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Barbecue for beginners: “What should I cook first?”

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

So, you love BBQ and you bought yourself a smoker. Whether your smoker is an offset, coal, gas, pellet, electric etc., take some time and follow the manufacturer’s Instructions to season it correctly and learn how to maintain temps between 225 - 235℉.

What do I need to start?

· Whatever fuel your smoker needs

· Heat resistant gloves for dealing with the fire

· Nitrile gloves and knit gloves to wear underneath to handle hot meat

· A good instant read thermometer

· Disposable aluminum pans

· Food safe sprayer

· Foil

· Paper towels

· A cooler big enough to hold an aluminum half tray

· A towel

· Adult beverages 🍺

You are now wondering what protein is best to start with 🤔

There is a clear answer to this question: “BOSTON BUTT”

The “Boston Butt” is really the upper half of the pork shoulder. The lower half is known as the “Picnic” cut.


Back in the colonial and revolutionary days, New England butchers would store certain cuts of pork in special barrels called, “butts.” The style of butchering this cut of pork is also believed to be originated in New England and Boston, thus giving it the name, “Boston Butt.”

Why do I think this beautiful piece of piggy🐷 is so great? 🧐

1. It has tons of marbling throughout the muscle. This makes it really hard to screw up! As long as you keep your pit temps under control and don’t pass out from too many adult beverages, you should have great results!

2. It can handle all kinds of seasonings! Some people are heavy handed with the BBQ rub shaker and some are light handed. Either way works. This fatty cut makes it very forgiving to over seasoning and over cooking. In fact, I prefer a generous amount of seasoning on Boston Butts. There are those who want to rely less on the rub and more on the smoke. That’s fine too! The natural flavor of pork with just a little salt and pepper plus smoke, works perfectly fine!

3. The “Boston Butt” has a built-in fire wall called a “fat cap.” If the heat from your smoker is coming from the top, you want the fat cap up. If the heat is coming from the bottom, you want the fat cap down. You want the fat cap trimmed to about ¼”. You can do this yourself or ask your butcher to do it.

4. You can serve this so many ways. Sliders, sandwiches, tacos, burritos, on pizza, in calzones etc. Of course, you can just put it on a plate with your favorite BBQ sauce too! The options are endless!

Ok, you went to the butcher and bought yourself a big ‘ol butt! Now what?

It’s prep time!

Slap that hunk of meat onto a cutting board and grab a sharp knife.

Start with the fat cap. Sometimes they come right from the butcher perfectly trimmed. But most times, you need to clean it up a bit.

You want the fat cap to be 1/4” as mentioned above. Carefully cut along the cap until it’s trimmed to the desired thickness.

Turn the butt over. I want you to get intimate with your meat now! feel it all over and look for any hard pieces of bone fragments, glands, veins or any other undesirable things and trim them off. There is a bone in there that sticks out of one end and one side. Just leave that alone.

Crosshatch cut

On the fat cap, take your knife and make crosshatch cuts. Make sure the cuts only go through the fat but not into the meat itself. The reason for the crosshatch is so the rub gets through the fat cap and into the meat.


Using a binder helps the rub to stick to the meat. You can use various oils or cooking sprays, but the most popular binder seems to be plain old mustard. Yup, you squirt your mustard onto that butt and rub it in! 🤩 Be careful not to overdo it since a little goes a long way.


Put that gorgeous butt into an aluminum pan or whatever pan you want so you don’t make a mess! 😬

I like to season the day before to let all those seasonings soak into the pig. Even if you’re only using salt and pepper, let it sit in the fridge overnight. The salt will “brine” the meat, making it juicy and flavorful!

Using the rub of your choice, start seasoning at the fat cap taking care to get the rub into those crosshatches that you made earlier. Get the sides, flip it over and get the meat side really good as well.

To inject or not to inject?

