Cooking pork shoulder on the BBQ

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Meat can get expensive so one great option is to pick some cheaper cuts of meat.  Depending on what part of the country you live in you can find pork shoulder for $1.00-$1.50 per pound which is an very economical way to get your protein and fat into your diet.

Like beef brisket, pork shoulder is naturally a tough piece meat so some techniques need to be used to get this stuff delicious:

  • Have to cook low and slow. Unlike better quality of meats shoulder/briskets are loaded with connective tissue given these are the main working muscles of the beast. As a result cooking these fast will result in some very tough meat. Alternatively cooking at a lower temperature over a longer period of time will result in delicious tender meat.
  • 200-225 is the ideal range to cook your meat for optimum tenderness.
  • After an internal temperature 145F your meat can no longer build a thicker smoke ring.
  • Meat is done when the internal temperature is at least 185F

I started with a good fire, after some research I went with the Minion method. The basic concept is to load your fire pan with unlit charcoal, then take a half of charcoal chimney and pour it on top. This will help bring your smoker up to temperature quickly and the unlit charcoal will continue to burn for several hours without having to add any new charcoal.

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Next I added my 7 pounds of pork shoulder which I applied a dry rub the night before and wrapped in plastic. This provides some flavor to the meat and the salt content to help draw moisture from the inner part of the meat to provide plenty of gel for the smoke to adhere to. Now every BBQ must keep their magical rub recipe a secret, but here is a recommendation. Start with 1/4 cup paprika, 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1/4 artificial sweeter . This is your base, then add spices like cayenne/chili pepper and taste until it is something that is appealing to you. You can also play with other spices like coriander, celery salt, mustard seed, basil, black pepper…to give your rub its own unique flavor.

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Knowing that once the meat gets to 145F, my hopes of adding a good smoke ring I opted to cook at the low end 180-200F to allow as much time as possible for the meat to absorb as much tasty smoke as possible. The smoke is delivered using a “smoke grenade” which is water soaked hickory/apple wood chips wrapped in heavy duty aluminum foil with a couple holes poked in it. Simply throwing this on top of the coals produced a good amount of smoke from the 50-145F internal cooking range.

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Once the temperature reached 145F (about 6 hours) so I wrapped the shoulder in aluminum folder and moved the meat indoors to my oven and raised the temperature to be in the 200-225F range (3 more hours) until it hit the 195F internal temperature.

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Closer look before wrapping in foil…

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I pulled the pork and added a little bit of low carb BBQ sauce and I must say I wasn’t optimistic of the success of this but I can honestly say this was the best pulled pork I have ever eaten. Now I live in Washington State so we are not exactly known for our BBQ, so most pulled pork is probably cooked in an oven though I did find a couple of local restaurants who had real smoke BBQ pork and I tried them out and they both did not compare.

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