Mustard is a common ingredient in barbecue cooking, and it's commonly "slathered" onto pork butt or ribs before the application of rub. Most people report that they cannot taste the mustard after cooking, so why use it in the first place? One reason is that mustard acts like "glue" to hold the rub on the meat. Another reason is that some people feel it promotes the formation of "bark", the brown, chewy exterior layer of meat that is so flavorful.
I'm not sure if mustard makes for better bark, but I do know that it's fun to use, that lots of folks do it, and I guarantee your pork butt won't end up tasting like a hot dog!
This article was originally published in April 1999, and I've updated it based on a cooking session I did on April 17-18, 2004.
Remember...click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.
Buy And Prepare The Pork Butt
Purchase two large, untrimmed pork butts, either boneless or bone-in. Trim the excess fat as you see fit. If using boneless pork butts, consider tying in three or four locations with kitchen twine to hold the meat together during cooking and handling.
Apply a generous coat of regular yellow mustard to all sides of the meat, then liberally sprinkle on your favorite rub. You can use a fancier mustard, if you like, but it won't make a discernable difference to the flavor of the meat.
After applying the rub, let the butts sit at room temperature while firing up the cooker. Otherwise, you can refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
I purchased a Cryovac package of two boneless pork butts from a wholesale warehouse store. One piece weighed 9 pounds, 10-1/2 ounces, the other 9 pounds, 11-1/4 ounces. I trimmed off the thick, exterior layer of fat from each butt and any large areas of fat that were easy to remove, then tied each butt with kitchen twine. After trimming, the butts weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces and 7 pounds, 1 ounce respectively.
Here's the rub recipe I used on these butts:
Fire The Cooker
Light the cooker using the Minion Method. Fill the charcoal ring to the top with unlit Kingsford charcoal briquettes. Bury several chunks of dry smoke wood in the coals and place a few chunks of wood on top. Unless you're cooking in extremely cold or windy conditions, this should be enough fuel to fire the cooker for 18 hours or more.
Light about 20 briquettes using a chimney starter and spread them over the unlit briquettes and smoke wood chunks.
Assemble the cooker and fill the water pan with hot tap water. Put the butts into the cooker, one on each cooking grate (or both on the same grate, if they fit). If the butts are of different sizes, put the larger butt on the top grate and the smaller one on the bottom.
Set the top vent 100% open and leave it that way throughout the entire cooking session. Start with all three bottom vents 100% open. When the cooker temperature hits 200°F measured at the lid, set the three vents to 25% open. Allow the cooker to come up to 225-250°F, adjusting the bottom vents as necessary to maintain that temperature range.
For this cook, I used apple smoke wood. I didn't have any large chunks, so I used lots of smaller pieces equivalent to about four fist-sized pieces.
I also used the large Brinkmann pan instead of the standard WSM water pan. I lined just the outside surface of the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil for easy cleanup.
Smoke The Meat
Cook the butts at 225-250°F to an internal temperature of 190°F. Turn the meat at least once after 9-12 hours of cooking, and baste several times after 9-12 hours of cooking.
I turned these butts only once after 12 hours of cooking, and basted three times after turning the meat using this solution:
Replenish the water pan with hot tap water as necessary. I started with the Brinkmann pan full of water and didn't replenish it for the rest of the cooking session.
Monitor the internal temperature of each butt using an instant-read thermometer or a probe thermometer. Since a pork butt is comprised of several different muscles, it may give different readings when probed in different locations. As a result, it's best to check in several spots and average the results to determine the internal temperature of the meat.
I cooked these two butts overnight starting at 7:45pm and ending at 1:30pm. I started checking internal temperature after 14 hours of cooking.
Here's how the cooker temperature and vent settings went during this almost 19 hour cooking session:
Note that the vent percentages represent the way I set the vents at the time indicated.
Hold The Meat For Serving
When the meat reaches 190°F, remove from the cooker and wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the wrapped butts in an empty cooler and hold until ready to pull and serve. The meat will remain safely above 140°F for 2-4 hours. See Holding, Storing & Reheating Barbecued Meats for more details.
Pull The Pork & Serve
Use heat-resistant gloves or two large serving forks to shred the pork into bite-sized pieces. Remove pockets of fat or anything else that does not look appetizing.
Season the pulled meat with leftover rub to taste, mixing thoroughly. You can even stir in a bit of thinned barbecue sauce. Make sure the dark, outside pieces of "bark" are distributed throughout the mix. Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce on the side.
Photos 9-10 show pork sliders made from pulled pork. Mix warm barbecue sauce into the meat and place on little hamburger buns or rolls.
I recorded these results in my cooking log:
More Pork Butt Links On TVWB