Pork shoulder, I feel, is the simplest of things to make on the smoker. If you can keep a consistent temperature there really isn’t much to do until it is done. In order for a pork shoulder to be turned into pulled pork, it has to reach an internal temperature of an 190 degrees. You can count on your shoulder taking about 1 1/2 hour per pound. Everyone asks “How long until it is done” and the answer to that question is that BBQ is done when it gets done. Each piece of meat reacts differently, so there is no guarantee time to completion.
The pork shoulder is taken from the back leg of the hog and contains part of the shoulder. It is an inexpensive cut, and really easy to do on a smoker. I like to purchase my pork shoulders from Shop N Save. They tend to cut whole shoulders in half, which cuts the smoking time in half. For this post, I purchased two 4 pound pork shoulders. If you were to purchase a full shoulder, which is about 8-10 pounds, it would take about 10-12 hours to fully smoke.
To get this process started, you remove the should from the package and trim away any excess fat. The fat inside the meat will break down during the smoking process, so the excess on top isn’t truly necessary. Here is a picture of a freshly trimmed shoulder.
After trimming the fat, the next step is to apply the rub. This time, I used Famous Dave’s Rib Rub. The most important part of rubbing down the shoulder is to make sure you do it the day or night before you are going to smoke the shoulder. This allows the salt and other ingredients soak into the meat before dropping it onto the shoulder. For these shoulders, I tried to rub them two hours before and this does not work to allow to flavor to soak in.
Once your shoulders have been rubbed down, they are ready to go on the smoker. I like to set my shoulders on the counter for about an hour before putting them into the smoker. This allows them to start to come up to room temperature. I put the shoulds on the counter and then concentrate on getting the smoker started. I like to put a layer of charcoal into the smoker, with some chunks of wood (I will write an article soon on the types of wood/smoke to use), and then start a chimney of coals to pour over the top.
I fill the chimney full of charcoal and use a Weber lighting cube underneath. Once the chimney is started, it takes about 20-30 minutes before the coals are all lit and ready to go. By doing this, it keeps you from using lighter fluid which gives off a bad taste. I tried these on a whim and have been really happy with them.
With any type of smoking, the idea is “low and slow” You will want to find your temperature to be between 225 and 275 degrees. I use two different thermometers in this proces. The thermometer on the left is wireless and helps me monitor the temperature of the smoker. The second thermometer is stuck into the shoulder and shows me the meat temperature. Remember again, that the shoulder becomes pullable when it hits 190 degrees.
Now that the shoulders are on, it is time to wait. Keep your tempertature steady and in the range above, and you will done when you get done. I have added some pictures to show the process through time.
Here is when they are first put on the smoker:
Skipping time, here is four hours in:
Once your shoulders hit 190 degrees, it is time for them to rest. This allows the juices that have been cooked out to soak back into the meat, giving it it’s juciness. If you were to cut open the shoulder as soon as it were done, the juices would run all over your cutting board and be lost. I don’t have a picture of it, but I usually wrap the shoulders in aluminum foil, wrap them in towels and then set them in a cooler. You can let them rest anywhere from 1-2 hours.
As soon as they have finished resting, you can then open them up and begin the process of pulling them apart. I grab two forks and just start tearing into the pork. If you have hit the correct temperature, it should be really simple to do. When you cut into the shoulder, do not be worried about the pink color. This is what occurs naturally when adding the smoke to the fire.
Once it has been pulled, you will have a tray full of pulled pork that is ready to be made into sandwiches.
Remember, drinking beer during this whole time is highly encouraged. If I missed anything or you have any questions, you can always find me at www.facebook.com/cbque or on twitter @cbque