Smoked Pork Shoulder

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When done correctly, pulled pork can be a thing of beauty.  The key is using the right cut of meat.  I’ve seen pulled pork recipes using pork tenderloin and while they are undoubtedly faster than this recipe, the flavor achieved by using pork shoulder cannot be beat.  Pork shoulder (or butt) is a cut of pork marbled with fat and connective tissue throughout, so a low and slow cooking process is crucial. Pork shoulder is also a pretty cheap cut of meat that can feed a crowd of people without breaking your budget.

About 30 minutes in the cooking - brushing on some of the mop.

About 30 minutes in the cooking – brushing on some of the mop.

I made this recipe for the 4th of July – there’s nothing more American than smoking a huge hunk of meat!  After shredding, it ended up in between toasted Ciabatta buns, topped with slaw and Carolina-style barbeque sauce.  The leftovers were used in two separate meals: pork burritos and then avocado and pork grilled cheese.  It was the meat that kept on giving!

If you don’t have a smoker, fear not.  I was actually having trouble getting my smoker started, so I ended up dousing those flames and using my gas grill to smoke this bad boy.  Blasphemy, I know.  My first choice was the smoker, but it just wasn’t cooperating.  Plus, it’s much easier to control the heat on a gas grill.

I set up my grill for indirect heating, put the pork on the unlit side, added apple wood chips to the lit side and just let it go at 250 degrees for about 3 – 4 hours.  After that, I committed another sin in the eyes of true BBQ enthusiasts and pulled it off the grill, added it to a half-deep, covered it with foil and roasted it for another 3 hours in a 250 degree oven.  I may have gone against true BBQ and smoking rules, but the end product was so juicy, tender and delicious that none of my guests seemed to mind.

While this recipe is more work than just throwing some tenderloins into a crock-pot, it is definitely worth the extra effort.  Next big summer holiday or family party, if you have the time, I suggest you give this a try.  My guests loved it so much and found it so tender that the phrase, “no teeth required”, was uttered often.  When it comes to tender meat, there’s no greater, albeit stranger, compliment than that.

Up close and personal...

Up close and personal…

The final product, ready to shred. Smoked Pork Shoulder.

The final product, ready to shred. Smoked Pork Shoulder.

Smoked Pork Shoulder

  • Prep time:
  • Cook time:
  • Total time:
  • Yield: 8 – 10
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Recipe type: Appetizer, Entree

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 5 – 7 pound, bone-in pork shoulder
  • 2 – 3 cups apple wood chips
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. Cholula hot sauce (or your favorite brand)

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, salt, cumin, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika and dry mustard until well combined.
  2. Pat pork shoulder dry with paper towels.
  3. Rub pork evenly all over with the spice rub.
  4. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 3 hours, up to 24.
  5. Remove pork shoulder from refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  6. While pork rests, prepare your smoker. If using a standard smoker, light your coals. Once they’re white hot, add wood chips that have been soaked in water for about 15 minutes directly onto the coals.
  7. ***If using a gas or charcoal grill, set it up for indirect cooking. Have one side of the grill heated to about 250 – 275 degrees and the other side off or without any coals.
  8. When your grill is up to temperature, place a couple handfuls of wood chips onto a piece of aluminum foil. Fold up all the sides to make a pouch and seal. Flip it over and poke 5 – 7 small holes in the pouch. Place pouch directly onto the grill grates (or coals).***
  9. Smoker or grill, when the wood chips start smoking, it’s time to add the pork.
  10. Add the pork fat side up directly onto the grill grates and cover.
  11. Meanwhile, add vinegar, sugar, crushed red pepper and hot sauce to a small pan. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Use this as a “mop” to brush onto the pork every hour or so.
  12. Let the pork smoke for 3 hours, add more coal or wood chips as necessary.
  13. Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees.
  14. Remove pork from smoker or grill after 3 hours and place in an oven-safe dish. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 4 hours.
  15. Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes before shredding, discarding bone and any large chunks of fat.
  16. “Mop” sauce can be served alongside as a Carolina-style BBQ sauce.

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