Chow Town

Easy, basic recipe for barbecue Boston butt

Plated pulled pork with bark, sweet potato Jojos, slider bun & fresh local veggies.
Plated pulled pork with bark, sweet potato Jojos, slider bun & fresh local veggies. Special to The Kansas City Star

The question from the woman who reminded me of a Sunday school teacher from my youth normally would have caught me off guard.

“Bite My Butt?” she asked.

We were near the Governors Exposition Building at the American Royal Barbecue, and I was in my Remus Powers outfit, so she assumed I’d know.

Suppressing a chuckle at such a proper lady asking that question, I showed her where to find the Bite My Butt competition barbecue team.

Boston butt is one of the most challenging meats in Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS)-sanctioned contests. It is also the most popular category for puns, slogans and team names.

Coined “Boston” for its origin and “butt” from shipping container vernacular in colonial times, the cut comes from the upper shoulder of the pig, including part of the shoulder blade bone.

Chow Town Davis Rule No 3: Foiled butts don’t bark! Bark is pork butt gold. It’s the crispy, flavorful surface that develops during many hours in the pit, with all surfaces exposed to heat.

Wrapping butts in aluminum foil — known as “the Texas Crutch” — is used by many teams in the contest network. It yields steam-tender meat, but it can also turn bark from crunchy to soft.

Teams often use the foil wrap to add sugar and other seasonings, producing a caramelized “bark.” Opinions vary. World champions, grand champions and grand champion wannabes routinely use aluminum foil to produce the candied butt judges love. I prefer real bark, no candy.

Our goal here is a barked butt that is easy to cook, looks good, is easy to chew and is delicious.

(For Chow Town Davis Rule No. 1, see “Mastering backyard or contest barbecuing starts with chicken.” For Chow Town Davis Rule No. 2, see “Easy, basic recipe for barbecue pork spareribs.”)

Easy Basic BBQ Boston Butt

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 8- to 9-pound bone-in Boston butt



2 cups pecan wood chips, soaked in water and drained

1 chimney full of charcoal briquettes — add more as needed

Lightly sprinkle all surfaces of the meat with pepper and salt — apply about twice as much pepper as salt. Let meat sit while briquettes burn to gray and are ready for action.

Dump hot briquettes on one side of the fire grate, leaving space on the other side for indirect heat. Dump drained wood chips directly atop hot coals.

Install the grill grate, place the meat opposite the hot coals and lid the grill.

Maintain a hot temperature, up to 400 degrees for 30 minutes, to get the bark started. Reduce the temperature to 225-250 degrees and maintain that temperature for 7 to 9 hours, until the meat is tender enough to pull apart with the twist of a fork, and the blade bone can be pulled clean from the butt.

Condiment note: Pork is a sweet meat. The preferred traditional complement has been a sour condiment such as Eastern North Carolina-style peppered vinegar barbecue sauce or South Carolina-style mustard-base barbecue sauce.

In competition barbecue, however, when teams discovered that sweet-on-sweet is a winner with judges, tradition took a backseat to sugar. This happens even in the Memphis Barbecue Network, where pork barbecue reigns supreme.

Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’ Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books. His most recent release is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”