How to Cook a Boston Butt

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Learn how to cook a Boston Butt (or pork shoulder) in the oven for a flavorful, juicy pulled pork that can be served in countless ways.

Cooking a Boston butt in the oven is a simple yet delicious way to prepare this cut of pork. A Boston butt, also known as a pork butt or shoulder, is a tough cut of meat that is packed with flavor.

When cooked slowly at a low temperature, the meat becomes tender and juicy, and is perfect for pulled pork sandwiches or other pork dishes.

With its deep, rich flavor, tender texture and endless possibilities for use, the Boston butt is a true crowd-pleaser. And by cooking it in the oven, you can take a relatively tough cut of meat and turn it into a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth meal that your friends and family will love.

Table of Contents
  1. What is a Boston Butt?
  2. Buying Tips
  3. What You Need
  4. How to Cook a Boston Butt in the Oven
  5. Recipe Variations
  6. Reheating Instructions
  7. How to Use Leftover Pulled Pork
  8. How to Cook a Boston Butt Recipe
  9. Frequently Asked Questions
  10. Other Pork Recipes
a fork tearing into a cooked pork shoulder on a cutting board

What is a Boston Butt?

A Boston Butt is another name for a pork butt. The pork cut termed “butt” does not come from the back end of the pig. It comes from the shoulder area, and the “butt” cut is taken from a little higher on the pig than the “shoulder” cut.

If you are at the grocery and have the choice of a pork butt or pork shoulder, choose the butt, as it is the prized cut of pork for pulled pork.

So where does the term “butt” come from? It’s the name of the wooden barrels that the cuts of pork were stored in. Butchers in New England (Boston) would ship off their less-prized cuts of meats in containers called “butts”. And ironically, those are the cuts we now crave for juicy pulled pork.

Buying Tips

  1. Size: Pork butts can vary in size, so make sure to choose one that is the right size for your needs. If you’re cooking for a large group, a larger piece may be necessary. For this recipe, I used a 7 ½ pound pork butt.
  2. Fat content: Pork butts can have varying levels of fat marbling, so choose one that has the right amount of fat for your taste. More marbled pieces will be more flavorful and most of the fat will melt away during cooking. One side is also often covered with a layer of fat. You’ll bake the pork with that side up so the juices melt into the pork, keeping it moist.
  3. Cut: Pork butts are sold bone-in or boneless. Our store almost always carries bone-in, so that’s what I buy. A bone-in pork shoulder will be more flavorful, but it will take a little longer to cook. If you are cooking the pork to a high temp for pulled pork the bone will just fall away from the meat.
  4. Quality: Look for pork butt that has a good color, not too pale and not too dark, and also look for pork that have good texture, not slimy or sticky.
  5. Buy on sale: Because these are large pieces of meat, they can be pricey to buy if the price per pound is over $2. I try to buy pork butts when they are on sale for 99 cents or just a little over $1. Stock up if you have the space….they freeze well.

When you are in store and you have the opportunity to talk to a butcher, ask them for guidance as they may have some extra tips to help you select the best pork butt.

What You Need

There are just a couple of ingredients you need for cooking pork in the oven.

  • Pork Butt. Plan about ⅓ pound per person. Pulled pork makes great leftovers so don’t be afraid to buy a large pork butt if you have the time to cook it.
  • Spice Rub. Buy a spice rub or make our delicious pulled pork rub. You can also simply use salt and pepper, than add sauces later.
  • Roasting Pan. I have a roasting pan with a rack in the bottom that works great.
  • Instant Read Thermometer. Our Thermoworks ThermaPen tests the internal temperatures of meats, breads and cakes INSTANTLY. This instant-read thermometer is AMAZING.  Get it here.

How to Cook a Boston Butt in the Oven

  • Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
  • Mix all of the spices together in a bowl.
  • Rub the spice mix on all sides of the pork butt.
  • Place the pork butt fat side up in a roasting pan with a rack.
  • Cook pork for 30 minutes at 450ºF. Then, without opening the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 250ºF. Bake for 7-8 hours or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 195-200ºF.
  • Take the pork out of the oven, cover it with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Then use meat forks to shred the meat.
uncooked pork shoulder with spice rub all over the outside

Will wrapping a Boston butt with foil make it cook faster?

It may speed up the process of cooking. Wrapping the pork will create a “steam effect”. But note that it will change the crust on the pork butt as well. If you’d like to wrap a pork roast, use a heavy aluminum foil and double wrap.

