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Barbecue pork butt is the marathon of the cooking categories taking up to 16 hours of slow smoking effort. In competition our team has done consistently well on this entry starting out with two butts. We use at least 8 to 10 pound IBP or Excel pork butts with bone in, packed in cryovac for freshness. For a rub we use Prime Cuts “Memphis Shoulder Rub.” It is heavy on the black pepper and my cooking partner used it before we started the team. Other rubs will work fine. For a sauce we use a tomato based recipe that has been used as a whole hog sauce for many, many years at my wife’s family reunion pig pickings. It is about the same as the sweet and mild, slightly tart tomato based sauces found around the Lexington, NC area. The rub and seasoning are a perfect complement to each other with the spiciness in the rub and the sweetness in the sauce. Prime Cuts “Chicken, Pork & Rib Barbecue Seasoning” also works well with KC Masterpiece sauce.


Season the meat heavily with the rub; you might think you are overdoing it. Start the cooker with as much charcoal as you can get in there (this still won’t be enough). Use 4 cherry chunks and 1 oak chunk. Put the cooker together and start off at about 175F to 200F for the first 3 to 4 hours, then gradually raise the cooker temperature over the next 2 hours until it reaches about 210F to 215F.


When the charcoal is about gone the cooker will need more. Have about 2 to 3 starter chimneys of charcoal ready. Burn them off to clean embers in a grill. Remove the cooker assembly from the stand and dump the ashes because they will choke the air flow. Pour in the new load of seasoned charcoal. Add water to the pan. Let the ashes settle for a minute and re-assemble the cooker. Cook the duration at about 215F to 220F until the internal temperature reaches 185F. This usually takes about 14 total hours but can go as long as 16 hours.


Remove the butts from the cooker and pull out the bone by hand. It should come right out with practically no effort. Brush on some sauce to soften the bark. The meat should be very tender and pull right apart, hence the name “pulled pork.” If it needs to be minced or sliced then it has not cooked long enough and it does not pass the tenderness test -- better luck at your next contest. Don’t let the meat give off a lot of steam because it can dry out quickly and get tough.