Roast Pork Butt Recipe

Roast Pork Butt Recipe

This oven method for roast pork butt yields delicious pulled pork. (As does the slow cooker method for braised pork butt. My personal preference is for grilling it—see the grilled pork butt variation beneath the recipe. But I’ve roasted it with excellent results.) Honestly, I’ll take pork butt any way I can get it! Any way you choose, be sure to get a pork butt (aka shoulder) with the bone in and with a decent amount of fat in it. As the pork cooks, the fat will prevent the meat from drying out and the bone will flavor the meat nicely.–Nick Evans

LC Stuffing Our Pieholes With Roast Pork Butt Note

Excuse us, but we’re too preoccupied by stuffing our pieholes with this ridiculously glorious and insanely easy roast pork butt to say anything. Hey, anyone seen the napkins?!

Actually, we take that back. We have learned a thing or three about pork butt (giggle…we said butt) over the years, and so we want to share those tricks with you. Feel free to chime in and add a comment below with any truths you’ve experienced in your pork butt (giggle) escapades.

Pork Butt Truth 1
Pork butt is not actually pork butt. It’s pork shoulder. And you may find either or both of those terms on the label at the store. Confusing, right?! We’ve seen this cut labeled “Boston butt” and (Actually, if you see Boston butt, grab it. One of our recipe testers, Suzanne Fortier, once explained to us, “I was taught by my French-Canadian grandmother and father to request the butt end of the shoulder, or the Boston butt. The other end is sometimes called the picnic shoulder, and it tends to be gristlier. The Boston butt is the only way to go, according to Grandma Rose. Why mess with a good thing?) Still, it’s funner to say pork butt.

Pork Butt Truth 2
A lot of folks swear by bone-in as opposed to boneless pork butt for the best flavor. Others prefer the convenience of boneless pork butt. Shrug. Suit yourself. Honestly? We feel the same way our recipe tester, Jackie Gorman does. In her words, “With pork butt, I don’t think that the flavor is dependent upon the bone, but the amount of fat it has.” See, pork has been bred to be leaner and leaner over the years, which is not a good thing. Not a good thing at all. Our advice is to get yourself a nice heritage pork butt that’s well-marbled and has an obscenely thick layer of fat on it, just as God intended. Because as the pork roasts, the fat sloooooooowly melts, constantly bathing the underlying meat in what we like to think of as essential fatty acids of a different, porkier, yet still healthful sort. You won’t be sorry.

Pork Butt Truth 3
Size matters. Although exactly how it matters depends on your personal preference. We prefer to roast a couple modestly sized 3- or 4-pound pork butts side by side in the same roasting pan rather than a single 8-pound pork butt, only because they seem to remain more moist. But that’s just us.

Pork Butt Truth 4
Trust thyself. There are hundreds of pork butt recipes out there and each will insist on this cut and that size and this oven temperature and that method. Whatever. We found what works best for us, and you’ll find that below. But only you know what works best for you. We hope you find it here, but if not, don’t hesitate to veer from the below. For example, our editor had a rebellious streak and roasted her pork butt uncovered the entire time, as opposed to smothering it with foil as directed in the recipe. Oh, and she had also omitted any spice rub and opted instead for just salt and pepper. She swears it was the best damn pork butt she ever had. But you may feel differently. See what we mean when we say trust thyself?!

Special Equipment: Instant-read thermometer

Roast Pork Butt Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 10 H
  • Makes about 6 pounds pulled pork


  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • A 6 1/2- to 8-pound bone-in pork butt (aka pork shoulder) or two 3 1/2- to 4-pound pork butts
  • Your favorite barbecue sauce (optional)


  • 1. Stir together the salt, sugar, paprika, pepper flakes, cumin, and black pepper in a small bowl.
  • 2. Rub the pork butt all over with the spice mixture. The pork butt should be completely coated on all sides. If you have time, tightly wrap the pork in plastic wrap, place it in on a rimmed plate or container of some sort, and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors mingle.
  • 3. Heat your oven to 250°F (121°C). Place a wire rack in a roasting pan.
  • 4. Place your pork butt, fatty side up, on the rack. Roast the pork, uncovered, until the exterior of the pork butt is crisp and dry—this is what’s referred to as “bark” in smoking circles. This will most likely take 4 to 8 hours, depending on your oven and the size of your pork butt. [Editor’s Note: For us, this happened when the pork butt reached an internal temperature of approximately 170°F (77°C), but the internal temperature is less important than the undeniable presence of the bark. If you don’t let the bark fully develop, the finished pork will be soggy on the outside, not crisp.]
  • 5. Carefully wrap the pork butt in a couple layers heavy-duty aluminum foil and return the pork butt to the wire rack in the roasting pan. Continue to roast until the pork reaches an internal temperature of at least 190°F (88°C) and preferably 200°F (93°C). This recipe is almost impossible to pull off without a meat thermometer. You really can’t judge the pork by sight or feel. A thermometer is the only way to know. Personally, we prefer a digital probe thermometer that can be left in the pork as it roasts or grills. When you insert the thermometer, stick it into the thickest part of the pork butt, and be sure not to have it next to any bone or you’ll get a false reading.) Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carefully unwrapping the foil.
  • 6. Shred the pork with a couple forks, making certain to evenly mix the crisp, dry edges with the insanely moist, tender pork within. You’re probably going to want to douse the pulled pork with some barbecue sauce to impart some flavor and sauciness. Use the pulled pork in sandwiches or store it for use in other recipes or just stand there at the counter and nosh on it. (The pulled pork will store well in the fridge for 7 days. If you’re freezing it for later, divvy it into 1-pound servings and freeze it in storage bags.)

