Barbecued Pork Shoulder Roast

A butt of many names

A full pork shoulder consists of two halves, the 'Picnic Ham' and the 'Boston Butt' and can weigh 8 to 20 pounds. A picnic ham is not a true ham but a roast that runs from the shoulder socket through to the elbow. True hams come from the rear legs only. The picnic usually weighs from 4 to 12 pounds. The top half of the shoulder, that being the roast from the dorsal of the animal near the spine through the shoulder blade, has way too many names: Boston butt, pork butt, butt, shoulder butt, shoulder roast, country roast, and the shoulder blade roast. Why the heck we call it a butt seems ironic, I mean it comes from the front of the hog for crying out loud.

In case one wonders what all goes on inside the cover of that smoker (even when cooking off-heat on a grill) and what it takes to ensure a bodacious roast, here's what I know. Ideally you want to maintain the inside of the cooker at a temperature between 225-240 degrees F. On average, given the fact that roasts take between 1 to 2 hours per pound to cook, there is a stalling period or plateau at around 155 degrees during which the internal temperature of the meat levels out without much change in the temperature. During this stage the energy from the heat goes about doing its thing, breaking down the connective tissues, collagens and the fats while moisture moves toward the surface. This is what in layman's terms we call 'making it tender.' If you are able to gauge the internal temperature with, say a digital thermometer, you will not notice any changes for a long period, not until most of the internal tissue starts to really cook and the fats are rendered will you notice the temperature starting to rise again.

BBQ Mop recipe here
Now by now most of you know I am a believer in applying a thin mopping baste on just about everything on the barbecue, grill too. Doing so sort of makes the fibers do a double workout, especially during the last part of the cooking stage. Just as the fibers are tightening and moving moisture out, a good acidic based mop will work with the fibers to retain and exchange much of the mop solution. The mop or sop to some folks, not only makes the meat tender, but adds another element of flavor. Of course, you should apply the mop every 30 to 45 minutes keeping the lid closed as much as possible. The more times you open the lid, the longer the cooking time. I also like to keep my mop solution warm.

As a rule of thumb, depending on how you plan on serving your roast, plan on removing it from the cooker when the internal temperature reaches one of these degree points:

Slicing - 170 degrees F
Chopping - 180 degrees F
Pulling - 195 degrees F

Of course, I believe the most important step of all is the resting period after cooking your roast. Wrapped tightly in heavy foil, the roast actually rises a few degrees more. Many folks like to place it in a warm oven set around 170 degrees but most importantly, do not let it rise above 210 degrees or the fibers will toughen up and release too much excessive moisture. And we all know what toughen meat taste like....

Now here's a dry rub I use often when I barbecue meats, or in this case, cook off-heat on my grill this 10-pound shoulder butt pictured. This rub is excellent for just about any meats - beef, chicken, seafood, whatever you fancy in barbecuing. Enjoy!

All-around BBQ Dry Rub
makes about a cup

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons smoked mild chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a spice grinder and give it a whirl to mix thoroughly or whisk together in a large bowl for even distribution and to break up any lumps.
Store unused rub in a tightly sealed container, preferably in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.

Note: Because this rub contains brown sugar, never use it when slow-cooking cooking above the burning temperature of sugar, 265 degrees F.


  1. Somehow this dry rub sounds like it will still be finger licking good! great recipe~ bet its great on chicken too!

  2. Mop! What a cute name. You are the BBQ man for sure.

  3. Very useful information. Many years ago at a family gathering someone asked my former sister in law to bring a mop with her for the sauce. Poor baby brought a floor mop. Needless to say she never lived that one down!

  4. Looks wonderful and that rub is over-the-top, cher! And merci beaucoup for the great tutorial!

  5. Wow this looks amazing and your rub sounds fantastic! So glad to be your newest follower! :)

  6. Wow...that's another beautiful roast! Drick, you are just killing me with your roast....haha. Thanks very much for sharing. Hope you have a great day.

  7. That is a beautiful roast!

    I wish my butt only weighed 4-12 lbs. Hehe.

  8. That roast looks beautiful! Thanks for the info on how roasting actually works, I never knew any of that. And your rub looks fantastic! Do you use that with any type of meat?
    ~Nancy Lewis~

  9. Great tutorial and love this rub! Bet it would be wonderful on a grilled salmon as well :)
    Hope you are having a great week...

  10. This looks wonderful! The rub sounds perfect, and the pork looks like it is moist and delicious!

  11. Oh, how marvelous!!! Looks like a perfect excuse to cook a lovely chunk of meat and invite friends over...mmmmmm.

  12. The rub is going to be a hit! This is an awesome are so talented! Loved the serene view of your blog

  13. I will use your dry rub the next time I make pork for sure!! I guess it's called butt cuz it's the back end - i.e. butt - of the shoulder? But my question is: what the heck is the real butt called? ; ) Rump?

  14. I am going to give your rub a try this weekend, maybe some ribs. One thing is for sure after all this talk about rubs, I need a massage.

  15. I love pulled pork. I bought a smoker recently and this may be my maiden voyage into using it! :-) Definite buzz!

  16. As always, great recipe. I have a butt in the freezer. I think I may make some barbecue this weekend.


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