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Pulled pork is absolutely one of my favorite BBQ items to smoke.
I love the countless ways to serve it, endless sauce combinations, and the fact it easily serves a large crowd.
One of the most asked questions we get is, how long to let a pork butt rest?
This is often followed by the even more important question of how to keep it warm for multiple hours.
How Long Should You Let a Boston Butt Rest After Smoking?
After pulling a boston butt off the smoker, look to let it rest for 30-60 minutes at room temperature.
This will allow the butt to cool off a bit, yet still remain at a safe temperature to eat.
Letting it rest doesn’t just allow your pork a chance to cool off, it helps make the meat even more tender and flavorful.
When you rest the meat, you are actually allowing the juices a chance to soak back into the pork.
Not only does this help in making your pork butt extremely tender, but it provides a ton of flavor to the meat.
How to Keep the Boston Butt Warm After Smoking
The most common way to keep your pork butt warm for multiple hours is to double wrap the butt in aluminum foil, followed by wrapping it in a towel and placing it in a cooler.
I personally have used this method countless times and it has never failed me!
BBQ can be a game of guessing.
Sometimes you plan for a piece of meat to be done in 10 hours and just in time for a party, only to have the meat finish several hours ahead of time, leaving you desperately trying to find a way to keep it warm.
We want to share with you the different ways we have used to keep pork butts warm for hours and safe to eat.
All of the ways mentioned in this article do not have a negative impact on the bark, flavor, or tenderness of the butt.
If anything they provide time for the butt to absorb some of the juices it might have lost during the smoke and create a better product.
There are a few different things you can add to this method to increase the effectiveness.
The first is to invest in a high quality cooler.
A quality cooler can hold your pork butt at a safe temperature up to 90 minutes longer than a cheap cooler.
This is the difference between an amazing product and lukewarm, unsafe pork.
The second is using boiling water to preheat your cooler.
I use this trick every single time I smoke a pork butt and it has not failed me!
I have found the following process to be highly successful.
Fill a pot full of water and bring it to a boil.
As the water is coming to a boil, snugly wrap your pork butt in a towel.
After the water has reached boiling, let it cool so as not to damage your cooler then pour the hot water into the cooler.
Give the hot water 5-10 minutes to heat the cooler up then dump the water.
Place a towel on the bottom and place the wrapped butt on top with a final towel on top of the wrapped pork butt.
This technique of “preheating” the cooler will provide a hot environment for the pork butt to rest safely for hours.
How Long will a Boston Butt Stay Warm in a Cooler?
Pork butts can stay at a safe temperature in a high quality cooler for six and a half hours.
This question becomes critical if your pork butt finishes way ahead of schedule and you still have hours until it’s time to eat.
Luckily an amazing pit master took the time to do an experiment to show just how long a butt will stay above the proper temperature.
You can find the full experiment here.
A few notes about this experiment, the butt was single wrapped in aluminum foil and placed with a towel under the butt and two towels placed on top.
This chart is a great visual to see how the temperature of the butt progressed.
In my experience preheating the cooler with hot water extends this time and allows the pork butt to stay above 140 degrees over 10 hours.
What Temperature Do You Pull Boston Butts At?
While pork can be safely eaten at a temperature of 140 degrees, it is recommended to pull the butt off with a temperature between 201-203 degrees.
A pork butt is an extremely tough piece of meat with lots of muscle mixed in with the fat.
When you allow the butt to reach a temperature over 200 degrees, the connective tissue of the muscles, or collagen, transitions from a tough substance to become like gelatin.
This breakdown of collagen is what creates the tenderness and juiciness and is crucial for a great pork butt.
Should I Wrap My Boston Butt in Foil?
You should be wrapping your meal in foil in order to retain moisture and help run it through the stall quicker.
Between the temperature of 160 and 170 degrees, the butt will reach a stall.
Essentially the pork butt will go for an hour or two without rising in temperature.
This is caused by the butt sweating out it’s moisture leading to the pork butt staying cool even in the warm environment.
Wrapping a butt around 160 degrees will help push the butt through this process faster.
Aluminum foil essentially provides a steamed environment and limits the amount the butt is able to sweat.
Wrapping a butt also keeps all the juices the meat might sweat out trapped in the foil.
When the meat is pulled to rest it will begin absorbing all the juices the foil has kept.
Finally, wrapping a butt allows the flexibility of resting the pork butt longer if needed.
Since it is already wrapped and insulated the meat is able to be kept warm longer when compared to unwrapped.
Do You Have to Rest a Pork Butt in a Cooler?
Make it a habit to rest your pork butt in a cooler in order to preserve moisture and ensure the internal temperature stays at a safe temperature.
If you plan to eat within the next hour of pulling the meat off, a butt wrapped in foil is totally fine.
As mentioned before, this hour provides time for the butt to reabsorb the juices back and retain a ton of flavor and tenderness.
If you are planning on eating longer than an hour, we recommend you look to keep the meat insulated in some way.
I have found great success with a preheated cooler to provide a hot, safe environment for the pork.
However, there are other ways to keep a pork butt warm.
How to Rest a Pork Butt Without a Cooler
There are two other ways to keep a butt warm without the use of a cooler.
A simple way everyone can do this is to use an oven.
Simply double wrap the pork butt with aluminum foil to keep it insulated and prevent any juices leaking out then place in an oven at 170.
A second way requiring a bit more equipment is the use of a sous vide.
After pulling the meat from the smoker, seal it in a FoodSaver bag and place it in a sous vide at 175 degrees.
This will essentially allow you to rest the pork butt as long as needed.