Pork Butt Fat Side Up or Down: Which Is Best When Grilling?

Grilling is a great way to cook meat at home. If you want to grill pork, you should know whether to flip it over or leave it flat. Pork butt is a cut from the shoulder area of the pig.

It has a high fat content, making it perfect for grilling. The two main types of pork butt are pork loin and pork shoulder.

Pork Butt Fat Side Up or Down: Which Is Best When Grilling?

Pork butt is leaner than other cuts of pork, but its fat content makes it ideal for grilling. 

When cooking pork butt, it’s important to ensure that the fat is rendered out before grilling. This means that the fat melts away during cooking, leaving behind only tender, juicy meat. 

In this article, we will uncover whether you are grilling a pork butt fat side up or down. 

Should Your Pork Butt Fat Be Up Or Down?

There are a lot of methods and theories on how fat your pork butt fat should be. We would recommend that the best way to cook your pork butt is with the fat facing up. 

This way, as the pork butt cooks, the fat will melt away and at the same time baste the pork. This will then keep your pork really moist and tender.

Alongside that, this way will stop the fat from causing any flare-ups on the grill, if the fat has direct contact with the flames. 

How To Purchase Pork Butt

Buying pork butt can be confusing the first time you do it, as it can sometimes go by another name. Pork butt is often referred to as the Boston butt. 

The pork butt is taken from the area that is near the shoulder of the pig, despite its name.

It is common to buy the pork butt with pork shoulder, as they are both from a similar area of the foreleg. The whole cut is known as the pork shoulder. 

When it comes to the pork butt, it can still have the bone in, or you can purchase it boneless. However, if you keep the bone in, this helps the flavor and texture of the meat as it cooks.

However, it should be noticed that a pork butt with bone means you will have much less meat per pound. 

Whether the bone is in or not, this meat is known to be fatty. You will be able to see lots of connective tissue and cartilage throughout the meat.

Also, like a lot of larger cuts of meat, the pork butt also has a fat cap.

This is what is known as a layer of solid fat that is typically sat at the top of the meat. Sometimes this layer of fat can be an inch thick. 

However, it may be tempting to remove it, we would recommend that you leave as much of that fat on there as you can.

This is because if you take away too much of that fat away, then you could affect how moist your pork is once it is cooked 

You can tell how fresh your pork butt is by the color. Really fresh pork butt will have a really dark pink color and very creamy colored fat.

However, if you notice that your pork has slight brown-gray patches and feels dry then you should throw it away, as the pork has gone bad. 

Get Your Pork Butt Ready For The Smoker

Now you know if your pork butt is fresh, you can get it ready to go on the smoker or grill.

You can cut away any excess fat that you don’t need, but be careful not to remove too much. Ideally, you should only cut away any fat that is hanging over the edge of the pork butt. 

Now you can pat the pork dry using paper towels. At this stage, you can also add a thin layer of mustard to the surface of the meat.

Then you can apply your seasoning rub. It is the mustard that helps the rub to stick and stay onto the pork butt. 

You should then preheat your smoker or grill to around 225 degrees Fahrenheit. When at this temperature, your pork butt will take 2 hours for every pound to cook.

Although, if you want to reduce the cooking time, you can increase the temperature to between 250 and 275 degrees. 

Why Should You Cook Pork Butt Fat Side Up?

We have suggested that you cook the pork butt with the fat facing up. As we have mentioned already, with the fat facing up, this allows the fat to help keep the pork butt moist.

As the fat renders and melts, it will naturally baste the meat, keeping it moist and juicy. 

Some people think that the melting fat will also wash away any rub you may have put onto the meat.

However, as long as you have applied the rub correctly, then this shouldn’t be a worry.

The final cooked pork butt will still be full of flavor from the juices and the seasoning you have put on. 

Cooking With The Fat Face Down

A lot of people cook their pork butt with the fat facing down, and you can choose to do this if you want to.

Some chefs may want to cook with the fat facing down, as they say that the fat cap actually works as an insulator.

It protects the meat from the harsh direct heat, thus the fat cap keeps the meat from drying out as it is cooking. 

By cooking pork butt this way, you will create a really impressive and intense bark.

If the meat is in contact with the grill plates, then grill marks will be formed, which could interfere with a crispy bark. 

Either way you decide, the fat will render and drip off the meat. You should be careful with the fat facing down as it could cause flare-ups due to direct contact.

This could then give your pork butt a very charred outside, which could take away from the flavors you were wanting to achieve. 

Flipping Your Pork Butt

Pork Butt Fat Side Up or Down: Which Is Best When Grilling?

If you can’t choose between fat facing up or down, then you could always flip your pork butt now and then. As a result, the fat cap will be facing up and down at different times. 

Not everyone likes this method, and some cooks have their own ideas which way the fat should be facing.

If you do the flipping method, then be careful not to drip too much fat when moving the pork butt.

As we have said, this would cause flare-ups if the fat makes direct contact with the heat source. 

Also, when flipping, you will need to open the lid to your grill or smoker. This is going to release heat, so this method could extend your cooking time.

That is something to consider when thinking about using this method. 

Rotating Your Pork Butt

You may have decided that flipping isn’t for you, yet we would suggest that you still consider roasting a pork butt during the cooking process.

On some grills and smokers, they have hot and cold spots. As a result, you may need to move your meat around every so often to make sure the pork butt will cook as evenly as possible. 

We would recommend every 2 hours you should rotate the pork 45 degrees. This will then expose more of the meat to the smoke, and so you will achieve a much smokier flavor.

However, you should try to work quickly, so you don’t lose too much heat from your smoker or grill.

What Is The Texas Crutch?

Now that you know that really, you should be cooking your pork butt fat facing up, but you can choose down if you wish.

You can then allow your pork butt to cook for around 2 hours for every pound of meat. So, a pork butt that weighs around 8 pounds could take 16 hours to cook.

For a lot of people, it may not be the time to do that. However, there are ways to hurry the cooking process along. 

The Texas Crutch is a great way to quicken the cooking time. This is a kind of shortcut, which involves you wrapping your pork butt in a layer of foil for a couple of hours.

By wrapping your pork butt for a couple of hours, you could decrease the cooking by a few hours, but this depends on the size and weight of your pork butt.

However, even a couple of hours off, will make a huge difference if it should take 16 hours to cook. 

Once the pork butt has been on the grill for a couple of hours and reached its stall stage of 150 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pork should have created a good bark and produced a deep color with a crisp outside texture. 

Now it’s time to take the meat off the heat and wrap it in a double layer of foil. Place the pork in the center of the foil and can add other flavors at this stage.

These could be in the form of liquid like cider or apple juice or sugar or herbs. Make sure you create a tight seal around the meat and put the pork butt back into the smoker. 

You should continue to cook the pork butt until it reaches an internal temperature of around 195 degrees Fahrenheit.

At this stage, you can take the pork out of the girl and leave it to rest. The resting stage should be a minimum of an hour, then it’s time to unwrap and serve. 

However, for the last 30 minutes, you can unwrap the pork butt and allow it to continue to cook on the grill at a lower temperature.

This allows the pork butt to regain its crispiness that you worked so hard to achieve at the beginning. Still, you must let the meat rest for an hour before you can serve it. 


It is up to you whether you cook your pork butt with the fat facing up or down.

We would suggest you have the fat facing up so that it avoids flare-ups and will naturally baste your meat while it cooks. However, some chefs like to do the opposite. 

We hope you have found this article informative and have a better understanding which way your pork butt fat should be facing, when you next cook this cut of pork. 

Thank you for reading!

John Rinder
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