How long does it take to cook a Boston butt?

The 7 ½ pound pork butt I made for this article took 8 hours to get to temperature.

Cooking time may vary depending on the weight of your Boston butt and your oven temperature, so make sure to check the meat’s internal temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure it’s fully cooked.

oven baked crispy pork shoulder on a rack
Just look at that bark 😍

Recipe Variations

  • Smoker: I was thrilled when my oven baked pork butt came out looking so similar to how a smoked pork butt looks. But if you want to smoke pork, try out our pulled pork rub in the smoker. It’s amazing.
  • Slow cooker or Crock Pot: The low temperature of a slow cooker is a great place to get that fork-tender pork. Try our pork carnitas or a sweet pulled pork.
  • Instant Pot: If you don’t have all day to wait for pork shoulder to cook, the Instant Pot is the way to go. Try our IP pulled pork with bbq sauce.
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Make it a meal.

Now that you’ve learned how to cook a Boston butt, let’s make a meal. Pulled pork is excellent in tacos, casseroles, and soups, but when it first comes out of the oven, it’s amazing served with comfort food side dishes. Try one of these alongside shredded pork:

Reheating Instructions

There are 4 options for reheating shredded pork. Your method may depend on how much pork you have leftover and how you are serving it.

  1. Stovetop: Simply add the pork to a pan with a little bit of oil or broth and heat it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches your desired temperature. I like this method because the pork gets a little crisp, which is great for burritos.
  2. Oven: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place the shredded pork in an oven-safe dish and add a little bit of liquid, like chicken broth or barbecue sauce, to keep it from drying out. Cover the dish with foil and reheat it in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until it reaches your desired temperature.
  3. Slow Cooker: Place the shredded pork in the slow cooker with a little bit of liquid, like chicken broth or barbecue sauce, and cook it on low heat for about 1-2 hours, or until it reaches your desired temperature. I use the slow cooking method when I’m having company so the pork is ready when I need it.
  4. Microwave: This is by far the fastest method. Place the shredded pork in a microwave-safe dish and add a little bit of liquid, like chicken broth or barbecue sauce, to keep it from drying out. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid and reheat it in the microwave on medium power for about 2-3 minutes or until it reaches your desired temperature. Heating time will vary depending on the quantity and the microwave you are using.

How to Use Leftover Pulled Pork

The end results of this cooking method should be a tender, juicy and flavorful meat. You can serve it on sandwiches, on top of rice, in a burrito or taco, in stew or soup, salad or casseroles.

shredded pork on a cutting board
shredded pork on a cutting board

How to Cook a Boston Butt

4.50 from 2 votes
Learn how to cook a Boston Butt (or pork shoulder) in the oven for a flavorful, juicy pulled pork that can be served in countless ways.
Servings 20
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours

Ingredients
 

  • 7-8 pounds Boston Butt or pork shoulder

For the pulled pork rub:

  • 1/2 cup smoked paprika
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle chili pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
  • Mix all of the spices together in a bowl.
  • Rub the spice mix on all sides of the pork butt.
  • Place the pork butt fat side up in a roasting pan with a rack.
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 450ºF. Then, without opening the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 250ºF. Bake for 7-8 hours or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 195-200ºF.
  • Take the pork out of the oven, cover it with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Then use meat forks to shred the meat.
  • Save some of the juices from the pork to store the leftovers in. It helps keep the pork juicy.
  • Store any leftover pork in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • Freeze any leftovers for up to 6 weeks.

Notes

Refer to the article above for more tips and tricks.
The calories shown are based on the pork shoulder serving 20, with 1 serving being 1/20 of the pork. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information. The information in the nutrition box are calculated through a program and there is room for error. If you need an accurate count, I recommend running the ingredients through your favorite nutrition calculator.**

Nutrition

Calories: 251kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 1554mg | Potassium: 686mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1695IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 3mg
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 251
Keyword easy pork recipe, how to bake pork, pork shoulder

Frequently Asked Questions

How much pork butt per person?

Plan for ⅓ pound of pork butt per person. That’s before cooking.

Can you freeze pork butt?

Yes. You can freeze a pork butt before cooking and after cooking. Make sure it is well wrapped in an airtight container to prevent freezer burn.

Do I have to use a cooking rack?

Using a cooking rack in the bottom of a roaster pan will help that crust stay crispy. If you don’t use a rack, the outside won’t be as crisp.

Other Pork Recipes

Love pork as much as we do? Try one of these recipes:

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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