One of my favorite meats to smoke on my Pit Barrel Cooker is a Pork Butt. It is also one of my Granddaughter Brynlee’s favorites. Her and Stella spent the night with us recently, The first thing Brynlee asked me when she walked through the door was if I would smoke a brisket or a pork butt. I am always happy to cook for my family, especially my grandkids. I didn’t have a brisket but I did have a couple of pork butts in the freezer.
I took the opportunity to conduct an experiment with this cook. I have always smoked my Pork Butts with the fat side up. Letting the juices from the rendering fat drip down over the meat and into the fire. A pork butt has plenty of fat throughout the muscle not just on the edge or fat cap. For this cook I decided to place the pork butt fat side down on the grates.
Pork Butt Fat Side Up or Down
No matter how many pitmasters you gathered in a room you will find plenty of differences on smoking methods for a pork butt. Besides the basic question of fat side up or fat side down some will trim most or all of the fat from the pork butt. Since the pork butt has plenty of fat throughout the meat it should still stay moist while allowing the smoke and rub to penetrate the meat.
Other variables include flavor profiles, wrap or not wrap and what temperature to take the meat to. One of the few things most pitmasters can agree on is letting the meat rest after its pulled off the smoker. Of course that brings up more opinions on how long to let it rest. I like to let my pork butts rest for at least an hour.
Fat Side Down Prep
I prepped my pork butt as usual since I was just interested in testing placing the meat fat side down. I rinsed and patted dry on the cutting board. Next up was a little drizzle of olive oil to help the rub adhere to the meat. A few light shakes of sea salt followed up by a liberal dusting with Mo Cason’s Competition Rib Rub. This would be my first cook with this rub I received for Fathers Day.
The Pit Barrel Cooker is ready to go with Kingsford Charcoal and a couple of good sized Pecan chunks. The PBC is designed to hang meat including pork butts but I prefer to place my butts on the grate. Out of habit I almost flipped it before laying it on the grate but I managed to get it placed fat side down.
Pork Butt Fat Side Down Results
Unwrapping the butcher paper from the pork butt I noticed I had less juice in the paper than normal. That had me wondering if that was the result of cooking fat side down. I am normally able to pour off a cup or more of savory juices. This time I had about half a cup. I retained it anyway to use later after shredding.
The color of the meat and bark were wonderful. There was also a little more bark than I usually get on a pork butt. This was the 1st pork butt I have smoked that the bone didn’t just fall out practically on its own. The meat felt tender but it just didn’t look as tender as it usually does.
When I pulled the meat by hand it was tender and moist. Granted not as moist and tender as my pork butts normally are. The flavor was really solid though. The flavor profile leaned a little more to the spicier side with the Mo Cason’s rub I used. My wife made herself a pulled pork sandwich before I had it all pulled. She was very happy with the results. She thought it was as good as my usual, just a little different flavor this time.
Based on this first test of Fat Side Down versus Fat Side Up I will go back to smoking my pork butts fat side up. I will probably test fat side down again in the future at some point. Until then its fat side up for me.
Pork Butt Cook Stats
|Ingredients||Weather Conditions||Cooking Times|
|6.25 lb Pork Butt|
Moe Cason’s Competition Rib Rub
|Temperature at start 70|
Temperature at End 79
Humidity at start 86%
Humidity at end 72%
Wind at start 5 MPH
Wind at end 4.3 MPH
|Meat on at 11:30 AM|
Wrapped in Butcher Paper at 2:17 PM and 169 degrees
Pulled off the Smoker at 3:40 PM and 203 degrees
Total Cook Time 4 Hours and 10 Minutes