Roast Pork Butt

This roast pork butt, coated in a simple rub of brown sugar, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes, is incredibly easy to make and yields enough to feed a small army. It’s roasted low and slow until falling apart tender. Perfect for Super Bowl, weekend bashes, and weeknight dinners.

A pile of crispy shredded roast pork butt

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 more fun 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?!

Roast Pork Butt

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

Special Equipment: Instant-read thermometer

5/5 - 8 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Love Your Leftovers cookbook

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Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

  • 1. In a small bowl, stir together the salt, sugar, paprika, pepper flakes, cumin, and black pepper.
  • 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 somewhere between 170°F (77°C) and, as professionals and diehards usually recommend, 190° (87°C), although 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 soft and a touch soggy on the outside rather than 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.

Recipe Testers Reviews

The results were excellent. I rubbed and then 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.

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.

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Comments

  1. I’ve made many different versions of roast pork, including an authentic Puerto Rican pernil that takes 3 days to make. This is by far the easiest way to get the most succulent pork and incredible flavor ever.

    I used my old trick of slicing up an entire head of garlic and making slits in the meat and stuffing in the slivers of garlic. Then I simply seasoned the pork with the rub in the recipe with a few minor adjustments (e.g. using pre-blended creole seasoning in place of some of the other seasonings).

    Big win! An 8-lb pork shoulder usually lasts us a couple weeks in leftovers (I freeze 1/2 of it and take it out the following week or so). I doubt this one will last that long!

  2. The best pork butt roast I ever made. My adult kids could not get enough! A few adaptations. I did not have paprika, but sprinkled an overall seasoning on in addition to the listed ingredients. Also I started it at 4pm at 400 degrees for an hour, then turned it down to 325, at which point I covered in foil. Left to pick up daughter at airport. Came back and feasted around 8:30. No need for barbeque sauce and the juices it naturally made were amazing ! Going down as a classic fave for our family.

  3. First time making it, delicious!

    Q: cooked uncovered to an internal temperature of 175 degrees using a convection oven @ 250 degrees. When I wrapped it in aluminum foil and placed it back in the oven I couldn’t get the temperature up much past the 175 degrees. I then uncovered it and proceeded to 190 degrees. Did I miss something in the directions?

    1. Pat, first, I’m delighted you enjoyed the recipe! About the temperature problem, we’re wondering if it was the foil. The instructions were written for a conventional oven, which is radiant heat. Convection gets much of its oomph from the hot air. If you’re preventing it from reaching the meat with foil, it could interfere.

      1. Thank you, David, for your timely response. I will try it using the conventional gas setting. I have been making sandwiches for my neighbors and not one complaint yet. I use them with any new recipe as my testing ground. What temperature should I reach before I cover the pork with aluminum foil?

  4. I have cooked this 2 times and I am making it now for a 4th of July 🎉 party. It’s the best home cooked pull pork ever. My husband and parents love it. Just follow the directions. You will not regret. I use 2. 3lb pork butt and its juice and the taste is unbelievable. I have used it for sandwiches and for nacho chips. Looking to see what else I can do with it. Thank you for the recipe.

  5. Yes! I am making it toDAY! I have a small 3.60 butt in my freezer that I thawed out all during the day and come evening I did as you instructed and rubbed the mix in well. I had no garlic powder but fresh garlic, so I roasted it up and made a paste-y type rub. I mmmmust have garlic! Also added chives as well as onion powder. Used smoked paprika because it is Divinity!

    This being the end of the month and on disability, sides are scarce, but I found a recipe for Syracuse salt potatoes, as I have a friend who adores potatoes and mine are the small red ones. And for myself and others, I am stewing cannellini beans with diced tomatoes, sautéed onions and garlic, fresh herbs from my garden! and I have pushed a rind of real Parm-Reg down into them.

    Waiting for roast to hit 170 as you said and then will wrap in foil and return to oven till it hits 190-200. My apt smells heavenly! Thank YOU!

  6. Ok, yesterday I made two 8-pound pork butts for family visiting this weekend. My kitchen smelled SO GOOD all day! But you are correct, it is so delicious that you just want to nosh on it, which it turns out my family, plus a neighbor who just happened to stop by, did last night as I was shredding it! Long story short, another 7-pound butt (I got to say “butt” again!) is in my oven as I write this to make SURE we have enough for this weekend! Thanks for posting such a fantastic recipe!!

    And I “trusted thyself” and left them uncovered the entire cooking time (10 hours) until they reached 200°. They were perfect!

