This roast pork butt, coated in a simple rub of brown sugar, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes, is an incredibly easy recipe to make and yields enough pulled pork to feed a small army. It’s roasted low and slow in the oven until falling-apart tender.

There are tons of recipes for pork butt out there, and I’ve made my share of them. Most are ok, and a few are really good, but I’ve never had one as great as this one.

And I’m not alone. Not only has every guest who had it raved (and asked for the recipe) it’s the most popular recipe on the site. And has been for nine years.

That’s no small feat.

Two things make this pork butt unforgettable. First, the rub. It contains salt, brown sugar, paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin, and black pepper. That’s it, but the whole of this rub is far greater than the sum of its spices, er, parts.

Second, the low and slow cooking. Roasted in a 250°F oven, the butt takes a whopping eight to 10 hours to become pull-apart tender. It’s so tender that I could slip out the bone with nary a shred of meat attached when I served it.

And while the pork butt roast recipe calls for a bbq sauce of your choice, don’t bother. No one I’ve served this to ever reached for it. It’s so good it can be served on its own. Sure, you can pile the cooked pulled pork on a roll under a heap of coleslaw or in Indian-inspired pork tacos, but do yourself a favor and try it naked first.

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

The crispy bark and tender pulled pork that this recipe makes had our testers clamoring for more. Linda P. calls this roast pork butt “excellent,” and fellow tester Larry N. was smitten with the “crisp, spice-rubbed exterior.” It makes you want to try it, doesn’t it?

Notes on Ingredients

Ingredients for roast pork butt --pork shoulder, salt, cumin, paprika, light brown sugar, red pepper flakes, black pepper.
  • Diamond brand kosher salt–When it comes to salt, particularly kosher salt, weight matters. The weight of 1 tablespoon varies from brand to brand, so I recommend that you weigh your salt and use 9 grams for this recipe. If you don’t have a scale and aren’t using Diamond brand, use 2 teaspoons to avoid oversalting the meat.
  • Red pepper flakes–If you are sensitive to heat or cooking for those who are, use 1/2 tablespoon of pepper flakes in your rub. If you love a little extra spice, use a full tablespoon.
  • Pork butt–I recommend using a well-marbled cut of pork butt or Boston butt for best results.  Pork shoulder will also work here, but it can be a bit more sinewy and gristly. If your pork comes with the skin on, remove it before cooking.

How to Make This Recipe

A man's hands mixing a bowl of spices; a baking sheet with a pork butt, a man's hand rubbing in spice mix.
  1. Stir together the salt, sugar, paprika, pepper flakes, cumin, and black pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Rub the pork all over with the spice mixture. It should be coated on all sides.
A pork butt wrapped in plastic on a white plate; a cooked roast pork butt on a rack over a baking sheet.
  1. Wrap the pork in plastic and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Roast the pork, fatty side up, on a roasting pan until the internal temperature reaches 190 to 195°F. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Use two forks to shred the pork. Serve alone or with your favorite barbecue sauce, if desired.
A cooked roast pork butt on a rack over a baking sheet.

Recipe FAQs

We’ve learned a thing or two about slow-roasted pork butt and shoulder 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 escapades.

What’s the difference between pork butt, Boston butt, and pork shoulder?

A butcher's chart showing different cuts of pork pork butt is in red. : ilonitta
Pork butt isn’t actually the butt or backend of the pig. That’s the ham. Pork butt is a squarish cut that comes from higher on the shoulder of the pig and has lots of fat. It’s also known as Boston butt.

Pork shoulder is the lower, triangular portion of the shoulder and is more muscular.

Where things get confusing is many stores use the terms interchangeably. Luckily, both cuts work in this recipe, but opt for the butt (and its fat) when you can.

As one of our recipe testers, Suzanne Fortier, explains, “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, sometimes called the picnic shoulder, tends to be gristlier. The Boston butt is the only way to go.”

How do I buy a pork butt?

