When to Wrap Pork Butt: Right on Time

The right time to wrap pork butt is when its internal temperature stops rising. This is usually between 150-175 degrees. We call this phase, the stall, and it can last for over 4 hours.

I learned when to wrap pork butt, pork shoulder, and brisket during my time as a prep cook in a bbq restaurant. The main reason we wrap the pork butt is to bypass the stall which adds hours to the total cooking time, especially in large cuts of meat. Besides that, there are other reasons why you should pick up this practice.

In this piece, I will tell you why it is a good idea to wrap your pork butt, when and how to do it, and what to use. I will also tell you when to unwrap pork butt for the best results and answer your most pressing questions on pork butt.

When to Wrap Pork Butt?

If you decide to wrap pork butt, also called Boston butt, do it when its internal temperature gets to a range of 150-175. If it is not wrapped, its temperature will not rise for at least 4 more hours. It will stall.

Many grillers base wrapping pork butt on time. They say that you should wrap the pork butt 8 hours or 6 hours into cooking.

I find that unreliable, simply because it does not account for the factors that could influence the cooking process like your type of smoker, the size of your pork butt, and your recipe.

The only way to be sure you are wrapping pork butt at the right time is by checking for an internal temperature of between 150-175 degrees. You cannot miss this because the temperature of the pork butt stops going up. Pretty straightforward, right?

Smoked Pork Butt on the Wooden Board

Wrapping Pork Butt Step-By-Step

Here is how to wrap pork butt step-by-step:

  • Approximate the length of your pork butt and multiply that by 4. Work with this figure.
  • Grab your heavy-duty aluminum foil and cut two sheets of that length and one sheet of butcher paper of the same length.
  • Lay the sheets of foil diagonally on a flat surface and then place the sheet of butcher paper horizontally on top of the foils such that the two overlap.
  • Pull your partially smoked pork butt out of the smoker and place it smack at the center of the butcher paper with the fat side up such that it will render downward flavoring the meat.
  • Spritz your pork butt with some apple cider vinegar, beer, broth, or even a thin bbq sauce. I prefer apple cider vinegar because it also tenderizes your meat all while imparting it with tangy notes. That’s how you kill two birds with one stone.
  • Fold the layers of butcher paper and foil tightly over the pork butt. Cut a tiny hole about a quarter inch in diameter at any of the edges on top. I’ll tell you why this is important in the next section.
  • You are now looking at a perfectly wrapped pork butt ready to get back into the smoker.

How to Check the Internal Temperature of Pork Butt?

So, how will you check the internal temperature of your neatly wrapped pork butt?

If you are using a leave-in thermometer, stick it into the Boston butt and leave it. If you have an instant-read thermometer, use the hole you made at the top to direct the thermometer probe into the meat.

When taking the temperature of smoking meat, it is best practice to stay at least an inch from the bone. This is because the bone often heats up much faster than the surrounding meat and thus can give you a false reading.

Keep out for these 2 temperatures when smoking pork butt:

  1. A temperature range of 150-175 degrees. This marks the beginning of the stall. You can either wrap your pork butt and keep smoking or wait out the stall.
  2. A done internal temp of 203 degrees. This means it’s done cooking. Take it off the smoker and let the meat rest for 20-30 minutes.

Should I Wrap Pork Butt in Aluminum Foil or Butcher Paper?

Wrapping your pork butt creates a humid cooking environment which is perfect for creating a braising effect. You can wrap the pork butt either in foil or butcher paper. There are pros and cons to both.

The insulating properties of foil greatly reduce the total cooking time but it can also yield an overly moist cooking environment. This will do a number on your bark especially when it is stuck in the stall. Crust formation and moisture are not buddies.

Butcher paper on the other hand will trap less steam and is more breathable than foil. It will keep your pork butt moist and not soggy. However, it can not get as hot as foil and thus will shave off less cooking time.

Both sides considered, why not have the best of both worlds? Since butcher paper is good with meat and lousy with heat, use it to wrap the pork butt. Likewise, since foil is good with heat and lousy with the meat, use it to add a layer of insulation around the butcher paper. Get a ridiculously delicious meal in less time.

Smoked Pork Butt Placed on the Foil Paper

What Are the Benefits of Wrapping Pork Butt?

There are many pros to wrapping pork butt. Let’s start with the main one:

Speeding Up the Cooking Process

The main reason you should wrap Boston butt is to avoid the stall brought about by evaporative cooling. Evaporative cooling occurs when the evaporating water in the meat gets to the meat’s surface, causing a cooling effect.

When the heating rate of the pork butt and the heat in the cooking chamber matches the rate of evaporative cooling, we get to a standoff that can last for up to 4 hours. This effect is more pronounced in large cuts of meat like pork butt, pork belly, and pork shoulder.

