Mastering Boston Butt: A Comprehensive Guide to Grilling it on a Gas Grill

There’s nothing quite like the smoky, succulent taste of a perfectly grilled Boston butt. This cut of pork, despite its quirky name, is a favorite among barbecue enthusiasts and home cooks alike. If you’re wondering how to master the art of grilling this meat on your gas grill, you’re in the right place.

Key Takeaways

  • Boston Butt, contrary to its name, is a cut from the upper part of the pig’s shoulder. It is very suitable for gas grilling due to its marbled fat which melts while cooking, and adds a delightful richness to the meat.
  • Gas grills are ideal for cooking Boston Butt because they provide quick heat modification, even heating, and are easy to clean. These features help in slow cooking larger cuts of meat, such as Boston Butt, at a constant temperature.
  • To cook Boston Butt properly, it is crucial to select the correct cut (preferably bone-in and weights around 4-6 lbs) and season it at least 12 hours before grilling to allow deep penetration of flavors into the meat.
  • Boston Butt should be cooked on a preheated gas grill at a consistent temperature between 225-250°F. The grill should be set up for indirect heat, which will help slowly cook the meat and preserve its natural flavors.
  • During the grilling process, Boston Butt should be wrapped when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F to maintain its moisture and tenderness. Flavor and moisture can be enhanced further by using marinades or mop sauces, or by introducing wood smoke through soaked chips wrapped in aluminum foil.
  • The doneness of Boston Butt is determined by checking its internal temperature (between 190-203°F for optimal tenderness) and performing the poke test, wherein the meat should feel soft and springy to the touch.
  • After grilling, the meat needs at least 15-20 minutes of resting time to allow the juices to redistribute and get reabsorbed, ensuring a juicier and tender result.
  • Besides the preparation and grilling techniques, it is equally important to learn how to carve Boston Butt properly and select suitable side dishes that complement the meal.
  • Troubleshooting issues like flare-ups and meat toughness can be dealt with effectively by following some essential steps such as trimming excess fat, maintaining moderate grill temperature, using drip pans, ensuring enough resting time, and wrapping the meat for a part of the cooking process.

Understanding Boston Butt

To grill to perfection, let’s ensure you have a proper understanding of Boston Butt first.

What Is Boston Butt?

Boston Butt isn’t, as the name might suggest, from the rear of the pig. Astonishingly, it’s a cut from the upper part of the shoulder. Comprising part of the shoulder blade and the pork shoulder itself, Boston Butt serves as a prime choice for grilling due to the marbling. This marbling means fat interspersed within the muscle tissue. When heated, the fat melts, adding moisture and a uniquely rich taste to the meat.

Why Choose a Gas Grill?

There’s a familiar debate among barbecue fans about the superiority of various grills, from charcoal to wood-burning. So, why then a gas grill for cookin’ your Boston Butt? Reasons aplenty!

First, gas grills offer swift heat modification compared to other types, such as charcoal or wood-burning grills. You can easily control the temperature, making it simpler to get your meat perfectly cooked.

Second, gas grills provide consistent, even heat. This feature is crucial when cooking larger cuts of meat like a Boston Butt, which requires slow cooking at a constant temperature.

Lastly, gas grills are clean and easy to maintain. Unlike charcoal or wood-burning grills, they won’t leave much residue, saving you time on clean-up afterwards. Picking a gas grill for your Boston Butt isn’t just about convenience, it’s about ensuring that smoky, succulent flavor is grilled to perfection.

Preparing the Boston Butt

In the pursuit of a juicy, flavorful Boston Butt on your gas grill, preparation holds high importance. You need to focus on selecting the right cut and seasoning it adequately before grilling.

Selecting the Right Cut

Your journey towards perfectly-grilled Boston Butt begins at your butcher’s counter. Opt for a bone-in Boston Butt, as the bone provides enhanced moisture during the grilling process, elevating taste and tenderness. Aim to acquire a cut weighing around 4-6 lbs. This size proves optimum for achieving the perfect balance of internal moisture and external crust during grilling. A smaller cut may dry out, while a larger one can be challenging to cook evenly.

Seasoning Before Grilling

The secret to infusing your Boston Butt with a bold, robust flavor lies in seasoning it well before grilling. Do ensure to dry the meat thoroughly before applying any rubs or spices, enabling better adherence and more uniform flavoring. A customary blend of seasonings, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika, can add aromatic complexity to your butt. However, don’t hesitate to experiment with your favorite spices and herbs to personalize your palate.