I find that if you season the day before, Injecting isn’t necessary. I’m sure others might tell you different, but let’s just stick to the basics. It’s not like we’re cooking for a competition right now. After you’ve smoked a few butts successfully, then you can get into the different injections that can be used.

Put the pig to bed for the night!

Cover your piggy 🐖 pan with foil and stick it in the fridge overnight. Let the rub work it’s magic! This is gonna be good!!

Time to roll some smoke! 🔥💨

Start early! Very early! Take the butt out of the fridge and let it stay out while prepping the smoker.

Get your smoker to temp. Remember, we’re looking to cook between 225-235℉. When you start getting used to your smoker, you can play around with hotter temps, but for now, let’s stick to the basics.

Now that your pit is at temp, take the Boston Butt out of the foiled pan and set it directly onto the smoker grates. Take a minute to admire your handy work and close the lid. 😎


First, get yourself a food safe sprayer. 🔫 💦 Visit the "Pit Shop" section of our website for this >>

The ingredients can be as simple as 3 parts apple juice to one part apple cider vinegar. Whatever you use to spritz, just make sure there are no solids in the spray bottle because it WILL clog. If you are making some crazy concoction with tons of ingredients, just make sure to strain it through some cheesecloth.

I like to start “spritzing” the pork after the third hour when the rub is set and then every hour after. Make sure you spritz quickly so your smoker doesn’t lose too much heat.

When will it be done?

There is no exact science to when it will be done but the approximate guideline for a pork butt is 90 minutes per pound. With that being said, give yourself an additional 2 hours. Don’t worry if it’s done too early because we want to rest the meat when its finished. I’ll get into that in a bit.

The dreaded stall 😫

Yeah, the stall. It kinda sucks. When the pork gets to around 165-170℉, it can dwell at this temp for hours! 😭

The “stall” is a naturally occurring phenomenon during cooking at low temperatures called, “evaporative cooling.” Your meat is basically sweating. When the human body sweats, it gets cooled down. The same thing happens to the pork. The way to deal with the stall is to wrap the meat in foil.

In this case, we will put the butt in a half size aluminum pan when the stall hits. Pour the rest of the spritz into the pan. If you’re out of spritz, just pour in a little apple juice.

Wrap the pan tightly with a double layer of foil and put it back on the smoker.

The home stretch!

Ok, you’re almost there! Check the temp of the butt every hour after you wrapped it in the pan. You are looking for an approximate finish temp between 198-203℉. That’s just a guide though, because the real test for doneness is not really the temp on your probe, it’s how the probe goes into the meat!

If the temp probe slides into the meat with resistance, its not ready. If it slides into the meat like butter, it’s ready!!!

Hooray! It’s ready!

Ok, you’ve gotten this far so let’s not get crazy and start pulling this thing apart! It needs to rest. Take the whole covered pan and place it into your cooler. Place a towel on top of the pan and shut the lid. Come back no sooner than an hour. You will not regret this final step.

Pull your pork

Ok, get your knit gloves on under your nitrile gloves and take the pan out of the cooler and place it on your work surface.

Unveil that beautiful butt. The smell will be intoxicating!!!! Ok now, pull yourself together and grab that butt and put it onto a cutting board to hang out for a minute. If you have a fat separator, pour the pan juices into it. Pour the good stuff back into the pan and discard the fat. If you don’t have a separator, just ladle as much fat out as you can.

Put the butt back into the pan. You should clearly see the bone pulling away from the meat. Grab that thing and pull it out! Now brag to all the people watching because that bone came out clean! Perfectly cooked!

By hand, start pulling the pork until it’s all done. Put some extra rub on and mix that pulled pork around in the pan juices.


Now it’s up to you on how to serve it. The sky’s the limit!

I like my pulled pork sandwich on a soft bun, covered with a nice sweet, tangy mustard sauce topped with pickles and slaw!

Thank you for reading my first blog of many. I hope this helps the beginners out there! Smoke on!

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