Boston Butt On A Traeger – We Asked The Barbecue Gurus


Boston Butt is a popular cut of pork commonly used to make pulled pork. This cut of meat is perfect for the Traeger or any other pellet grill.There are hundreds of pulled pork recipes out there from food bloggers, but this Boston Butt recipe is from the barbecue pitmasters, so it’s guaranteed to impress your family and friends. I’ll walk you through the preparation to the cook. 

How To Cook Boston Butt On A Traeger

  1. Trim the Boston Butt, leaving 1/4 of an inch on the fat cap.
  2. Apply a binder to the meat using olive oil or yellow mustard. 
  3. Cover the pork with a dry rub. Use your favorite barbecue rub, or a simple 50/50 mix of salt and pepper.
  4. Set the temperature of your Traeger between 225° F and 250° F. Don’t go higher than 275°F. 
  5. Cook for several hours, spritzing once the rub has set to the meat. 
  6. Wrap the pork in foil when the bark is hard and cracking. 
  7. Place a thermometer probe in the pork and cook until the meat reaches an internal temperature around 200°F. Perform a tenderness test by poking the meat with a toothpick. It should feel like poking butter when cooked to perfect tenderness. 
  8. Rest the pork for 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to slicing or shredding. 

What Is A Boston Butt?

A Boston Butt is a cut of meat on the pork shoulder. It’s also known as shoulder butt, pork shoulder roast, country roast or shoulder blade. Boston Butt is a popular roast used in low-and-slow cooking, and is commonly used to make pulled pork. However, you need to cook it the right way unless you want dry pork. 

Boston Butt is one of the easiest meats to smoke, especially if you’re using a Traeger. This recipe only requires a small amount of work and preparation, and unlike brisket, ribs, or turkey, Boston Butts are easy to manage during the cook.

The First Stage Of The Cook

When you’re smoking a Boston butt, think of the cook in two stages.  The first stage is all about absorbing smoke and bark development. During this first stage, the temperature needs to be kept low-and-slow.

The latter part of the first stage also involves spritzing, a technique that helps to develop the bark, attract smoke, influences color and keeps the meat moist.  

Stage Two Of The Cook

The second stage of the cook is the wrapping stage. This is where you wrap the pork in aluminum foil or butcher paper, then place it back onto the pellet grill. This stage is all about tenderizing the meat and allowing all the connective tissue to break down. 

The Best Temperature To Cook Boston Butt On A Traeger? 

Set the temperature of your Traeger between 225° F and 250° F. You want to start low, and you may increase the temperature after the pork has been wrapped. However, you don’t want to exceed 275° F. If you cook the pork at this temperature, you will risk drying it out. You want to keep it low and slow so that the pork has time to absorb the smoke and break down all the fatty connective tissue. You also want to allow the Boston butt time to develop a nice crispy bark on the outer layer. Time at low temperature is the key to low and slow cooking and tender, juicy meat. It is full of smoke flavor. 

How Long To Smoke Boston Butt On A Traeger? 

It will take about 1.5 hours per pound if you are cooking at 225° F, however, the total cook time will depend on the size of the Boston Butt. A 6 lb pork butt should take about 8 or 9 hours to cook at 225° F. A larger Boston butt will take 13 to 15 hours. If you want the meat done sooner, increase the temperature after wrapping the pork. 

WeightTemperatureTotal Cook TimeResting Time (1 hour)
6 pounds220°F9 hours10 hours
10 pounds220°F15 hours16 hours
6 pounds250°F6 hours7 hours
10 pounds250°F10 hours11 hours
6 pounds(Hot and Fast) 300°F5 hours6 hours
Estimated total cook times for pork butt

How To Buy The Best Boston Butt

Purchase a Boston butt with the bone intact because this will help the meat from drying out and will hold the Boston butt together. The bone is also useful later in the cook when you’re trying to do a tenderness test. But twisting the bone, you can see if the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. Learn how to identify the money muscle and ask a butcher for a pork shoulder or a pork butt with a large money muscle. This is the best part of the butt, the tastiest, most delicious part of the shoulder. 

How Much Does A Boston Butt Weigh?

The average Boston butt weighs between 6 to 10 pounds. When shopping, try to get a Boston butt with a nice money muscle. This is the best part, and you want to have a nice thick money muscle. 

How To Cook Boston Butt Like Aaron Franklin

If you’ve watched Aaron Franklin smoke meat, you would notice he mostly cooks at 275° F. When smoking Boston Butt, he keeps the temperature at 275° F for the entire cook. However, Aaron Franklin uses an offset smoker, which produces smokier meat. Although Traeger pellet grills are fantastic meat smokers, they produce less smoke than an offset stickburner. That’s not to say you can’t produce smokey meat. You just need to hold the temperature lower so the meat has more time to absorb smoke on the grill. 

