Learn exactly how to smoke a Boston butt in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker the RIGHT way following our detailed instructions and recipe below!
This is an easy dish to prepare, in an even easier to use smoker, making it ideal for the beginner bbq enthusiast to get started.
What is a Boston Butt?
A Boston butt, better known as a pork butt or pork shoulder, is a pork cut that comes from the upper shoulder of the pig, and is most commonly used to make pulled pork.
The confusing name comes from the barrels in which they were transported during the 18th century, known as butts (from the Latin “buttis” meaning barrel or casket).
They were actually considered cheap cuts of meat and stuffed into barrels for easy bulf transportation.
Nowadays, pulled pork from Boston butts can be found not only in traditional American bbq, but all around the world.
Smoking a Boston Butt in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
The Boston butt is a cut of meat that provides a variety of options, and for our purposes, is quite easy to smoke, especially in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker!
We have previously covered how to season, start, and clean a Masterbuilt electric smoker. We’ve covered how to load them with wood chips, use the vents properly, make a smoker stand for them, and even how to use them in the rain!
You can tell we are big fans of this great electric wonder, especially for beginner smokers and bbq enthusiasts.
In this article, we will go over what is needed to properly smoke a Boston butt step by step in a Masterbuilt electric smoker.
Choosing the Best Size Boston Butt for a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
While Masterbuilt electric smokers offer great simplicity and ease of use, sometimes, depending on the model, they are lacking a little in shelf space compared to other larger competition, offset, or vertical smokers on the market.
This is fine for our purposes, because contrary to popular opinion in some BBQ circles, bigger ISN’T always better.
Think about it.
The larger the Boston butt, the longer it takes to cook, and the less surface area you have relative to interior meat after you pull it.
And the surface is where the rub and all the flavor is!
In many cases, you are better off smoking (2) 4-6 lb Boston butts rather than one monster 8-12 lb one.
You get done cooking that much faster, which means less time for the meat to risk drying out, and you have more crusty barky surface area mixed in with the rest of your meat.
The smoke from your wood chips will also only penetrate about an inch into your meat, so if you want maximum smokey flavor, you are better with smaller cuts
Additionally, if you want to try 2 different rubs or flavor profiles, you have that opportunity as well!
For the average size masterbuilt electric smoker, we recommend looking for a bone-in Boston butt in the 5-7lb range. Make sure to measure your rack space and take a tape measure to the store with you.
Boston butts this size can easily be found at the average grocery store, butcher, or warehouse club.
IF you can only find monster 10-14 pounders, go ahead and get one and just cut in half when you get home!
You can think of the process of smoking a Boston butt split into two.
- The first part is preparing your meat for the electric smoker
- The second part is setting up and smoking the meat and then pulling it when it is done
You have literally a million options for seasoning and preparing your Boston butt depending on the flavor profile you are going after.
You can use anything from a traditional American BBQ rub to something more exotic or internationally flavored such as a spicy chipotle rub or asian inspired.
Trimming the Fat
First, you will want to trim any excess fat off the Boston butt before applying your rub. This will help the rub stick to and penetrate the meat itself rather than being obstructed by the fat.
Leaving a little fat is ok.
You’ll notice one side will have a thicker “Fat Cap” on it. It’s ok to leave some of this in place but ideally trim it down to no more than about 1/4 inch of thickness.
We like using our favorite boning knife from iMarku for this task as it goes through the fat cap like butter.
After trimming, score through the fat cap with your knife in 2 perpendicular directions to help the fat underneath render out during the smoking process and allow some more of the rub to penetrate the meat.
Like we said, you can have fun finding any new and innovative rub you would like to use.
Conventional American BBQ rubs have a lot of sugar in them as that is what helps form the crusty bark on the exterior of the Boston butt as it cooks in the smoker.
Because we are going to set the Masterbuilt electric smoker to only 250°F, you don’t need to worry about the sugar burning.
After trimming the fat, cover the Boston Butt in a thin layer of cooking oil or yellow mustard.
Yes, you read that right, many professional barbecue chefs use yellow mustard to help their rub emulsify and stick to the meat.
After the long cook you won’t taste any mustard flavor, trust us.
Be generous with the amount of rub you put on. Then you can wrap the Boston butt in plastic wrap and put it back in the refrigerator until you are ready to smoke it.
This can even be done the night before to save some time the next day and to let the salt in the rub fully penetrate the meat.
We have a simple recipe below for a good pork bbq rub, or, if you prefer to buy your own, we are big fans of Blues Hog Dry Rub Seasoning.
For additional flavor, some bbq cooks like to inject their Boston butt with a marinade before putting it in the smoker.
The idea is to add flavor and moisture deep into the meat to help season the bland interior of the pork while its cooking.
