Grilling · Pork · Smoked

Smoked Pork Butt – Rising Before Dawn


Sorry it’s blurry – I blame the darkness of 4:37 A.M. in the morning for that.

I got up this morning at 4:29 to start coals and inject a pork but with…well, part of me keeps wanting to say “moisturizer” but no, I didn’t inject it with a skin care product. 

Let me try this again.

Pork butt was on sale, so Bill got one around 7 pounds yesterday.  He was going to smoke it on Sunday, but when dinner plans for tonight (Friay) were postponed, I offered (in a moment of insanity) to cook the butt today.

And make cheese, but that’ll be a later post.

Anyway, Bill made a rub for the meat, rubbed it and wrapped it in plastic and put it in the fridge yesterday, and he made a concoction of sugar and salt and apple juice and other things, which I was to inject into the meat this morning.

And when I opened my big, insane (or stupid) mouth yesterday, yes, I knew the cooking time was going to be an hour and a half to two hours per pound, which, if you do the math, comes to about ten and a half to fourteen hours in the smoker, it still hadn’t occurred to me that in order for us to not eat at midnight, I’d have to get up LONG before dawn would even be thinking about cracking.

And, you know, it’s January.  It’s not like doing this in July.  In July it’s already starting to get light out, it’s a comfortable temperature outside, and…it’s summer.

In January, it’s darker than dark out, and colder than cold.  And there’s snow encrusted on the smoker, and the door to the thing where we store the outdoor cooking implements and the welding gloves is barricaded by the snow, and oh, yeah, it’s dark out.  And cold.  And dark.  And cold.

But I was not deterred. 

I whimpered a bit, but I got up and did what I had to do.

I got dressed and went downstairs and took the butt out of the fridge.

IMG_9682(Oh, and see how I’ve artistically leaned the syringe against that little container with the red lid?  Yeah, that container doesn’t actually contain the liquid I’ll be injecting.  It’s got leftover soup.  I grabbed the wrong thing.  At least I figured that out before I started poking soup into the meat.)

Next, I had to get a fire going.

I put crumpled newspaper in the bottom of the chimney (the round, metal, tube-like contraption you use to start your coals when grilling/smoking) and filled it with lump charcoal.


Scratchy thought he was being helpful.


But he just sniffed at things, and that wasn’t very helpful at all.


Yeah, you’re a big help, there, Scratchy.

At least I could do this INDOORS. 

Next, I carried the chimney, one of those long-handled lighter things, and a flashlight into the cold, arctic air.

Actually, the first couple of times I went outside, it didn’t feel THAT cold.  I was probably still warm from having been in bed recently, or I was just very focused on getting the coals lit, or I was feverish and insane.

Anyway, I put the chimney in the little sidecar part of our smoker, lit the newspapers with the long-handled lighter thingy, said a little prayer to the Smoker Gods, and went back inside.

Injection time!


There now.  THAT is the correct container. 

I unwrapped the pork and filled the syringe and started injecting.


I’ve never done this before, by the way.  The smoker and the grill are very jealously guarded by Bill the Grill King and it’s not often I get to use them.  Which, actually, is okay, because I do an awful lot of OTHER cooking.  And, to be fair, I have used the grill and the smoker and I am capable of starting fires and keeping meats at proper temperatures.

But Bill is Still the King of the Grill.  It’s probably a guy thing.

Anyway, while I’ve smoked ribs and grilled pizzas and done whatever else I’ve done when allowed to play with outdoor fire, I’ve never done a pork butt or injected stuff into a hunk of meat.


First tip – don’t empty the whole syringe into one spot. 


Because when you pull the needle out, the liquid shoots back out at you.

So inject a little liquid here, a little liquid there.

It also helps to inject, then wait a moment, and then slowly pull the needle out.  I think it reduces the pressure or allows the moisture to infiltrate the meat or something like that. 

The cool thing about injecting stuff into meat is that it’s sort of like blowing up a deflated basketball.  You can actually see the meat plump up.  It’s fun!

Oh, and another thing – when you’re injecting, sometimes your new injection site will cross paths with an old site, so when you depress the plunger and send liquid IN to the meat, you’ll somehow end up forcing already-present liquid OUT from another direction.

It’s like walking on sand in the summer, looking for soft-shell clams, and you can tell where they are because if you stomp on the sand, they shoot little jets of water into the air from their sandy little hidey-holes.

But, of course, it’s not at all like that, either, because…well…it’s a pork but, not a sandy beach.


Anyway, I injected as much of the liquid stuff as I could, and then, fingers crossed, I went out to check the coals.

YAY – we have fire!

Actually, by that point we had nice, hot red coals.

Time to get this butt on the grill.

But first – of course – a couple of other things to do.

I got two foil cake pans and filled them halfway with apple juice.  These would go under the pork butt and both catch drips of fat and provide a nice, appley bit of steam during the smoking process.  I folded one edge of one pan onto the other to create more drip-catching surface area.  (Humor me here, okay?)


I put the pans on a cookie sheet along with an oven thermometer and brought these outside.

So I’m carrying this, plus the flashlight, and it’s still dark, and there’s a bit of ice on the top step – as I went out the door I thought “hm, this would be the perfect time to slip and fall, with two half-full cake pans of apple juice….”

I like to think that BECAUSE I thought of it first, I didn’t slip on the ice.

Anyway, I brought the pans to the grill, moved the racks out of the way, and placed the pans inside.  Then I put the racks back and put the oven thermometer inside, too.

I dumped the hot coals into the little sidecar area, added more lump charcoal and a few cherry branches for smoke.

All this while holding a flashlight under my arm.

Yeah, I’m a force to be reckoned with. 

Then I went back inside, got the meat (on another cookie sheet) and brought that outside.  One handed (still holding the flashlight under that other arm) I placed the meat – fat side UP – on the rack above the little pans of apple juice.

I closed the lids, opened the vents a bit, and marched my can-do self back inside where it was warm.

That’s it for the moment.

I’ll be back with updates as the day goes along.

One thought on “Smoked Pork Butt – Rising Before Dawn

  1. If it was down to me to get up and inject liquids into pieces of dead pig at 4:37, then no-one would be eating before about 2 in the morning. Well done you!

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