When to Wrap Pork Butt? Here’s the Answer to Most Debated Question

Pork Butt

There is a long-stalled debate among barbecue fans when to wrap pork butt? Should it be done within the first two hours or the last two hours? Or should they wrap it according to the temperature of the meat? If so, then what should be the temperature of meat? And many other questions like these.

But, I have always been clear about the process and would love to explain the whole process of cooking pork butt with the inclusion of the wrapping process. It is not a compulsory rule to follow; some people prefer doing it, some don’t. It totally depends on your choice.

However, I would highly recommend doing it because it gives a great taste to the dish and the extra efforts you will make won’t go in vain.

Therefore, without delaying it any further, let’s jump into the process directly.

About Pork Butt

The pork butt comprises portions of the pig’s neck, shoulder blade, and upper arm. It’s a somewhat challenging cut of meat with much connective tissue. Let me tell you; ham is taken from that pig area that we all refer to as “the butt,” the big muscle at the top of the leg. Literally, the ham is made up of the thigh and the gluteus maximus, which makes it so meaty.

Typically, when you consider the term “butt,” it refers to the thicker end of something (such as a gun butt) or the blunt end of something. Therefore, now it’s no surprise why the meat cut has “butt” in the name as it is the only thicker end of the shoulder cut.

Also, it is known as ‘Boston Butt’ because it was historically in heavy use in New England. During the late 19th century, New England butchers would stuff less popular cuts of meat into barrels known as “butts.” These cuts were then taken to other places, but since it came from New England, it was called a “Boston butt.” However, pork butts may be found all around the nation these days.

Reasons to Wrap Pork Butt

Now that we know something about pork butt, let me tell you the reasons to wrap it. The main reason is to keep the meat moist. By wrapping it in foil or butcher paper, you create a barrier between the meat and the heat. This will help prevent the pork meat from drying out and becoming tough.

Another reason to wrap it is to create a steam bath. The moisture from the wrapped pork will create a steam bath, which will help to tenderize the meat.

Wrapping also helps to control the temperature of the meat. If you use a smoker, you will want to keep the temperature around 250-275 degrees. If you use a grill, you will want to keep the temperature around 275-300 degrees. Wrapping the pork butt helps maintain this temperature and prevents the meat from becoming overcooked.

When to Wrap Pork Butt?

Now that we know the reasons to wrap pork butt let’s discuss when it is best to do so. As I stated earlier, there isn’t a wrong answer. However, I recommend wrapping it at two-third of the total preparation time.

Some people wrap it very soon if they use a smoker and have the temperature set lower. If you are using a grill, you may want to wait until the end of the cooking time to wrap it. This is because the high heat will cause the foil or butcher paper to burn.

At What Temp To Wrap Pork Butt?

Wrap the pork butt when the bark on the meat has solidified. Your bark will set once the texture becomes a rich mahogany color and the surface of the meat is firm to the touch. It happens when the pork reaches an internal temperature of 160° F.

Here’s How I Prepare Pork Butt For Smoker

Apply the meat rub

Rubbing the meat is the first step of preparing pork butt for a smoker. Using seasoning is essential for developing a rich smoky flavor. This can be achieved by using several dry rubs or spice blends.

I start by dusting the pork butt with a rub. Then, I apply some yellow mustard and sprinkle on some more rub. Not only does this make pork pretty, but it helps to create a sweet, caramelized bark when cooked.

Moreover, I usually prefer the rub in advance and letting the pork shoulder rest in the cooler for up to 12 hours or overnight. Seasoning rubs also enhance the bark’s thickness and flavor if applied ahead of time. 

However, there’s no need to follow this step if you don’t want to, but I would recommend it as you will see that it makes a difference in flavor and appearance.

Preheat smoker

I use a smoker to prepare it, so if you are using the same, the next step is to preheat it. Bring your smoker’s temperature up to 200°- 225° F and let it settle down into that temperature for about 10 minutes. This will ensure that the meat is not overcooked as you build up a smoke bed on medium heat.

Placing the meat in the smoker

The next step is to set the pork butt on the grates of your smoker.  Make sure that the pork butt is sitting at an angle and that you can still see smoke above it. Then, close the lid of the smoker to keep heat in.