There Is nothing wrong with injecting, and we LOVE to injected SLICED meats like smoked brisket, ham, turkey.
The only problem, is it adds water weight and significantly extra time to your cook. By adding 8 oz of injection to your Boston butt you may be increasing your cooking time by an hour or more.
And think about it, when the Boston butt comes out of the Masterbuilt smoker, you are going to be pulling it apart in a big tray, and adding seasoning at that point too.
So why go through the hassle of injecting the interior if you are going to be adding seasoning later anyways?
Injections work great on sliced meats like the ones mentioned above because you are slicing and serving and wanting the slices of meat to have flavor all the way through.
But with pulled meat like Boston butt, skip the hassle and add your seasoning at the end.
If you REALLY want to inject your Boston butt or any other type of meat, always use a good quality meat injector like this one from JY COOKMENT. The you can use a mixture of apple juice, apple cider vinegar, salt, sugar, and some of your favorite BBQ rub mixed together.
Wood Chip Selection
We did a whole in depth article on our favorite smoking woods for pulled pork that you can find here.
But in a nutshell, you’re best bet for pork is apple, peach, cherry, or some other mild fruitwood.
Cherry wood chips, like these ones from Cowboy Brand in particular give off a nice sweet aroma when you smoke with them. We are big fans of using them on pork.
How to Smoke a Boston Butt in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- A large piece of foil to cover the meat
- Cutting board
- Wood chips
- Brush or spray bottle (preferably the latter)
- Large forks or a proper pair of grilling tongs
- Meat thermometer
- Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- 4 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt (or 1 Tbsp table salt)
- 3 tablespoons of paprika
- ½ tablespoon of cayenne
- 1 tablespoons of onion powder
- 1 tablespoons of garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons of ground black pepper
- 5-8 lb Boston butt
- Apple juice or Cola
- Apple cider vinegar
Preparing the Smoker
- After preparing the Boston butt as described above, plug in and start your Masterbuilt electric smoker.
- Set the cooking temperature to 250°F.
- Fill the water pan.
- Once the smoker has reached its temperature, fill the wood chip loader with your chosen wood chips.
- When the smoker begins producing smoke, open the door and place your Boston butt on one of the cooking racks and close the door.
Refilling the Wood Chips
Now, as we mentioned, you will need to refill the wood chips every 30-40 minutes as they smolder fairly quickly compared to wood chunks and wood pellets.
If you are using a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, check out their Slow Smoker Accessory Attachment.
It allows you to preload the wood chips, much like a pellet hopper on a pellet grill and smokes them more slowly so that you don’t need to constantly refill.
This works great for longer smokes like for pork butt and ribs in your electric smoker.
How Long Does it Take to Cook a Boston Butt in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?
At 250°F, it will take roughly 1.5 hours per lb to fully cook a Boston butt. So a 6lb Boston butt may take about 9 hours.
Now, you can speed up the cook a little by increasing your cooking temperature to 275°F. It will still be delicious, albeit maybe a little tougher around the exterior.
Make sure to use a good temperature probe to keep track of your meat’s temperature while it is cooking.
We are big fans of this one from ThermoPro.
While we have used and recommended ThermoPro for years, lately we have also become big fans of the MEATER leave in thermometer.
It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don’t need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.
It’s got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, current internal temperature.
It’s like a GPS for your meat!
Anyways, back to our boston butt…
You are going to leave your Boston butt in the smoker until it hits somewhere between 197-203°F when measured with a probe or instant thermometer.
Don’t rush it.
It will not be fall apart tender or pull well even if you take it off at 180°F.
165-180°F is a great temperature range for SLICING pork, but if you want it fall apart tender and easy to pull, leave it on until it hits 197°F.
To Wrap or Not to Wrap, AKA the “Texas Crutch”
Another way to speed up your cooking time is by using a tried and tested barbecue technique known as the “Texas Crutch”.
Don’t worry, it’s not complicated.
You see, when big pieces of meat like brisket or Boston butt are being cooked low and slow, and hit about 150°F internally, they tend to “stall out” and stop rising in temperature.
Sometimes for hours depending on the size of the meat.
This can be maddening if your guests are arriving soon and the internal temperature needs to rise another 50 degrees and hasn’t budged for over an hour.
Without getting too much into the science behind why this happens, just understand it has to do with a lot of trapped moisture evaporating at this temperature and continually cooling your meat as it evaporates.
One way to “power through the stall” is to take your Boston butt out of the smoker when it hits 150°F, and double or triple wrap it tightly in aluminum foil.
Then replace your thermometer, place the meat back on the smoker, and let it continue to cook.
