Boston Butt Perfected

I noticed it’s been some time (almost six years, yikes!) since I last posted about what is possibly my favorite smoked meat, certainly my most successful – Boston butt. The thing I noticed was how much my style has changed in that time, so I wanted to share with you, fellow smoker, how I do it.

I got most of my ideas by watching Aaron Franklin on YouTube, specifically his take on smoking Boston butts. Turns out he does them like brisket, and I have taken to doing that as well. Here is how I do it:

  1. Fire in the hole
  2. Rub
  3. Smoke
  4. Wrap
  5. Cook
  6. Rest
  7. Pull
  8. Enjoy


Fire in the Hole

My first step is to get the smoker going. I start with a simple charcoal fire, the only purpose of which is to get the firebox hot enough to get the wood going. Please know, I am not cooking with charcoal, it’s just to kick things off. I think of it like the plutonium fission part of an H bomb.


Gone is the brining step; instead I go with a rub only. Once I light the firebox, I rub the butt.

Aaron uses just salt and pepper, and I have tried that, but my favorite mix is kosher salt, ground black pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, and a little paprika.

This is rubbed generously all over the butt, and then it’s left to rest while the smoker comes up to temperature.


Once the charcoal is white hot, I add wood. I start with oak, since I have the most of that, and close the fire box and smoke box, and let the smoke box come up to temperature, usually 275 F to 300 F. Once it is up to temperature, I add the flavor wood, which can be hickory or maple or mesquite or apple, depending on what I’m cooking. For pork, I use hickory and maple. Today, it’s hickory.

Once the smoke box is up to temperature, I place the meat.  Where it goes is not a random choice: the main, large meats like pork or brisket go in the center, while the secondary meats, chicken and brats in this case, go further out.

I have also changed a bit on where the fat goes. For a long time I placed it fat down, because I was only going to about 180 internal temp. But now I go with fat up, and since I am going to 200, that fat tends to melt down into the meat a lot better/

Now, I’ll be honest, with the new rig, I don’t have as good a feel for where the meat should go, so I place them where I have found them best in the past – sausages and high smoke meats up front, and lower smoke food like chicken and vegetables toward the back.

I then keep adding wood to keep the temp between 250 and 300. Again, I am getting a feel for the new rig, and this part is taking some getting used to.

Once the secondary meats are done – and I know this from experience – I can take them off. I generally do sausage for an hour at higher smoke, and chicken for 90 minutes in the back at lower smoke. Since I do a much better job brining the chicken now, I have found that I really don’t overcook chicken any more.



My basic Boston butt schedule is to cook it uncovered for 4 hours or so, up to 160 internal temp, and then spritz it with apple juice and wrap in foil. At that point, I can switch back to the oak, or any plentiful heating wood, and save the flavor woods for later.


Now, I will be honest, since the hurricane, and the subsequent cutting of the hickory tree and maple tree, I really don’t need to worry too much about flavor woods. But I really don’t want to get complacent or cocky about my wood supply, either. Good habits will help in the long run.


I then cook the butt to 200 internal temperature, making sure to check the fire box frequently and keep the smoke box at the 250 to 300 range. I have a nice wireless temperature transmitter, and I set the alarm for 200.


Once it’s done, I let it rest, wrapped, for 30 minutes to an hour, maybe longer, depending on what I have to do. This is a good time to get the sides made, like potato salad and coleslaw, today’s choices.


The best thing about cooking to 200 is that the pork will just about fall apart at this point. I pull it with tongs or gloved hands, depending on how hot it is.



At this point we eat. And no, I don’t use sauce. I don’t need to.



The next day, I make sure to clean out the rig – I empty the fire box, and change out the foil water pan, which keeps the humidity high. That way, the rig is ready to go the next time, and I don’t have to do anything but start at step 1.


So that’s the latest on how I do Boston butt. I welcome your comments and suggestions!

Categories: Chicken, Pork, Sausage, Smoker | Leave a comment

On Second Thought – a New Rig


As I reported last month, I had some damage to the old smoker, and I had done some work on it. But, given that the insurance company paid me for it, and a local store had a Father’s Day sale, I decided to replace it with a new CharGriller Outlaw.

Basically this is the old CharGriller Pro, upgraded with better decking, better handles, better legs, better wheels, and a real thermometer.


Now comes some seasoning, and I will get it broken in. More to follow.

