How To Tell When Your Pork Butt Is Done (With & Without a thermometer)

pork butt bark

Pork butts are probably my favorite meat to smoke! There are not many more satisfying things in the world than shredding a perfectly tender and moist pork butt. I think the meat smoking community can agree with me on this as well.

So how can you tell when your pork butt is done? How do you get that perfectly tender fall of the bone pulled pork? Well, I tell you exactly how!

What Temperature Is Pork Butt Done?

Pork Butt is done once it reaches an internal temperature of 200-205° Fahrenheit. These higher internal temperatures are required for the fat in your pork butt to completely render down making your pork butt very tender. At 205°, your pork butt will pull apart with ease.

Why Does It Take So Long To Smoke A Pork Butt?

As you probably already know, the USDA states that pork is done and safe to eat at an internal temperature of 145° Fahrenheit. So why do we cook our pork butt to 205° F, and why does it take so long?

Pork butt is a very fatty piece of meat that contains a lot of collagen and connective tissues. A while your pork butt is safe to eat at 145° F, these higher temperatures are needed for the fat, collagen, and connective tissues to break down.

pulled pork

This breaking down of the fat and collagen is what gives pork butt its flavor and tenderness. If not given enough time for this process to happen, you will end up with a tough pulled pork.

How Do You Know When A Pork Shoulder Is Done Without A Thermometer?

So, what if you don’t have an instant read thermometer? Don’t worry below are a few easy ways to you can tell your pork butt is done without a thermometer.

Give That Bone A Wiggle:

Remember what I said at the beginning of this article? There are not many things more satisfying than pulling the bone out of an incredibly tender pork butt.  When pork butt is at that perfect tenderness, that bone should slide right on out with no resistance. It’s like a built-in thermometer!

Towards the end of your smoke, periodically give that bone a wiggle. If that bone wiggles with ease and pulls away from the surrounding pork, you have reached that perfect tenderness and can pull your butt off the smoker to rest.

If you pull on that bone and there is still a little resistance and it doesn’t want to come out with ease, then your pork butt needs more time.

butcher paper pork

Probe It:

Another great way to check for the doneness of your pork butt without a thermometer is to probe it. When pork butt has reached that perfect tenderness, it is going to pull apart with ease.

Simply stick a fork, toothpick, butter knife, or whatever you have on hand into the pork butt and move it side to side. If it goes in and gives you little to no resistance, your pork butt is done. The resistance you should feel is the same resistance if you were to stick a hot knife into butter.

Check a couple parts of the butt and use this in conjunction with the bone method above to make sure you get that tenderness you desire. Once you probe your pork butt, you should be able to pretty easily tell if it will shred or not.

Does Pork Shoulder Get More Tender The Longer You Cook It.

The longer you smoke pork shoulder the more tender it becomes. This longer cook time allows the fat and connective tissues to completely render down making a perfectly tender piece of pork. While pork shoulder will pull apart at 190°-195°, smoking your pork butt to an internal temperature of 205° will result in a more tender pork shoulder.

Can You Overcook Pork Butt?

smoked pork butt

Yes, it is possible to overcook a pork butt; however, because pork butt is a very fatty piece of meat, it is also a very hard meat to overcook. Pork butt is done between 200° and 205° Fahrenheit, but it doesn’t start to dry out until an internal temperature of 210°-215°.

In fact, this past weekend, I wasn’t paying attention and pulled my pork butt off at 211°. It was a little drier than normal but still incredibly good! So as long as you are paying attention and checking it periodically, you don’t have to worry about overcooking your pork butt.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Pork Butt?

Pork Butt with honey

Each pork butt is going to cook differently, but on average, when smoking at 225° Fahrenheit, you can expect your pork butt to take 1.5 hours to cook per pound of meat. When smoking at 275° Fahrenheit, the cook time is reduced to about an hour per pound of meat.

This can be helpful in estimating when your pork butt might be finished smoking. Use the chart below to help you! Also don’t forget to rest your pork butt!

Pork Butt Weight225º F250º F275º F
6 lbs.9 hrs7.5 hrs6 hrs
7 lbs.10.5 hrs8.75 hrs7 hrs
8 lbs.12 hrs10 hrs8 hrs
9 lbs.13.5 hrs11.25 hrs9 hrs
10 lbs.15 hrs12.5 hrs10 hrs
11 lbs.16.5 hrs13.75 hrs11 hrs
12 lbs.18 hrs15 hrs12 hrs

Final Thoughts

Getting that perfectly tender pulled pork is just a mater of being patient and letting it cook to that final internal temperature of 205° Fahrenheit. And while you can use the two tips above to check for doneness, I highly recommend picking up a Bluetooth thermometer.

chugod bluetooth thermometer

Not only will it allow you to monitor your smoker and meat temperatures from your phone, but you can set alarms to alert you once you hit a certain temperature. There are plenty of affordable options available and they are a tool I wouldn’t want to smoke meat without!

I use the Chugod thermometer pictured above. You can find it on amazon for $29.00 (price at time of writing this article). For more information, be sure to read my review of the Chugod Bluetooth thermometer!

Michael W.

Half of my family lives in Texas and we would visit them often. As a food lover, naturally I fell in love with smoked meat. Smoked brisket and peach cobbler is a staple around where my family grew up and quickly became a favorite of mine. Unfortunately we didn't have good BBQ where I grew up. After enough years, I finally decided to get a smoker so I didn't have to wait for good BBQ until I went to Texas. Getting into a new hobby can be overwhelming. When I first started smoking meat, there was so much conflicting information and so many different styles and techniques that I didn't know where to start. I started this website to help people BBQ better and learn the ropes by sharing my knowledge and experiences.

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