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View Full Version : My pork shoulder game needs help big-time


Frank Mahovlich
03-10-2018, 07:31 AM
Throwing a pork shoulder on my WSM for my boys birthday party on Sunday. Pork is probably my least favorite food of all that I smoke. Planning on using pecan chunks and Yardbird rub. I usually dont wrap, but Im willing to try anything to improve here. Would appreciate any & all tips on getting a nice firm bark, yet flavorful, juicy meat...

Thanks in advance,
FM

sudsandswine
03-10-2018, 07:51 AM
What is it you don't like about what you have been cooking? I'm not really a fan of Boston butt, outside of the money muscle, but I've found injecting can help give some flavor to the otherwise blander muscles in it. I generally use the "Chris Lilly" injection.

IamMadMan
03-10-2018, 08:29 AM
Before we begin keep in mind there is no one way to cook Pork Butt. There is no cookie cutter method to any type of Barbecue. Different people have found different methods and different cooking temperatures that work for them. Some like to cook at hotter temperatures over a short period of time, while others like to cook at lower temperatures over a longer period of time. The bottom line is you have to find what method works best for you with your cooker, and may not work for someone else. Even the same person cooking the same size piece of meat will never have an identical cook. Below is what I have found that works best for me...

The reason no two cooks are alike is due to variances in cookers, type of fuel, relative humidity, outside temperature, barometric pressure, and even variances in meat from animal to animal. It is your ability to adapt to these mild differences that makes the cook successful. But the pork butt is a very forgiving piece of meat

Remember always use quality tools in your craft, your attempts at smoking is only as strong as your weakest link. Your tools, including your smoker, are the only things that will remain consistent in your cooks, unless you change them.

The key to success in any smoking attempt is control over temperature throughout the entire time of the cook. A good accurate reliable thermometer on your cooker is a must have. An internal remote temperature probe for the meat is also a great tool to have and use in any cook. Some cheaper thermometers can take up to 3 minutes or more to register the proper temperature, while other more expensive thermometers have a very fast response time. In my opinion, we always cook until the meat is tender to the probe, not to a specific temperature. If you have a target temp you are doing it wrong: The goal of cooking a tough cut of meat is to make it tender, not make it hot. Therefore you should monitor how tender it is, not how hot it is.

When using remote temperature probes: Never get the probes / wires wet, never pinch them in a cooker door or lid, never pull or stretch them, and never run them through the cookers exhaust vent. The exhaust vent is the hottest part of your cooking chamber, if the temperature exceeds the rating of the probe wires, they will be damaged. Drill a hole in the side of the cooker and install a grommet to protect the probe wires. Always handle the probes and wires with care, and most of all; always keeping them clean.

This cut of meat has a lot of fat and takes a while to cook, so it is very forgiving to most mistakes. Purchase a pork butt, usually about an 8 pound average with bone in. Some stores now only sell boneless pork butts which will work as well. Just make sure that if you have the boneless pork butt it is rolled and tied properly.

In most cases there is no need to trim excess fat from the meat as most of the fat is going to render away. For the beginner I would not recommend trimming the meat until he / she cooks a few pork butts and sees how the fat renders down. Once you understand how the fat cap renders down, then you may trim the fat if so desired. I've been cooking for almost 30 years and I still do not trim the fat.

Liberally apply a coating of your desired rub, cover, and refrigerate overnight. About 1 hour before smoking remove the meat from the refrigerator let sit uncovered for about 30 minutes while you ready your smoker.

About 15 hours before serving time, prepare your charcoal for the smoker by filling the charcoal basket, but leave a small hole in the center of the charcoal to put some hot coals into the center.

Select The Smoking Wood you wish to use; Apple, Oak, Hickory, or other Fruit wood, these compliment pork nicely, either alone or in combination with each other. Do not soak any of the wood before using it. Mix 4-6 fist size chunks of wood in with the charcoal in the basket. This single application of smoke wood is all that will necessary for the entire cooking process, and it will produce a nice smokey flavor without being overpowering.

Put a couple handfuls of charcoal into the charcoal chimney and ignite it. Once the charcoal is glowing, dump it into the hole in the center of the charcoal basket. Close up the smoker and bring it to a target temperature of 250.

