Aaron Franklin Inspired Smoked Pork Butt Recipe

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Howdy, BBQ fan. You’ve searched how to smoke a pork butt and possibly added Aaron Franklin’s name to the search. That tells me you know something about barbecue and you want to step up your pulled pork game. Well, welcome to the club. I idolize Aaron Franklin and typically compare all my bbq grub to…

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Aaron Franklin Inspired Smoked Pork Butt
Aaron Franklin Inspired Smoked Pork Butt Recipe
Notice the split fat cap. Time to wrap.

Howdy, BBQ fan. You’ve searched how to smoke a pork butt and possibly added Aaron Franklin’s name to the search. That tells me you know something about barbecue and you want to step up your pulled pork game. Well, welcome to the club. I idolize Aaron Franklin and typically compare all my bbq grub to his, especially brisket.

Smoking a pork butt is probably the easiest cut of meat to smoke. It’s very forgiving due to the sheer size of the cut and the amount of fat it contains. It’s hard to ruin a pork butt. The only time failure can happen is due to not being thoroughly cooked and you try to ‘pull’ the pork apart while some of the meat isn’t pulling away or some of the fat hasn’t rendered down properly. It’s hard to overcook a pork butt but it is possible.

So I always felt my go-to pork butt recipe was good, but recently I took the Aaron Franklin Masterclass and I learned a couple of different tricks from his method. This recipe isn’t verbatim Aaron Franklin, but it is heavily influenced by his method on Masterclass. I did this recipe on my Yoder YS640s, while Aaron did his on his new Franklin Offset Smoker. Pellet smokers will never give you the same smoke flavor as an offset, but they do this recipe justice while keeping making our lives easier.

Who is Aaron Franklin?


Well, I assumed you knew who he was if you clicked on my recipe. Aaron is an Austin, Texas-based BBQ Master. He started with a humble beginning. His parents ran a small BBQ joint in Texas and that gave him early exposure to BBQ. His passion for the Q started at a young age. When he became a young adult, he purchased his first cheap offset smoker and started working on his cooking abilities. It didn’t happen immediately but after a couple years, word of mouth started to take effect and people started showing up for his BBQ. Fast forward years later, and now Aaron is an internationally known BBQ master.

If you want to grab some BBQ from his restaurant in Austin, you better plan ahead. The lineups usually start early in the morning (sometimes as early as 3-4 am) and that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get any food. They will walk the lineup taking orders before lunch and by the time they get to you, they might be sold out. So plan ahead. If you don’t get in, try TJ Blacks BBQ, they are amazing and the lineups aren’t nearly as bad.

Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder for Pulled Pork

I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer a Bone-In Pork Butt over a Pork Shoulder. Yes, they essentially are the same thing (both coming from the shoulder), but they defer in the region of the shoulder area. The Pork Butt (no it doesn’t come from the rear of the hog), registers at the top of the shoulder, while the pork shoulder is located below. The picture below illustrates where these cuts are located on the hog.

Pork Butt vs Pork Shoulder

I used a bone-in pork butt, also known as a Boston butt, and I suggest you do the same. You’ll have a better chance getting the same results as me. Aaron Franklin led with a bone-in pork butt as well, so yeah.

Can You Make Smoked Pork Shoulder?

You can absolutely smoke pork shoulder, also known as a picnic roast. However, due to the differences detailed in the link above, you won’t get the same quality of smoked pulled pork as you would with a Boston butt. The pork shoulder is lean and tough, so it has less marbling that renders out to result in tender pulled pork full of juices.

Key Takeaways From Aaron Franklins Method

Pulled pork from smoked pork butt
Smoked pork butt pulled apart

What I like about Aaron Franklin’s BBQ style is he typically keeps things simple. He’s not big on using complex rubs or ingredients like cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder or some spice rub with loads of chili powder. He likes to let the natural flavors come through and do things to help this happen. I’ve never seen a rub of his include more than Salt, Pepper, and Paprika. I agree with this method. A real cook can cook an amazing dish with just salt, pepper, butter (fat,) and heat. Aaron lives by this. Below I’ve summed up the key items that Aaron takes with his smoked pork butt.

Simple Ingredients

Bone-In Pork Butt with minimal trimming. Kosher Salt, Coarse Black Pepper Rub 50/50 ratio. Throw in some Paprika for color.

Temperatures

I’ve come to learn that Aaron smokes at higher temps than I’m used to. He does everything around 265-280F typically. I’m typically in the 225-255F region. I’m starting to play with higher temps lately. Now he might be doing the higher temps for efficiency over flavor because he’s typically cooking in very large volumes. Nonetheless, I’m happy with the results with his method.

