Outrageously good pulled pork without a smoker. Low and slow is how you do it with these easy step by step photo instructions with only a few minutes of active time.
Editor's note: Originally Published November 2, 2013. Updated with updated photos and had been partially re-written for clarification.
This is the pork butt recipe that we use most frequently. Please enjoy one of our personal favorites.
As usual, I had done a lot of research to create this oven pulled pork recipe. I was so confused after about 25 recipes. There was the aluminum foil covering most recipes; there were onions and various veggies. Just wrong!
There were a few with oven temps of 225 and 250 but also a lot of 350 recommendations. There were finish temps of 170 on most of the recipes. And pork being cut with knives. IT IS PULLED PORK!!!!! ...... ARGGGGG.
1) Smokers and grillers will agree on low and slow. You do not turn up the temp. You need time for the connective tissues and fats to melt into their goodness. 250 degrees is a good target temp for a grill and is so easy in an oven.
2) In an oven, smoke was not an option, but some smoke taste is needed. Enter liquid smoke. I just give it a good rub of liquid smoke. Alternatively, you can make a rub with spices like smoked paprika.
3) Otherwise, I treat it like it was on the grill, using the same rub and cook to 195 plus.
The house smelled great all day long.
Ok, a lower 5 only to leave room for grilled pulled pork as a higher 5. But so good without the fuss, I have repeated this many times.
Pro Tips: Notes for Oven Pulled Pork from Pork Butt
What is Pork Butt AKA Boston Butt?
Like many cuts of meat, there are multiple names about the same thing. Pork butt and Boston butt are the same.
Pork shoulder is the thinner area of this cut but is commonly cooked and used the same as the butt. It has a bit less marbling and less fat and is usually not separated from the butt. But usually, the term pork shoulder is used interchangeably with pork butt and Boston butt.
If you are wondering, butt means thick, so that is why the term "butt" is used. Lastly, the picnic ham and picnic shoulder are not the same as this cut.
Bone-in vs. Boneless Pork Butt
Bone-in pork butt will take a bit longer to cook, but not much. Some will argue a taste difference one way or the other. Nope, no difference to me (or most people) in the taste. So use what you have.
But, it does feel so good when you go to shred the pulled pork and the bone just lifts out. I always smile.
Fat Pad Up or Down?
The big debate for many years, fat pad up or down. So, I will use the competition smokers for my reference.
While a few will still argue strongly one way or the other, most think it does not matter. I agree.
When is Pork Butt Done?
I like to take my pork butt to 195+ range and prefer 200-205.
How Long to Cook Oven Pulled Pork?
Others seem to like to say one hour per pound. But then you see them cutting it with a knife. Doesn't work for me.
It seems to always be at least 2 hours per pound plus a little some times. So 2 hours per pound at 250 degrees is a good starting point on timing.
I usually cook about 4 pounds, and it takes 8-9 hours. Remember that bone in takes a bit longer. You MUST check the internal temperature. The minimum is 190 but is low to me. I like mine 200 plus. Do not remove early, or you will be sorry.
The rest before the shred could be as short as 30 minutes, but longer is better. It will stay warm with my method for about 4 hours. Shred just before serving so this gives you a 3 1/2 hour window to hit.
Other options for your pork butt:
Pulled Pork on a Gas Grill – Not That Hard Don't be intimidated, it really is not that hard, just follow the photos.
Crock Pot Pulled Pork from Butt the Right Way Yup, I have totally sold out, but done the right way, you can get great pulled pork from a crock pot.
You will need a rub of your choice and some Liquid Smoke. If using my rub, mix 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Place a 4 pound (give or take a little) bone-in (or boneless) pork butt on a large piece of plastic wrap if wrapping. Rub with about 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke (optional).
Use about one cup of rub and coat the meat. That is a very heavy coat.
If you have time, wrap the meat with plastic wrap. You may need a second piece. Refrigerate for a few hours, but overnight is fine. If you don't have time, just apply the rub and pop it in the oven. This is what I usually do.
