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.
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. [Editor’s Note: This pulled pork is mind-bendingly and stupendously magnificent on its own. And it’s arguably even better doused with a vinegary barbecue sauce and heaped upon homemade buns with a small heap of creamy coleslaw. Swear.]–Nick Evans
4 Truths About Cooking Pork Butt
We’ve 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
IngredientsEmail Grocery List
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 190°F (88°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.