By taking the meat out of the smoker at the stall and finishing the pork butt in the oven, you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle. Let’s face it – smoking a pork butt in a smoker can take a long time – we’re talking half a day or even longer!
I consider myself a BBQ purist, but I have finished up a pork butt in my oven a number of times. There is no shame in the oven game! I use it when the weather turns sour, or my cook takes longer than expected, and guests are about to pound on my door. I’ve fine-tuned my technique, and I’m ready to fill you in.
I’m going to cover the advantages of finishing the butt in an oven and talk you through how to do it. Let’s get started!
Yes, you can!
Look. I’m a fanatical advocate for grilling and smoking things. But even I have to admit that there are times when an oven comes in handy.
First off, smoking meat is a long and slow process. When you have the time, that’s great. There’s no better way to spend a Saturday than to pull up a chair and enjoy a beverage while your meat cooks.
But if you’re behind schedule and need to feed guests in a timely manner, then a smoker alone won’t do. Popping the pork butt in the oven is the perfect solution.
I should also mention that you can only smoke meat outdoors. So, if the weather starts acting up, you can’t just cut your smoke short, can you? Nope. You just use the oven instead.
Yes, pork butt and shoulder are pretty similar to one another and can be finished in the oven in the same way.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to finish a pork butt in the oven:
Preheat the oven before you stick the butt in it.
I like to set the oven temperature to 225°F to keep the pork cooking low and slow. If you are in a rush and want the pork butt to cook faster, you can increase the heat to 300°F. Pork shoulder is a forgiving cut of meat and will still taste spectacular if you bump the temperature a bit.
Note – If you opt for the hotter temperature, make sure to keep a close watch on the internal meat temperature. The butt will cook much faster, and you need to make sure that you don’t overcook it. You’ll end up with dry, tough meat if you do.
Keep a leave-in thermometer inside the butt as it is smoking, and check the internal meat temperature of the butt. When the internal temperature reaches around 165°F, the stall has set in. If you want maximum smoke flavor, wait as long as you can before removing the pork from the grill, wrapping it, and putting it in the oven.
When you’re ready, take the pork butt out of the smoker and place it on a cutting board.
Personally, I like to use butcher paper to wrap the pork butt in. This is because butcher paper is more breathable than aluminum foil. This lets some of the moisture out while the meat is in the oven, preventing the bark from becoming too soft.
Aluminum foil will also help to cook the pork faster, but you will compromise the bark a bit – the steam from cooking will stay inside the foil, which softens the bark.
Some people like to spray in some apple juice, beer, or other liquid on the meat before wrapping and finishing. I find that this is unnecessary as it doesn’t have much of an impact. Pork shoulder is plenty juicy without spritzing or braising when cooked properly.
After wrapping the meat, make sure to keep the leave-in thermometer in the pork to get an accurate temperature reading.
Place the wrapped butt in a roasting pan or foil pan. This prevents any juices from leaking out and making a mess in your oven.
Then, place the pork in the oven and keep it there for a few hours until it is finished cooking.
Wait until the internal temperature reaches around 203°F.
If you’re an hour away from mealtime, leave the pork in the oven at 170°F.
If you’re two hours or more from eating, rest the wrapped butt in a faux Cambro (cooler).
After the meat has had time to rest, you can begin to shred it. Use two forks or some Bear Paws, which are a great investment if you shred meat frequently. They’ll keep your hands from burning.
Then, serve piled high on a bun topped with coleslaw and a dollop of barbecue sauce. Enjoy!
Well, the good news is that it will end up tasting pretty great. Seriously, like almost as good as pork that’s cooked on the smoker the whole time. When you finish pulled pork in the oven, you aren’t changing the taste or texture much.
The pork butt will be in the smoker for several hours. This gives the meat enough time to absorb that smokey flavor. This is also plenty of time for the connective tissue in the meat to break down and become nice and tender.
I wouldn’t say you need to do this every time you grill or smoke pork butt, but sometimes it is helpful.