Won’t this dry my pork butt into a dry, chewy mound though? No, it will not. The stall is not everlasting. Once the moisture at the surface evaporates, the internal temperature should continue rising. Pork butt has enough moisture to compensate for what is lost while the meat is in this state. There’s more moisture tied up in the collagen and fat which will flavor the meat long after the stall.

Wrapping locks in moisture and heat creating a blanket of hot humid air all around the pork butt. This technique is known as the Texas Crutch. It is very effective at braising and thus yields an incredibly juicy pork butt, which is exactly what we want for pulled pork.

Retaining Moisture and Flavor

The Texas Crutch creates a humid cooking environment that makes it impossible for the meat to dry out during the cooking process. You can also drizzle your favorite spice blend or throw in some dry herbs to intensify the flavor and aroma of the pork butt. This makes for incredibly tender, juicy meat which is exactly what is demanded for recipes like pulled pork.

Additionally, wrapping your pork butt in foil catches all the juices dripping from the meat. You can either use this to baste your pork butt as it cooks or save it to flavor other dishes. I like to dip my sandwich buns into a generous amount of these delicious drippings and enjoy them with Greek yogurt.

Helps to Moderate Smoke Absorption

Much like pork shoulder, pork butts are no stranger to the smoker. They are one of the most preferred meats for smoking and other methods of slow cooking. And rightfully so. Their tough meat means they require long periods of cooking to break down the connective tissues and the high fat content keeps the meat supple as it renders.

That said, many would kill for a bold smoky flavor while others prefer a mild flavor on smoked pork butt. For an intense smoke flavor, let your pork butt smoke unwrapped for the first 3-4 hours of smoking before crust formation begins. Once the crust starts to form, the smoke cannot sufficiently penetrate the meat fibers.

If you like a mild smoke flavor. Smoke your pork butt unwrapped for around an hour and then wrap it in foil for the rest of the cook. This insulation works well to inhibit further smoke from getting absorbed into the meat.

Smoked Pork Butt Resting on the Grill

Are There Any Negative Effects of Wrapping a Pork Butt Too Early or Too Late?

If you want wrapping to work for your pork butt, you must wrap it at exactly the right stage.

If you wrap your pork butt too early, it will not develop a bark. See, the formation of a killer crust or bark relies on the meat absorbing enough smoke beforehand during the cooking process.

As the meat continues smoking amino acids and sugar in the meat and in your seasoning react forming more complex compounds. This is thanks to the browning reaction, more commonly referred to as the Maillard process. The result is a rich, tasty, crusty surface that is just_chef’s kiss.

That said, if you wrap the pork butt too late, you’ll need to keep a close eye on the temperature because the stall was already in motion before you wrapped your meat.

When Should I Unwrap Pork Butt?

You could opt to unwrap your pork at the very end, in which case, unwrap it just before you carve it. Take it off the smoker and let the pork rest. Food safety recommends a resting time of 3 minutes. However, with huge cuts like pork shoulder and pork butt with more moisture content, 3 minutes is just not enough.

Resting allows the juices within the meat to recirculate giving you evenly juicy pieces of smoked pork wherever you cut. I deem a resting period of 20-30 minutes sufficient for perfectly cooked pork butt.

You can also choose to unwrap your pork butt to achieve a firm crust. In that case, do so when the internal temp of your pork reaches 200 degrees, and then allow it to keep cooking on high heat for another 10 minutes.

How to Redeem the Bark of Wrapped Pork Butt?

A lot of pitmasters cite the pros of wrapping pork butt or pork shoulder are outweighed by the cons. Most importantly, the lack of a crusty bark. But what if I told you that there are ways to combat this? That you can wrap your pork butt and still get a perfect, tasty bark. Try these:

  1. Use a good dry rub to season the bark.
  2. Use only butcher paper to wrap the pork butt.
  3. Smoke pork butt unwrapped for the final 30 minutes to 1 hour at 450 degrees to get rid of excess moisture.


1. How Long to Smoke Shoulder Before Wrapping?

Wrap pork shoulder based on its internal temp as opposed to time. Time does not account for the weight of your pork shoulder, your smoker model, or the cooking temperature. That said, a good ballpark would be 5 hours into the cooking process.

2. Why Do You Wrap Pork at 160?

On average, pork butts reach the stall at the 150-175 degree temperature range depending on a couple of factors. Wrap the pork butt at the beginning of the stall. Armed with an accurate meat thermometer, you’ll know you are there when the temperature stops rising.

Smoked Roasted Pork Butt

The Cliff Notes Version

When to wrap pork butt is highly influenced by other factors like how much it weighs and your cooking temperature among others. It is therefore not rational to base your decision on time because some pork butts are smaller than others.

Instead, base when to wrap pork butt on temperature. When it reaches between 150-175, the stall begins. The steady rise in temperature readings stops. Wrap the butt and slap it back onto the smoker.

This makes the meat tender, juicy, and ripe with flavor. Reward your patience with awesome pulled pork sandwiches or chase it down with mashed potatoes. The options are endless.