Saturday, November 12, 2011

How I Smoke Pork Butts for Pulled Pork

I smoked two pork butts yesterday and Matt asked via Twitter:  "Do you have a link to your pork method on the Egg? "

I didn't.  I have a few posts about pulled pork but I've never fully outlined the steps I go through for smoking pork butts on the Big Green Egg.    Here is what I do from start to finish.  It's not the only way or "right" way, it's just works for what we like to eat at home.

Preparing the Big Green Egg 
  • Remove all used coal from the Egg and reserve..  Thoroughly clean out the ashes.  Make sure all fire grate and fire bowl air holes are free of ash and coal.
  • Wood:  I do NOT soak my wood chunks.   I use 4" x 1.5" x 1.5" chunks of seasoned hickory and cherry. 
  • I place the largest chunk of wood in the middle and a layer of the larger pieces of lump coal on the fire grate.  Place three chunks of wood on top of that layer near the edges in three different places.  Pour another layer of coal to cover that wood. Repeat until my wood and coal top the fire ring.  I use the reserved used lump coal for the final layer since it's easier to start and pops less.  My goal it to have wood distributed evenly from top to bottom and side to side so I get smoke through the whole cook.
  • Open bottom vent and DFMT vent all the way.  I light the coal with a MAPpro torch in 3 places.  When temp reaches 200f, I cut the bottom vent to about 1" open.  When it hits 220f, I shut the bottom vent to about 1/4" and close the DFMT vent but open the daisy wheel so the 6 holes are open.  
  • When the Egg reaches 250f, I place the plate setter in "legs up" and place my drip pan onto of that.  My drip pan is a large deep dish pie pan that I bought from a restaurant supply store.  I cover it with foil for easy clean up.
  • I let the Egg hold at 250f until the smoke turns from white to clear or "sweet blue".   It takes 15 to 45 minutes for the heavy white smoke to change over.
Foil covered deep dish pizza pans make great drip pans.

Wood distributed up and down and all around.  More coal will top this.

Meat Prep
  • I like to use 7-8lb pork butts (aka pork shoulder, Boston butts) that have a nice white fat cap and deep red meat.  If I'm buying a twin pack, I try to make sure the two butts are close to the same size.
  • Brine - I do not brine pork butts.
  • Injection - I inject about half the time.  I don't see a huge difference but I do think it helps me have more consistent results.  I use Chris Lilly's world champion injection (recipe) and inject in 12-15 spots on the bottom and again on top.
  • Rub - I take my butts out of the refrigerator 1 hour before start time and apply the rub heavily on all sides.  If making my own rub, I like to use a variation of Southern Succor Rub (recipe) but more and more I just use commercial rubs.  Ones I like are Billy Bones Competition or Draper's AP rub.
Pork - seasoned with Drapers A.P. Rub and wood. 
Fat cap up or down?  Neither, I trim it off for a better bark.

Smoking
  • Once the Egg is stabilized at 250f (dome temperature) and the smoke is either clear or thin blue, I put my pork butts on, fat cap facing up.  There's two schools of thought on the fat cap and both have their "scientific arguments".  I've tried it both ways and just prefer fat cap up.  UPDATE:  Now I just remove the fat cap altogether.  There is enough intramuscular fat to keep things moist, getting rid of the fat cap just gives you a better bark.
  • I check the Egg and meat internal temps every hour just to make sure the Egg temp is still stable at 250f and the butt temps are progressing as expected (see chart below for an example).   
  • Temp Adjustments - The Egg is pretty stable.  I don't make any changes if it is within 10 degrees of my target temp.  If it gets more than that, I adjust gradually.  Guiding temps on an Egg is more like operating a boat instead of driving a car, you can't just start slamming on the brakes or stomping on the gas.  If the temps start to drop about 8 hours in, I check for smaller pieces of coal blocking fire grate holes and use a wiggle rod (metal skewer with the tip bent 90 degrees) to clear them.
  • Guru and other electronic controls - I don't use any electronic controls, blowers, etc.  I don't have a problem with people that do.  For me, it just seems like they just add more complications that can go wrong.  I do pretty good just minding my two vents.
  • I plan on 1.5 hours per pound but allow for as short as 1 hour/lb or up to 2 hours/lb.  Mine are pretty consistent at 1.5 hours.
  • If I'm cooking more than one butt, I like to rotate the cooking grate 1/2 turn when the butts hit 160f (about the halfway point usually) for more even cooking.
  • I remove the butts from the Egg when their internal temp hits between 195f and 200f.  I double wrap them in high density aluminum foil and place them in an empty cooler to rest for at least 1 hour but up to 4 hours.  
2-3 butts fit easily on a Large BGE.  An adjustable rig can double that.