Apply a little more rub to help firm the outside of the butt and place fat side up into the smoker. If your smoker requires a water pan to help regulate the heat, make sure the water pan is full before putting the pork butt on the cooking grate. Close the cooker and watch the temperature from time to time. Some of us put a foil pan under the butt to catch the drippings in an effort to make cleaning the smoker easier after the cook. These drippings can be de-fatted and added back into the pulled pork.

Set the top vent 100% open and leave it that way throughout the entire cooking session. Start with your bottom vent(s) 100% open. When the cooker temperature hits 200F measured at the grate, set the bottom vent(s) to 25% open. Allow the cooker to come up to 250. Adjust the bottom vents as necessary to maintain a 240 - 260 temperature range keeping as close to 250 as possible. In the beginning the temperature will drop and rise 5 to 10 degrees above and below the target temperature as the cooking process levels out. As you get further into the cook and your temperature begins to drop and not respond to airflow correction, you may have to add more charcoal into the basket to complete the cook. If the coals are almost all burned out, use your chimney starter to add some hot coals to the charcoal as well. Follow the steps used above to get the temperature back to your target range.

Cook at 250 to an internal temperature approaching 190F (10 to 12 hours). I do not use internal temperature to determine when done, but 190F is where I would start to test for tenderness. The internal temperature or time is not an indicator that the meat is done, but merely a guide to tell you to start checking the bone to see if it wiggles like a loose tooth. If you have a boneless butt then you will use the probe end of a thermometer and insert it into the meat. When the probe enters the meat with no resistance, like pushing into soft butter, your pork butt is done. Also you can use the pull test, grab a part of the butt, just a pinch and pull it, if it comes easy, then the meat is ready to come out of the pit.

I also believe that The rest after the cook is also an integral part of the final stages of the cook, helping to convert the remaining connective tissue into collagen. When removed from the cooker let it cool for a few minutes then wrap it in foil, then wrap the foiled butt in a towel, and let it rest in an insulated cooler. A rest of 2 to 4 hours will insure the connective tissue is converted into tender, juicy strands of meat. Always plan on the rest when calculating cooking times.

When you are ready to serve, pull meat with cooking forks, your hands, or "Bear Claws". I prefer to pull by hand because I can remove the large pieces of fat and other items that I find undesirable in my pork. Make sure to mix the pulled pork so everyone gets some of that dark outside meat (Called "BARK") along with the light interior meat and serve with barbecue sauce on the side. The flavor of the meat should stand on it's own, and a little sauce on the side should only compliment the flavor, not over-power the taste of the meat. Once pulled you can add the de-fatted drippings and a little more rub to help strengthen the flavors before you serve.

Needless to say, there will be some leftovers, wrap them and store them for lunch tomorrow, or use a vacuum sealer to portion the leftovers and freeze them to for a later use. Leftovers when reheated make good sandwiches, pulled pork tacos, or you can add them to your next batch of baked beans. Vacuum packing prevents freezer burn, extends storage life in the freezer.

Good Luck and I hope all goes well with your cook.

Springram
03-10-2018, 09:28 AM
For me, pulled pork leftovers is much better when vacuumed sealed and then reheated in boiling water. Tastes just like the day you cooked it.

IamMadMan...very nice write up. Thanks.

scp
03-10-2018, 10:46 AM
Two tips I would give...PLENTY of rub. Cook until done ...test by wiggling bone or pushing on the meat...... it will start to shred.

On my wsm...in warm temps I have to close the top vent a little to maintain 250. A butt takes a min of 12 hours...usualy 12-14.(I put em on at bedtime for eating the next day) I wrap and rest for a couple.

Monkey Uncle
03-10-2018, 02:21 PM
Very good write-up by IamMadMan. Pork shoulder (I'm assuming you mean Boston Butt) is probably the most forgiving thing you can cook. Here's my "easy button" version:

Rub can be as simple as just salt, or you can go all-out with the whole spice rack. Only caution I would offer is to go easy on the paprika and chili powder, which can give a caked-on mouthfeel to the exterior if you use too much.

Pay attention to whether the pork has been "enhanced" with a brine solution. I prefer pork that has not been enhanced. But if you can only find enhanced pork, reduce or omit the salt in your rub.

