A Butt in the Oven

Posted 9 years ago by Adam Gautsch

When my ship comes in I'll have a giant smoker that proudly barbecues ribs, whole shoulders, multiple boston butts or full pigs at any given time. Unfortunately, my ship is still out at sea so when I want home cooked barbecue, it is done in the oven.

This is my favorite recipe for homemade barbecue.

I'm not much of a stickler for measuring. Percentages are somewhat important but size is always relative and hence exact measurements are not important at all. So here are the ingredients I use, with a general idea of amounts. I believe every ingredient should include the warning most often reserved for salt and pepper-- season to taste.

It's hard to beat a good boston butt when it comes to indoor barbecue. It's the perfect taste, size and price. I usually try to hunt down a 4 or 5 pound boston butt season the thing heavily with a simple dry rub and then cook it low and slow in a 225 degree oven until the core hits a 160 degrees. That usually last four or five hours.

The dry rub. You need to cover this entire butt thoroughly.

  • 3 parts paprika
  • 2 parts salt
  • 2 parts freshly ground pepper
  • 1.5 part garlic powder
  • 1.5 part freshly toasted and ground fennel seeds. I've never actually found a BBQ recipe that has roasted, ground fennel seeds as part of the dry rub. As I recall, I saw Mario Batali once say he loved the pairing of toasted fennel seeds and pork. So years ago I decided to make that part of my next barbecue dry rub. I liked it a great deal and decided to keep it in the mix. It gives a unique, subtle, sweet flavor to the pig. I like the idea of having a flavor that is hard to place in traditional meal. Keeps the folks on their toes.

In my younger years, I cursed those that used vinegar based sauce. This was what we call a youthful indiscretion. As I've gotten older I realized that vinegar is a wonderful way to keep your pig both moist and seasoned. This is not to say putting some extra, tomato based sauce on top of some pulled pork is bad. It is in fact very, very good. But vinegar gives the base pig a wonderful and needed spice.

The wet sauce, I mix all the ingredients together over a low heat on the stove. I have no idea if the heat versus mixing all this stuff together cold changes things in any way. It just seems right to me so it is done. I try to coat butt every hour during cooking with the wet sauce and then again after everything has been cooked, chopped up, and is ready to eat.

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 1 part white wine vinegar
  • A good bit of red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • A couple of squeezes of ketchup
  • A bit of sugar

I've had mixed results with cooking a butt in the oven when it comes to pulling the pig apart with forks in the traditional manner. It works sometimes, but sometimes you've got to go in with a knife chop that bad boy up. Of course, that's not ideal but it really isn't that bad. I like the texture and flavor of barbecue nuggets. (BBQ nuggets is a registered trademark of OrangeCoat, all rights reserved)

Depending on your taste you might not need any more sauce to top or maybe just some more vinegar sauce. However, I do like a little more tomato based sauce to top things off.

Some side notes on why I love BBQ

I wrote a brief letter to my nephew on my love of barbecue. This little excerpt pretty much explains why I love barbecue.

And on NPR, Jason Sheehan does it better than I can on explaining the genius of BBQ.


Lord ~ 9 years ago

Not only very informative, but also one of the longest posts I ever seen you put up.

Further, the butt you cooked up this past weekend was lip-smacking delightful.

Courtney ~ 9 years ago

Mmmm ... I am hungry reading this - thanks for posting the recipe. I don't personally understand your affection for tomato based BBQ sauce, but your post seems to give proper deference to vinegar, so I guess that's okay.

And thanks for the NPR link - I've been (mis)quoting Jason Sheehan, without even giving him credit, on my facebook page for years now - will fix that.

Wouldn't today be better if a Dixie Pig BBQ sandwich, onion rings and vanilla coke came wandering into your office? Mine sure would be. The only BBQ in Missoula got shut down by the Health Department ... sniffle.

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