Smoke Fat Side Up

Aaron smokes his pork butt fat side up. I always do as well.

Spritzing

Aaron likes to spritz and I typically spritz my pork butts, ribs and beef briskets. Nothing really new here. 50/50 ratio of apple cider vinegar and water in my spray bottle.

Visual Indicators

Aaron likes to point out that when the fat cap of the pork butt splits, you’re pretty much ready to wrap the pork butt in foil. Mine seems to split an hour or two before the 8-hour mark. If, your pork butt hasn’t split the fat cap after 8 hours, I would increase your temps and wrap in foil as it seems your are cooking the pork butt at a slower pace.

Aaron Franklin Inspired Smoked Pork Butt Recipe


Wrapping

Yes, Aaron wraps (foil) his pork butt. I typically never wrapped my pork butts, but I gave this a try. It does speed up the cook and I believe it helps render more of the fat inside the butt  while trapping the moisture inside the wrap. I’m definitely wrapping all pork butts now that I’ve tried his method. You can wrap it in butcher paper just like any other cut of meat and this can help the bark stay crisper, but wrapping in aluminum foil is just fine.

Wrapped Pork Butt


Resting

Nothing really out of the ordinary here. Aaron recommends resting in the foil that you wrapped the butt in for one hour. I went for about 1.5 hours and I was happy with the result. I always rest large cuts of meat anyways.

Smoking Pork Butt Overview

Here is a rundown of the top questions I get about smoking pork butt.

What’s The Best Wood For Smoking Pork Butt?

Since this is based on Aaron Franklin’s recipe, stick with oak wood (specifically post oak if you can get it.) If you’re looking for a full take on what works with pork, check out our guide to smoking with wood. You could even experiment with some fruit wood like pecan.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke a Pork Butt?

Plan for 10 hours of total cooking time for your pork butt. 8 hours at 265F unwrapped and then 2 hours wrapped in foil at 280-300F. This seems to always work out for me. As we all know, time isn’t the deciding factor when your BBQ is done, temperature is.

What Internal Temperature Is Pork Butt Done?

Once you are around the 10-hour cook time, you should be approaching my recommended doneness, an internal temp of 203-205F.

Temp Probe checking pork butt

If you haven’t already, go get yourself an instant read probe thermometer and stop over or undercooking your BBQ.


How To Know When Smoked Pork Butt Is Done

I like to use my Thermapen One and poke into the meat to see how easily it pokes through. You should feel practically no resistance and the temp should be around that 203F mark, give or take a couple of degrees. It should be tender enough to shred by hand, but you could always use a pair of meat claws for some extra fun.


Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Coleslaw

I like to keep the pulled pork sandwiches simple. Go and buy some nice Brioche-style buns, make my homemade bbq sauce recipe (tangy zip to it, Texas style), throw on some coleslaw or maybe some jalapenos and you’ve got an awesome sandwich. Don’t forget to try all different kinds of sandwich toppings to determine your favorite style of pulled pork.

What’s A Good Side Dish For Pulled Pork?

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but mac and cheese is one of the best sides for pulled pork (and honestly and barbecue.) So why not amp it up a little and make smoked mac and cheese?

What to do with Pulled Pork leftovers

You’ll most likely have some pulled pork leftovers after this recipe. You have a lot of options. You can try out our favorite leftover pulled pork recipes, or vacuum seal it and reheat it for a later use.

Wrapping It Up

I promise if you follow the recipe below you’ll be very happy with the results. Try it out and leave us your comments on your results below. Good luck.

Aaron Franklin Inspired Smoked Pork Butt Recipe
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5 from 1 vote

Aaron Franklin Inspired Smoked Pork Butt

I take the key items I've learned from Aaron Franklin's smoked pork butt method and adapt it for the everyday BBQ fan on a pellet grill smoker like a Traeger.
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time10 hours
Resting Time1 hour
Total Time12 hours
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, BBQ
Keyword: aaron franklin, Left over Pulled Pork, pellet smoker pork butt, pulled pork sandwiches, smoked pork butt
Servings: 16
Calories: 388kcal
Author: Michael Haas

Equipment

  • 1 smoker
  • 1 Aluminum Foil
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • 1 Rub Shaker
  • 1 Water Pan

Ingredients

  • 10 lbs Pork Butt
  • 10 tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 10 tbsp Coarse Black Pepper
  • 6 tbsp Paprika
  • 4 tbsp Yellow Mustard
  • 1/2 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Water

