Here is what you need to know for how to make perfect Boston butt in the oven for the BEST pulled pork ever. This foolproof method works EVERY time!
Update: When to consider a boneless Boston butt
To ensure your roast cooks to fall-apart-tender, consider getting a boneless butt and cutting it in half. Cook’s Illustrated recommends this, and it makes sense to me, especially IF you have a large butt (5+ pounds). This will ensure that the meat cooks through.
What is the secret to perfect pulled pork?
The secret to cooking a perfect Boston butt for pulled pork in the oven is this: collagen + internal temperature. Pork contains collagen, a connective tissue that melts as the internal temperature rises. Collagen won’t completely melt until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees. Pork that is oven cooked low and slow to a high internal temperature (200 degrees) will always be more moist and tender than pork cooked to 160 degrees.
What is the best cut of meat for pulled pork?
Boston Butt is the best cut of meat for pulled pork. Boston Butt is a cut of pork that is actually from the shoulder. Most restaurants use an entire shoulder, which is hard to find in grocery stores. One half of a shoulder is called Boston Butt. The other half of a shoulder is called picnic.
Is bone-in or boneless Boston Butt better?
I always buy bone-in meat when possible. Bone (and skin) almost always make meat taste better. I have made this recipe with bone-in every time, so that is what I buy. Cooks Illustrated recommends boneless, and they also recommend cutting the roast in half. My opinion is that small butts will do fine with bone-in; larger ones might do better if boneless and cut in half.
Can you get smoky flavor without a grill?
Although grill masters can produce fabulous smoke flavored meat with fire, not all of us have the grill skills needed to do this. But we can use our ovens, along with smoky spice rubs and smoky barbecue sauces to achieve a wonderful smoke flavored pulled pork. It won’t be exactly the same result as real smoke, but it comes pretty close. Best of all, you don’t have to fire up or tend to a grill. The oven + spices + sauces do all the work!
Which spice rub is best for Boston Butt?
A good dry rub/spice rub is easy to make. My spice rub recipe is below, and it calls for ingredients most likely in your cupboard. If you prefer prepared spice rub, there are many good options. Be sure to look for a rub that specifically works well for pork and that has a smoky flavored spice. William’s-Sonoma smokehouse rub is a favorite of mine and would work well in this recipe.
Is it necessary to brine the Boston butt?
Yes, you absolutely need to brine the Boston butt. It will make the pork tender and moist, and it will keep the pork from drying out during the long cook time. You will want to brine the butt for at least 12 hours and preferably 24 hours. You don’t need a special pan or container for brining. A 2-gallon ziploc freezer bag should work fine for most size butts. The meat should be brined in the refrigerator.
What ingredients are used to brine a Boston Butt?
A good liquid brine for Boston Butt consists of water, brown sugar, white vinegar, and salt. A few seasonings can be added to taste. My brine ingredients are listed below in the recipe. All of these ingredients play a role in flavoring and tenderizing the meat before cooking. The salt and vinegar (acid) are especially crucial components of the brine.
Patience is key; don’t rush the butt.
The pork will be “done” to the point of being sliceable at 170 degrees, so “officially” it is fine to eat at this point. BUT….to get succulent, fall apart, fork tender pork, the internal temperature should reach 200 degrees. The 170 degree point is easy to reach, but those last 30 degrees to 200 are hard to attain. It will take FOREVER to get the butt to 200 degrees if you open the oven at all during the cooking process. Leave the oven door closed the whole time.
An oven thermometer is your best friend.
When I used to make this butt prior to owning an oven thermometer, it literally took forever for this pork to get to an internal temperature of 200 degrees. This is why I recommend either using a thermometer that beeps at 200 or not checking the temp until 14 hours. I had this meat thermometer, and it worked great. My husband lost it haha so I just ordered this one that has great ratings. I’ll let you know how I like it once I use it.
Give the cooked pork a rest.
Once you remove your pork from the oven, give it a rest. “Resting” is important for most meats, but it is especially important in making this pork. This pork needs to rest at least one hour. It can also sit in a cooler (wrapped in a towel) or in a warm oven for several hours. It gets better and better as it rests (almost like toddlers lol).
In the short video below, you can see me pulling apart the meat from a butt that I made and allowed to rest for several hours. It literally falls apart in your hands.
What pan is best for baking Boston Butt?
