PORK BUTT Challenge
The Secrets Behind the Best Smoked Pork Butts
t all starts with the cut of meat you pick up from the store or from your favorite butcher. I like to take a good look at my pork butts before I buy. I look for 9- to 10-pound butts with nice marbling—a nice money muscle. The money muscle is a segment of marbled meat that’s tender. When it’s cooked right, it practically melts in your mouth. Having a butcher that you trust can go a long way when you’re looking for this cut of meat. They’ll point you in the right direction. I have two butchers in the St. Louis area that have yet to steer me wrong. Once you do find the perfect pork butt, there are a few steps you can take to end up with crowd-pleasing results. The first thing you’re going to want to do is consider your smoking time. The amount of time the pork butt spends in the smoker is important. You’re going to want about 1 hour per pound at 235 to 240 degrees. As for building your smoke, when I smoke my pork butts, I normally go for maple wood, but you can use whatever you want —pecan, apple, hickory. It’s all about bringing together your favorite flavors. The next thing you’ll want to think about is the marinade. Because I’m a fan of maple, I use a maple-basedmarinade. You canmix maple syrup with vinegar for an easy marinade. You can alsomake a maple dry rub. I usually get my dry maple flavoring from a spice seller. Depending on where you live, it might take a little investigating. But if you do try it, you’ll be impressed with the results. I
After that, you’re going to want to consider your sauce. Once my butts hit about 175 degrees, I tend to take themoff, sauce them, wrap them in foil, and put themback in until they hit 195 degrees. This creates an intense steam and a whole lot of flavor. When they do hit 195 degrees, I open up the foil just enough to let out some of the steam and addmore sauce. Then, I ease everything back into the foil and put it back in the smoker for an hour. At the end of smoking, you can add evenmore flavor with a glaze. It’s completely optional. For a lot of people, the sauce is enough, but I do love a good glaze. I typically make my glaze out of any fruit I have on hand: peaches, apples, cherries, strawberries—you name it. My go-to tends to be peaches. The sugars and juices in peaches make for an ideal glaze, but cherries come in a close second. Something you always want to have on hand is a spray bottle. You want to spritz the butt throughout the entire process because that moisture is important. And, on the topic of moisture, you want to keep inmind that bigger cuts of meat tend to holdmore internal moisture. Because of this, it can create a bit of a stall during smoking. People often overlook this internal moisture. For smaller cuts of meat, it’s usually not something you need to worry about. But for bigger cuts, it’s a whole different story. It can seem like the meat is taking forever to cook—or that nothing is happening at all. The moisture and the internal
makeup of the meat has to reach a balance before the stall will dissipate and the inside of the meat will continue to cook. That’s just the way the bigger cuts of meat are. They retain a lot of water, and it can be intimidating when you hit a stall —especially when you’ve got people to feed! If you do run into a stall, the best thing you can do is give yourself an extra hour to an hour and a half of cooking time. If you end up buying a larger butt, you can just assume you’ll need that extra cooking time, so you can plan accordingly. I’ve been smoking pork butts since I was about 17. In that time, I have yet to have a complaint. These methods have servedme well —and they can serve you well too! Give them a try!
–Danny McTurnan 1 grillingandsmokingassociation.org
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