The Best Wood Pellets For Boston Butt

Wood pellet flavors vary, and it mostly comes down to individual preference. Often the flavor depends on what’s available, or what’s on sale. Hickory is always a good match with pork, especially if you can blend it with fruit wood such as apple or cherry. Mesquite has a strong flavor and should be used in small amounts. For pork, I like to use a 50/50 blend of hickory and cherry, or hickory and apple. As long as the wood pellets are dry and of high quality, you won’t have a problem.

How To Prepare A Boston Butt 

Trim any excess fat off the pork butt, but you always want to leave about 1/4 inch on the fat cap. Remove the skin or the rind, and you can make pork crackling separately. You don’t want to have the crackling on this pork shoulder because the smoke will not penetrate the pork rind. Also, we’re trying to develop a bark, the crispy outer layer of the meat, which is one of the best parts of the smoked pork shoulder. Remove any big lumps of fat because it won’t render. Usually, one-quarter of an inch is the safest bet for brisket and pork. This is the ideal thickness of fat to protect the meat, keep it moist, and render. Remove any sinew or need anything that looks like it will not render. 

The Rub

There are dozens of rubs recipes online, and even more products that you can buy. Check out this rub recipe from one of my other articles if you want a great rub that works for just about anything, whether pork or brisket, etc. If you’re after a great pre-made rub, check out Harry Soo’s Slap Yo Daddy, or Killer Hogs. These two rubs are made by champion BBQ Pitmasters, so you know they will be good. I prefer to make my own rub because I can control the salt content. Here is a basic rub recipe that you can try on your pork Boston butt. 

How To Apply The Rub-Binder

Binders are always a good idea before applying the rub. In order to get a nice bark, it’s very important the rub sticks to the meat. The rub plays an important part in bark development. The bark is a combination of smoke, dehydrated meat, fat, and seasonings. So if your rub doesn’t cover every part of the Boston Butt, the bark will be patchy. 

The Best Binder For Pork

Yellow mustard and olive oil are common binders used on pork, and either will be suitable. Don’t overthink this step. You won’t be able to taste the binder once the meat is cooked. The sole purpose of the binder is to make the rub stick. Whatever you use, be liberal and slather the whole roast. 

Preheat Your Traeger

Preheat your Traeger to 225° F. You want to keep it within this range as this is the safest for pork butt and will allow plenty of time to absorb the smoke flavor. If you want to cook the meat faster, you can increase the temperature as high as 275°F. 

Building Layers Of Flavor

The secret to smoking the perfect Boston Butt is to build layers upon layers of flavor. The main layers of flavor include:

  • Smoke
  • Rub and seasoning
  • Spritzing

And that’s what we are doing throughout the cook, building layers of flavor on the meat. The smoke is one of many flavors. The rub adds another layer. The spritz and binder will add more layers of flavor. The bark is the best part of the smoked pork, and if you’re using it for pulled pork, it ends with a wonderful texture. 

The First Few Hours – Bark Formation

Place the pork shoulder into the Traeger on the grill. Insert a thermometer probe into the pork if you wish; that way, you can track the internal temperature of the meat.  

If the pork shoulder has a fat cap or a fat side, lay the fat side towards the hottest part of your grill. Most people go fat side down when the heat source is coming from below. However, this depends on how the heat circulates throughout your smoker. Not all parts of the smoker will heat evenly. Placing the meat fat side up will keep the meat moist because the fat will drip down onto the sides of the roast and keep it moist. 

Should You Rotate Your Pork Butt? 

Rotate your pork throughout the cook. This is especially important if you are smoking multiple pieces of meat and you have a Traeger with levels of racks. You should find that the temperature will differ on the top rack as it would on the bottom. If you have a dual probe thermometer, place one probe on the top rack and one on the bottom to see the temperature difference. So you can either rotate the pork butt on the top and bottom rack to make sure that it cooks evenly. 

During The First Four Or Five Hours

During the first phase of the cook, you just want to leave your pork shoulder alone. Once the temperature is stable, place the pork butt on the rack, and walk away. Do not keep checking it. It’s not a good idea to spritz; do nothing. For the first two or three hours, you just want to let the pork shoulder absorb the smoke flavor and give it time to develop a bark. You can start checking the pork shoulder after about 3 hours. Do not spritz for the first few hours; wait until the rub has set. 

When To Spritz?

You don’t want to spritz the pork butt until the rub has set to the meat. If you spritz too early, your rub will wash off the meat, and you’ll have a patchy bark. Touching the pork with your finger is the best way to know when the rub has set to the meat. If the seasoning sticks to your finger, it’s not quite ready. You’re getting close to spritzing once you can touch the pork shoulder and no seasoning sticks to your finger. 

