How to Smoke a Pork Shoulder

Smoked pork shoulder is a staple for barbecue-enthusiasts everywhere. Though this is a time-intensive process, it is relatively simple. Pork shoulder is also very inexpensive, making this a perfect beginner recipe.

When you purchase your shoulder, be sure to pick a cut that weighs around eight pounds. Larger cuts tend to dry out, so it is best to stick to a smaller size. When you go to the store, you will find two choices for pork shoulder – the Boston butt and the picnic. The Boston butt has less bone than the picnic, which is frequently compared to an uncooked ham. The most common choice at competitions is the Boston butt, however, either cut will work well for smoked pork. Both of these cuts have a lot of fat marbling which will melt into the meat throughout cooking, creating a tender product.

Once you have your cut of meat, it is time to prepare it for the smoker. If there are loose pieces of fat hanging off the pork shoulder, those can be carefully trimmed. Although it is tempting to remove more, be sure to leave most of the fat in place. You need that fat to create meltingly tender barbecue pork. At this point, you can simply leave the pork as is and throw it in the smoker. The most important flavors in smoked pork come from the fat in the meat and the wood it is smoked over. However, most people prefer to add a rub. Rubs should be added the night before you plan to smoke the shoulder. Once your pork has been lightly trimmed, apply the rub recipe of your choice. Popular rub recipes frequently include brown mustard, Cajun seasoning, sugar, paprika, cumin, garlic, and/or onion powder. Feel free to adjust things to your own taste. Apply the rub liberally and really work it into the meat, making sure the entire cut is covered evenly.

One hour prior to smoking your shoulder, remove it from the refrigerator. This is so the meat can reach room temperature before placing it in the smoker. While you are waiting for this, you can prepare your smoker. When you are deciding which wood to use, there are many choices. Traditional Southern woods, such as hickory, oak, and pecan, work particularly well. Although purists would argue that wood is a requirement for smoking, limitations sometimes prevent people from accessing it. In this case, try to use a hardwood charcoal, although regular charcoal can be used if that is all you have access to.

Using your choice of wood or charcoal, heat the pit to 225 degrees F. Once your pit is prepared and the meat is at room temperature, place the shoulder in and let it smoke for one hour, with the fat side up. As the meat cooks, the fat will melt down and infuse its flavor throughout the shoulder. Continue cooking the meat, turning occasionally. The meat will take approximately one and a half hours per pound. When it is finished, the internal temperature will reach between 170 and 180 degrees. If you wish, you can mop the shoulder with a flavorful liquid approximately every forty-five minutes. Good ingredients for a mop include beef broth, cider vinegar, worchestshire sauce, dry mustard, garlic powder, hot sauce, or whatever else you feel like throwing in. Be sure to customize it to your taste.

The most popular way to serve pork shoulder is as pulled pork sandwiches. Once your meat is finished cooking, it should be falling off the bone, making it very easy to shred with two forks. Add the pulled pork to a bun without your condiments of choice, which may include your favorite barbecue sauce, mustard, onions, coleslaw, or anything else you like. This time intensive, but simple, dish will definitely please your barbecue guests.

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