My favorite pan for making Boston butt is an aluminum one like you see in the photo below. I stock up on these pans when I go to Dollar Tree or a similar dollar store. The best size for this Boston butt is 12 x 10 x 2.5, but any similar size will work. The best thing about using an aluminum pan is the easy cleanup. You can drain the juices and pull the pork in the pan used to cook the butt. When done, just toss the pan and serve the pork from a clean serving platter.
Plan ahead when making this Boston Butt
It is good to remember to allow for all the prep time when making this Boston butt, especially if making it for a special event. You will allow for all of the following.
- Brine time: 12 to 48 hours.
- Bring to room temp after brine: 1 hour to 2 hours
- Cook time: 14 to 16 hours (possibly longer).
- Rest time: 1 hour up to 4-5 kept warm
My timing tips are to prep the butt a few days ahead (brine) and cook overnight. Putting in the oven just before bed time is perfect if serving this for lunch the next day. If making this for dinner, I will put the butt in at 5:00 a.m. This means that I need to get up at 4:00 a.m. to let the butt sit at room temperature for an hour. If this sounds daunting, you can plan to make it early and reheat the next day.
What sides go well with pulled pork?
We have two camps in my family: the pulled pork sandwich and the pulled pork with sides. Here is how the two camps enjoy this pulled pork.
- Pulled pork sandwiches. Pile the pork on a bun and dress with barbecue sauce. This vinegar slaw and pickles are optional. We always offer both red and white barbecue sauces. We love both!
- Pulled pork with sides. Some favorite sides for pulled pork are blue cheese slaw, crunchy slaw, or this Greek chopped slaw. We love these Beale Street baked beans and this white cheddar Mac & Cheese that is only 4 ingredients and SO good!
What desserts go well with pulled pork?
Desserts for pulled pork are easy at my house. We always serve this chocolate chess pie like ones you might see in a BBQ joint. We also love Mimi’s famous skillet blackberry cobbler (my all time favorite dessert) and Paula Deen’s chessmen banana pudding. My husband loves this buttermilk pie. For a yummy dessert that stays cool in the fridge, this chocolate eclair dessert is a favorite as well.
What sauces go well with pulled pork?
Growing up in North Alabama where white sauce is king, I am never without white sauce for barbecue. I cut my teeth on Big Bob Gibson’s Barbecue, and its signature white sauce (shown in the photo below) is my favorite. I also love to make a vinegar hot sauce (aka mop sauce) that was always on the table at Bob Gibson’s.
While you are thinking about barbecue, check out my recipe for fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs that are also a magical oven cooked barbecue creation.
I so hope you enjoy this Boston butt. If you try it, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. I love hearing from readers. If you would rate the recipe also, I would be so grateful. As always, thanks so much for stopping by. Be blessed, and stay savvy!!!
- PORK BRINE
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons spice rub (below)
- 2 Tablespoons liquid smoke
- 6 cups water
- SPICE/DRY RUB
- 1 (4-6) pound Boston Butt (bone-in)
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon onion powder
- 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- Yield: 3/4 cup
- Mix pork brine ingredients is a stock pot or large plastic container until sugar dissolves.
- Add pork to the brine.
- Let pork marinated in refrigerator at least 12 hours preferably 24 (and up to 48). Turn occasionally so all meat is equally brined.
- Remove brined pork from the refrigerator; let sit at room temperature for at least one hour and up to two.
- Preheat oven to 325 ˚F.
- Place pork fat side up in disposable alumninum pan.
- Coat pork liberally with spice rub, rubbing on all sides and in between crevices.
- Cook at 325˚ degrees for one hour; reduce heat to 225˚F.
- Cook for up to 16 hours or until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of meat registers 200 degrees.
- Remove from oven; allow cooked meat to rest at least one hour.
- Remove and discard fat layer.
- Drain meat, reserving drippings for another use or discarding.
- Shred meat with a fork or chop with kitchen shears.
- Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce.
YIeld: 7-9 cups shredded pork depending upon size of butt
Nutrition Information:Yield: 9 Serving Size: 8 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 151Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 7046mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 5g
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons ketchup
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- In medium saucepan, mix all ingredients.
- Siimmer for 10 minutes.
- Serve at room temperature.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 26Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 103mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 0gSugar: 5gProtein: 0g