Keep your smoked pork butt moist and tender with our easy barbecue guide. From foil wrapping to water pans, find out how to stop dry pork butt today.
Pork butt is one of the easiest meat cuts to smoke thanks to its rich connective tissue, fat content, and marbling. However, its long cooking time means that there are plenty of opportunities for your barbecue smoked Boston butt to dry out.
Discover the best ways to prevent dry pork butt with our easy barbecue smoking guide. From simple cooking tricks to injection marinade recipes, here’s how to keep pork butt moist and tender.
Why is My Smoked Pork Butt Dry?
Pork butt will end up dry for several reasons. The most common reason is cooking time and temperature. This hearty piece of meat will run dry if the pork butt is cooked for too long or over too high a temperature.
The patient, low and slow cook is the key to achieving the perfect slab. When it cooks for the appropriate amount of time, all those flavorful juices will begin to flow. Another reason for dry pork butt is cooking at too high of a temperature. Excessive heat will dry out the meat and evaporate the juices needed to keep the pork tender.
Finally, forgetting to wrap the pork butt halfway through the cooking process can leave it vulnerable to drying out. Wrapping it tightly in aluminum foil or butcher paper can create a steam chamber in which the pork can cook in its own juices without exposure to dry heat.
How to Stop Dry Pork Butt
The key to stopping your smoked pork butt from turning dry is to take steps to retain or add moisture at every opportunity. Adding moisture throughout the entire cooking process can come in different forms:
- Picking pork butt with rich marbling
- Using a salt dry brine to lock in moisture
- Preparing the pork with an injection marinade
- Spraying the meat with a spritz
- Wrapping the pork cut with aluminum foil
- Placing a water pan below the pork butt
- Allowing adequate time for meat resting
Let’s take a look at each of these steps and how they can help you make the best smoked pork butt at your next cook-off.
Use Pork With Rich Marbling
Pork butt with rich marbling will cook better and be more tender. Sure, high fat has a bad rap for health concerns, but pork needs some marbling fat to make it more palatable. Cooking at low temperatures over the course of hours will render the fat and help marinate the meat from the inside out. A good marbling will infuse it as it cooks, creating a consistent melting pattern throughout the meat grain.
Use an Injection Marinade
Injections add moisture to help with tenderness and flavor. Pork is a versatile meat where you can use a sweet or savory marinade and get great flavor results.
Rely on your taste buds to make a decision. There are sweet and savory recipes using fruit juices and hearty sauces combined if you’re on the fence. Or, you can never go wrong with this easy competition-style recipe.
Pulled Pork Recipe Injection:
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup kosher salt
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Cook to the Right Internal Temperature
Internal temperatures can vary slightly. The proper internal temperature for pork butt is at least 195°F but to reach 205°F. is considered perfection since it will become even more tender and shred effortlessly.
Tender and juicy is the goal when it comes to cooking this shoulder. Have an accurate meat thermometer that you can trust. Cooking pork butt will always have a stall around 175°F. Don’t panic. It takes time for the stall to pass, but it will eventually.
Use a Water Pan
Using a water pan with your smoker can make a natural steam room for your smoker. It will create consistent moisture efficiently while smoking the pork butt.
However, if you find that the temperature in the smoker begins to fluctuate, it is best to discard the water pan from your process. Irregular temperatures can cause issues in meat’s finished texture. So, if this is the case, rely solely on the foil instead.
Only heavy-duty foil will do when wrapping the pork butt. A thinner foil can easily rip, negating the purpose of the foil. The rule is about ¾ of the way through cooking is when you will wrap the pork butt.
This is so the bark had time to set, and now, the foil can do the rest, locking in all that much-needed moisture. Spritzing the pork butt before wrapping will only help in the steam process. Place the fat-side up and wrap the foil tight. The rendering will also help with flavor and moisture.
Smoke at the Right Temperature
Having the right temperature on the smoker is as important as achieving that perfect internal temperature. Overheating the meat will dry the pork butt faster than you can imagine. Direct flames are never recommended for pork butt.
Set the smoker between 220 and 250°F. This will provide a slow cook. It is recommended to add 40 minutes of cook time per pound of meat.
Allow the Meat to Rest
Allowing pork butt to rest can be just as considerable as how you cook your pork butt. Resting is its own form of magic. It will allow the meat to distribute the juices to all the right places, resulting in a glorious piece of meat.
The resting process will work to keep your pork butt from getting dry. Placing the pork in a towel, then into a cooler for several hours is necessary to lock in that moisture. Carving too soon will result in a large loss of juices, drying out your pork butt.
How to Moisten Dry Pulled Pork
When cooked and rested properly, pork butt will pull apart perfectly. So now you can shred evenly and add your favorite flavor of barbeque sauce. Before you serve, be sure to collect, strain and store in the refrigerator all those rendering fat drippings in case you need them for reheating or adding moisture back into the pulled pork.
Reheating pulled pork can be tricky, especially when it becomes dry. The only way to add moisture back into your pulled pork leftovers is to add liquid. Add in a juice, like apple or pineapple, mixed with some drippings and barbeque sauce and reheat some leftover goodness.