Knowing when to wrap the pork butt that you are cooking will give you the results you want. It is best to do it when the pork butt is up to a certain temperature and is about to finish.
Experts have debated over the years whether to wrap your pork butt or not. However, there is a difference between a cooked wrapped pork butt vs an unwrapped cooked pork butt.
The pork butt needs to absorb some flavor from the smoke you are using so it does not need to be covered/wrapped throughout the cooking process.
Later by wrapping the pork butt, you will lock in the juices inside it. The juices help keep the meat tender and juicy through the long cooking process.
So the pork butt needs to get that smoky flavor but also needs to stay juicy and tender. That is why it is important to know exactly when to wrap the pork butt.
Here, we will get into details and look at how and when you should wrap the pork butt to get the best results.
What Cut Of Meat Is Pork Butt?
Pork butt is a cut of meat from pigs but contrary to its name, it does not come from the butt of the animal. The pork butt is actually carved from the front part of the pig.
The pork butt is closer to the pork shoulder and is sometimes called ‘Boston butt’. It comes from the upper portion of the shoulder.
If you are wondering, the ‘butt’ part of the name is believed by many to come from the barrels called “butts” that these cuts of meat were kept in during transport from New England.
The pork butt is relatively cheaper than other cuts of meat of its size. They are often sold in smokehouses as pulled pork for sandwiches and other recipes.
Pork butts were classified as one of the inexpensive cuts of meat from pigs. Nowadays, it is one of the best cuts that people look for in restaurants and butcher shops for barbecues.
They take a long time to cook and just like bigger cuts of meat, you need to make sure that they are cooked tender and juicy for the best results.
Why Wrap Pork Butt?
Some people say that wrapping the pork butt during the later stages of cooking is not really necessary.
However, from personal experience, there are a lot of benefits that you can get and put on the pork butt if you wrap it during the cooking process.
Here are some of the benefits you can get:
1. Seal The Juices
When you cook pork butts, the moisture within them is squeezed out by the contracting muscles and pushes it out to the surface, which will then evaporate.
If you wrap the pork butt, you will be able to retain the juices. This also creates a humid environment that will help keep the pork butt juicy.
The juices that go out of the pork butt will be captured in the wrapper along with rendered fat which you can use as a glaze over the pork butt right before serving it.
2. Speed Up The Cooking Process
Low and slow cooking can sometimes have “stalls”. Stalls are the point where the meat’s interior temperature will seem to stop rising.
By wrapping the pork butt, not only will you keep the juices but you will also be able to keep the heat inside. The retained heat will help cook the pork butt faster.
You most likely have been cooking for hours by the time you wrap the pork butt so reducing the time of cooking will help you serve the pork butt a little earlier.
3. Lock In The Flavors
After hours of cooking without a wrapper, your pork butt will have garnered enough smoke flavors from the wood chips that you use.
These flavors are locked into the pork butt when you wrap it. The fats will also be kept within the wrapper instead of letting the rendered fats fall on the charcoal.
4. Protect From Heat And Smoke
If you notice that the pork butt is starting to dry out or if you want a little less of the smoky flavor, wrapping it will help the pork butt.
The wrapper is like another layer of protection in case the heat gets up too high. It will lock in the flavor and keep the smoke from the wood chips out so it does not overpower the meat flavor.
When To Wrap Pork Butt?
Wrapping your pork butt is best done when it has developed a nice bark. It should have a dark color on the outside with a firm texture usually at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
I say once the pork butt reaches an internal temperature between 150 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit is the best time to wrap it.
This internal temperature is usually reached after smoking it for 5 to 6 hours. 165 degrees Fahrenheit as an internal temperature is my goal before wrapping my pork butt recipes.
Although the bark of the pork butt will soften eventually after wrapping it, the flavor and texture inside the meat will have a perfect balance.
One implication that the pork butt is not ready to be wrapped is by testing if the rub comes off. The rub should stick to the pork butt to indicate it is ready for wrapping.
Try to smear the surface of the pork butt with your finger and when the rub easily comes off, the pork butt is not ready to be wrapped.
Referring to the pork butt’s internal temperature is still the best and most accurate way to know when to wrap the pork butt. Once it is ready, you can then go ahead and wrap it.
How To Wrap Pork Butt
Place your wrapper on a flat surface, make sure that you have enough wrapper (aluminum foil or butcher paper) to wrap the large cut of meat.
Place the pork butt in the middle of the aluminum foil or butcher paper and then fold the bottom of the wrapper over up to the top of the pork butt.
Fold the sides of the wrapper tightly. Make sure that there is no space between the wrapper and the pork butt to keep all the heat, flavor, and moisture inside.
Roll the pork butt over to cover the other side. Fold the sides once again and then roll the pork butt one more time.
If there is any excess wrapper, fold them or tuck them inward. Press the wrapper to make sure that there are no large air pockets inside it.
Place the wrapped pork butt in the smoker once again and wait for it to cook entirely. Place a meat probe in the middle of the pork butt to measure its internal temperature.
