Pork Butt Rub Signature Recipe

Best dry rub for smoking a Boston butt

Boston butt—also known as pork butt— is a rich, fatty cut of pork that’s best enjoyed after a long, slow cooking process such as smoking. The name of this cut is somewhat misleading—the Boston butt actually comes from the upper shoulder section of the animal, and not the rear. Though some amateur grillers might be put off by the toughness of the cut, the meat is actually quite easy to cook if it’s done properly, and the results are fantastic—meltingly tender, with an intense pork flavor that’s amplified when you use the proper seasonings.

Why Use a Dry Rub?

There are as many ways to season and cook Boston butt as there are days in the year, but when we’re smoking the meat we prefer using a pork butt rub. Why? Well, for one thing, we want the smoky flavor to stand out, and the ingredients used in a simple dry rub work to underscore that flavor instead of overwhelming it. Some wet rubs, mops, and sauces can be overly acidic, which detracts from the savory notes in the pork.

Pro Tip: If necessary, you can use a little olive oil or other mildly-flavored oil to help the pork rub seasoning adhere to the meat. This will keep the flavors evenly distributed without detracting from the texture of the bark.

Another reason why we think dry rub is the clear choice when smoking pork butt? It’s easy to make, and it’s comprised mainly of kitchen staples. If you want to make smoked Boston butt for a party and you keep a well-stocked spice cabinet, you might not need to buy anything except for the meat and some wood chips for the smoker.

Finally, unlike homemade sauces, pork rub seasonings will keep for weeks or even months if stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry place. You can sprinkle any leftovers on pork chops, ribs, brisket—even chicken breasts. If you’re planning on using the dry rub for a variety of different meats, feel free to experiment a little with the flavors.

Dry Rub Recipes for Smoked Boston Butt

To get you started, here are a few of our favorite recipes for pork rub seasonings. We’ve also included suggestions on modifications for each, so that you can put your award-winning BBQ rub recipes to good use in more ways than one.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget that any leftover rub should be discarded at once if it’s come into contact with raw meat.

All-Purpose Pork Rub Seasoning

This version contains less salt than the others on our list, making it a good fit for bonier cuts like ribs and chicken thighs as well as Boston butt. If you are using it as a pork butt rub, though, you should have enough to coat eight to ten pounds of meat.

  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or airtight container. Use to liberally coat your Boston butt before wrapping the meat in foil and adding it to the smoker. Store any leftovers in a cool, dry place for up to three months.

Pro Tip: If you have any smoked sea salt on hand, go ahead and substitute it for either the celery salt, the kosher salt, or both.

Mix the spices

Simple Pork Rub with Smoked Paprika and Ginger

  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt (such as Lawry’s)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or airtight container. Use to liberally coat your Boston butt before wrapping the meat in foil and adding it to the smoker. Store any leftovers in a cool, dry place for up to three months.

Pro Tip: For a juicy and succulent smoked chicken, swap out the cumin in the dry rub recipe for a dried herb like tarragon or oregano. Herbs de Provence, with their delicate blend of savory, lavender, basil, thyme, parsley, tarragon, and bay powder, make a nice substitution as well.

Texas BBQ Pork Rub Seasoning

This recipe makes enough for a lot of pork—eight to ten pounds easily, with a possibility for leftovers. If your Boston butt is smaller, save the rest to use on another cut of meat (it also goes well with brisket!) the next time you fire up the smoker.

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or airtight container. Use to liberally coat your Boston butt before wrapping the meat in foil and adding it to the smoker. Store any leftovers in a cool, dry place for up to three months.

Pro Tip: Using a blend of apple and hickory wood chips brings out the best in this Texas BBQ pork butt rub. Aim for a ratio of about 50-50 for the two varieties, or adjust the amounts according to your preference.

Enhance the flavor

The Bottom Line

We hope we’ve done a decent job of waging the battle for dry rub when it comes to using your smoker to make Boston butt. Once the meat is cooked, taste it to see if you’re in agreement regarding the intensely smoky flavor and juicy, succulent texture. Should any member of your party still feel the need to complement the flavors with their favorite barbecue sauce, they’re welcome to do so—but don’t be surprised if the bottle goes untouched for the duration of the picnic!

Remember: When it comes to making your own pork butt seasoning, the possibilities are virtually limitless. Use these recipes as a template, adjusting the ingredients according to your own personal preference. Don’t forget to experiment with different flavors of wood for the smoker—these can add a whole new element to your taste experience.

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