Traeger Smoked Pork Butt (Pulled Pork)

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Learn how to choose the right cut of meat, make the perfect dry rub, and cook a Traeger Smoked Pork Butt until it's fall-apart-tender and juicy!

Slow roasted Traeger pulled pork is a southern delicacy folks will rave about at your next cookout, picnic or tailgate. It's easy to make ahead, serves a big crowd, and is a great party food!

two claws pulling Traeger pulled pork away from the bone.
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Smoked Pork Butt is the reason many southerners get out of bed early in the morning! Plan ahead and schedule plenty of time to smoke your Traeger pork butt the low and slow way.

Why You'll Love It

  • Tender and Juicy Meat - smoking a pork butt low and slow is the secret to tender meat and robust flavor
  • Feeds a Crowd - perfect for a cookout or party, a Boston butt serves a large group of folks with plenty to spare
  • Makes Great Leftovers - enjoy pulled pork for days by adding it to your favorite soups and stews or tucking it in a taco or casserole

What is a Pork Butt?

You may be surprised to hear that a pork butt doesn't come from the butt of a pig at all. It actually comes from the pig's shoulder which explains why some folks get confused about buying the right cut of meat.

Why is it called a pork butt? It's been said that back in colonial days, New Englanders packed cuts of shoulder meat into barrels called butts. Folks liked the name 'pork butt' so much, they've called it that ever since.

This explains where the term Boston butt comes from, which is yet another name to remember. All of these names refer to a cut of meat which comes from the same general area. Any of these cuts make the best Traeger pulled pork recipe you've ever tasted, but a Boston butt is the best.

meat cleaver chopping pork on a sheet pan.

What Is Traeger Pulled Pork?

After the pork shoulder smokes low and slow in a Traeger pellet grill, it's ready to pull off the bone with two forks, gloved hands, or giant BBQ claws. It's called pulled pork from that point on, which is where the southern influence begins. 

Many folks believe pulled pork originated in the state of North Carolina in the 1800's. There's a big controversy about that, but one thing's for sure - Smoked Pork Butt is a delicacy in the south!

Southerners turn it into chopped or shredded meat, slather it with sauce, and serve it as pork sandwiches, barbecue plates, or meat for tacoscheese dip and salads.

It's such a big deal that food trucks and restaurants have popped up on every corner featuring southern smoked pork butt and tangy barbecue sauces like Carolina Gold BBQ Sauce and Blueberry BBQ Sauce.

two claws pulling pork apart from the bone.

Equipment You'll Need

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Ingredient List

See recipe card for complete instructions and quantities.

  • bone-in Boston butt
  • dry rub (see ingredients below)
  • yellow mustard
  • barbecue sauce (your favorite recipe)

Make Your Own Dry Rub

All good barbecue starts with a flavorful spice rub. You can use your favorite seasoning in a bottle, or make your own from simple ingredients found in your kitchen pantry.

  • brown sugar - helps break down the connective tissue
  • black pepper - adds depth of flavor
  • onion powder - blends well with other spices
  • garlic powder - essential spice in most dry rubs
  • dry mustard - a little goes a long way
  • chili powder - adds a little heat, but not too much
  • smoked paprika - gives meat a smoky flavor
  • ground cumin - perfect spice for barbecue
  • instant granulated coffee - provides an earthy balance combined with other spices
  • sea salt - helps create that coveted caramelized bark
spices spread out on a cast iron skillet to show dry rub ingredients.

Choose the Right Cut of Meat

The cut of meat matters. You don't want a lean piece of meat or the barbecue will turn out dry and tasteless. Not trimming too much fat is also important.

A fatty cut of meat with connective tissue that breaks down during the low and slow cooking process is your best bet. Choose at least a 4 pound bone-in pork shoulder (also called a Boston Butt, picnic shoulder or pork butt).

There are a few differences where these cuts of meat are located on the pig, but basically the fattier the meat, the more juicy the pulled pork will be. I like to use a Boston Butt for this reason.

How to Prepare a Pork Butt

  • Mix all dry rub ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • Use paper towels to pat the Boston butt dry.
  • Trim excess fat off of the meat, but leave a fat cap for flavor.
  • Rub entire piece of meat with yellow mustard, getting into the nooks and crannies. Use gloves so the mustard won't burn your hands.
pork butt after yellow mustard is rubbed on.
  • Sprinkle dry rub over pork roast and press in with hands. Get it in every little nook and cranny.
pork butt after being rubbed with dry rub.

Let's Smoke a Pork Butt!

Smoking a pork butt is a right of passage in the south!

The best way to do it is on a Traeger Pro Series 22 wood pellet grill (ad) which takes the guesswork away and ensures great results every time.