When buying a pork butt (Boston butt), look for one around eight to ten pounds. You can find them trimmed down to five or six pounds, but they usually trim off a lot of fat to make that weight, and fat isn’t a bad thing, especially if you’re grilling or roasting it.

Also, try to get the butt with the bone (sometimes labeled as a picnic butt or shoulder butt roast). Regardless of the method you use, the bone gives the meat much more flavor as it cooks. It also conducts and retains heat exceptionally well, allowing the meat to cook at such a low temperature.

Do I really need to use a meat thermometer for this recipe?

Absolutely. This recipe is almost impossible to pull off without a meat thermometer.

You can’t judge the pork by sight or feel. A thermometer is the only way to know. I 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 make sure it’s not touching the bone, or you’ll get a false reading.

Can I make this on the grill?

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

If you’re using a gas grill, this means turning off all the burners except one and turning that burner on from 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’ll likely have to add charcoal a few times throughout cooking 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 internal temperature reaches 190 to 195°F (88 to 91°C). By this point, the exterior should be crispy and dry. 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.

For super-moist pulled pork, remove it from the grill, wrap it tightly in a couple of layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, and let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes before carefully unwrapping it.

Shred the pork as instructed in the recipe. Be forewarned: If you’re an aficionado of the crisp bark, it’ll soften when wrapped in foil.

What can I serve with my roast pork butt?

This Boston butt recipe is stupendously magnificent on its own. Although, some would say it’s arguably even better doused with a vinegary barbecue sauce and heaped upon homemade buns (maybe even with a spoonful or three of creamy coleslaw beneath the top bun).

Helpful Tips

  • Letting the pork sit overnight after rubbing it with the spice mixture is optional but highly recommended.
  • Make sure to let the pork butt rest before shredding it. It will be hot!
  • The pulled pork will store well in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days. If you’re freezing it for later, divvy it into 1-pound servings and freeze it in storage bags for up to 3 months. Reheat in a 300°F oven until warmed through.
  • This recipe is suitable for gluten-free and dairy-free diets.
A partially shredded roast pork butt in a roasting pan with a cup of barbecue sauce and a fork.

More great pork butt recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

A partially shredded roast pork butt in a roasting pan with a fork nearby.

Roast Pork Butt

4.76 / 373 votes
This roast pork butt, coated in a simple rub of brown sugar, paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes, is an easy recipe to make and yields enough pulled pork to feed a small army. Perfect for Super Bowl, weekend bashes, and weeknight dinners.
Servings16 servings
Calories305 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time9 hours 40 minutes
Total Time10 hours


  • 1 tablespoon Diamond 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
  • One (6 1/2- to 8-pound) bone-in skinless pork butt (Boston butt) or pork shoulder or two 3 1/2- to 4-pound pork butts
  • Your favorite storebought or homemade barbecue sauce (optional)


  • In a small bowl, stir together the salt, sugar, paprika, pepper flakes, cumin, and black pepper.
  • 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 on a plate, and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors mingle.
  • Preheat the oven to 250°F (121°C). Place a wire rack in a roasting pan. (To make this on a grill, see the instructions in the FAQs above.)
  • Place the pork butt, fat side up, on the rack. Roast the pork, uncovered, until the internal temperature reaches 190 to 195°F (88 to 91°C).
    By this point, the exterior should be crispy and dry. This is similar to what’s referred to as “bark” when smoking on a grill. This can take anywhere from 4 to 10 hours, depending on your oven and the size of your pork butt.
  • Remove the roast from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes.
    [lc-tip]If you’re craving super-moist meat for pulled pork, remove the pan from the oven, tightly wrap the pork butt in a couple of layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, and let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes to soften the exterior.[/lc-tip]
  • Shred the roast pork butt with a couple of forks, evenly mixing the crisp, dry edges with the insanely moist, tender pork inside.
    You may want to slather the pulled pork with barbecue sauce to impart flavor and sauciness, but I urge you to try it naked first.


