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Whether you accidentally bought a boneless pork butt or boneless is all they had in stock, you may be wondering if there is any difference in bone in vs boneless. At least that’s what happened to me. I had always smoked bone in pork butts until my local store only had boneless.
I decided to give it a shot and see what would happen. I was honestly surprised, but the boneless pork butt turned out just as good as the bone in. It cooked essentially the same and there was no difference in taste. Since then, I haven’t shied away from boneless butts; however, I still prefer bone in pork butt.
In this article we will go over the differences between boneless and bone in pork butt and what you need to do differently to smoke a boneless pork butt.
Can You Use Boneless Pork Shoulder For Pulled Pork?
You can absolutely smoke a boneless pork butt. The bone inside the pork butt does not offer any benefit other than holding the pork butt together. If you find yourself with a boneless pork butt, you can expect it to cook and taste the same as a bone in pork butt.
Is Bone In Or Boneless Pork Butt Better For Smoking?
Touched on above, you will not see or taste any difference between bone in and boneless pork butt. There are small differences, but they are almost negligible. You can use either for smoking pork butt. I do prefer bone in over pork butt; however, grab whatever your store has available.
With that said, here are the few differences between the two.
Pros of Boneless Pork Butt
- To remove the bone from a pork butt you have to cut it open. This gives you more surface area for you to apply rub onto the meat.
- With boneless pork butt, it is easier to cut it up into smaller chunks allowing you to smoke them faster.
Cons of Boneless Pork Butt
- Without the bone, the pork butt has no rigidity and falls apart. This can cause it to cook unevenly. Typically, when using a boneless pork butt you want to tie it together using butcher twine (amazon link). This will help it hold together and promote that even cooking.
- Costs slightly more per pound than bone in pork butts, but then again you aren’t paying for the bone.
Pros Of Bone In Pork Butt
- Bone in pork butts are usually easier to find in stores and are cheaper per pound.
- It is very satisfying to pull the bone out when you’re done cooking. Plus the bone acts as a built in doneness timer. Once the bone gives away from the meat with ease, your pork butt is done.
- The bone holds the meat together allowing the pork butt to cook evenly.
Cons of Bone In Pork Butt
Here is a great video showing the differences between the two.
Does The Bone Give The Pork More Flavor?
This is a common argument I see being thrown around and it just isn’t true. The bone of the meat doesn’t impart any flavor into the meat. It does cause the meat around the bone to cook faster which in a smaller piece of meat such as a steak could cause a difference in taste, but the bone isn’t going to give the meat flavor.
In addition to that, even if the meat around the bone had more flavor, a pork butt is such a large piece of meat that over 90% of the meat wouldn’t be affected by that flavor.
Which Cooks Faster Bone In Or Boneless Pork Butt?
There is a common thought that bone in cooks faster because the bone radiates heat into the center of the meat. And while this may be true for smaller cuts of meat like steak cooked hot and fast over direct heat, it is not going to affect a large cut of meat like pork butt that is cooked low and slow over indirect heat.
A Bone in and a boneless pork butt will take the same amount of time to cook per pound; however, boneless pork butts are able to be cut into smaller sizes which would allow you to smoke them much faster.
Boneless Pork Butt Cooking Time.
Boneless pork butt is going to cook at the same rate that a bone in pork butt does. When smoking a boneless pork butt you can estimate 1 ½ hours of cook time per pound of pork when smoking at 225° Fahrenheit.
Remember though, this is just a guideline. When smoking pork butt, it is always best to check for doneness by internal temperature and not time. For pulled pork, your pork butt needs to reach an internal temperature of 205° Fahrenheit.
Some pork butts might take longer to reach that temperature. Additionally, pork butts will reach that temperature faster when smoking at 250° F or 275° F. I would highly encourage you to pick up a BBQ meat thermometer to monitor your meat’s temperature.
I personally use this Chugod BBQ thermometer on amazon. It’s one of the most affordable thermometers on the market and has the option for up to 6 temperature probes.
What Does Everyone Else Say?
As with anything in smoking meat, it all comes down to personal preference. Whether you choose to smoke a bone-in or boneless pork butt, you are going to produce great BBQ. With that said, I decided to run a poll to see what people in the meat smoking community prefer.
As you can see from the graph below, an overwhelming majority of people prefer the traditional bone in approach. Either way you can’t go wrong. I recommend trying both and seeing what you like better. Or if you are like me, simply grab whatever is available!
Should You Remove The Bone From Pork Butt Before Smoking?
If I haven’t made it clear yet, you aren’t going to see any difference in quality or flavor when smoking a boneless pork butt vs a bone in pork butt. With that said, if you already have a bone in pork butt, there is no need to remove the bone.
It is going to be more work to remove it before cooking than after. Once your pork butt reaches and internal temperature of 205° Fahrenheit, that bone will slide out with ease. Why spend time cutting it out for no benefit when it will come right out after cooking.
Plus, I swear, pulling the bone out a perfectly tender pork butt is one of the most satisfying things you can do.
Unless you want to cut your pork butt up into smaller chunks to reduce cook time or get more surface area for bark to form, there is no need to remove the bone before smoking pork butt.