 Rotate your thermometer dial so that your target temp is at 12 o'clock.  Then you can 
see if you are on the right temp with a quick glance and from several feet away.

Data from an actual cook.  Yellow line is the meat temp.  Notice the typical "stall"

Finishing
  • After the rest, I take the pork butt out of the foil, reserving any juices.  I shred or "pull" the pork using two large forks.  The bone and any remaining sections of fat are "discarded" (give to the dog).
  • Seasoning - Once the pork is pulled, I drizzle the reserved juices over the pork.  I sprinkle about 2 Tbsp over the meat.  I also pour a little of "finishing sauce" over the pork, just enough to lightly mix in.  An 8 lb butt will yield about 4lbs of meat and I only use about 1/2 cup of finishing sauce on it.  
I get so full during the "pulling" part, I don't know why....

Storing and Reheating
  • We vacuum seal pulled pork in 1 lb batches (4 servings) and freeze it for up to six months (date the bag).
  • To reheat, put the sealed bag straight from the freezer into a simmering pot of water for 5 minutes.  When it's warm it's ready to eat. 
Pulled pork sandwich with Bush's Grillin' Beans - Smokehouse Tradition

49 comments:

  1. Great post! We want a Big Green Egg - saving up for it now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am embarrassed to admit I never had real pulled pork - only the crockpot stuff (bows head in shame). But I LOVE the crockpot kind so I imagine this might knock me right out of my seat! Thanks for showing us how you do it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. OMG! Give me some would ya? Just shared this on my Facebook fan page so you might get a little traffic from that, just in case you're wondering. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great step by step for a perfect pork butt. So i take it you're in the no foil wrap camp?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good post, I like the tip about turning the thermo to the 12.00 position. I seem to be following your same steps and I like my results though I could put more of the finishing sauce in there. That stall is killer and always puts doubts in my mind about the progress, I sometimes will move the internal temp to a different part of the butt (I'm trying not to do this though due to the different muscle parts and various temp differences) As long as time is a plenty things are good..
    Take care..

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great description, Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nice tutorial Chris and everything looks delicious.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I wish hubby felt better, yeah he ate too many bugs and sea worms in Korea, because I feel like putting my foot up into some butts...a southern thang as you know!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Fantastic post! I totally love your tip about the thermometer!

    ReplyDelete
  10. My problem with smoking pork is betting it into those little cigarette papers.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think I meant "getting" not betting.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Chris, that's an excellent explanation on how to cook a butt, whether it be on an egg or on anything else. I'm still jealous of all you folks who have ceramic cookers! I'm gonna have to start a rainy day fund for one of those sometime soon it seems...

    ReplyDelete
  13. Your pulled pork is fantastic looking Chris; I think I can almost smell it through the screen!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Nice post. I'm always envious of your photography skills.

    Cheers,
    Braddog

    ReplyDelete
  15. pulled pork might be one of my most favorite foods. your pictures are just gorgeous, i'm so craving some right now!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have a sudden craving for pulled pork!! It looks PERFECT Chris. YUM!

    ReplyDelete
  17. We love pulled pork but we live in North Carolina and it's a requirement. I've never attempted it myself. I will definitely save this Chris. Thanks for sharing your secrets.
    Sam

    ReplyDelete
  18. I can remember giggling a little when I first heard the term "pulled pork".
    heh heh

    ReplyDelete
  19. What a great tutorial, Chris! I was thinking about you yesterday while watching Bobby Flay cook a Cajun turkey on a Big Green Egg. The turkey looked amazing! I am trying to convince my husband that I (we) need a BGE!


    Kim in MD

    ReplyDelete
  20. Butt Guru...that's you! I had given up all hopes of getting a BGE for myself since the mister pointed out that I'm a fair-weather grill-gal and it rains here almost every day...but when I see a post like this, one that makes my heart skip a beat, I think I might need to put the BGE back at the top of my Christmas list! And correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't those sealed bags full of your perfect pulled pork able to be packed in dry ice and sent to, say, Seattle? I have a birthday coming up! xo, Nan

    ReplyDelete
  21. I put a link on my FB page as well...this one was just too good not to share!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Eggcellent write-up! I really like the way you've captured a lot of the details without having them overwhelm the post.

    I'll have to try planting more and smaller chunks of wood in the lump. Seems like I get a lot of smoke to start with but then it dies out. Good idea there!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great step by step, it looks delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Those pictures look beautiful,Chris!I love pulled and yours looks amazing.Thank you for sharing this wonderful post.