  1. Rest--Letting the pork sit overnight after rubbing it with the spice mixture is optional but highly recommended.
  2. Cool–Make sure to let the pork butt sit before shredding it. It will be hot.
  3. Storage–The pulled pork will store well in the fridge for up to 4 days. If you’re freezing it for later, divvy it into 1-pound servings and freeze it in storage bags. Reheat in a 300°F oven until warmed through.
  4. Dietary–This recipe is suitable for gluten-free and dairy-free diets.
    Love Your Leftovers Cookbook

    Adapted From

    Love Your Leftovers

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    Serving: 1 servingCalories: 305 kcalCarbohydrates: 1 gProtein: 43 gFat: 13 gSaturated Fat: 5 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gTrans Fat: 0.1 gCholesterol: 136 mgSodium: 588 mgPotassium: 788 mgFiber: 0.2 gSugar: 1 gVitamin A: 99 IUVitamin C: 1 mgCalcium: 39 mgIron: 3 mg

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

    Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
    Recipe © 2014 Nick Evans. Photos © 2023 David Leite. All rights reserved.

    Recipe Testers’ Reviews

    The roast pork butt is excellent. I rubbed it on and then refrigerated the pork shoulder overnight so the flavors would meld.

    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 shoulder 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 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 an essential 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 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 great, but if you have your favorite rub on hand, by all means, use it.

    From here, shred the roast pork butt by any means necessary (two forks work nicely) and top it with your favorite sauce, coleslaw, or, as I do, both.

    About David Leite

    David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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    Recipe Rating


    1. 5 stars
      I bought a pork butt because it was on sale. I only have a countertop convection toaster oven. I had just received my Lodge Enameled Dutch Oven and wanted to try it out. Preheated oven to 400°, simply placed pork butt in Dutch oven, pressed butt with brown sugar, added 1/2 cup pork broth, placed lid on Dutch oven, and baked. Took 2 hours to get to 165° internal temp. OMG! It was so juicy and tender. Making pulled pork tacos tonight with leftovers!

    2. 5 stars
      Ok. I just tried this and it is over over-the-top fantastic. I had no idea what I was gonna do with 8 lbs of pork butt shoulder that I got only because it was on sale. This is so good I will definitely make it again.

      1. John, WONDERFUL! I’m laughing out of envy at your 8 pounds of pork butt. And I’m so happy you found our recipe. I’m thankful you took the time to let us know how spectacularly this recipe turned out. This is exactly why we test recipes in our home kitchens time and again so we can perfect them before sharing the recipes on the site.

    3. 5 stars
      This recipe was excellent. Made it exactly as written turned out amazing. I didn’t quite get the full bark effect likely due to a very large fat cap but the pork was meltingly delicious and not nearly as spicy as I expected from the rub. My two children 3 and 2 both ate it with zeal. Would definitely make again.

      1. Bryan, that’s great. All of it. Especially pleased to hear that your kids loved it. We kept it on the mild side especially with that in mind. And that fat cap, as you said, is manna from heaven. Laughs. (Hard to find a decent amount of fat on pork these day.) Thanks SO much for taking the time to let me know.

    4. My shopping delivery service delivered a boneless Boston butt with NO FAT CAP!! I’m aghast! I’ve cooked this similar recipe a dozen times but never with such a “bare” butt. Usually I score the fat cap down to the lean. No pun intended. Will this recipe still work?

      1. T McL, do you have bacon? If so, cover the top with a layer or two, that will allow the fat to drip down and do its work. If not, there are some pulled-pork fans who say they cut off the cap. There’s plenty of fat in the butt to keep it moist. I say go for it–just be mindful. Occasionally brush the top with the rendered fat to help.

          1. I have mine in the refrigerator now! I can’t wait to make this! Ya’ll have me drooling! I took the string thing off of the roast, I hope that was ok…I got all the dry rub all over! ?