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Bad News and Good News on the Barbecue Front

On October 11 of last year, Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida, and moved north. It did a lot of damage in the Panama City area, and by the time it reached us in Kennesaw, it still had a lot of punch.


At about 2 in the morning on October 11, and wind sheer made one of the oak trees in my back yard fall on my house It was not nice.


The good news was that my deck was saved from utter destruction by my smoker.

The bad news, though, was my smoker was smashed in half.



Here’s the real view.


Now, the insurance company paid me for it, but I decided to spend 20 minutes with a hammer, and see what I could do.


And the good news is I was able to make it seal well enough to cook with it.


Yeah, the legs are bent, but that’s one way to tell the trees to bug off.

On the tree side, we spent a lot of time and money cleaning the tree up. Remember, this was an oak, and I made a lot of good barbecue from it. So I got the wood company to save me a bunch.


In the course of the cleanup, we decided to be proactive on cleaning up the yard. So I ended up with enough hickory and maple to serve me for the rest of my life, and the Dauphin for the rest of his.


So now comes the fun part, cooking. More to come. Really.

Categories: Wood | Leave a comment

The Perfect Margarita

While a student at Georgia Tech back in . . . the day, my fraternity, Sigma Omega Beta, perfected an easy margarita mix. Here it is.

  • 1 can frozen limeade
  • 1-1/2 cans tequila
  • 1/2 can triple sec
  • 1 to 2 cans water or ice, to taste*
  • 2 whole limes, washed and halved

Add the frozen limeade to a pitcher, and add the tequila, triple sec, and water, and mix well. Squeeze in the juice from the limes, and drop them in the pitcher.

Serve over ice in a salted glass.

My comments on this is that you don’t have to use top shelf tequila, but do buy a good limeade mix. Having said that, I find that Wal-Mart’s brand has a great flavor, although it’s a little more concentrated than others, so the original can is smaller, so you need to adjust the tequila and triple sec. But you can also adjust all this to suit your taste.


* If you want frozen margaritas, add only 1 can of water, then pour it into a blender full of ice and mix until slushy.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No, I’m Still Here

Wow, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted.

Okay, so today it’s a Boston butt rubbed with a mix of salt, pepper, brown sugar, garlic salt, chili powder, and a bit of paprika.

Of course, brats on for the first 50 minutes.

Today I used some really big wood chunks and it seems to work better than the smaller pieces. I guess I learn something all the time.


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The Barbecue Deck – Part 2

As you may remember, I built a deck back in the Fall of 2014, to support my barbecue efforts. It wasn’t anything extraordinairy, but I thought it was rather nice.

I built it from pressure treated wood, so according to all I read, I needed to give it at least a year for the wood to be ready to finish. Then, it would be a matter of cleaning and painting.

So in the Fall of 2015 I bought a pressure washer, and got ready to do the work. But about that time, I started having some sinus infections, and I didn’t feel like doing anything on the deck.

Come Spring of 2016, though, we found out that the sinus thing was symptom of a bigger problem, which we now call The Late Unpleasantness. You can read about that on my other blog, Plumb Mad Dog Mean.

In any case, I’m now in remission from the Acute Myeloid Leukemia, and doing much better, so I finally got around to finishing what I started.

First I pressure washed it

then painted. I think it turned out nice.

Now to enjoy it!

Categories: Deck | Leave a comment

Where Have I Been?

I know it’s been long time since I’ve posted here. Believe me it’s not because I’ve lost my taste for good barbecue. Rather, other things have seemed to take over my life.

Rather than go into all of that, it’s probably best that I just change, and get back to sharing with you all the joys of my meat world.

So here goes.

Look for these coming up in the near future:

The Deck


Holiday treats

Tweaks and experimentation


Thanks all!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to Boil Ribs

From the Old Skool Smokers page on the Book of Faces: someone posted a facetious question of how long to boil your ribs. One post wins the interwebs:

I always start with a very large soup pan, fill with water, boil the shit out of it until the water is all gone.  Then you can take your meat out of the fridge and go stick it on the grill.  By no means do I ever even think about letting the meat touch the boiling water as it will take a lot longer for the water to fully boil away, and I am not a very patient of a man.

Props to Dustin Fiegel of Cedar Springs, Michigan.

Categories: Relief, Ribs | Leave a comment

Introducing the Roughrider

In the 2014 film Chef, star Jon Favreau builds a food truck business based on selling awesome Cuban sandwiches. In the film, he and his team are driving the new food truck across country, and stop in Austin. Naturally they go to Franklin’s BBQ, and sample the brisket.

