Smoked Boston Butt with Rosemary and Brown Sugar Rub
My experiences with smoked Boston butt always end with the same half-dejected reassurance that, “well, it was good, but I can do it better next time, I swear.” And the next time I set out determined to ‘finally’ turn out a ‘perfect’ piece of smoked pork.
Then it happens, like the torturing clockwork of a stacked game of cards, the smoker is too hot, or even worse, too cold, I forget the thermometer, the coals die out ¾ of the way through cooking, the thermometer is too close to the bone so I remove it only to see hordes of flavorful juice escape from the now bone-dry pork, we should have taken it 5 degrees further, the crust is too thick, the rub doesn’t taste good, we forget to rest in foil; the list goes on and on. Oh what an unbearably frustrating list it is.
In the midst of such frustration I’m reminded of a quote from Thomas Edison who said, in response to a question regarding his failure to successfully create the filament for the light bulb, “I have not failed seven hundred times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those seven hundred ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
I bet you’re thinking, “Hey, that’s not such a bad way to look at it, Chase. How insightful, through all of your failures you’ve learned a wealth of information in your quest for perfect smoked pork. With the right attitude and some persistence I bet you’ll get there one day, buddy!” Yea. Right. That’s all well and good until it’s nearly midnight and you’re running to Walmart for more coals and, as my new friend Sasa @ sasasunakku would say, you’re hit with a bought of ’hanger’ (hunger that turns to anger) so intense you’d actually rather smash a car window with the pork than eat it.
But when the hanger fades and I’m done cleaning up the glass and explaining the situation, I guess I really have learned quite a bit about how-to smoke a piece of pork. Which is what I’m here for– to help prevent you from making the same mistakes that I’ve made and getting hangry (…now listen here, Johnny-boy, you know daddy loves you right..?)
Smoked Boston Butt with Rosemary Brown Sugar Rub:
For the Boston Butt -
- 4 to 5 pound Boston Butt, bone in and extra fat trimmed
- Dijon mustard
- Rosemary and Brown Sugar Rub
- Choice of firewood, hickory and apple are both fantastic with pork
- Favorite brand charcoal briquettes, I use regular Kingsford
- Lighter fluid, optional
Tip: If your considering using lump charcoal — don’t. Stick with charcoal briquettes and save the hardwood lump charcoal for high-heat grilling. The briquettes burn longer and at a more consistent temperature.
For the Rosemary Brown Sugar Rub -
Let me just say, I’ve never had a pork rub that I really liked. Until this one– rosemary and pork pair exceptionally well.
- 2 tablespoons rosemary, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Slather the entire butt (..heh) with Dijon mustard and season with a even layer of the rub. Set aside at room temperature until ready to cook.
Modified Minion Method:
I’ve been searching for the best way to maintain a consistent smoker temperature with even smoke output for almost two years now. I happy to say that I’m searching no longer. The Modified Minion Method is pure brilliance. With a little-set up and virtually no effort you can run a consistent smoker temperature of around 225 – 275 degrees for at least 10 hours, maybe more, with even smoke output the entire time.
Tip: If you run into trouble and find the heat too hot or cold a simple adjustment of the bottom vent will quickly solve the problem.
To begin, arrange 2 rows of briquettes along the the rim of the grill. Follow with another layer of 2 rows. Finish with a layer of 1 row of charcoal and 1 layer of wood (this isn’t depicted accurately in the picture due to figuring this out after spending an hour attempting to get the grill to the proper temperature). But hopefully this will give you a good idea…
Next, squirt some lighter fluid (you heard me, lighter fluid, don’t be shy) on the first 8 coals, ignite, and let burn uncovered until ashy white.
When the coals are white, place in a drip pan. The bottom to a terracotta pot works great (it also makes a perfect pizza stone), as does a foil covered glass bowl, but I thought I’d take the 10 hours of fat and smoke-rich environment as an opportunity to further season my little carbon steel frying pan. Fill with water, if desired.
Tip: If you don’t happen to have lighter fluid on hand, like me, use a chimney starter to get the coals hot and then place in the grill.
Smokin’ The Butt:
You’re now ready to assemble the grill, arrange one thermometer probe in the thickest part of the meat (away from the bone) and rig the other to monitor the temperature near the pork in the smoker, put the lid on, and get that butt a smokin’.
At a temperature of 250ºF it will take, on average, about 1 ½ to 2 hours per pound to finish cooking. However, be warned, barbecue can be unpredictable so it’s better to start early than finish late to avoid eating at midnight with hanger pains.
Tip: The meat can be ‘held’ in foil for up to 5 hours after cooking (more on that below).
Just as an aside, I’d like to recommend a product that I couldn’t live without when smoking or grilling anything. The Maverick ET-73 Dual Probe Thermometer with a wireless receiver allows you to simultaneously monitor both the ambient smoker temperature as well as the internal temperature of the meat at a range of 100 feet. That’s right, lazy one, you can monitor the entire thing in the comfort of your own living room or beside the pool. Also, if you get busy and forget to monitor the temperatures, alarms can be set to alert you if your smoker is running to hot or too cold. Best of all it’s easy to use, reliable, and accurate. It’s truly the best on the market and will make smoking anything from pork butt to ribs and chicken that much easier, enjoyable, and tasty.
The Finished Product:
Once the meat registers an internal temperature of 205º F it’s ready to be taken off of the grill and be wrapped tightly in aluminum foil for a minimum of 1 hour to allow the juices to redistribute and the meat to come to a final temperature of 210º. I know it’s tempting to take the freshly smoked pork and chow down right away, but take this part seriously and let the meat rest. It really does make a huge difference and you will be rewarded with better meat.
Tip: If you’re going for sliced pork, take it off when the internal temperature reaches 190º to 195ºF.
From here the meat can be pulled, chopped, drizzled with cider vinegar with fresh thyme sprinkled in, slathered with your favorite barbecue sauce,and made into a delicious sandwich with arugula or your favorite coleslaw or chow chow.
Oh, and don’t forget to strain the hickory smoked pork fat (and boil the water out, if necessary) from the drip pan and reuse. It makes plain old bacon fat look worthless.
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