            1. Lora, magnificent! Can’t wait to hear what you think! And the string is there simply to help hold the roast together as it becomes tender so it cooks more evenly, but I think it’ll be perfectly fine. I envy you that pork butt and may need to make it this weekend…

            2. OH POO! I should have left it on! I thought the crust would break off taking it off after it cooked…oh well…I’ll squeeze it together and pray! LOL….GONNA PUT IT IN SOON!! YEAH!

            3. Ha! You’re fine, Lora. And you’re right, the crust would break apart if you left had left the string on and removed it after roasting instead…but that just means more crusty ends of pork for the cook (just to give you a sense of how things roll in my kitchen). It’s gonna taste magnificent, either way…!

    5. 5 stars
      This was AMAZING!!! I was a little hesitant because the ingredients looked too simple, but the rub was perfect. We did an 8.3 pound Boston pork butt (shoulder). Since it was so large; I increased the rub ingredients by 50% of 1.5Tbsp of each of the ingredients. The only thing I didn’t expect is that it took a full 12 hours to finish, and that’s with me increasing the oven temp from 250 to 300 about 6 hours in. I went to 190F with the lid off and instead of wrapping it in tinfoil at that point, I simply put the roasting lid on. Turned out fantastic! Made pork tacos with homemade salsa and WOW it was a hit!

        1. I have a 4.5 lb.roast which I want to make in the crock pot but I dont know how much time to give it. Should I place in tin foil? Add water?

          1. Maria, if you’re specifically wanting to use a slow cooker for the pork roast, I’d suggest you try this recipe as it’s specifically designed for the slow cooker. Your roast is a little smaller than the one called for in the recipe, so just cut it into 3 chunks before placing in the slow cooker.

    6. 5 stars
      I just wanted to say that I thought this recipe was literally the best I’ve ever followed/made. Sometimes I like to change it up but this was my first pork shoulder roast and I wanted to follow everything. It came out absolutely AMAZING. Thank you so much for the perfect recipe to follow with perfect instructions. Will be saving this forever.

    7. 5 stars
      Only had a 5lb pork butt but (couldn’t resist, ha!) I used the full amount of rub. Otherwise, followed the recipe to a T and our family of 5 were all extremely happy with the results. Will definitely be putting this into our meal rotation.

    8. I roast a lot of pork butts. I’m trying this recipe tomorrow. Low and slow. I’m going to let the rub stay on for 34 to 36 hours. I have added powder garlic.

    9. I’m wanting to make this recipe tomorrow, but I don’t have a wire rack. Will the pork end up with a soggy bottom if I put it directly into the roasting pan?

      1. Linda, it will because of the fat. Do you have anything oven-safe that you could put in the pan and place the pork on top? Even a row of large spoons would help.

    10. I am trying your recipe today on a bone-in pork butt weighing approximately 7.4 lbs, in a conventional electric oven. I used smoked paprika (it’s what I had) and added 1 Tbsp orange zest to the rub (it sounded like a good idea). Other than that, I intend to follow your instructions verbatim. Wrapped and marinated in the refrigerator for 24 hours. I started roasting at 5:00 this AM. I will follow up with the results within 24 hours of the reveal if a pork-induced coma does not thoroughly incapacitate me.

        1. 5 stars
          Thank you for posting such a great and easy recipe, David. I couldn’t have hoped for better results. It was very moist, tender and flavorful. The ‘smoked’ paprika and orange zest worked great, although the next time I will make it precisely as the recipe instructs.

          It smelled and looked so delicious that I ate 2 wraps before getting half of it shredded. It was the first time I’ve cooked pork butt, and the ease of preparation and amazing results assure I will make it again.

          Merci beaucoup, et bon appetit!

          1. Any advice on where to buy a roasting pan with a rack? Or more apptly, what is a good one? This is on sale at the grocery store this week but I didn’t want to buy it unless I knew what to do with it. Alternatively, any alternatives to the rack in the roasting pan? I’m assuming it will be soggy on the bottom without it. Would cooking it in the slow cooker change things? Thank you in advance

            1. Hi Robin, I love my all-clad roasting pan It’s a workhorse of a pan and can be used for so many different uses with the removable rack.