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Smoke your first Boston butt with the Meatstick wireless meat thermometer

Boston Butt, also known as Pork Butt, is an iconic cut of pork and a staple for BBQ lovers, especially in the southern United States.

Choosing this meat as your first smoke or roast is a great starting point for beginners and a must-have in your repertoire. The marbling makes Boston Butt a flavorful meat that makes it easy for beginners to prepare. Plus, the amount of fat can minimize the damage to your roast if the internal temperature gets a little out of control, giving you some margin for error.

There are many ways to prepare a Boston Butt and many more recipes to follow. Here is everything you need to know about Boston Butt and a unique recipe you can try.

Before we begin, let us get the basics straight.

What is a Boston Butt?

Boston Butt is commonly known as pork butt but can also be referred to as Boston Roast or Boston Shoulder, among other names, depending on the city and the store.

The word Butt does not refer to the pig's rear end, which is the ham or leg. Instead, this cut is obtained from the shoulder of the pig. One of the most popular tales is that it got named after the barrel where this meat was shipped during the 18th century, called the butt. However, other sources indicate that the term simply refers to a common word that, according to the Oxford dictionary, means "the large or thicker end part of something," that is, the thicker part of the cut end of the meat.

Boston Butt vs. Picnic shoulder.

The names for these two cuts can be very confusing because the two types of meat come from the same part of the pork, and both are known by different names, making it even more confusing and difficult to identify them.

Traditionally, pork is divided into four primal cuts: Shoulder, Leg, Loin, and Belly. Later, these larger cuts are used to make additional cuts, called subprimal cuts. The Boston butt, pork shoulder, or pork butt is the upper part of the shoulder, and the lower part is called the picnic shoulder; it is also known as picnic ham and picnic roast. Both cuts are made from the shoulder of the pig.

 Pork subprimal cuts Boston butt and Picnic shoulder

Boston Butt

Boston Butt is a rectangular piece from the top of the shoulder, available bone-in and boneless. It is nicely marbled, has a good amount of intramuscular fat, a fat cap, and is usually sold skinless, ideal for Pulled Pork.

Picnic shoulder

Also known as picnic shoulder or picnic roast, it is a triangular cut that can be sold bone-in or boneless. It usually has less fat and can be sold with the skin on the meat. The picnic shoulder can also be used to make pulled pork. However, the Boston Butt is considered a better cut.

Why choose Boston Butt?

As mentioned earlier, both are suitable for grilling, smoking, and preparing pulled pork. However, Boston Butt is the most tender and juicy of the two types of meat, which is why most people prefer it. It is also a more popular cut and, therefore, more readily available.

Now that you know why Boston Butt is the best choice, you can get hands-on and prepare your meat.

Choose your first Boston butt.

If you are buying a Boston Butt for the first time or do not have enough experience with this pork cut. Be careful when buying your meat from the supermarket; some of the pork in the big stores are "enhanced" with some sort of solution to make them moister. Make sure your Boston Butt is natural or without additives. Instead, go to your local butcher store. There you will get better quality meat, most likely from smaller farms, and probably labeled "natural" or "not added ingredients" In addition, you can get help there and learn from the mouth of an expert.

You can tell a lot by the appearance of your cuts of meat. The Boston Butt should have a good amount of intramuscular fat, also known as marbling. It should also have a firm white cap of fat on one side of the roast. Avoid the ones with too much fat, as trimming may take too long.

You also need to consider whether you want your Boston Butt bone-in or boneless. Either way, you can achieve the same high-quality result. However, there is a slight difference in the cooking process as the bone holds the meat together and prolongs cook time. However, there is some controversy as to whether the bone adds more flavor to the pork. The meat around the bone does, but it does not affect the rest of the roast. So go with what you have, and you'll be fine either way.

Let's start cooking. 

Pork butt aka boston butt with the MeatStick.

Photo by @beerdeddadbbq

Preparation

Making the perfect Boston butt comes with experience and trying different methods and recipes. Here we give you some tips to master the perfect smoke pork.

Trim

The Boston Butt has a fat cap on one side that must be trimmed off. Otherwise, the thick layer will not smoke well, leaving your roast with a large amount of fat that can otherwise turn to bark. We recommend cutting only 1/4 inch off the top. However, it is also common to remove all of the fat.