Follow these steps and you'll have delicious and juicy meat in plenty of time for dinner...

  • Plan ahead and schedule at least 2 hours of cook time for each pound of meat.
  • Make sure you have a full bag of your favorite wood pellets on hand. I like to use hickory or mesquite for the best smoke flavor.
  • Pour pellets into the hopper.
  • Prepare smoker temperature by preheating to 225 degrees F.
  • Prepare dry rub and rub generously into all areas of the Boston butt.
  • Place meat on smoker and smoke until it reaches a stall (between 150 and 170ºF).
  • Wrap in aluminum foil. Continue to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 200º F.
  • Rest Boston butt in aluminum foil for 1 hour. Remove foil and pull meat apart with giant claws or two forks.

Tips on Smoking Pork

  • Place meat on the smoker grate with the fat side up. Insert a meat thermometer or temperature probe into the thickest part of the meat.
smoked pork butt placed on a Traeger grill with probe inserted.
  • Close the lid on the Traeger smoker. Smoke meat until it reaches between 150 and 170 degrees F, or stalls at one temperature for a long time.
  • Use tongs or gloves to take the meat off the grill. Wrap it in aluminum foil and place it back on the grill grate. Reinsert the meat thermometer.
smoked pork butt wrapped in aluminum foil on a Traeger grill.
  • Continue to smoke meat until it reaches 200 degrees F. Take pork off the Traeger grill and let meat rest for 1 hour while still wrapped in foil. The temp will continue to rise and then fall gradually while it cools.
smoked pork butt after wrapping in aluminum foil.

Pulling the Pork

  • Remove aluminum foil and place meat on a sheet pan or large cutting board. Cut off excess fat cap and discard, but be sure to leave enough fat to keep the meat juicy.
Traeger smoked pork butt being pulled apart with claws to make Traeger pulled pork.
  • Pull the meat apart with giant claws, or use two forks and pull in the opposite direction. You'll see the beautiful pink smoke ring on the outside of the meat.
  • If preferred, chop meat into smaller pieces with a sharp knife.
meat cleaver cutting up pork.
  • The smoking process can take more or less time depending on weather conditions, the model of your Traeger pellet smoker, and the size of the Boston butt.
  • Remember to cook to temperature and not to time.

How to Beat the Stall

If you smoke any type of meat at all, sooner or later you'll experience the dreaded 'stall.' That's when the meat stops cooking for a period of time (usually between 150º to 170º F) due to the evaporation of liquid.

When this happens to you, join the club! Even the most experienced pit masters endure the stall during their cook. They've learned to beat it by wrapping the meat in aluminum foil (also called the Texas crunch). Some experts just wait it out, but trust me, that can take hours.

Plan ahead for the stall and you'll be ready for guests in plenty of time for dinner. For best results, wrap your Boston butt in butcher paper or aluminum foil when the internal temperature of the meat stops going up.

Here's the best tip: Start early in the day to allow extra time for the stall and your smoking process will go more smoothly.

Spritz or No Spritz?

Some folks swear by spritzing with apple cider vinegar from time to time during the cook, but I find that it affects the internal temperature of the meat when I open the smoker.

I also find that using a spritz can interfere with creating a crispy bark on the exterior. So, I choose not to spritz, but you can definitely try it if preferred.

Other Ways to Make Pulled Pork

​You don't have to own an electric smoker to make amazing pulled pork! Try my Dutch Oven Pulled Pork recipe that shows you how to cook it in your oven at home without any special equipment.

If you have a slow cooker, charcoal or gas grill, those methods will work too.

dry rub ingredients ready to be mixed together.

​Recipe FAQs

How long does it take to smoke a pork butt?

Plan on cooking to temperature, not time. If you want a general guideline, it requires about 2 hours of smoking per pound of meat at 225 degrees F.

Should I wrap a pork butt?

You don't have to, but it's helpful, especially if you hit a stall in the cooking process. This usually happens when the internal temperature of the meat reaches between 150 and 170ºF. Wrapping the smoked butt in aluminum foil or butcher paper will help you beat the stall and accelerate the cook.

How do you get crispy bark on smoked pork?

Use a dry rub that has both salt and sugar to create a crispy bark. Plan to smoke your Boston butt at 225 degrees F to get that deep, rich caramelization.

How much pulled pork do you need per person?

If you're serving a lot of sides, you can count on ¼ pound of cooked meat per person. Without sides, plan on ⅓ pound per serving. Remember, if you choose a bone-in roast, you'll need to account for the weight of the bone in your calculations, which usually consumes about 25% of the roast.