Cook somewhere between 220 and 270 F, 230-250 F is best. Yes, I know there are a lot of hot-and-fast people out there, but there is less chance of screwing up if you go low and slow. At 230 - 250, a butt will take somewhere between 10 and 14 hours, depending on size.

It's ready when the IT reaches somewhere between 195 and 205 F. Probing can help pinpoint optimal doneness, but if you aren't sure about the feel of the probe, pulling it somewhere in that temp range is good enough.

If it's ready before dinner time, you can hold it in a faux cambro for up to several hours and it will be just fine (some say even better). If you don't need to hold it, let it rest long enough that it doesn't burn your fingers when you shred it. It doesn't really need to rest any longer than that. Discard any unrendered fat.

Serve immediately after shredding, and keep it covered so that it doesn't dry out.

I suggest a NC-style sauce that is heavy on the vinegar. Vinegar is a natural complement to pork. Stay away from the thick, sweet KC style sauce. Save that stuff for glazing you next rack of spare ribs.

ShadowDriver
03-10-2018, 03:29 PM
Top tips in write-ups from great minds above.

Now, mine from the peanut gallery:

- I've found that sticking to "the basics" on my initial rub application (SPOG or something like that) is best. A liberal coating to get some basic flavors into the meat works best.
- Bark creation: I've found that a medium spray bottle filled with a mixture of apple cider/apple juice (whatever you have) and a bit of apple cider vinegar, sprayed all over the butt... every... oh, hour or so... is a good start. See if this helps. Your milage may vary.
- Once cooked, rested, then pulled/chopped, this is the time to create your finished product (either on a big-arsed cutting board or in a bus tub or whatever you've got) - It's time to hit the meat with your rub of choice for those big, specialized notes of flavor... add in those meat juices.... maybe hit it with some apple cider vinegar and a splash of hot sauce... mix it all through... TASTE IT.... (repeat?).

Bottom Line: Have fun doing it! We all want our 'cue to be perfect, but not with all the added stress. It's going to taste delicious.

93_confirmed
03-10-2018, 04:46 PM
Man, pork butt is my favorite cut and the one meat I can nail consistently. Couple of steps that I follow every time:

Mustard slather + rub overnight
Fat side down
Any wood
Spray every hour with Meatheads Lexington Dip
Wrap in butcher paper at or anytime after the stall
Rest for at least 1 hour
Mix pulled with all the juice from the paper

It's $.

chingador
03-10-2018, 04:52 PM
When you pull or chop, tossing the meat with a light coating of an east Carolina sauce can make a world of difference. Other than that plenty of good advice already.

Rib Rub
03-10-2018, 07:08 PM
When you pull or chop, tossing the meat with a light coating of an east Carolina sauce can make a world of difference. Other than that plenty of good advice already.
This is what I am doing tomorrow. Got the grill all set and ready to go. Just waiting for the sun to come up. Already got my East Carolina sauce made.

Frank Mahovlich
03-10-2018, 08:26 PM
Thank you for all the tips. Especially Madman- thanks for taking the time on your lengthy response.

DanB
03-11-2018, 09:34 AM
Top tips in write-ups from great minds above.

Now, mine from the peanut gallery:

- I've found that sticking to "the basics" on my initial rub application (SPOG or something like that) is best. A liberal coating to get some basic flavors into the meat works best.
- Bark creation: I've found that a medium spray bottle filled with a mixture of apple cider/apple juice (whatever you have) and a bit of apple cider vinegar, sprayed all over the butt... every... oh, hour or so... is a good start. See if this helps. Your milage may vary.
- Once cooked, rested, then pulled/chopped, this is the time to create your finished product (either on a big-arsed cutting board or in a bus tub or whatever you've got) - It's time to hit the meat with your rub of choice for those big, specialized notes of flavor... add in those meat juices.... maybe hit it with some apple cider vinegar and a splash of hot sauce... mix it all through... TASTE IT.... (repeat?).

Bottom Line: Have fun doing it! We all want our 'cue to be perfect, but not with all the added stress. It's going to taste delicious.
:thumb::thumb:

Mikeincalgary
03-11-2018, 09:43 AM
After pulling sometimes I will mix a little apple cider vinegar, apple juice, brown sugar mixture into the meat.