When ready to cook, prep a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and a rack. Give it a heavy spray of PAM.
Place meat on rack and place in a 250-degree oven (not convection). I did not bother to preheat. I went with fat cap down. You can shorten the time some by increasing the temperature of the oven to 300 degrees but I suggest 250.
Bake until internal temp of 195 plus (200-205 is better). About 9 hours for me usually. This will vary some with the thickness of the meat, bone-in vs. boneless, and the oven. You have some flex time in the next step to get your timing right.
Remove from the oven directly onto a large sheet of heavy-duty foil. Wrap tight with the foil then wrap with several towels. Place wrapped meat in a small cooler if available and rest for 1-2 hours until needed. It can stay warm for up to 4 hours is well wrapped in a cooler.
Shred with forks. It will fall apart.
Oven Pulled Pork from Pork Butt
- 4-5 pounds Pork Butt - aka Pork Shoulder or Boston Butt
- rub of your choice - good quality
- 2 tablespoons Wright's Liquid Smoke - optional but recommended
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt - Morton
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- You will need a rub of your choice. My rub: mix 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons Morton kosher salt, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1 teaspoon pepper.
- Place a 4 pound (give or take a little) bone-in (or boneless) pork butt on a large piece of plastic wrap. Rub with about 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke (optional). You can skip the plastic wrap if not applying rub ahead of time.
- Use about one cup of rub and coat the meat. That is a very heavy coat.
- If you have time, wrap the meat with plastic wrap. You may need a second piece. Refrigerate for a few hours, but overnight is fine. If you don't have time, just apply the rub and pop it in the oven. This is what I usually do.
- When ready to cook, prep a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and a rack. Give the rack a heavy spray of PAM.
- Place meat on rack and place in a 250-degree oven (not convection). I did not bother to preheat. I went with fat cap down. You can shorten the time some by increasing the temperature of the oven to 300 degrees but I suggest 250.
- Bake until internal temp of 195 plus (200-205 is better). About 9-10 hours for me. This will vary some with the thickness of the meat, bone-in vs. boneless and the oven. You have some flex time in the next step to get your timing right.
- Remove from the oven directly onto a large sheet of heavy-duty foil. Wrap tight with the foil then wrap with several towels. Place wrapped meat in a small cooler if available and rest for 1-2 hours until needed. It can stay warm for up to 4 hours is well wrapped in a cooler.
- Just before serving, shred with forks. It will fall apart.
- Cooking time can vary, but you can use the wrap time at the end to adjust the shredding time by a few hours.
- If you don't have a rack, you can elevate the meat on balls of rolled up foil. Please do not leave it to cook in the muck. (see the crock pot recipe)
- The liquid smoke is nice, but some object, so skip if you wish. If you use it, quality matters a lot. I use only Wright's.
- My rub is provided for you but use the rub of your choice.
- If you use my rub. The salt is calculated on Morton Kosher salt. 1 teaspoon table salt = 1 1/4 teaspoon Morton kosher salt = 2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
- I find my rub still is good with half the salt if that is a concern for you.
- 195 is the minimum, but I much prefer 200 to 205.
- This will freeze great for 3-4 months. Good in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- Bone-in or boneless does not matter. But bone-in may take a bit longer.
- Fat pad up or down does not matter.
- I frequently just wet with the liquid smoke and apply the rub. And then directly into the oven. It is still great.
- DO NOT cover with anything like foil or a lid in the oven.
- Nutrition is hard to calculate. The fat drains, the rub forms bark and also drains some. So a lot of things are included in the nutrition numbers that may not be there.
ADJUST THE RECIPE SIZE:You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
Nutrition is generally for one serving. Number of servings is stated above and is my estimate of normal serving size for this recipe.
All nutritional information are estimates and may vary from your actual results. This is home cooking, and there are many variables. To taste ingredients such as salt will be my estimate of the average used.
Originally Published November 2, 2013