They then make a Cuban sandwich using brisket in place of the pork, and name the sandwich The Austin Midnight. This name comes from the medianoche sandwich, so named because it’s traditionally made at midnight; it also uses a milder egg bread instead of the hearty Cuban bread.

Recently, we were making cubanos for dinner, and I decided to use barbecue pulled pork in place of the Cuban pork. The pulled pork was tossed in a little light sauce and heated, along with the ham, prior to adding. The rest of the sandwich was the normal cubano with pickle, mustard, and Swiss cheese, grilled.

The result was an awesome, all American version that I have decided to name The Roughrider, in honor of Teddy Roosevelt and his troop, who showed their stuff to the Cubans in the Spanish American war.

Feel free to pass the word.

Categories: Pork, Sandwiches | Leave a comment

Pork Ribs

Over the past couple of years I’ve gotten used to the Smoke Wagon, and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my experience making different types of barbecue.

First up is pork ribs!

Cuts of Ribs

First, let’s talk about terminology. You will hear about three kinds of ribs: baby back ribs, spareribs, and St. Louis style. Let’s take a look at them:

The baby backs come, as the name implies, from near the backbone. They generally have more meat than the other cuts, and are, correspondingly most expensive per pound. They’re smaller, too. Compare them: spareribs on top and baby backs on bottom.

As it turns out, spareribs and St. Louis cut come from the same cut, with the difference being that St. Louis cut has the flap and sternum removed. 

Which one I buy depends on cost – some stores near me will price them the same, and if that’s the case I go for the St. Louis cut, because that’s my favorite cut. Even if I buy the whole spareribs, I trim off the flap end and the sternum any way. Yes, when I do that I cook those parts any way, but I’m not so needing of them that I won’t let someone else trim them for free.


So now we’ve picked our cut. Next, if I bought spares I trim off the flap and the sternum, but this isn’t a must.

The next choice is rub. Here, it’s totally up to you and your taste. Here’s what I do.

At a minimum I use salt and pepper. There are those who insist on kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, and given the choice that’s what I use. But to be honest, I also went a few months using table salt and regular cracked pepper, because they were left over from a party and didn’t cost me anything. I can’t honestly say if they changed the taste any.

Of course, you can stop here, and I guarantee no one will be turning down your finished ribs. But I usually go farther. My favorites are brown sugar, garlic powder, and a small amount of cayenne pepper. Sometimes I also add some chili powder. All I can say is try it yourself and find your favorites.

The Cook

Prepare your smoker the normal way and heat to 250ish. Make sure the grills are clean. I also add a pan of water under the ribs to keep the atmosphere moist. 

If you use an offset smoker, place the ribs crosswise if possible so the whole piece sees the same temperature. If the piece is longer than the grill is wide, then lay it at an angle, with the thicker end closer to the heat.Here, I have a slab of spares, and you can see the sternum and flap, because nothing goes to waste at my house. I’ll use the sternum as an appetizer since it will be done sooner. The flap – all meat – goes to the cook as a reward.

Wood choice can vary. I use white oak for sure, and I add hickory a lot of times. I’ve also used a small amount of mesquite, but I have found that a lot of mesquite is too much for pork. 

Turning the Ribs

Just kidding. Leave them where they are. The smoke will get to both sides just fine.

Wet or Dry?

This depends on your preference, and I’ve made them both ways. If you choose to leave your ribs dry, then you don’t have to do anything until the Wrap.

If you like them wet, do like I do and spritz the ribs every so often with some diluted apple juice to keep them moist.

The Wrap

After about 2 hours of cook, I then move the ribs to a large piece of heavy duty foil. If you want them dry, wrap them and put them back on. 

To me, wrapping gets me all the goodness of wet ribs, without all the hassle of mopping every so often. Just coat them with sauce before sealing the wrap. Here again the choice of sauce is up to you, but my experience is that thinner is better than thicker. I’ve gone to using a mixture of thick store sauce and a thinner sauce, diluted down to the right consistency with a little bourbon. Then they go back on the grill for another couple of hours.


After 4 hours of total cook time, I find most ribs are perfectly done to my liking. To test, the best way is to twist one of the bones slightly – ofthe bone slips and moves, this means they’re done.

Remove the ribs still wrapped. I let them rest a few minutes because I’ve always been told to. Then, cut between the bones with a sharp knife, and serve. 


Categories: Pork, Ribs | Leave a comment

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