The aluminum foil will keep the moisture from evaporating, possibly keeping your meat from drying out as much while to cooks, and most importantly, let it continue to steadily rise in temperature.
Leave it wrapped until it gets to your target temperature range of 197°-203°F and then remove it from the smoker.
Unwrap the Boston butt and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes before pulling it.
If you want to firm the bark back up before pulling, take it out of the aluminum foil at 195°F and place it back in the smoker UNWRAPPED for the last 15-20 minutes until it hits 197°-203°F.
If this technique looks familiar, its because its very similar to how we firm our baby back ribs back up after removing them from foil too.
Pro Tip: We like combining insulated cloth liner gloves with black disposable BBQ gloves over them much like the BBQ competition cooks use to protect their hands and limit constant hand washing or fumbling with BBQ tongs and spatulas when handling large pork shoulders or briskets in their smokers.
Make sure to use a good instant read thermometer like our favorite from ThermoPro to spot check multiple places on the pork butt for doneness.
Sometimes the leave in probe will be in a pocket of fat that is COOLER than the rest of the meat.
Or conversely, the probe may be too near the bone which will be HOTTER than the rest fo the meat.
This is why it’s important to check multiple spots on the pork butt. This will also inform you of how evenly it is cooking and how often you may need to flip or rotate it in your Masterbuilt during the cooking process.
How to Pull a Boston Butt
Once you’ve removed the Boston butt from the Masterbuilt electric smoker and you have let it rest in an aluminum pan for about 20-30 minutes, it’s time to pull that meat!
You can use 2 forks, or better yet a pair of BBQ Bear Claws to make the job even faster (and fun)!
Once you have pulled the meat, test it for seasoning, you likely need to add some salt.
Add a little salt at time, mixing it in and re-taste testing as you go.
You can also add a little apple cider vinegar and mix it in the give it some sweetness and acidity to balance out the fattiness.
As far as sauce, our hands down favorite sauce for pulled pork is Blues Hog Tennessee Red Sauce.
It has everything: spice, acid, sweetness, and gives you that truly authentic vinegary carolina pulled pork flavor that perfectly counterbalances and cuts through the rich fat and smokiness of your Boston butt.
Keep in mind a little goes a long way because it has SO MUCH FLAVOR.
Pro Tip: It’s always best to offer bbq sauce on the side and let your guests choose whether to add it and how much to add rather than slopping it all over your meat and possibly turning folks off.
You spent a lot of time on that meat so let them taste it rather than dousing it in bbq sauce immediately!
Serve and Enjoy!
And there you have it!
Serve your pulled pork on large brioche buns for an extra level of deliciousness, and you can even top it with some vinegary coleslaw and serve along with some baked beans and corn on the cob for an authentic bbq experience!
Looking for more Great Food to Cook in your Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?
Looking for some more inspiration for things to cook in your electric smoker?
You’ve come to right place!
Check out some of our favorite recipes below!
- Masterbuilt Baby Back Ribs
- Smoked Fresh Holiday Ham
- Spiral Sliced Smoked Hot Dogs
- Smoked Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions
- Masterbuilt Smoked Chuck Roast
- Masterbuilt Beef Brisket
- Perfect Smoked London Broil
- Smoked Ribeye Roast
- Smoked Corned Beef
- Smoked Ribeye Steaks
- Smoked Filet Mignon
- Smoked Eye of Round Roast Beef
- Easy Smoked Flank Steak
- Smoked Tomahawk Steaks
- Smoked Bottom Round Roast
- Smoked Sirloin Tip Roast
- Smoked Rump Roast
- Honey Smoked Salmon
- Smoked Oysters in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Smoked Scallops with Lemon Butter Sauce
- Smoked Lobster Tails
- Easy Smoked Tilapia
- Perfect Smoked Halibut
- Smoked Mahi Mahi Fillets
- Smoked Swordfish Steaks
- Smoked Crab Legs with Cajun Clarified Butter
- Smoked Mackerel with Maple Balsamic Glaze
- Smoked Catfish with Cajun BBQ Rub
- Smoked Red Snapper with Blackening Rub
- Smoked Trout
- Smoked Tuna Steaks
- Smoked Whole Chicken in Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Smoked Turkey in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Smoked Turkey Burgers
- Smoked Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- Smoked Chicken Tenders
- Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters
- Easy Smoked Turkey Legs
- Smoked Chicken Salad
- Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill or smoker but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours!