Ways to Use Leftover Pork

The sky's the limit when using leftover pork for other recipes. Try it in tacos or on top of tostadas. Throw it on a salad or roll it up in a burrito. You can even sprinkle it on a pizza!

I love to chop it up and add it to my dutch oven chili recipe, or stir it into a pot of vegetable soup. Smoked pork butt tastes great in sliders, and can even be baked with spinach artichoke dip for a real treat!

Pro Tips

  • Choose a quality cut of meat with good marbling.
  • Prep the meat with a flavor-filled dry rub.
  • Smoke the Boston butt low and slow.
  • Don't rush the smoking process (unless you want to beat the stall).
  • Invest in a good meat thermometer.
  • Drizzle the pan juices over the meat to keep it juicy.

Storage and Freezing

Cool it Down: allow the pork to cool down before adding it to a container or vacuum sealed bag.

Refrigerate: store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Drizzle the pan juices on top of the meat to keep it juicy in the fridge.

Freezing: use a vacuum sealer or place cooled meat in an airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months.

Thawing and Serving: always thaw meat overnight in its container in the refrigerator. To reheat, use a microwave or oven set on 350 degrees F. Make sure the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165º F before serving.

Traeger pulled pork on a barbecue sandwich.

What to Serve with Traeger Pork Butt

Just about any southern side will go perfectly with a Traeger smoked pork butt. This is a great recipe to pair with corn pudding, sweet potato casserole and macaroni and cheese!

Don't forget about smoked baked beans with crispy bacon or a big helping of smoked potato salad. Southern collard greens and greasy beans are also favorite sides to serve with bbq.

We love to eat Traeger pork butt with hash brown casserole, creamy coleslaw, and a big 'ol slice of southern cornbread.

Some pit masters wouldn't dare add barbecue sauce to authentic pulled pork, but I like to switch things up by using Carolina Gold bbq sauce. It's mustard based, tart, tangy and delicious!

You can also try Blueberry BBQ sauce if you're looking for something unique and flavorful.

More Smoked Recipes

Looking for more smoked recipes? You can't go wrong with these Traeger pellet grill favorites!

Recipe Card

Traeger smoked pork butt being pulled apart with claws to make Traeger pulled pork.

Traeger Smoked Pork Butt (Pulled Pork)

Learn how to choose the right cut of meat, make the perfect dry rub, and cook a Traeger Smoked Pork Butt until it's fall-apart tender and juicy!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Barbecue, Smoker
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 15 minutes
Servings8
Calories: 339kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

Pork Butt

  • 4 pound bone-in Boston butt (pork shoulder)
  • cup yellow mustard

Dry Rub

  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules

Instructions

  • Pour hickory or mesquite wood pellets into the hopper of your Traeger pellet grill.
  • Preheat smoker to 225º F.
  • Pat pork butt dry with paper towels. Place on a sheet pan or cutting board. Rub entire surface of meat with yellow mustard. This serves as a binder for the dry rub.
    4 pound bone-in Boston butt (pork shoulder), ⅛ cup yellow mustard
  • Mix dry rub ingredients together in a large bowl. Rub generously into all areas of the Boston butt.
    ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • Place pork butt directly on the grill grates of the smoker (fat side up) and insert meat thermometers or probes.
  • Close lid of smoker. Cook meat at 225 degrees F until it reaches an internal temperature of 150 to 170º F (or whenever it stalls for a long period of time).
  • Wrap pork in aluminum foil and return to smoker. Reinsert the thermometer probes. Continue to cook meat until it reaches and internal temperature of 200º F.
  • Take meat off of smoker and leave in aluminum foil. Rest pork butt for 1 hour.
  • Remove foil and pull meat apart with giant claws or two forks by pulling in different directions. Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce and sides.

Notes

  • Plan ahead and schedule at least 2 hours of cooking time for each pound of meat.
  • Choose a quality cut of meat with good marbling.
  • Prep the meat with a flavor-filled dry rub.
  • Invest in a good meat thermometer.
  • Don't rush the smoking process (unless you want to beat the stall by wrapping meat in aluminum foil).
  • Smoke the Boston butt low and slow.
  • Drizzle the pan juices over the meat to keep it juicy.
  • Get storage tips and helpful instructions on the blog.

Nutrition

Calories: 339kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 43g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 489mg | Potassium: 861mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is the only recipe I'll ever use for pulled pork. It was right on the money. Everything from the type of pork to buy to how to beat the stall. Best barbecue we've ever eaten. Thanks for a great recipe!

  2. 5 stars
    Thank you for such an informative article about how to make pulled pork! I had no idea why it was called a pork butt until I read your article.

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