After an hour or so, I apply some more rub to give it a little flavor boost.

Smoking

Now it’s time to let the pork butt smoke. I mostly use applewood for this cook, but feel free to use any other flavored sweet wood-like pear, peach, etc. Also, never use chemically treated wood as it can be hazardous for your health. 

I keep the smoker at 225-250° F and smoke it for about 4-6 hours (for 5 pounds cut), or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 160° F.

Remember, don’t wrap the pork butt during this process. You better wait until the last few hours of cooking. Covering the pork too soon won’t have the distinctive bark that distinguishes barbecued meat.

Wrapping

Once the pork butt has reached 150°- 160° F internal temperature, it is time to wrap it in foil or butcher paper. Also, if you can’t calculate the internal temperature of the pork butt, you can follow the general rule. The rule I usually follow is to wrap the meat at around two-thirds of the required time to cook the pork butt. 

I recently cooked a piece of 5 pounds, and the time I calculated to wrap the pork butt was 4 hours. So, you can take a rough estimate from this calculation if you want to go according to the time.

How to Wrap

  • Use two thick aluminum foils to wrap the pork butt.
  • Place the first sheet of aluminum foil on a clean workspace. Keep the shiny side of the foil down, with the long edge of the foil running perpendicular to you.
  • Then place the second sheet of foil on the table, overlap it by half its width.
  • Remove the pork butt from the smoker with tongs and a pair of silicone gloves, then place it in a disposable roasting pan.
  • Now, as you have set the foil accurately, pick up the pork butt, put it on the foil about eight inches from the bottom edge of the foil, and keep the fat side up. (The longer side of the pork should run parallel to the bottom edge of the foil sheets.)
  • After doing this much, it will be an excellent time to spritz the pork for one last time before sealing it in foil.
  • After it’s done, wrap your foil around the bottom of the meat to cover it completely. Repeat the same thing on both sides of the foil.
  • When folding the sides of the foil, leave enough room so that you can finish up with a final fold after the meat has been flipped over.
  • Turn the pork butt over and repeat on the other side. Pull up the edges again to form a good seal.
  • Also, turn the wrapped pork over again and check if any loose ends need to be tucked in.

Finishing

Place the wrapped pork butt back to the smoker and cook it until it’s done. Also, there’s no need to add any extra wood to the smoker at this stage. Once it’s smoked, let the pork butt out of the smoker and keep it aside for at least 30 minutes before serving. This aids in keeping all those juices inside while you’re carving!

You can also finish cooking the pork butt in the oven after it has been wrapped. After wrapping, the pork will not absorb any more smoke flavor. The objective of the cook’s last stage is to get the meat to the designated temperature, not to enhance flavor.

Resting (the final step)

I would love to recommend this step during the whole process because it brings so much difference in pork taste. When I’m smoking a pork butt, I usually wrap it in paper or a towel and put it in a cool place or cooler for around half an hour. This is highly crucial since the juice is redistributed throughout the meat. You don’t want to miss this particular step if you want juicy and soft meat.

Some Useful Tips To Cook Delicious Pork Butt

If you’ve never cooked a pork shoulder before, don’t be scared. Most of the time spent preparing it is hands-off, and I’ve provided step-by-step instructions in the upper part for your assistance. 

Plus, here are some more pointers to get you started.

Cook to Temperature

The secret to smoking is patience and low and slow combustion. Instead of depending on your watch, an internal thermometer will be helpful. Internal meat temperature is what you should be looking for instead of time.

Look for the stall

While smoking a pork butt, you will notice the temperature is not rising at a point. This is known as stalling, but there is no need to worry about it because it usually happens in most meats that take long hours to cook. At this stage, leave the pork to smoke ideally, and I promise it will make it through.

Use thick aluminum foil

As recommended by the experts, use thick aluminum foil to make a wrap. This can reduce the cooking time and help keep the meat moist. In addition, avoid using thin foils as they will tear off easily while handling them during wrapping.

Conclusion

So, now you know that answer of when to wrap pork butt? Mostly, the answer depends on the preparation time. By wrapping it, you will help to keep the meat moist and prevent it from becoming dry or tough. You will also create a steam bath that will help tenderize the meat. Wrapping also helps control the meat’s temperature and maintain the correct cooking temperature.