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Mar 24, 2005 10:31 PM

Smoked Pork Shoulder?

  • k

My trip to Costco today yielded (among the many other ABSOLUTELY necessary things, such as another case of Talking Rain Ice, just in case I run out of the other two cases already in my garage over the weekend) a 13-pound boneless pork shoulder. It's a thing of beauty, and I am sure its donor was the object of envy throughout the stys of several Iowa counties.

I am ready to fire up and choke down the smoker this weekend, and have my own thoughts about how to prepare this porcine bounty. Even though I live in Texas where it ain't real if it ain't beef, they do allow us non-natives to bring "foreign" cookbooks into the state ... for the time being, at least.

But I wonder whether anyone has recipe ideas, smoking wood hints, general cooking times, sauce suggestions, etc., and welcome your ideas.

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  1. Is the skin still on it?


    2 Replies
    1. re: Jim Washburn

      Nope. Nice thick layer of fat on top, but the skin doubtless has been shipped off to make wonderful chicharrones. Or perhaps a nice football.

      1. re: Kirk

        OK, then, I'm not qualified to advise you. I know how to cook 'em with the bone in and the skin on and make 'em taste really good. What you've got I would just cook as a pork roast, which can be a truly sublime thing, but isn't traditional pork barbecue.


    2. This may be of some use to you. I've made it with pork butt, but it should do fine with picnic or whole shoulder, too. Cook to an internal temp of 190 if you want to pull it. No sauce needed.


      4 Replies
      1. re: Chimayo Joe

        the advice you get on the virtual weber bullet page is the best advice on the Internet for non-competition smoking and barbecue. Check out the forums. Huge help - even if you don't own a Weber Smokey Mountain.

        Back to the original question...

        Are you sure it's a 13 pounder? Or is it two packaged together? Costco usually does that. 13 pounds is possible, it just takes a LOT longer.

        First, I'd definitely take the fat cap off. There's so much internal fat in pork shoulder, you don't need external fat to "baste" or add flavor. Plus, doing that means you'll get more of the rub on the part you can actually eat.

        Speaking of rubs, use one such as the one at the URL Chimayo Joe listed. Two options for application. first, you can slather it with yellow mustard, then put on the rub, or just apply the rub directly to the meat. Either way, not a big deal of difference in the end result.

        Most important, the smoke. I like hickory. I wouldn't do mesquite... I think it is too strong and easy to overdo, resulting in a bitter flavor. I know from experience... Even with hickory, don't overdo it. Cherry, Apple, Oak are all good smoke woods - and all milder than both mesquite and hickory.

        Last, and maybe most important, run that smoker somewhere between 220 and 240 (maybe 250) until the pork gets to about 190 to 195 degrees. I made the mistake a long time ago of smoking the pork to just until done - around 165 degrees. It was terrible. You really need it to get around 195 or so for it to be tender enough to "pull".

        The consensus is that at 220-240 degrees it will take anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours per pound to cook. So, if it really is 13 pounds, you could be looking at a smoke session that could last 18 to 24 hours. My guess is you have two 6 pounders in there, which would mean about 12-14 hours. (cook both at the same time, not touching... will take about the same time as one, but you get double returns). If you want to speed up the process, wait until it gets to 160 or 165 in the smoker, then wrap it in heavy duty foil and finish it in a 250 degree oven.

        I attribute all this information to Seriously, I bought a smoker and reading through that site gave me all the info I needed. Highly recommend it. Good luck.

        Man, nothing better than pulled pork...

        1. re: adamclyde

          I would also take a look at the forums at Their site and the aforementioned Weber site are about the 2 best for BBQ info.


          1. re: adamclyde

            Thanks! Great advice (all of you).

            I haven't cracked the cryovac on the shoulder yet, but moving it around inside the package leads me to believe it's in one piece. If so, I may cut it into two pieces so the the cooking time is a little more reasonable.

            I'll report back.

            1. re: adamclyde

              A thirteen-lb shoulder is certainly within the realm. The shoulder is the whole front leg, a picnic and a butt before they are cut apart. Bone-in, thirteen pounds is not extraordinary. Cook time would probably be about the same as for a butt or a picnic. If you want to pull it, I would go around 225 for fourteen to sixteen hours. This is about as long as for a butt because when a cut of meat gets really big you cook it by diameter not weight. For sauce and serving suggestion I suggest the Joy of Cooking. I serve pulled pork moistened with Carolina-style barbecue sauce, piled on a Mrs Baird's Potato Sandich Bun, splashed with Tabasco Sauce and toped with a dollop of JoC coleslae, the mayo version.

          2. Try the Bradley's Smoker link below. I've had one for a year and used it to smoke fish, chicken,turkey, and pork. With an inexensive Oregon Scientific wireless thermometer for monitoring internal meat temp the process is almost fool proof.