Grilled Pork Butt Variation

  • Preheat your oven to 250°F (121°C). We highly recommend using an oven thermometer on the grill surface to make sure your temperature is as close to that as possible.

    If you’re using a gas grill, this will probably mean turning off all the burners except one and turning that burner on medium-low to low.

    If you’re using a charcoal grill, prepare your grill for indirect heat and build a good coal base before adding the pork. You will most likely have to add charcoal a few times throughout the cooking time to maintain a nice even heat. It’s also not a huge deal if your grill gets hotter or cools off a bit. Just do your best to keep it low and steady.
  • Place your pork butt, fatty side up, directly on the grill rack. Cook the pork at 250°F (121°C) until the exterior of the pork butt is crisp and dry—this is what’s referred to as “bark” in smoking circles. This will most likely take 4 to 6 hours, depending on your grill and the size of your pork butt. Carefully wrap the pork butt in a couple layers heavy-duty aluminum foil and return the pork butt to the grill rack. Continue to grill until the pork reaches an internal temperature of at least 195°F (91°C) and preferably 200°F (93°C). You absolutely need a meat thermometer to make sure it’s done. This will most likely take between 7 and 10 hours although we’ve had it take up to 14 hours on a finicky charcoal grill. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carefully unwrapping the foil.
  • Shred the pork as instructed above.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Jun 30, 2015

The results were excellent. The yield for this roast pork butt recipe is accurately stated in the recipe. I refrigerated the pork butt overnight so the flavors would meld properly. The hands-on time is minimal—about 15 minutes to assemble the spice mixture and rub it all over the pork butt. I used about 1/2 the stated amount of red pepper flakes because I thought 1 tablespoon would give too much heat for my taste. My bone-in pork butt weighed 4 pounds and took 6 hours in a convection oven set to 225°F. I served the pork with the classic coleslaw recipe and a bit of barbecue sauce on a soft roll. The pork definitely needs some kind of sauce, or it will be dry and a little lacking in flavor.

Testers Choice
Larry Noak

Jun 30, 2015

Sometimes we either don't have access to a smoker or just can't commit 6 or 8 hours to low and slow cooking on a grill. And while slow cookers can make WONDERFUL pulled pork, one thing will be missing and for me, that's a VERY important part of pulled pork—the BARK! (When you rub a piece of pork with a spice rub and cook it, low and slow, on a smoker, grill, or in an oven, after several hours, the rub mixes with the hot fat and juices and eventually gets a hard crust called a BARK. For my money, this is the VERY best part of ANY barbecue! Anyone who loves meat surely must LOVE a crisp, spice-rubbed exterior.) This bark can be achieved in your oven and, as long as you have a clock and a thermometer, you can create a fine and crusty bark on your pork butt with this recipe. The rub mentioned here is fine, but if you have your favorite rub on hand, by all means use it. I recommend checking the pork butt at about 5 hours. If the rub still looks wet, check again in about a half hour. Somewhere between 5 and 6 hours, the bark should set and become crusty. As soon as this happens, pull it from the oven and wrap it TIGHTLY in aluminum foil. Put it back in your pan and pop it back in the oven. Check it in an hour. If the internal temperature is not 190°F, leave it in and check it in another half hour. When the pork hits 190°F, remove it from the oven and let it rest, wrapped in the foil, for at LEAST 30 minutes. From here, shred the roast pork butt by any means necessary (two forks works nicely) and top it with your favorite sauce, coleslaw, or, as I do, both.

  1. jimbobadger says:

    Reads like Larry has it right. In my opinion, if you want to learn about pork, anything on the grill or in a smoker, go to amazing Meathead is amazing. No, I do not work for him, but he has a HUGE site covering grilling, smoking, etc. Me, I have become so lazy that I do not fire up my smoker/grill much any more. Approaching 85. I can get good steaks, etc. and a great sear on my cast iron skillet. So be it. And oven roasting after a sear or a reverse sear is how I do it now. Mostly. This is a great site. I love all the recipes and the commentary. David’s Appalachian cider-baked beans are my all time favorite.

    • David Leite says:

      jimbobadger, agreed. Meathead is a great guy and his site is terriffic. And, thanks for the compliment!

      • jimbobadger says:

        Just ordered his book, “Love your leftovers”.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Really think you’re going to love it. I know I do. And I typically don’t like that kind of book, but I think the author does a terrific job of taking something very personal—leftovers, that is—and making the proposed solutions really speak to everyone.

  2. cheriede says:

    I made this last Sunday as a trial run for our annual labor day party (30+ people). I was able to make the rub and let the pork sit overnight in the refrigerator. I followed Larry’s advice on how to achieve that nice bark on the outside. It did take about 5 – 6 hours or so before I was able to wrap it in the foil (approximately 170). Because I started so late in the day, when the pork reached the 190 mark, I simply took the roast out of the oven, let it rest for an hour and then refrigerated it (it was after midnight at this point). To serve, I put it in my small counter top oven at 250 for about an hour or so still wrapped in foil until it was heated through. The crust on the roast was tasty with a variety of heat, sweetness and spice and the meat shredded beautifully. You could serve this roast many different ways. A 3.75 lb. shoulder with a small bone will serve a plenty. For Labor day, I plan on cooking 3 roasts for pulled pork sandwiches. Great to know this can be frozen.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Terrific on all counts, cheriede. Many thanks for taking the time to let us know. And your approach is exactly how I served it this past Memorial Day. It was a dream. And the frozen leftovers warmed up very nicely over low heat in a covered pan, then I uncovered slightly and added a little lard and took the heat up a few notches just to crisp some of the edges. Have a lovely long weekend!

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