Knowing when to wrap a pork butt can be the difference between a perfect barbecue and a disastrous dinner.
- Slowly cooked pork butt will “stall” at about 150 F to 160 F due to evaporative cooling
- Wrapping the butt in foil or butcher paper when it hits the stall will help it cook faster and maintain moisture. This method is called the Texas crutch
- You don’t HAVE to wrap pork butt. If you’re patient you can wait for the stall to pass, but it can take as long as 4 to 6 hours for the temperature to start rising again
What Is Pork Butt?
Many people think that pork butt comes from a pig’s rear end. It makes sense right? I mean it literally has the word butt in its name.
But as confusing as it is, pork butt actually comes from the pig’s shoulder.
As the diagram below shows, the Boston Butt is a cut of meat that comes from the thicker part of a pig’s shoulder and is right above the picnic shoulder. both of these cuts can be used for making pulled pork, but I prefer the butt.
Fun Fact – The name “Boston butt” supposedly comes from colonial New England. The technique for cutting it originated in Boston and the meat was stored in specialty barrels called “butts”.
Why Wrap Pork Butt?
You’ve been in your backyard all morning and afternoon smoking a beautiful pork butt. The smell is wafting down the street and the whole neighborhood is involuntarily drooling. Your guests will arrive in a few hours and they’re all looking forward to trying your pulled pork.
But, you have a big problem.
You check the thermometer in your meat and it has stopped rising. You need to get that pork butt to about 200 F to 203 F, but it’s stuck at 160 F and just won’t budge.
You my friend have hit The Stall.
The stall happens whenever you’re slow cooking a big piece of meat like a pork shoulder or a brisket. The stall usually hits at around 150 F to 160 F and if you don’t wrap your pork butt it may be stuck in that temperature range for as long as 4 to 6 hours before the temp starts increasing again.
I’m not going to go too deeply into the science of the stall, but you can read more about it in this excellent article. The short story is that the stall occurs due to “evaporative cooling”.
In plain English, the meat is sweating. As it sweats the moisture evaporates and cools the meat at the same rate it is being heated, hence the stall.
Wrapping you pork butt (or ribs or brisket) in aluminum foil or butcher paper will help speed up the cooking process and push you past the stall faster than just letting it cook unwrapped. The foil traps in the moisture and it basically steams and braises the meat, allowing it to cook faster.
Related: Can you freeze pulled pork?
How To Wrap Pork Butt
- Take 2 wide sheets of aluminum foil at least 4 times as long as your pork butt
- Place one sheet on a clean surface and the second sheet on top so it overlaps the first piece by about half its width
- Carefully remove the pork butt from the smoker and place atop the foil
- Spritz the pork butt with some apple cider vinegar. You can also add a few pieces of butter and sprinkle with barbecue rub and brown sugar
- Tightly wrap it in the foil and be sure no air will escape
- Place the wrapped pork butt back on the smoker until it reaches a temp of 203 F
Fun Fact – Wrapping your meat in foil or butcher paper is known as the Texas crutch because the technique is believed to have originated in Texas.
When To Wrap A Pork Butt
Knowing when to wrap a pork button is important. Too soon and you won’t give your butt a chance to develop any of that delicious bark. Too late and you’re just wasting time and fuel.
So when is the best time to wrap pork butt?
According to chefs and barbecue competition teams, you should wrap pork butt in aluminum foil or butcher paper when the temperature stalls (typically around 150 F to 160 F) and the exterior has a nice dark color.
Wrapping pork butt will help keep it moist and cook faster. Butcher paper will give you a better bark, foil will give you a more moist texture.