    Oh, and I just ran into said neighbor. He is headed to the store to buy a pork butt and asked me how I did mine! Good recipes spread fast!

    1. Julia, yours may be my favorite reader comment EVER! Properly roasted pork butt (I love saying it, too) tends to have that sort of effect on people. And we’re grateful it had that effect on you and everyone who could catch a whiff of that shredded pork! Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to share your experience. Means the world to us. Appreciate you sharing this recipe and these kind words. And your photo has us want to drop everything and go make us a couple 8-pounders ourselves…

  7. Wow, this recipe turned out great! I used the oven method and everyone was impressed with the results. I would like to try the grill method next time just to compare. Served this on buns with corn and coleslaw for a family get together with strawberry pie for dessert. Yum!

    1. That, Leanne, sounds like the ideal summer supper. Thrilled that you love this as much as we do and greatly appreciate you taking the time to let us know! Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

  8. Hello, wow I just found pork butt here in Australia and my family is giggling with excitement. It’s our baptism this Easter and I plan on making your recipe but have a few questions. Our pork butt is 4 kilos and comes boneless. I would like to cook it in our family’s Q Webber (Gas BBQ). I want to serve this for lunch on Easter Sunday, when do I start cooking? I definitely want that bark you have all got me salivating over! Do I cook in twice? For example start the process on today, with the rub and refrigerate then cook the bark on Saturday afternoon then refrigerate then cook long, low and slow on sunday morning for a 12:30 lunch? Can’t wait and I’ll be sure to post my results.
    Happy Easter!
    Lisa

    1. Lisa, so happy you found this recipe! I would suggest that, rather than try to rejigger the recipe for a smoker, you can simply use the smoking instructions for our Smoked Pork Shoulder recipe. (Pork shoulder is simply another name for pork butt.) Since yours is boneless, it would be wise to keep an oven-safe thermometer inserted in the pork during the smoking process so you can monitor its internal temperature. But the timing should be fairly similar to what you find in the recipe. Happy Easter, Happy Baptism, Happy Smoked Pork Butt Lunch! And do let us know how it goes!

  9. We couldn’t agree more, Alina! Perfect for cold nights. And, when dressed up with avocado and diced onions and cooling cilantro and soft tortillas, perfect for hot nights as well! Looking forward to hearing what you and your family thinks! We so appreciate you taking the time to let us know your thoughts…

    1. Nanilena, we love that you’re cooking for your family! And with such an obviously discerning palate! Grateful to hear that this recipe was helpful. Would love to hear which recipe on our site you try next…! Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know…

  10. I make it the English way. Make parallel incisions on the rind (skin) with an exacto knife just through the skin. Rub with oil and salt. Cook at 425 for an hour or so until the skin is crisp and then cover in foil and cook at 300 for several hours, depending on the size of the roast (the bigger the better has my vote). Remove the foil for an hour at the end so that the crackling (what you term the bark) gets crisp again. Rest for 20 minutes before carving; the crackling will come away from the roast and is divided amongst the diners. Fights have been known to break out over who gets the best pieces.

    1. I believe I still have scars from one of those very fights you mention, Roger! Love the English version—especially the time to crisp part—and greatly appreciate you sharing it here. Will be trying your version very soon…

  11. Pouring a box of stock (whatever kind you want, beef, chicken, vegetable, etc.) in the bottom of the roasting pan helps to make sure your pork will be as moist as possible….try it, you’ll like it!

    1. Love that tip, Melissa. I’ve also been known to add balsamic vinegar to my butt. Pork butt, that is.

  12. This is a great recipe to play with. I added a tablespoon of onion and garlic powder. I also added 7 cloves of garlic into slits in the meat.

    I had to cook it at a lower temperature because of the small apartment I live in. 200° in a gas stove for approximately 16 hours. Because I was asleep I never had the chance to take it out and put it in tinfoil. It turned out remarkable! It is the juiciest, delicious and exceptional pork roast I’ve ever cooked.

    1. Theresa, I couldn’t be more delighted! I love your additions, and the fact that you freelanced for 16 hours is amazing. I hope others follow suit, and have a superb pork dinner.

  13. We always inject the pork butt with our favorite Cajun flavor (the stuff you use to inject turkey for a fried turkey). This gets flavor inside the roast, too, and we’ve never had a dry roast. Works well, too, when we smoke the meat after its cooked.

  14. 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.

    1. 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!

  15. 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 ribs.com. 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.

        1. 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.

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