Bone-in Pork Butt with Green Apple and Crushed Hot Red Pepper


Serious Barbecue

Published by APL Publishing

This image courtesy of David Loftus

At the 2005 World Pork Expo (aka the Great Pork BarbeQLossal), my first-ever competition, a barbecue vet came up to me and whispered, “Just think apple.”  I never did get his name, but I did apply his advice.  After all, apple is a very friendly flavor to pork.  Yet I wasn’t going to just dump some apple juice in my sauce.  I wanted to hit the flavor from many different angles.  So along with apple juice and jelly, I used apple cider vinegar for its lively acidity and grated green apple for its freshness and crunch.  The effect borders on the subliminal:  You’re not going to taste it and think, “Aha, that must be apple jelly!”  But the warm, familiar association the flavors conjure up makes this dish a winner.  Plus, the crushed red pepper in there creates a rollercoaster of flavor:  Some bites bring a rush of heat, which mellows during the next few bites only to come roaring back.  Oh, and did I mention that I won Grand Champion?

Serves8 to 10

Cooking MethodBarbecuing, Grilling


Total Timea day or more

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Lactose-free, Peanut Free


Five Ingredients or LessYes



Taste and TextureGarlicky, Hot & Spicy, Meaty, Savory, Smoky, Spiced, Sweet


  • One 7-to-9 pound bone-in pork butt
  • For the injection:
  • 3 cups apple juice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Maggi Seasoning or Japanese soy sauce
  • For the Mustard Moisturizer:
  • 6 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • For the Seasoning Blend:
  • 1/4 cup mild chili powder, preferably Chimayo, Ancho or Hatch
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • About 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Apple Juice Spray (below)
  • For the Wrapping Mixture:
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup water
  • For the BBQ Sauce:
  • 1 cup APL BBQ Sauce or your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup apple jelly
  • 1 green apple, peeled, and grated on a Microplane grater
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • Fleur de sel
  • For the Apple Juice Spray:
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 1 cup water
  • For the APL BBQ Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium sweet white onion coarsely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional as needed
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 3 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, plus additional as needed
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 jalapeno chile, grated on a Microplane grater, stopping before the seeds
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, grated on a Microplane grater


  1. Combine the injection ingredients, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Place the pork in a baking dish or a disposable aluminum pan. Working in a grid pattern, inject the pork butt with an injection needle. Let stand for 2 hours at room temperature.

  2. Preheat an indirect barbeque with a drip pan and fruitwood (preferably apple), a ceramic cooker with deflector plate and fruitwood (preferably apple), or a charcoal or gas grill with a box or packet of fruitwood (preferably apple) to 250 degrees F.

  3. Lightly pat the butt dry with paper towels. Combine all of the mustard moisturizer ingredients. Combine all of the seasoning blend ingredients. Lightly moisten the entire surface area of the pork with the moisturizer, sprinkle lightly with seasoning blend, and using your hands or a brush, blot all sides to evenly, but lightly coat with canola oil. (The remaining seasoning blend will be used later in the cooking). Place a remote thermometer in the thickest part of the butt, avoiding contact with the bone.

  4. Place the meat, fat side down, in the cooker, until the internal temperature reaches 130 degrees F, about 3 hours.

  5. Spay with the apple juice spray and continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F, about 3 hours.

  6. Meanwhile, combine the wrapping mixture ingredients. Tear off 2 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil and place over a baking dish or disposable aluminum pan, preferably a 13 1/2 X 9 5/8 X 2 3/4-inch lasagna pan.

  7. Remove pork from cooker, take out the thermometer, place the meat on the foil, pour over wrapping mixture, and double wrap in the foil. Reinsert the thermometer, avoiding the bone, and transfer the wrapped pork in the pan back to the cooker. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 193 degrees F, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

  8. Meanwhile, line a small cooler with a beach towel or other large towels to insulate the inside of the cooler.

  9. Remove the pork form the cooker. Take out the thermometer, wrap the foiled pork completely in plastic wrap, place back in the baking dish or disposable pan (use a clean pan if there has been any leakage), and transfer the pork in the pan to the cooler. Fold over the towel to cover. Close the cooler, and let rest for 1 hour.

  10. Place a cooling or other flat rack inside a baking dish or disposable pan that will hold the pork butt. Remove the pork butt from the cooler and carefully unwrap on a sheet pan. At this point the meat will be very tender. Carefully transfer to the rack in the pan and sprinkle moderately with the seasoning blend. Place the pan with the pork back in the cooker for 30 minutes.

  11. Meanwhile, combine all the BBQ sauce ingredients.

  12. Remove the pan from the cooker and drizzle the meat on all sides with the barbeque sauce. Place back in the cooker for 20 minutes to tighten up the glaze.

  13. Remove the pork but from the cooker and spray with the apple juice spray. Using bear paws or heat-proof gloves pull the pork, being sure to leave some in a semi-pulled, semi-chunk state. Mix with about half a cup of the remaining sauce and season with fleur de sel.

  14. For the Apple Juice Spray:

  15. Combine the water and juice and place in a spray bottle.

For APL BBQ Sauce:

  1. Pour the oil in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Stir in garlic, onion, bell pepper and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes.

  2. Pour in the bourbon and cook until the alcohol has cooked off, about 5 minutes. There will no longer be the strong smell of alcohol.

  3. Combine the chili powder, black pepper, allspice and cloves and add to the pan. Cook, stirring continuously, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.

  4. Stir in the brown sugar, water, ketchup, molasses, mustard, vinegar, hot sauce and preserves. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally to be sure nothing sticks to the bottom and burns. Reduce to a simmer. Continue to simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 45 minutes.

  5. Add the jalapeño and apple. At this point the sauce can be left chunky or blended in a blender (blend in small batches since it will be hot), or in a bowl using an immersion/stick blender until smooth.

  6. Season to taste with additional allspice, cloves, salt and vinegar to taste.

For the Apple Juice Spray:

  1. Combine the water and juice and place in a spray bottle.

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