Here are the circumstances when I’d say you should stick that meat in the oven:
Has your grill or smoker seen better days? Or, were you not sure that you were going to get much use of it and bought a cheap make and model? Or did you light a fire in the firebox, but the coals keep going out?
If your smoker is cheap or on the fritz, it’s quite possible that the temperature inside your cooking chamber is fluctuating. It is also probable that the dome thermometer isn’t giving you an accurate reading. Cheap grills come with cheap thermometers that produce wildly inaccurate readings. These conditions make for a tough cook.
Now, an inconsistent temperature can cause a few different problems. If the temperature is too high, then your meat will get cooked too quickly. Not only does this mean that there will not be enough time for the connective tissue to break down, but there is also a risk of the meat drying out.
If the temperature is too low, then your meat is going to take far longer to cook than you anticipated. If you are hosting a meal or cookout, this can throw off the timing of everything.
Even when barbecuing in the summer, there is no guarantee that the nice weather is going to last. There is always the risk of a sudden storm.
So, if you notice the wind is picking up or it is about to rain, don’t try to keep the smoker or grill going. You’re going to find it a lot harder to maintain a consistent cooking temperature, and there is no guarantee that your pulled pork will turn out tasty.
Indoor cooking to the rescue. Fire up your oven and use it instead.
Last but not least, use the oven to finish off the pork if you are short on time. We’ve all been there – you calculated the rate of cooking perfectly, but somehow, you have fallen behind schedule. It’s happened to me. Every piece of meat cooks differently, especially bigger cuts.
If your guests are about to arrive and you have nothing to feed them, get your pork shoulder in the oven. The temperature in your oven can go higher, you can set it and forget it, and you can cook the meat faster.
Leave the pork butt in the smoker until the meat reaches around 165°F to give it enough time to absorb the smokey flavor you’re working so hard for.
Also, cooking it low and slow on the grill to 165°F will make the pork shoulder nice and tender. Move the meat too soon, and your pulled pork just won’t taste as great. You’ll lose that rich, smokey flavor that only comes from a grill, and the connective tissues don’t become as tender when cooked at hotter temperatures.
At between 150°F and 165°F (usually around 165°F for me), the pork will reach something known as “the stall.” If you’re cooking at temperatures under 300°F, the stall will happen.
The stall is where the meat temperature stops rising for several hours. If your pork shoulder has been stuck at a temperature in this range for an hour, congratulations! You’ve hit the stall.
One way to overcome the stall is to wrap the meat in aluminum foil. This allows the internal temperature of the pork to climb without stopping.
Now, once you wrap the meat, it can’t absorb any more smoke. So, putting it into the oven at this point isn’t going to impact the final result too much.
And, in case you are wondering:
Should you cover pulled pork in the oven?
The answer is yes. When you wrap the meat, the heat trapped around the surface of the pork ensures that the meat starts cooking again. This way, you can power through the stall and have that pork shredded by dinner time.
If your oven is set to 225°F, and your 8-10 pound pork shoulder is at 165°F, figure it will take 2-3 hours. If your oven is at 300°F, that same pork shoulder might finish in a little over an hour.
These times are estimates only. Several factors, like the internal meat temperature when it goes into the oven, the oven temp, and the size of the cut of meat make providing a time estimate tricky.
Also, in barbeque, we don’t cook meat according to time. We cook to temperature and track the internal temp using a digital or instant-read thermometer.
Keep an eye on the internal temp. This will let you know when the pork should be taken out of the oven.
If I’m cooking pork butt, I pull it from the cooker or oven at 203°F. A probe or toothpick should slide into the meat with almost no resistance – like a hot knife through butter.
The next time you are running late with a cook or the weather isn’t cooperating, you now know what to do. Pop that pork in the oven to finish cooking it. No judgment here!
For best results, wait until your pork hits 165°F internal temperature, so you’re maximizing the amount of smoke it absorbs. Remember to wrap the shoulder in butcher’s paper or aluminum foil before sticking it in the oven.
Now, go ahead and give finishing a pork shoulder in the oven a try!