Remember, application timing makes a big difference. Ideally, apply your chosen dry rub at least 12 hours before grilling. This time allows for a deep penetration of flavors into the meat, making each bite an explosion of taste. Rub the seasonings all over the pork vigorously, ensuring they seep into the natural crevices of the cut. Wrap it tightly with plastic and store it in the fridge overnight to instill the flavors effectively.

With the right cut of meat and ample seasoning, you’re now ready to embark on your grilling journey. A beautifully prepared Boston Butt sits at the core of a great grilled meal, promising a memorable culinary experience.

Preheating the Gas Grill

After understanding the charm of grilling Boston Butt and preparing it with a unique blend of spices, it’s time to pay attention to your gas grill. Here, you’ll understand the importance of temperature control and methods of setting up for indirect heat.

The Importance of Temperature Control

Regulating temperature proves critical when grilling Boston Butt on a gas grill. So, strive for a precise temperature to ensure an evenly cooked, juicy, and flavorful dish. Aim for a consistent 225-250°F. Steady heat penetrates the meat, breaking down the connective tissues, yielding a tender and juicy Boston Butt. Remember to keep the lid closed and resist the urge to check your meat frequently, as this can cause heat loss.

Setting Up for Indirect Heat

Setting up for indirect heat involves heating only one side of your gas grill. This method allows you to cook the Boston Butt slowly, capturing the meat’s natural flavors and preserving its tenderness. Turn on half of your grill’s burners and use them for searing the meat initially. Once seared, move your Boston Butt to the unlit side of the grill, close the lid, and let the indirect heat do its magic. This way, you reduce the risk of overcooking or burning the surface while ensuring the meat cooks thoroughly all the way through. Over time, your Boston Butt absorbs these gentle waves of heat, resulting in a succulent, flavorful feast.

The Cooking Process

This section gets into the nitty-gritty of the grilling process. You’ve got your spiced-up Boston Butt and your pre-heated gas grill. Now it’s time to get down to business and start grilling.

Placing the Boston Butt on the Grill

Start off with the Boston Butt placement. You’ll position it fat side up on the warmed-up gas grill. The fat layer will drip down as it melts, basting the pork and enriching the taste. For indirect cooking, place your Boston Butt on one side of the grill grate, then turn off the burners directly under it. Doing so allows heat from the active burners to circulate inside and cook the pork slowly.

Monitoring Temperature and Time

Next, the game is about two elements: temperature and time. Keep the grill temperature steady at 225-250°F. Use a reliable grill thermometer if your gas grill lacks one built-in. Slow cooking your Boston Butt ensures it turns out juicy and tender. For a 4-6 lbs Boston Butt, expect cooking to take about 90 minutes per pound. However, each grill operates differently, so this timing serves purely as a guideline.

When to Wrap the Boston Butt

At some point in the grilling process, wrapping the Boston Butt becomes essential. It’s typically best to wrap when your meat reaches an internal temperature of about 165°F, checked with a meat thermometer. Wrapping it at this point ensures that the meat retains its moisture and doesn’t get dry. Lastly, the introduction of wrap gives the meat a steaming effect, making it tender and bringing out delectable flavors.

Adding Flavor and Moisture

Here’s how to take the richness and moisture of your Boston Butt to another level.

Using a Marinade or Mop Sauce

Include a marinade or mop sauce in your arsenal of grilling techniques, it’s an efficient way to elevate the taste profiles of your meat. Opt for a vinegar-based marinade; acetic acid in vinegar tenderizes the meat making it juicer. Notably, properly marinating requires at least 4-6 hours, but letting it rest overnight makes a substantial improvement in flavor.

Alternatively, if you’re short on time, consider using a mop sauce. Unlike marinades, mop sauces are applied during the cooking process, usually every 20 minutes. While it’s brushed on, it creates a flavorful crust on the exterior while also helping to maintain moisture inside the meat.

MarinadeMop Sauce
Applied 4-6 hours or overnight before grillingApplied every 20 minutes during grilling

Incorporating Smoke on a Gas Grill

Let’s talk about smoke. While it’s true that a gas grill doesn’t produce smoke naturally, incorporating it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can manually generate smoke by utilizing so-called wood chips. When using wood chips, opt for flavors like hickory or apple, as they pair well with pork.