Spritzing

Once the rub has set to the meat and will not wash off, it’s safe to spritz. This should usually occur anywhere from 3 to 5 hours into the cook. 

Why Spritz? 

Spritzing is an important step in the smoking process. First, smoke is attracted to moisture, so it will attract more smoke to the pork butt. Second, it will help replace some lost moisture and prevent your pork from drying out. Third, it will slow down the cook. We want to keep the pork shoulder at a low temperature by wetting it, which will buy us some time. 

Tough cuts of meat like pork shoulder and brisket need time at low temperatures to break down all the connective tissue. These tough cuts of meat need time, and by spritzing, you buy more time by slowing down the cook and cooling the meat. Otherwise, the meat will just race towards the internal temperature of around 200° F. If it gets there too quickly, the meat will be tough. 

How Often Do I Spritz? 

Once your pork has been in the Traeger for about 3 hours, then it’s time to spritz. Once your meat is ready and your rub is no longer sticking, spritz the pork every 30 to 40 minutes. Continue this until the wrapping stage. 

What To Use For A Spritz?

The most commonly used spritz in smoking meat such as pork shoulder is apple juice or apple cider vinegar. Some people use beer, wine, or even plain water. I find it’s better to use something with a little of sweetness and something acidic. You won’t be able to taste the spritz, so don’t stress too much about this step. The most important thing is that it’s liquid, but the sweet spritzers such as apple cider vinegar or apple juice, or beer are sticky, which is good because it helps everything stick. Sweet is also good because it helps with caramelization and the browning effect. This is all good for back development. 

Wrapping

Wrapping is an essential part of the smoking process because this will protect the meat and prevent it from drying out, but it will also help the pork cook faster. 

The Stall

When smoking low-and-slow meats, large cuts such as pork and brisket will reach the stall. The stall is when the meat appears to stop cooking. This occurs because the meat sweats, which has a cooling effect on the meat. This causes the internal meat temperature to stagnate, adding a few hours to the total cook time. If you have a high-tech thermometer with graphing abilities, you will see exactly how long the meat stalls.The pork roast will climb steadily towards the target internal temperature, but then it will plateau.

Wrapping Helps Cook Faster

When you wrap the pork shoulder, it will trap all the heat inside the package and help it cook faster. The meat will be almost braised or steamed, saving about 1 hour of the total cook time. 

The Downside Of Wrapping

Wrapping the pork will soften the bark and make it soggy. However, if you have developed a good bark to begin with, you should be able to bring it back at the end of the cook. Just before slicing, you can place an unwrapped pork butt bark on the grill for a few minutes just to get rid of the sogginess. 

When To Wrap Pork?

You don’t want to wrap the pork shoulder too soon; you want to wait until the bark has developed. Some people go by internal temperature and wrap their pork butt at 160° F. However, it’s best to go by look and feel rather than the internal temperature. You can use the internal temp as a guide, and it should be somewhere within that 160° F to 170° F range. 

What To Look For?

After about 5 or 6 hours, you will notice a nice dark color on the meat. There should be cracks forming on the bark. These are all signs its ready to wrap. Internal temperature should be somewhere in the 160° F and 170° F range. 

When Is Boston Butt Done? 

Cook the pork shoulder close to a 200° F internal temperature. According to the USDA, pork is safe to eat at 145° F. However, the meat won’t be tender at 145°F. It will be chewy. Pork shoulder has a lot of connective tissue and gristle that will need time to break down. If you take the pork to around 200° F, the extra time will allow the gristle to break down. 

Use A Quality Thermometer

If you want to cook perfect meat, you need to have the right tools. Barbecue professionals use precision instruments that give precise temperatures. Don’t trust the thermometer that comes with your smoker and don’t buy cheap thermometers. Traeger will provide you with a probe, but I would test it with an ice bath test before putting faith in a manufacturer thermometer. 

Resting and Holding

Once the pork butt has reached the 200° F internal temperature, remove it from the smoker. Open the foil a little, just to let some steam escape. Don’t serve or slice the pork immediately. Give the meat time to relax and reabsorb moisture. If you were to slice and serve immediately, most of the juices will spill out onto the cutting board and be lost. Allow at least 30 minutes to an hour to rest the pork. 

Holding

If you’re not quite ready to serve, place the pork into holding. To do this, keep the meat in the foil wrapping, then wrap again in a dishcloth. Then place it into a dry cooler. It will stay hot for 4 hours, or even longer. Remove it from the cooler when you’re ready to serve, and then slice or shred. 

Slice Or Shred? 

Once you’re ready to serve, slice or shred your pork. Only shred what you need because it will dry out if you shred the whole thing. Leftovers are always better when kept in whole pieces. 

My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.

Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.

Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.

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