taste, especially on ribs, so I usually cut the salt content in half when making them. I would have definitely used a rub. I apply a thin coat of mustard to the butt which helps hold more rub and forms a wonderful, flavorful bark without any mustard flavor. Since this cut of meat has a lot of mass when compared to the amount of surface area you need a lot of flavor to mix into the meat when pulled. Some folks will add a little more rub to the meat after pulling.

When cooking pulled pork a Boston Butt is the most widely used cut of meat. I've also made it with an uncured picnic.

Apple is the lightest of smoke woods. For a richer flavor you may want to try pecan or oak and for a heavier flavor you could use hickory or mesquite. I prefer pecan.

The longer you cook the shoulder the more tender it will get. At 185* most of the pork will be pullable but occasionally there will be portions that are a little under done and will be a somewhat difficult to pull. I like to cook mine to 195-205* which pulls very easily and is still quite moist.

Each butt cooks at its own pace. I've had large 9 pounders take 12 hours to cook and then 6 pounders take 18 hours. It depends on the fat content and muscle density of the animal. Your cook of 15-17 hours really wasn't too long. The longest cook I've done with butts took 20 hours.

Mopping isn't all that critical with Boston Butts. Even if you don't mop they will still turn out juicy because of their fat content. Mopping keeps the surface moist and from what I understand this moisture heat to conduct heat from the surface of the meat to the inner core which helps the meat cook a little faster than if the surface were left dry. When mopping or spraying it is better to not make any applications for the first 2-3 hours. This will allow the rub to crust and form a bark. Mopping early on could actually wash off your spices and prevent the tasty bark from forming.

I hope your next try is more to your liking. It keeps getting better and better.
Thank you for the replies. I think we will certainly try a rub next time with the mustard. I just have a couple of more questions for you (sorry!).

Do you put the rub on the night before and let sit in the fridge?

How long do you keep adding wood chips for, ie: first 5 hrs, 6, etc.

Do you use the water pan and keep it filled with water (we did with our first attempt).

Also, where in the smoker do you position the meat? We used the top rack, maybe we should have used the middle or a lower rack?

Thank you again so much for your help!!

Jeff and Julie
Well, I replace my wood chips when I don't see that thin blue smoke coming out of the top vent.

I like to do the mustard slather and then apply the rub the night before when I do a pork butt. I'll take it out of the 'fridge about an hour before I'm ready to do the smoke and I'll sprinkle on some more rub just so I'll know that I'll have a good bark.

I've used water, water/apple juice, water/beef stock, cheap beer when doing brats in the pan. I always dilute any jucies that I use in the pan because the high sugar content will scorch and burn leaving a heck of a mess to clean out of the pan and a funny after taste in the mouth. (I speak from experience :oops: )

I usually try to have a full smoker when I do a session, if I don't have enough meat to fill the smoker then I'll put the meat on the center rack of the smoker.

For what its worth, here is a copy of an earlier post that I submitted on a different thread;

My opinion is this...ALWAYS, ALWAYS, use a rub on your pork shoulder! As Earl D mentioned in his reply, coating the meat with yellow mustard is a good idea as it helps the rub to adhere to the meat better. The mustard flavor will be cooked away during the smoking process and will develop into a beautiful dark brown "bark" by the time it's done. As a rule, I will apply the mustard and rub the day before I plan to smoke, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in HD foil and leave it in the fridge for at least 8 hours or longer to marinate.

There are many different rub recipes available either commercially or right from this site. I prefer to make my own and have tried most of the recipes that I found in this forum, some I've used exactly as posted and others I have made minor modifications to suit my own tastes...they are all good, so I recommend that you experiment with them until you find "your" perfect combination. If you are looking for a sure thing though, I suggest that you give Jeff's Naked Rib Rub a try. I recently purchased it through the site and have gotten exactly the rave reviews that Jeff promises. (Please note that I do not know Jeff personally, nor have I ever met him outside of this forum, I am simply passing on my own personal opinion about a truly good recipe).

Additionally, I find that applewood by itself is too light for my taste. You might try using a 50/50 mix of apple and hickory or oak to add more depth to the smoke flavor. I've also used a maple/hickory mix in a 70/30 ratio that tasted very good. Pecan wood is hard to find around here, but many in this group have reported it to be a very good choice as well. Whichever you choose, make sure to add wood as needed to keep a continuous thin blue smoke throughout the entire cook.

As for mopping, I'd say you had it just about right! You can experiment with the ingredients as you like, just be sure to let the roast cook untouched for the first two hours to allow the bark to form. Don't even open the door! Thereafter, mopping every 1 to 1.5 hours is a good schedule, and you can check the wood box a the same time.

Well, I certainly hope this helps, JJandboyz. Please don't let yourselves become discouraged too easily, any hobby requires a little trial and error from time to time, but trust me when I say that your perserverance will pay off in the long run. This forum is a great resource and there is much to learn here, so check in often. Good Luck and keep on smokin'!

Hi Jeff and Julie!

First of all, what are you cooking on? (Type of Smoker?)

Most of the guys here have steered you in the right direction. From your post, it's quite obvious that you did not use enough smoke. True, Apple is lighter, but I don't believe that is the root of the problem. Normally, Newbies use TOO much you at least got past that hurdle! LOL! Temps and time are within reason, so I would suggest utilizing more wood during your cook, but I need to know what type of Pit your using first before I give you more detail.............OK?

You have had so many good replies! About all that I can add is try not to over smoke the next one in an attempt to add flavor. I have done it ! I seem to oversmoke when I use Mesquite. As mentioned before, Pecan is good.
Good Luck! P.S. Time to light fires! is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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