For introducing smoke, soak about 1.5 cups of wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes, then drain. Wrap the soaked chips in an aluminum foil pouch and poke several holes in it to let the smoke escape. Place this pouch directly on the burner or lava rocks under your grilling grates, and the chips will start smoking within a few minutes of heating up.

Wood ChipsSoaking TimeWrapping MaterialPlacement
Hickory or appleAt least 30 minutes in waterAluminum FoilDirectly on burner or lava rocks

Remember, adding flavor and moisture contributes significantly to presenting a perfectly cooked Boston Butt. With these simple steps, you’re guaranteed a delicious, juicy, and flavorful meat every time you fire up your gas grill.

Checking for Doneness

To ascertain that your Boston Butt is cooked just right on the gas grill, you’ll use two main methods: measuring the internal temperature and taking the poke test.

Internal Temperature Guide

Use a digital meat thermometer when it’s time to check the cooking progress. Get accurate temperature readings by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, without hitting any bone.

According to the USDA, a safe minimum internal temperature for pork is 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius). So aim for this figure, although some BBQ enthusiasts prefer cooking the Boston Butt to 190-203 degrees Fahrenheit (88-95 degrees Celsius) for optimal tenderness, given the higher fat content of this cut.

Ensure that you take the meat off the grill when it’s about 5 degrees Fahrenheit below your target temperature. The pork will continue cooking due to residual heat, achieving the ideal internal temperature during the resting period.

The Poke Test

Another way to check your Boston Butt for doneness involves using your fingers or a probe to feel the meat’s firmness. This maneuver, known as the ‘poke test,’ has been practiced by experienced grillers for years.

When you push lightly on the meat, it should feel a bit like a marshmallow; soft and springy. If the Boston Butt feels too firm or tough, it means it needs more time on the grill.

Remember that this method requires some practice and a bit of intuition. Consider using it along with the internal temperature reading for the most accurate results in determining when your Boston Butt is perfectly cooked on the gas grill.

Letting the Meat Rest

After conscientiously following the grilling process from selecting the perfect Boston Butt, predetermining the gas grill’s temperature, judiciously applying marinades and mop sauces, and maintaining and checking for the right internal temperature, there’s one crucial step that some tend to overlook – letting the meat rest.

Importance of Resting Time

Resting, considered an integral part of cooking any meat, holds distinct significance. It allows the redistribution and reabsorption of the juices throughout the Boston Butt, producing a moist and flavorful result. If you cut into the meat immediately after grilling, the juices might rush out, leading to a potentially dry and less juicy cut. Thus, by allowing at least 15-20 minutes of resting time, you prepare the meat for the final step before you slice and serve it.

How to Properly Rest the Meat

For a proper rest, you transfer the grilled Boston Butt from your gas grill to a clean cutting board or platter, avoiding any that have grooves or dips that might let the juices escape. Then, loosely tent it with an aluminum foil. Note the term ‘loosely’; a too-tight wrap can make your piece of meat ‘sweat,’ potentially making it less desirable. During this period of 15-20 minutes, the meat continues to cook, allowing the juices to thicken and reabsorb into the meat, giving you the most succulent, flavorful Boston Butt you have ever tasted.

Serving Suggestions

After investing time in grilling the perfect Boston Butt, your efforts deserve a proper finale – the presentation and serving. This section provides guidelines on how to carve the Boston Butt and suggestions for suitable side dishes that complement the meal.

Carving the Boston Butt

Master the art of carving to ensure that each slice gets its fair share of that smoky, tender meat and crisp bark. Firstly, position the meat so that the grain runs horizontally in front of you. Employ a sharp carving knife for smooth, neat cuts. Remember, cutting across the grain maximizes tenderness, enhancing the overall eating experience. Lastly, slice at a thickness of about 1/2 inch for the optimal balance of juiciness and texture.

Suitable Side Dishes

Your Boston Butt doesn’t stand alone on the plate. An array of compatible side dishes can enhance the meal by providing contrasting flavors or reinforcing the smoky BBQ taste. Here are some ideas:

  1. Coleslaw: Its tangy crunch makes a crisp contrast to your melt-in-mouth Boston Butt.
  2. Corn on the cob: Grilled or boiled, it complements the meat’s richness with its natural sweetness.
  3. Potato salad: Its creamy, savory profile harmonizes with the BBQ flavors.
  4. Baked beans: Laden with smoky sauce, they echo the Boston Butt’s own BBQ allure.
  5. Grilled vegetables: Peppers, zucchini or eggplant, grilled with a light brush of olive oil, add a healthy twist and vibrant colors to your plate.

