Boston butt pork roast goes by several names: pork shoulder butt, pork shoulder butt roast, Boston Butt, Boston blade roast, Boston style shoulder, bone-in or boneless blade roast, blade end butt, and the list goes on.
The Boston butt and the picnic shoulder are both shoulder roasts. But the Boston comes from the upper shoulder of the hog and the picnic from the lower portion (see diagram below).
In years gone by, I had no preference when it came to the picnic shoulder or the Boston butt. In fact, I would often choose the picnic shoulder because it's cheaper. However, I now definitely prefer the Boston butt roast - hands down. Here's why:
First of all, the Boston butt roast is a superior cut. It has more marbling or fat (see picture below). Intramuscular fat is good and the Boston butt has a generous amount which gives it lots of flavor and moisture.
The picnic shoulder is a tougher cut of meat and has a thick layer of skin which prevents your seasonings and smoke flavor from reaching the meat. So more prep work is required to prepare a picnic shoulder for cooking.
Secondly, you can do more with a Boston butt roast. Of course, it makes excellent pulled pork -- some say the best when compared to a picnic shoulder. That, I believe, is a matter of preference. However, the Boston butt makes an excellent dinner roast for slicing and serving sans BBQ sauce. I love the versatility.
Below you'll find a basic but delicious recipe for sliced Boston butt pork roast. Notice again I said "sliced" roast. This is not the same as pulled pork. The difference is the target temperature of the meat.
For pulled-pork, you want your butt roast to reach an internal temperature of 190°F to 195°F. This will make the meat "fall off the bone" tender so that it easily pulls apart for sandwiches.
However, at 180°F to 185°F, the roast will still be super moist and tender yet the consistency of the meat holds-up well enough for slicing - just perfect for a pork roast dinner with baked or creamy mashed potatoes and veggies.
To determine the internal temperature of your roast, you will obviously need a meat thermometer. I use and highly recommend the Maverick ET733 Wireless BBQ Thermometer Set (pictured below is the ET732, which I also have and is great as well). It's two thermometers in one -- one probe goes into your meat and other into your grill or oven. But it also has a remote thermometer. It takes the guess work out of barbecuing. I love this thing!
- Apple/Hickory Wood (at least 4 chunks of each)
- Charcoal - 1 large bag
- Food Syringe
- Aluminum Foil
- BBQ Thermometer
- 5-6 lbs Bone-in Bost Butt Pork Roast
- For Rub:
- ¼ cup paprika
- 2 Tbls ground black pepper
- 2 Tbls course salt
- 1 Tbls sugar
- 1 Tbls garlic powder
- 1 Tbls onion powder
- 1 Tsp dry mustard
- 1 Tsp cayenne pepper
- For Injection Marinade: Chris Lilly's Pork Injection Recipe:
- ¾ cup apple juice
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup table salt (I would start with 1 Tbls of salt. Add more to taste.)
- 2 Tbls Worchestershire Sauce
- Remove pork shoulder butt from package and rinse with cold water.
- With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, remove some of the thick layer of fat (called the "fat cap").
- Inject meat with marinade as you slowly remove the needle from the meat. Do this throughout the meat until most or all of the marinade is gone.
- Next, rub the meat with your seasoning/BBQ rub.
- Start your charcoal and set-up your grill for low, indirect heat (225°F).
- Once your coals are ready, place your meat on the grill and insert a BBQ thermometer in the meat so that you can monitor the internal temperature of the meat. That is the key to this entire process.
- Add 1 chunk of hickory and 1 chunk of apple wood to the hot coals.
- If you're using charcoal briquettes, add 12 briquettes to the hot coals every hour. If you're using lump charcoal, add more as necessary.
- Add 1 hickory and 1 apple wood chunk to hot coals every 30-45 minutes for the first 4 hours.
- Smoke the Boston butt pork roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 180°F (approximately 60-90 minutes per pound). Then remove the meat from the grill, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing.