Mixing Spices Explained: Preparing Pork Butt Rub
Smoking pork is one of the great joys of life. With such a flavorful type of meat to work with, it's hard to go wrong no matter what cut you use or what you plan to do with it. Unfortunately, even with so much flavor at their disposal, many chefs fail to make full use of the goodness they've got at the tips of their fingers.
Any cut of pork, no matter how delicious it might be from the start, can easily be made even better with the addition of a good dry rub. Though it might be poor form to skip the rub, it's at least a bit understandable for people new to smoking and barbecuing. Rubs can be confusing given just how many recipes there are for them out there online, so what should you choose?
To help cut through the confusion and provide the best barbecuing experience, we'll walk you through what you need to do to make the perfect dry rub for a smoked pork butt, complete with a beginner-friendly recipe that'll show you exactly what's so delicious about this cut of meat. Let's get started.
List of Supplies For Preparing Pork Butt Rub
In order to make your rub for smoking pork butt, you'll need to get the right ingredients and materials. Like most good recipes, the list is fairly short.
- Charcoal smoker with chunk charcoal
- Wood chunks or chips (details below)
- Plastic wrap
- Digital read thermometer
- Aluminum foil
- Heat diffuser (optional)
- Plastic spray bottle
- Apple juice or apple cider
- Mustard (yellow or Dijon)
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Unsmoked paprika
- Dark brown sugar
- Pork butt, bone-in (8-10 lbs)
Selecting the right wood to use during meat smoking is nearly as important as a good spice rub, so take care when picking what plant to use for your smoke. When succulent meat like pork butt, it's a good idea to use something light and fruity so as not to overpower the meat. Apple, peach, and cherry are good options, though a small amount of hickory could also be a good compliment due to its heavy, smokey flavor (though it should be used sparingly with this cut).
Making the Rub
Once you've gathered all your supplies, you can finally start on the recipe.
Step 1: Make the Rub
To make a delicious and simple pork dry rub, you'll need four teaspoons each of garlic and onion powder, paprika, and kosher salt, 3 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons of cumin, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper or to taste depending on how spicy you like your meat. Additionally, to get a perfect sweet and smokey barbecue flavor, add 5 tablespoons of dark brown sugar to the rub, as well. If you don't enjoy sweetened meat, you can omit this step, though the recipe is better overall if it's included.
Thoroughly mix together all the rub ingredients in a bowl and set aside until you're ready to begin the prepping process.
Step 2: Prep the Meat
With your rub made, you can begin prepping your pork butt. It's best to do this a day before, as letting the meat rest in the fridge overnight helps the flavors develop and tenderizes the flesh after applying the spices prior to cooking.
Begin by coating the pork thoroughly on all sides with yellow or Dijon mustard (Dijon will add an extra zestiness to the finished meat). After that, press in handfuls of the dry rub into every inch of the meat, making sure to pat it in thoroughly so as much of the rub ends up adhered to the meat as possible. When you're done, wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap (the tighter the wrap, the better the flavor) and store it in the fridge until you're ready to cook.
Step 3: Prep the Smoker
About an hour before you plan to cook, take your pork out of the fridge and allow it to warm up to room temperature as you go about prepping your smoker. This makes for a more flavorful and evenly cooked piece of meat once you've cooked it. Additionally, soak your wood chips in hot water during this time if you're using any.
When prepping the smoker itself, you'll want to start by filling the smoker up with charcoal. Light it and close the lid, letting smoke and heat build up inside. You want coals that aren't too hot, with a target temperature of around 225 degrees Fahrenheit inside the smoker. Adjust the coal level and air ventilation as needed to attain this temperature. When closer to cook time (about ten minutes out), fill the water tank and throw on your wood, then add the grate and heat diffuser if using before closing the lid to let the wood smoke and steam collect inside.
Step 4: Smoke the Meat
Once your smoker has warmed up and your meat has had time to sit out, you can finally begin cooking. Lay the meat down onto the grate and close the lid. Expect to cook your meat for about an hour to 90 minutes for every pound of meat your pork butt weighs.
Monitor the heat and the levels of wood, charcoal, and water to maintain a consistent temperature throughout cooking, adding more of each as needed. Every half hour to 45 minutes, spritz down the surface of the meat with apple juice or apple cider, working quickly to avoid heat and smoke loss. Additionally, turn the meat every two and a half hour to ensure it cooks evenly on all sides, and don't be afraid to tent the meat loosely with aluminum foil if it appears to be burning a bit during the last hour or two of cooking.
Step 5: Rest the Meat
The meat is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees Fahrenheit. This means you'll want to take the meat off the heat once it hits, at the most, 180 degrees. This is because you'll be resting it tented with aluminum foil for at least an hour before serving if not longer. During the resting process, the meat relaxes and finishes cooking as the residual heat trapped inside distributes throughout the flesh. The temperature will raise at least ten degrees during this time, and longer resting times usually mean more tender meat once you eat it.
Step 6: Serve the Meat
There's all sorts of applications you can use smoked pork butt for, but one of the most common would be pulled pork. If you'd like to try it for yourself, wait until the meat has rested and cooled down, then tear off pieces from the bone using a fork or handy Meat Claws. Make sure to capture as many juices as you can and pour on any collected during resting into the pulled pork pile. After that, it's just a matter of piling it high on a bun and digging in.
Smoked pork can always be improved with a delicious dry rub. This is no different when it comes to Boston pork butt, as this recipe demonstrates. If you've been in the mood for some delicious barbecued pork, try out this rub recipe and see just how great it is for yourself.
If you liked this recipe, leave a comment down below. Share any tips you have on smoking or making spice rubs, and remember to show this recipe to a friend who could use some good barbecue.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Rub Pork?
Rubbing pork is simple and easy. All you need to do is prepare your seasoning ingredients, which are usually all dry spices. Sometimes a rub recipe will call for fresh onion or garlic but this is not typical. Then, you rub the seasonings all of the pork and allow it to sit for a few hours to let the spices to work. You do not need to wash it off before cooking.
How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Pork Butt?
You should expect your pork butt to take about 1 hour to 90 minutes per pound of meat. This means that a 5-pound pork butt can take 5 to 7 ½ hours to fully cook. If you do need it to cook more quickly, you can cut the pork butt into smaller pieces but this will not taste as flavorful as keeping it whole.
What Spices Should You Use on a Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder Roast?
You can use any spices you wish. These spices will influence the overall flavor of the pork, so choose wisely! The most common ingredients in a spice rub are salt, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and paprika. You can also add other ingredients like ground cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, chili powder, mustard, or sugar.
How Long Do You Let Pork Sit on a Dry Rub?
You can let the pork sit on the dry rub for as long as 24 hours. The longer you allow it to sit on the spices, the more spice flavor it will absorb. You should allow the pork to sit for at least 30 minutes. If you are marinating it for longer than one hour, place the pork in the refrigerator to keep it at safe temperatures.
What Temperature Do You Smoke Pork Butt?
Pork butt is best cooked low and slow, so a smoker temperature between 200 to 225 degrees F is most ideal. When the pork itself reaches an internal temperature of 190 degrees F, it is finished cooking.