- Smoked Leg of Lamb with Guinness Marinade
- Smoked Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Butter Sauce
- Smoked Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary or Smoker
- Smoked and Pulled Lamb Shoulder with a Turkish Spice Rub
- Smoked Lamb Shanks
Sides and Desserts
- Smoked Potato Salad
- Smoked Baked Potatoes
- Smoked Twice Baked Potatoes
- Smoked Asparagus
- Easy Smoked Broccoli
- Smoked Cauliflower
- Smoked Green Beans
- Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes
- Smoked Pineapple in a Maple Bourbon Sauce
- Smoked Carrots with a Honey Balsamic Glaze
- Smoked Hard Boiled Eggs
- Smoked Deviled Eggs
- Smoked Egg Salad
- Smoked Cream Cheese
- Smoked Cream Cheese Dip with Bacon and Cheddar
- Smoked Pig Shots
- Smoked Jalapeno Poppers
- Smoked Garlic
- Frozen Pizza on a Pellet Grill
- How to Steam Tamales
- Masterbuilt Smoked Cheese
- Smoked Gouda Cheese
- Smoked Peaches
- Smoked Peach Cobbler
Smoked Boston Butt in Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
- Aluminum Foil Trays
- Cutting Board
- Smoking Wood chips
- Brush or spray bottle (preferably the latter)
- Large forks or a Pair of BBQ Bear Claws
- Internal Meat Thermometer
- Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Plastic Wrap
- 1 Boston Butt (5 to 8 lb) Sometimes labeled Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder
- 2 Tbsp Yellow Mustard or Olive Oil
- 4 Tbsp Brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp Paprika
- 2 Tbsp Kosher salt or 1 Tbsp of table salt
- 1 Tbsp Onion powder
- 1 Tbsp Garlic powder
- 2 Tbsp Ground black pepper
- ½ Tbsp Cayenne optional for heat
- ½ Cup Apple Juice or Cola in a Spray Bottle (optional to spray during the cook)
- ¼ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar adjust to taste
- Salt to taste to add at the end once pulled
- ¼ Cup Blues Hog Tennessee Red BBQ Sauce Or any vinegar based BBQ sauce for pulled pork, adjust to taste
Prepare the Pork Butt
- Trim any excess fat from the exterior of the boston butt. Trim the fat cap down to 1/4" thickness. Score the fat cap with a meat knife in 2 directions perpendicular to each other.1 Boston Butt (5 to 8 lb)
- In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. This includes the brown sugar, salt, paprika, cayenne, the onion and garlic powders and the ground black pepper. Mix it all to make the dry rub. Keep in mind you can always buy your own dry rub or use your own recipe. It’s up to you.4 Tbsp Brown sugar, 2 Tbsp Kosher salt, 3 Tbsp Paprika, ½ Tbsp Cayenne, 1 Tbsp Onion powder, 1 Tbsp Garlic powder, 2 Tbsp Ground black pepper
- Cover your boston butt with a thin layer of olive oil or yellow mustard, then generously apply your rub to coat the entire exterior of the meat.2 Tbsp Yellow Mustard
- Wrap your boston butt in plastic wrap and place it back in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Start the Smoker
- Plug in and turn on your electric smoker. Set the temperature to 250°F.
- Fill an aluminum foil pan with water and place it on the bottom shelf above the Masterbuilt water pan. Using this instead will make clean up easier later. Make sure all your vents are open.
- When the smoker has come up to temperature, place your chosen wood chips in the wood chip loader and insert it back into the smoker.
- Remove the pork from the refrigerator, add any additional rub that may have come off, and when the smoker is producing smoke, place your meat on a rack above the water pan.
- Place your leave in probe thermometer, if you have one, inside the pork making sure to not touch the bone. Run it up through the vent to the controller.
- Set the timer to 8 hours and close the door to the smoker. Every hour you can optionally spray the exterior of the meat with apple juice or cola to help form the bark and keep the meat moist.½ Cup Apple Juice or Cola in a Spray Bottle
- Your meat will take on average 1.5 hours total to cook per pound. You can empty and refill more wood chips for the first 1-3 hours. After this, the meat will not absorb much more smoke flavor so save your chips.
- When the internal temperature of the meat hits about 150-155°F, remove it from the smoker and triple wrap it in aluminum foil. Replace the thermometer and place back in the smoker.
- Once the internal temperature hits 192°F, remove the pork from the foil and place it unwrapped back in the smoker to firm the bark back up.
- Once the internal temperature hits 197°-203°F, remove the pork from the smoker and place in an aluminum pan. Let it rest fo 20-30 minutes
Pull and Serve
- Pull your Boston butt using a pair or forks or bear claws. Discard any large pieces of fat and the bone.
- After you finish pulling, taste for saltiness and add salt to taste, mixing as you add it in. You can also add some apple cider vinegar to taste to add some acidity.Salt, ¼ Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- Serve with buns and a vinegar based BBQ sauce on the side to top with like Blues Hog Tennessee Red.¼ Cup Blues Hog Tennessee Red BBQ Sauce