Remember, the side dishes act as a supporting cast, enhancing the star of the show – your Boston Butt.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

As you progress in grilling your Boston Butt on a gas grill, you might encounter some common issues. Your mastery lies not just in perfect grilling but also in overcoming these hurdles adeptly. This section guides you through troubleshooting two usual problems – managing flare-ups and dealing with toughness.

Managing Flare-Ups

Problematic flare-ups often occur when fat drips onto the hot grill grates, igniting a fire. They can char your meat, ruin the taste, and create health risks. Hence, effectively managing flare-ups become crucial.

  1. Trim Excess Fat: Before grilling, trim the exterior fat on your Boston Butt to about 1/8th inch. Excess fat is the primary contributor to flare-ups.
  2. Maintain Moderate Grill Temperature: Flare-ups typically happen on high heat. Keep your grill’s temperature moderate, around 275 – 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Use Drip Pans: Conveniently, a drip pan beneath your grilling grate catches drippings and prevents them from igniting. Fill it partially with water, adding moisture to your grill.
  4. Keep Grill Lid Closed: Closing the lid starves the fire of oxygen, putting out the flame.

Dealing with Toughness

The Boston Butt, high in connective tissues, needs a low and slow cooking approach. If rushed, it ends up tough and chewy.

  1. Temperature: Keep the grill’s temperature steady at 225 – 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Patience, in letting your Boston Butt slowly cook, assures tender outcomes.
  2. Time: Don’t rush the cooking time. Plan for 1.5 – 2 hours per pound of meat for optimal tenderness.
  3. Resting: After removing your Boston Butt from the grill, let it rest for at least 15 – 20 minutes. The internal heat continues to break down connective tissues, delivering a more tender cut.
  4. Wrapping: Wrap your Boston Butt in foil after achieving a good crust. This step, known as the Texas Crutch, helps tenderize and keep your meat moist.

Remember, comprehensive troubleshooting prepares you better for your grilling journey. Keep these steps at fingertips and conquer any grilling challenge. Let’s impress your guests with a flavorful, tender, and juicy Boston Butt.


So, you’ve mastered grilling a Boston Butt on your gas grill. You’ve learned to pick the right cut, season it just right, and cook it slow and steady. You’ve even got the hang of enhancing flavors with marinades and mop sauces, and you’ve discovered the magic of smoke from wood chips. You’re now equipped to handle any flare-ups and know how to ensure your meat isn’t tough. Remember, the key to a juicy Boston Butt lies in letting it rest post grilling. Patience and proper techniques are your best friends in this culinary journey. With these tips, you’re not just grilling, you’re crafting a gastronomic masterpiece. So, go ahead and fire up that grill. Your Boston Butt awaits!

Mastering Boston butt on a gas grill involves slow cooking techniques to achieve tender, flavorful meat. According to Serious Eats, grilling Boston butt requires maintaining a low, steady temperature and using indirect heat to cook the meat slowly. Additionally, Food Network recommends applying a dry rub before grilling and basting with barbecue sauce during the last hour of cooking to enhance the flavor and create a delicious crust.

What factors should you consider when choosing a cut for grilling Boston Butt?

When selecting Boston Butt for grilling, pay attention to the quality of the cut. A fresh, well-marbled piece with a dark pink color and a generous fat cap is ideal to ensure tender and flavorful results.

How can you enhance the flavor of Boston Butt before grilling?

Before grilling, consider applying a dry rub for flavoring. You can also use marinades, mop sauces, or introduce smoke with wood chips during the grilling process to enhance the flavor of your Boston Butt.

Why is slow cooking important for grilling Boston Butt?

Slow cooking allows the connective tissue within the Boston Butt to break down over time, resulting in a tender and juicy end product. A slow and steady temperature is ideal on a gas grill to achieve the best results.

What are key points to remember when managing flare-ups during grilling?

To manage flare-ups, always keep excess fat to a minimum by trimming, maintain a moderate grill temperature, and use drip pans to catch fat drippings. These tips can help prevent flare-ups and ensure a perfect grilled Boston Butt.

Why is it important to let the meat rest after grilling?

Letting the meat rest after grilling allows the juices to redistribute throughout the Boston Butt. This rest period ensures a moist, juicy and flavorful result.

How do you check doneness when grilling Boston Butt?

You can check the doneness of a grilled Boston Butt by using a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should ideally reach around 190-195°F before resting to achieve a tender and juicy finish.