Finally, trim off the excess fat to give your roast a nice round shape. While you are at it, cut off any loose bits or thin pieces that will get dry if you leave them while smoking your Boston Butt.

Rub

Boston Rub does a great job absorbing Wet and Dry Rub flavors compared to other cuts of pork. There are several pork recipes to create a delicious covering, and you will not be short of resources.

For your first roast, start with the basics of most rubs: Salt, pepper, and garlic (also known as SPG). Adding brown sugar to the mix can provide balance and a little sweetness. However, if you are a little more adventurous, you can try a dry rub made with kosher salt, black bell pepper, brown sugar, paprika, yellow mustard, garlic, and other spices for additional flavor, like cayenne pepper and cumin to add some extra flavor to your rub. The famous SPG (salt, pepper, and garlic) will also do if you are short on ingredients.

Controlling the temperature is crucial!

No matter what roast, steak, or chicken you are preparing, what recipe you are following or what smoker you are using. The key to great results is controlling the internal temperature throughout the cooking process. So a reliable probe thermometer becomes your most trusted source of information. However, it also means you need to stay close to your hardware to monitor your roast. Well, it does not have to be that way. You can pick up a MeatStick X wireless meat thermometer to monitor your roast or smoke from your phone. The app provides real-time data of your internal and ambient temperature while you relax or spend time with your guests and family.

Boston butt aka shoulder butt

Photo by @beerdeddadbbq

Smoke

Before putting your meat on, ensure the grill's temperature is stable for about 30 minutes without adjusting the vent. Once the temperature has stabilized at about 75°F, it's time to put in your Boston Butt

225°F is considered by most to be the holy grail of smoking temperature. However, many people also experiment with 250°F or even 300°F, as this can reduce the cooking time. That said, we recommend 225° to start with, and then you can decide if you want to try other temperatures for future smokes.

Regardless of the type of hardware, you using. At 225°F internal temperature, your cooking time should be about an hour and a half per pound of meat. However, the cook times will change depending on whether you have a bone-in or boneless Boston Butt.

What's the stall?

So far, everything has gone well. You are in control, monitoring the rising temperature with your Meatstick X wireless meat thermometer  as you enjoy your day with your loved ones or relax. Suddenly, the internal meat temperature of your Boston butt has not changed in quite a while and is now at 150°. Don't worry; everything is fine. You have encountered the stall.

Your meat will not cook at this point because the water coming out of the roast is cooling the pork and delaying the smoking process. You now have two options: wrap the piece of meat in aluminum foil to prevent evaporation, or boil off the water by increasing the heat.

Test for doneness.

Your meat should be done when the internal temperature is about 195°F-210°F. To test if your Boston Butt is done, gently wiggle the bone. If it pulls out easily, your pork is done. If you have a boneless piece, you can use a fork to test if the meat is tender.

Let the meat rest

It is time to remove the meat from the grill and let it rest for about 30 to 60 minutes. Then you can put it in an oven at about 150°F or in a cooler; both are perfect places to let your pork rest. Do not forget to wrap your meat during this step.

Now it is time to step up to the next level with our recommended recipe.

Conclusion

Boston butt is a versatile cut; you can prepare it for Carolina-style pulled pork, Mexican-style carnitas, or even roast stewed.

Now that you know all the basics for preparing your first Boston Butt. What recipes and techniques are you eager to try? Any BBQ sauce you want to try? Adding wood chips for an extra smoky flavor, or trying different temperatures to reduce cook time? 

We have a great and unique roasted pork shoulder recipe you'll love if you are up for the challenge. Here are the ingredients you'll need:

1/4 cup of black peppercorns
3 tablespoons of juniper berries
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
1/2 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 8 to 10 pound skin-on, bone-in pork shoulder (aka Boston Butt)
10 garlic cloves (unpeeled, slightly crushed)
5 sprigs of rosemary
2 cups of dry white wine
Cranberry sauce, cornichons, and whole grain mustard to serve.

But if you want to know the step-by-step preparation, read our full post, A Show-Stopping Boston Butt with the MeatStick.

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