    ReplyDelete
  25. ARGH. Chris, if I keep reading your blog much longer, there is going to be a smoker in my life. Of course, there is also going to be a heck of a lot more grilling too! Your food never fails to make me hungry.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I love your charts and graphs. Makes me kind of wish I could somehow get a PhD in (pork) butt smoking.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I love it when you geek out on this stuff. GREG

    ReplyDelete
  28. I can't believe I've won two give aways within a month, but after you read about our RV trip, you'll know I haven't been so lucky. Thanks for having the give away.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Fantastic tutorial, Chris! I'm definitely bookmarking this for the next time I smoke pork butt...which will be soon I hope! Yours looks so so so so good!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Great posts, I love your site an FB page. You inspire me and remind me to find time to use my Egg. Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Wow, this truly looks amazing. For my birthday I received a Traeger Smoker. I have been anxiously searching for ideas. Just cooked an Apple Rosemary Smoked Turkey, http://hometownslop.blogspot.com/2012/07/apple-rosemary-smoked-turkey.html

    Thanks for sharing your delicious food with the world.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Thanks Jeff. Those Traeger's are nice.

    ReplyDelete
  33. This sounds great. Going to do 2 butts tomorrow

    ReplyDelete
  34. Do you put any liquid in your drip pan?

    Looks fantastic!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Dave- I do if I'm using an offset smoker but not when using my Egg. I find I don't really need it, Egg seems to keep a moist environment as is.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I've had my BGE for about a year now and will be doing my first pork butt this weekend. Thanks for a great tutorial.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Family trip with the inlaws this past week, the MIL signed me up to smoke a pork shoulder on their green egg. Never used one before, but your procedure turned out very well! Thoughts about hitting the shoulder with a baste/mop every couple hours? That's what I've done in the past with vertical water smokers.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I used to do that on my metal smokers, Mike, but since getting my first Egg many years ago, I found that it wasn't necessary and anything gained from mopping seemed to be offset by losing heat every time I opened to mop.

    But it is really all a matter of preference. If you like to mop, mop.

    ReplyDelete
  39. How much charcoal is needed to smoke a pork butt 1.5 hours per lb?

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  40. How much charcoal is needed to smoke a pork butt 1.5 hours per lb?

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Kayc - I've never actually measured it. I just load my Big Green Egg up to slightly above the top of the fire bowl. That much will give me 20+ hours of heat/smoke if I need that long, but most of my pork butt cooks only take about 10-12 hours. I'd guess that it is a little more than half a 18-20lb bag of lump.

    On less efficient cookers like the Brinkman SmokenPit that I used to use, I could easily burn through a whole bag of Kingsford. The thin metal walls and cheap welds make it burn a lot more coal to hold the same temp for 10-12 hours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you - I have a brand new BGE and I'm trying to learn all the secrets!

      Delete
  42. 7/4/13 Happy 4th of July, and Happy Pork Butt eating. This is the first time I have tried to smoke anything on my XL BGE.. This was the most thorough and informative article, and I followed the cooking instructions almost to the Tee.. and I had a very very happy, and full house today. I put the butt on the BGE last night around 9, looked at it around midnight, 3:30 and 6:00 and the temp had barely moved from the target of 250°F. It was at 295° and I took it off the egg at around 9:00 am, so was about a 12 hour cook. My husband kept asking me what my backup plan was, so I got 5 pounds of hamburger and hotdogs, just in case.. I made the sauce from a KC Classic Barbecue Sauce By Meathead atamazingribs.com, and it was a perfect compliment to this. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this step by step article, I will not fear my husband or the BGE anymore. This is the most amazing grill I have ever used. We have had it for almost a year, but this was the first slow smoke..

    PS, I use the COWBOY lump charcoal, I used about a half of the 14 pound bag, had plenty of coals left, to actually cook all the hamburg, hot dogs, and cook the beans on the grill. I shut it back when I took the butt off, but came right back to temp when I wanted to get it back for the rest of the bbq.. Of course, it all depends on the size of your Egg.. mine is the XL which takes quite a bit more..

    ReplyDelete
  43. I just picked up an 8lb pork shoulder and removed the bone then cut into two halves to put in my electric smoker. this should cut down the cooking time by 50% I just injected the meat with my own special goodness and put a rub on it then wrapped both halves in foil.this will sit in the fridge over night next its SMOKER TIME!..... Tony from Connecticut.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I wish I had seen your temperature management tips two years ago!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Thanks. Just found this on a G search. Firing up the big green egg now to give it a try!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Doesn't letting the meat rest for that long make the bark less crispy ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Greg -
      The "foil towel cooler" trick is pretty much standard operating procedure among the barbecuers that I know. I'm sure that there is a little trade off but for pork butt, I'm after the flavor of the bark mixed in with the meat. I'm not wanting the bark to be too stiff or crispy.

      Delete