You can check out this detailed guide on How To Wrap Pork Butt by Pitmaster, Aaron Franklin.
The Best Temperature For Smoking Pork Butt
I have been testing different cooking temperatures for pork butt and for me, the best temperature to smoke pork butt is 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this temperature, the pork butt should be cooked for 90 minutes for each pound. 250 degrees Fahrenheit is not too hot but also not too cold for smoking a pork butt.
Since, on average, a pork butt is 6 to 10 pounds, it will take about 10 hours to cook the whole pork butt at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
By the 6-hour mark, the pork butt should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit which is the perfect temp to wrap the pork butt.
The pork butt needs to reach an internal temperature of 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. This is for you to be sure that the fats have rendered and the connective tissues are melted/broken down.
Tips On How To Smoke A Pork Butt
Here are some tips that you can use as mental notes for smoking pork butt:
- Always start with a good-quality cut of meat. This goes not only for pork butt but also for other cuts of meat.
- Allow the pork butt to defrost or properly thaw before putting it in the smoker.
- Just like the pork butt, the smoker you will be using should also be of tip-top quality.
- Trim off excess fats or fat caps from the pork butt.
- Prepare the right herbs and spices for your pork butt rub to get the best flavors onto the meat.
- Be consistent with the cooking temperature(preferably 250F). Make sure that you have enough wood chips or any of your chosen fuel to cook the pork butt for the next hours.
- Wrap the pork butt to make sure that it will have a juicy and tender finish.
- Invest in a good meat probe and use it through the cooking process to get an accurate reading of the internal temperature of the pork butt.
- Allow the meat to rest before pulling or serving it.
How To Prepare A Rub For Pork Butt
Preparing a dry rub for your pork butt is as easy as mixing your favorite herbs and spices. You can use pre-made rubs from the supermarket or make your own rub.
This simple recipe is a great rub not only for your pork butts but also for other cuts of pork that you might be planning to cook on your barbecue.
4 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of dark brown sugar
1 and a half teaspoons each of granulated sugar and paprika
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon each of ground cumin and dry mustard
Ground ginger to taste
Simply mix the ingredients above and then use them on your pork butt. You can use larger portions and store the dry rub in an airtight container for up to a month.
I recommend using mustard on the pork first before applying the rub to make sure that the dry rub sticks to the meat.
How To Get A Nice Bark On The Pork Butt
Letting the rub stick to the pork butt will help it develop a really nice bark. The smoke needs to bind with the rub and the fats from the pork butt for it to develop a nice bark.
On a spray bottle, mix one part water and one part apple cider vinegar. This will help you with developing the bark of the pork butt by spraying it occasionally onto the pork butt.
You can do this or use a brush but I prefer spritzing or spraying the pork butt as brushing it can risk removing some of the rub on the surface of the meat.
Perhaps the downside of wrapping the pork butt with aluminum foil is that the bark will soften when you wrap it as the moisture in the wrapper will slowly tenderize the outer part of the meat.
If I was cooking pork butt meant for pulled pork, I would usually use aluminum foil since I do not mind the pork butt having a softer exterior.
However, if I were to cook a pork butt that is meant for serving as slices, I love having some firmness and a little bit of crunch on the outer part of the pork butt.
That is when I use butcher paper or at times, not wrap the pork butt at all during the cooking process.
Should You Wrap Pork Butt In Foil Or Butcher Paper?
This depends on what results you want. Aluminum foil is for a soft and tender texture overall while butcher paper is for a better bark.
When you wrap the pork butt with aluminum foil, you are locking in the moisture inside. That means that the humid environment will eventually soften the bark of the pork butt.
If you develop a firm bark at the beginning of the cooking process, the bark might be able to survive the steam from the moisture when it is wrapped.
Using butcher paper basically means that you are not entirely locking in the moisture. Butcher paper has some spaces that allow just a little moisture to evaporate.
You will be able to develop a nicer bark on the pork butt when you wrap it with butcher paper compared to when you wrap it with aluminum foil.
It all comes down to which finish you want. Here is a table summary of the results when you use aluminum foil, butcher paper, or do not wrap the pork butt at all.
Wrap Or Not Wrap A Pork Butt?
I still prefer wrapping the pork butt two-thirds of the way through the cooking process. This helps the pork butt develop a juicier and more tender result.
Since I often cook pork butt for pulled pork recipes, I need it to be as tender as possible. That is why wrapping it is necessary for my recipes.
There is nothing wrong with not wrapping the pork butt if you want it to develop a nice bark. The smoke and rub will contribute to the bark but moisture is the biggest factor in the bark development.
I recommend wrapping the pork butt if you are not too concerned about the bark. It will help keep the juices in the meat.
The flavors from your rub will also be able to stay in the meat if you wrap it. The juices on the wrapper are also great for topping the pork butt with when you serve it.
Wrapping the pork butt will also help render the fats, melt the connective tissues, and make the cooking process faster.
Pork butt takes almost a whole day to cook so I prefer wrapping it to shorten the cooking time.
It comes down to your preference whether you want a nice bark on the pork butt or a more tender and juicier result.
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