            1. just a couple of observations from someone who has done more than his fair share of butts on his WSM:

              Rule 0 - the Golden Rule of Q - It is done when it is done. Epsecially for pulled pork. There is really no magic recipe for Q, because of differences like initial temperature, surface area/mass, water content of the cut, quality of the meat, marbling.. heck for all I know the alignment of the planets :)

              1) Use plenty of rub on the outside
              2) Make sure the meat is mostly up to room temperature before you try and cook it - I dont mean let it sit out for hours and hours, but also stright from the fridge and you will add a ton of time..
              3) For smoke wood I prefer to add large chunks of hickory with the initial (lump) charcoal ( I dont use briquettes like they recommend at the virutal webber bullet page - why use clay and fillers as a fuel when you can use lump charcoal). The chunks are glowing and adding a thin blue hickory smoke by the time the charcoal is ready.
              4) For additional smoke I add applewood chips periodically.. if I am drinking beer, or hard cider, I might soak the applewood chunks in that.. otherwise just water.
              5) Corolary to the Golden Rule of Q - Don't Mess with it too much! sincce it is done when it is done, don't fiddle with it too much while it is going. For a butt that means I would say don't even think about touching the thing for 2 hours nd then only if you can't help yourself... though if you want to add some more smoke wood chips ( assuming you arent using only hardwood as a fuel instead of charcoal) you c an do that after an hour or so when the initial thin blue smoke dies out.

              6) For easy pulling I find you need to take it well past 190 degrees - more like 200

              Smoke Rule of Thumb - I find after a certain amount of time, say half way or two thirds of the way the cooking, the butt has pretty much gotten most of the smoke it is going to get. Don't worry about adding more smoke wood. And even, if you must - dont worry about wrapping it after that or even - horrors - putting it in the oven to finish if you have to. I have had to do this before when hit by sudden thunderstorms and such, with minimal loss in product quality, but much increased control of when it is done.

              1. I am happy to report that your collective advice and counsel yielded some excellent results this weekend. Considering that it was rainy all day Saturday and Sunday until about noon, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s, I think it turned out spectacularly well.

                The "mutant giant shoulder" indeed turned out to be two boneless shoulders placed end to end in the cryovac -- a good thing, since I decided I would cut it in half if it weren't.

                I dry marinated the meat with a pretty standard paprika-based rub while the meat warmed to close to room temperature. Knowing we were going to have the barbecue for a late lunch Sunday, I decided, based on the weather, to begin the smoking at 2 on Saturday afternoon. I used a combination of Royal Oak charcoal (for predictability) and hickory logs (mostly branches with bark, because that's what came in the one 60-pound bag of hickory I could find Saturday morning).

                I kept the smoker temperature between 220 and 250 until about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, then added a full load of fuel and closed the vents. I awoke about 7 on Sunday, went out to the smoker immediately, and found the top grate temperature hovering around 100 -- not bad for 6-1/2 hours on one load of fuel. I stoked the fire again and continued smoking at about 250 until 1:30 p.m. At that point, the internal temperature had been hovering around 160 - 165 for close to an hour, and I had several mouths around me that were beginning to look I decided to take it indoors and finish it in the oven. another 45 minutes at 350 brought the internal temp to 195. The shoulders had a good 1/2- to 3/4-inch smoke ring and the meat was springy and moist with most of the fat rendered into the meat.

                I chopped/shredded the meat, added some barbecue sauce and served it on Texas' own Mrs. Baird's hamburger buns (thanks, John Clark) with North Carolina cole slaw. I had made Western NC barbecue sauce, but my guests and I opted for Stubbs, which seemed to add a sweetness that offset the intense smokiness of the meat.

                The barbecue was deemed to be delicious by everyone at the table, although I admit that I found it better reheated today at lunch than I did yesterday. Then again, yesterday I was pretty tired out by the time the food hit the table, and I also smelled like I had been fighting a five-alarm fire all day thanks to my smoker-tending duties. We've had the windows open all day to try to air out the smoke smell that permeated the house thanks to the oven finishing of the shoulders.

                Again, thanks to all for your suggestions and hints. I've still got one of the shoulders left, if anyone wants to stop by!

                4 Replies
                1. re: Kirk

                  Always shower and change before you serve barbecue. It's the one bit of good advice I've gotten from the competition-freaks' forum. It makes a huge difference in your enjoyment of the meal.

                  1. re: john clark

                    Great advice. Of course, when my son the firefighter-in-training is home, the scent makes him feel all the more at home!

                    Which competition-freaks' forums do you recommend?

                    1. re: Kirk

                      The main one is KCBS ( But, really, they are very focused on competition -- they cook brisket flats instead of whole briskets, they think chicken is barbecue, they foil everything the way Cooks Illustrated brines everything. It's wierd. Lots of trash-talking about First in Ribs, Third in Chicklen, Reserve Champion, blah blah the Royal and the Jack. There's a guy in mid-cites (Bedford maybe -- North Main Barbecue) who has a lot of bigass trophies from contests like that and his barbecue sucks. So, whatever.

                      1. re: john clark

                        Confirms one my beliefs about barbecue competitions: flash is much more important than flavor.

                        Years ago, I participated in the last Mike Royko/Chicago Tribune Ribfest (1000 entrants in Grant Park, Chicago). The winners were a bunch of dentists who had a two-story, electric motor driven "smoker" but cooked their ribs in foil! They also handed out dental floss with their practice's advertisement on the package. Nonetheless, their ribs tasted like Tony Roma's finest. Bleccccch.