Instructions

  • Purchase a bone-in pork butt. I usually purchase a 10lb. pork butt. Thawed/chilled, not frozen.
    Pork Butt aka Boston Butt
  • Lightly trim the pork butt. You don't have to remove much of the fat as pork butts are very forgiving. If there are any large chunks of fat hanging, remove them.
  • Make your rub. Combine the salt, pepper, and paprika in a seasoning shaker. Shake well to evenly mix the ingredients.
  • Apply some yellow mustard to the underside and side of the pork butt and rub evenly.
  • Liberally apply the rub. We can go quite heavy on the pork butt. This is a large cut of meat and we want this rub to help form a bark. Try to keep it really even.
  • Flip the pork butt over (fat cap up) and apply more mustard, and rub in.
  • Apply the rub to the fat cap side at the same rate as the other side.
  • I like to let the rub set in for an hour, or you can refrigerate overnight. Plan to preheat the smoker to 265F 30-45 minutes before the cook begins.
  • Once the smoker is preheated, add a pan of water to the hot side of the smoker. This keeps the humidity up in the cooking chamber and aids in even cooking and better smoke adhesion.
  • When the smoker is at 265F, you can now put the pork butt in the smoker.
  • After three hours take a look at the pork butt and see how it is cooking. Now you can start spritzing the pork butt to wet the dry areas and allow it to cook evenly. I like to spritz every hour until we wrap.
  • After about 8 hours, the fat cap should be split and you are ready to wrap in aluminum foil. Picture shows the split fat cap.
    Aaron Franklin Inspired Smoked Pork Butt Recipe
  • Cut off two long pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil about 4 x the length of the pork butt. Overlap the pieces by about 50%. Put the pork butt on the foil and spritz. Try to wrap the foil as tight as possible to the pork butt.
  • Put the wrapped pork butt fat cap side up back in the smoker and increase the heat to 290F.
  • After two more hours, get your Thermapen probe and poke through the foil and probe into the pork butt, You want to feel virtually no resistance. Poke to the outer edges and you will see how little resistance there is, now poke into the middle, they should feel similar. The middle is always the last area to finish cooking. The internal temperature of the meat should be around 203-205F. If there is slight resistance, keep cooking and check back in 20 minutes. You do not want to feel any resistance.
    Temp Probe checking pork butt
  • Once your pork butt is done (no resistance on the temp probe and temping around 203F), take it off the smoker and let is rest for 1-2 hours on a safe surface. Do not remove from foil.
  • After it has rested and you're ready to eat. Remove the foil and then pull out the bone. It should come out easily and completely free of any meat. This is a sign of a perfectly cooked pork butt.
    clean bone removed from pork butt
  • Use some tongs or your hands and pull the pork butt apart, mixing it all together with the fat and meat. Remove any extra large chunks of fat.
    Pulled pork from smoked pork butt
  • Immediately build your pulled pork sandwiches. We just build our sandwiches with pulled pork, bbq sauce, and jalapenos on a brioche bun. Delicious.
    Pulled Pork Sandwich with coleslaw

Nutrition

Calories: 388kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 54g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 170mg | Sodium: 4587mg | Potassium: 1030mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.3g | Vitamin A: 132IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 4mg

Michael Haas

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6 Comments

6 thoughts on “Aaron Franklin Inspired Smoked Pork Butt Recipe”

  1. Hi guys. Name is Steve, love to try both the pulled pork n brisket recipes if you wish to share? I have a Big Green Egg setup I custom made. Sure like to try new n improved recipes, especially those that taste better with simple rubs .I’m more of simple guy, salt pepper lil bit of brown sugar n dash of cinnamon

    Reply
  2. If I am using this recipe to smoke a 5 lb pork shoulder, how would I tell when to wrap it? I’m assuming it’s not going to take as long and does not have the large fat cap that a pork butt would, so not sure how to tell if there is no fat cap to split.

    Reply
    • Hi Stephanie,
      I would wrap it once it hits 170F. That should work. I would smoke at a lower temp as well since you are doing such a small pork butt.
      Cheers,
      Michael

      Reply

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6 thoughts on “Aaron Franklin Inspired Smoked Pork Butt Recipe”

  1. Hi guys. Name is Steve, love to try both the pulled pork n brisket recipes if you wish to share? I have a Big Green Egg setup I custom made. Sure like to try new n improved recipes, especially those that taste better with simple rubs .I’m more of simple guy, salt pepper lil bit of brown sugar n dash of cinnamon

    Reply
  2. If I am using this recipe to smoke a 5 lb pork shoulder, how would I tell when to wrap it? I’m assuming it’s not going to take as long and does not have the large fat cap that a pork butt would, so not sure how to tell if there is no fat cap to split.

    Reply
    • Hi Stephanie,
      I would wrap it once it hits 170F. That should work. I would smoke at a lower temp as well since you are doing such a small pork butt.
      Cheers,
      Michael

      Reply

Leave a Comment

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