A Different Cooking Technique – Injecting Pork Butt
A common issue many people have with their smoked meats and barbecue is food that turns out dry and tough. Unfortunately, this is always a possibility when dealing with meat cooked over long periods of time, with those who aren't as experienced being the most likely to fall victim to it. There's no shame in inexperience, though, as it just means you get to make more barbecue to practice.
One easy way to help your meat stay moist while it's smoking is to inject it with a special seasoning liquid. Filling the meat up with a liquid both keeps it from drying out while introducing even more flavor to the finished food, making it a win-win no matter what you cook.
A great meat to inject is the pork roast, otherwise known as the Boston butt. How do you go about injecting meat? What should you inject meat with? These questions and more will be answered in this recipe for an injected smoked pork butt sure to please everyone at your next cookout. Let's get started.
What You'll Need For This Recipe
In order to follow this recipe for an injected smoked pork butt, you'll need to grab a few supplies first. For easier organization, we'll break down what you'll need for injecting the pork, the seasoning for it, and cooking the pork itself.
Pork Butt Recipe
When you've collected all the ingredients necessary for the recipe, you can finally move on to the part where you actually cook your pork.
Step 1: Season the Pork
You'll want to start this recipe the night before you actually intend to cook it, as it gives extra time for flavor to develop within the meat after it's been seasoned.
Begin by trimming off any excess fat, silver skin, or other unattractive bits, saving them in a sealed container for making things like pork stock at a later date. You can also trim off bits of meat to make the pork more uniform in shape, though this isn't typically necessary given the primary uses for smoked pork butt don't usually require it to look very attractive. When done, rinse the meat off in cold water and pat it dry with paper towels.
Next, make up your spice rub, stirring everything together thoroughly. When that's done, start on your injection liquid, warning it all together in a small saucepan until the butter melts, letting it cool briefly before injecting it into the meat. Discard any spilled or leftover liquid and pat the outside of the pork dry.
Finally, coat the outside of the butt thoroughly in mustard. This helps the spice rub adhere better, as well as provide extra caramelization. When full coverage is achieved, rub in your spice mix before transferring the meat onto a large baking tray and covering with plastic wrap, letting it sit in the fridge until tomorrow.
Step 2: Light the Smoker
About 30 minutes out from when you'll actually begin this step, soak any wood chips you'll be using in hot water. This helps to keep them from burning up too quickly when they're tossed onto the fire. Additionally, just to make things easier for yourself, take your meat out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for that same amount of time.
When you're ready to cook, you can start by preheating your smoker. Fill it with charcoal, light the fire, and once it gets going, close the lid. After a little while, the coals will have burned down some and lowered in temperature. What you're aiming for is a smoker close to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, as that's the ideal range for smoking this type of pork.
Once there, add on your wood, fill the water tank, and add on the grate before closing the lid once more and letting the smoke and steam build up inside the cover. This ensures that, from the moment you put your meat inside, it will be smoking in an optimal environment.
Step 3: Smoke the Pork
Since you already took care of your prep work the night before and had your meat sitting out to warm up prior to even lighting the smoker, you can move on to cooking almost immediately once the barbecue gets up to temperature.
Do one last check of the roast, adding any more seasoning on bare patches you might find, before inserting a thermometer into the thickest part of the butt. When it's ready, place it fat side up onto the grates and close the lid. Over the next several hours, make sure to monitor the coal, wood, and water levels thoroughly, adding more as needed and adjusting the air intake to keep the fire at optimal levels. Additionally, every hour or so, spray the meat down with a 50:50 mixture of apple juice or cider and water to help keep the meat moist and the outside from burning.
When your thermometer reaches 175 degrees Fahrenheit, place the pork into an aluminum baking pan. Add less than half an inch of your spray mixture to the bottom of the pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil, then return everything to the smoker. Your pork is officially done once it reaches 195 degrees, at which point anything inserted into it (the thermometer, a fork, etc.) should slide in with little to no resistance.
Step 4: Rest the Pork
When your meat has finished cooking, remove it from the smoker. Wrap the pan in a clean towel and transfer everything into a cooler without ice. Close the lid and let it sit inside for the next hour at a minimum.
When resting, meat has a chance to relax and become more tender, as well as fully finish cooking as residual heat travels throughout the meat. Additionally, keeping the meat sealed with foil in a pan like this helps it tenderize further, to the point where it will be ready to fall apart once you're done resting it.
Step 5: Pull The Pork
By the end of the rest, the pork butt should all but be falling apart. Unlike with other cuts of meat, this is the ideal state for pork butt, as it is naturally very tough and hard to eat. By completely gelatinizing any of the tough connective tissue within the meat, though, the meat is extremely tender, moist, and flavorful.
Remove the bone from inside the meat (it should be tender enough to where you could just poke into it with a fork and pull it out), then get to shredding. Using two forks, simply pull the meat apart in the pan, mixing it around to coat it in any collected juices that pooled during the resting time. You can also use met claws, Cave Tools have a couple of great options like this, this or these shredder rakes. Take this opportunity to taste for seasoning, too, and add in extra salt, pepper, herbs, or whatever you like as you pull it. Once you're done, you should have a large pile of nicely pulled pork.
Step 6: Serve The Pork
Pulled pork is at its best when served on a bun smothered in barbecue or hot sauce. Grab a bag of hamburger buns or Hawaiian rolls and dig in, either making the sandwiches up ahead of time or letting your cookout guests serve themselves. You can add plenty of other toppings, too, like diced onions and coleslaw, and serve it along with traditional barbecue sides like baked beans. All in all, you just can't go wrong with something this good.
Boston butt is a great cut of meat that can be made even greater with the use of injected liquid. Injecting your pork is an easy way to amp up the flavor and help prevent it from burning or drying out during cooking. If you haven't tried this great technique for yourself, grab yourself a pork butt and try it out.
Did you like this guide? Have any tips on injecting meat or a good recipe for it? Leave a comment about it, and remember to share this guide with a friend.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Meat Injector (and How Does it Work?)
A meat injector is a large syringe with a needle. When you pull the brine back into the injector, you can push it to the inside of large cuts of meat. This infuses the flavor of the brine or marinade into every fiber of the meat. Overnight marinades just flavor the outside of the food, but the injector plumps up the food and seasons it from the inside out.
Why Should You Inject Marinade into a Pork Butt?
Pork shoulders are very tough cuts of meat, and they are also very large. The marinade will not penetrate much of the muscle if you use an outside marinade. When you inject the marinade inside the meat, every part of it can be seasoned, making it more juicy and tender when you finish cooking it.
What Types of Sauces Can You Inject using a Meat Injector?
You can inject heavy sauces or thin marinades using the meat injector. Most injectors come with two needles - one thin needle and another one that has larger openings. With the latter, coarsely ground spices will pass through the large openings.
What is a Boston Butt?
The pork shoulder is often divided into two different cuts of meat. The Boston Butt is the more common of the two. It is often boneless, although sometimes it contains the chine bone. The other cut is the Picnic Shoulder, which is less commonly found in grocery stores. Either cut (or the whole pork shoulder) can be used interchangeably when making smoked pork.
When Is Injected Pork Finished Cooking?
Injected pork shouldn’t take any longer to cook than pork that uses exterior marinades. The best way to know when the pork is finished cooking is by using a digital meat thermometer. When the thermometer reaches 195 degrees F, the pork is fully cooked and should be shreddable.