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How to Smoke a Boston Butt in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

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.

Let’s Go!

a boston butt cooking in a masterbuilt electric smoker

 

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.

a raw boston butt before going in the smoker

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.

You will find pulled pork in dishes ranging from Mexican carnitas, to Latino lechón asado and Chinese char siu.

 

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.

 

Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker, 30 inch, Black

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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!

 

Preparing the Boston Butt for Smoking

You can think of the process of smoking a Boston butt split into two.

  1. The first part is preparing your meat for the electric smoker
  2. 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.

a trimmed boston butt

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.

After trimming, score through the fat cap with a good 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.

 

Rubs

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 hekps 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 225°F, you don;t need to worry about the sugar burning.

After trimming the fat, cover the Boston but 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.

putting rub on a boston butt before smoking in a masterbuilt electric smoker

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.

 

Marinade Injections

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.

Masterbuilt MB20071117 Digital Electric Smoker, 30 inch, Black

Peach wood in particular gives off a great sweet aroma when you smoke with it.  This might be why it’s BBQ Champion Myron Mixon’s favorite wood to smoke with.

Make sure to always use wood chips, not pellets, in a Masterbuilt electric smoker.

 

How to Smoke a Boston Butt in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

Equipment

  • A large piece of foil to cover the meat
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Wood chips
  • Brush or spray bottle (preferably the latter)
  • Large forks or a proper pair of grilling tongs
  • Meat thermometer
  • Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

 

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of 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

  1. After preparing the Boston butt as described above, plug in and start your Masterbuilt electric smoker.
  2. Set the cooking temperature to 225°F.
  3. Fill the water pan.
  4. Once the smoker has reached its temperature, fill the wood chip loader with your chosen wood chips.
  5. When the smoker begins producing smoke, open the door and place your Boston butt on one of the cooking racks and close the door.

 

How Long Does it Take to Cook a Boston Butt in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?

At 225°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 250°F or even 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 meats temperature while it is cooking.

We are big fans of this one from ThermoPro.

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.

wrapping a boston butt 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.

a foil wrapped boston butt being placed back in a masterbuilt electric smoker

Unwrap the Boston butt and let it rest for about 20-30 minutes before pulling it.

Pro Tip: If you want to firm the bark back up before pulling, take it out of the aluminum foil at 192°F and place it back in the smoker UNWRAPPED for the last 15-20 minutes until it hits 197°-203°F.

 

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!

pulling a boston butt

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!

a pulled pork sandwich on a cutting board

 

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?

Check out some of our favorite recipes below! 

 

a boston butt smoking in a masterbuilt electric smoker

Smoked Boston Butt in Masterbuilt Electric Smoker

A Boston butt, or pork shoulder, rubbed with a classic BBQ rub and smoked in a Masterbuilt electric smoker, or any electric smoker. Pulled and served on a bun with a vinegar sauce.
4.5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time 8 hrs
Total Time 10 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Australian, BBQ, Smoked
Servings 12 People
Calories 450 kcal

Equipment

  • Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
  • Aluminum Foil Trays
  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • 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

Ingredients
  

  • 4 Tbsp of brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp of salt
  • 3 Tbsp of paprika
  • ½ Tbsp of cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp of onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp of garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp of ground black pepper
  • 5-8 lb Boston butt
  • Salt to taste to add at the end
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Apple Juice or Cola in a Spray Bottle (optional to spray during the cook)
  • Olive Oil or Yellow Mustard
  • Blues Hog Tennessee Red BBQ Sauce Or any vinegar based BBQ sauce for pulled pork

Instructions
 

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.
    trimmed boston butt
  • 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.
  • 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.
    rub on a boston butt
  • 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 225°F.
  • Fill your water pan. Make sure all your vents are open.
    vent on an electric smoker
  • 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.
    adding wood chips to a masterbuilt electric 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 the top rack.
  • Place a disposable aluminum pan a rack below to catch any drips. Place your thermometer inside the pork aking sure to not touch the bone.
    a boston butt smoking in a masterbuilt electric smoker
  • 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.
  • 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.

Texas Crutch

  • When the internal temperature of the meat hits about 150-155°F, remove it from the soker and triple wrap it in aluminum foil. Replace the thermometer and place back in the smoker.
    boston butt wrapped in foil
  • 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.
    pulling boston butt with bear claws
  • 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.
  • Serve with buns and a vinegar based BBQ sauce on the side to top with like Blues Hog Tennessee Red.
    pulled pork on a bun

Video

Notes

Video courtesy of armadillopepper.com
Keyword barbecue, bbq, BBQ Rub, Boston Butt, electric smoker, How to, Masterbuilt, Pork Butt, Pork Shoulder, Pulled Pork, rub, Setting up a Smoker, smoked, Smoker, Smoking, Texas Crutch, Wood chips, wood smoke

4 Comments

Leave a Reply
  1. 5 stars
    The tip about not needing to inject meat you pull makes sense…never thought about it that way, thanks!

  2. 4 stars
    Would have been 5 stars but we can’t handle all the salt in the rubs. Big time salt restrictions resulted in experimenting with different combinations of rub and making sure the pork has less than 100mg sodium per 4 oz.
    Use pepper, smoked paprika, southwestern chipotle seasoning by Ms. Dash or similar, onion powder and some other no salt spices.
    I put an aluminum catch pan under the butt with some water in it…helps keep moisture levels up and the resulting drippings are used to add any needed moisture when you pull the meat. Hickory or apple is great…mesquite is a bit heavy.
    Great thing about smokers is it’s really difficult to ruin a butt! (Or turkey, chicken, etc…). Patience pays off. Pellet or charcoal grills still have their place for many meats, but smokers are the best for butts!

  3. Thanks for the feedback Bob! Yes, watching your salt intake makes working with conventional store brand BBQ rubs tougher sometimes so best to make your own and measure well. I agree going for spice if you need to punch up the flavor without overloading the salt. I like the Mrs. Dash SW chipotle seasoning as well.

  4. Im on a very low salt so I make my own rubs and leave out the salt and all my friends don’t mis the salt because if I eat to much salt my legs and feet swell up

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