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Apr 24, 2008 12:08 PM

Cut pork shoulder into smaller pieces for smoking?

I saw a recipe somewhere where the instructions are to cut the pork shoulder into 4 small pieces to cut down on the smoking times.

Can anyone comment on the downside of this? Wouldn't 4 small pork pieces get to a higher temperature faster than one big shoulder?

This saturday I am planning my second attempt at smoked pulled pork. For the first time, I smoked the entire shoulder for about 3 hours then finished it off in a crock pot. I would like to do the entire thing in the smoker.

Is it possible to do this within 6-8 hours in the smoker, or should it be transfered to the oven to finish the temperature off?

I'm using a charcoal grill as a smoker so i'm afriad its going to be difficult to do anything more than 6-8 hours.



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  1. I've seen it done in a competition. Needless to say they didn't win. They said they wouldn't turn in anything inedible so I'm guessing it was pretty decent.

    Whatever you do, keep the fat side up and keep it on as low a heat as you can get (Without going below 200*) and in the smoke for as long as you can.

    Finish it in the oven.

    I cover mine for the last half of the cooking (10 hours or so) and I always pour off the juice after it comes off the heat. I let it sit while I'm shredding so the fat can separate from the juice. I skim the fat (I keep most of it for things like bbq beans) and then add the juice back in as needed.


    4 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      What kind of competition allows gas as a fuel? None that I've been to.

      1. re: chileheadmike

        Who said anything about gas as a fuel??


        1. re: Davwud

          Looks like I may have totally misunderstood. Not the first time...

          1. re: chileheadmike

            Believe it or not, it's even happened to me.


    2. How much does your pork shoulder weigh? Usually shoulder takes 1-1/2 to 2 hours per pound when cooked at 200-250F. I haven't noticed a huge difference in cook time when we've done larger shoulders or smaller butts but we always load our smoker to justify the amount of charcoal and wood expense for a cook.

      1. Can anyone comment on the downside of this? Wouldn't 4 small pork pieces get to a higher temperature faster than one big shoulder?

        Yes but at the risk of the meat drying out too much…Good BBQ cannot be rushed...take your time…Relax and Enjoy!

        This Saturday I am planning my second attempt at smoked pulled pork. For the first time, I smoked the entire shoulder for about 3 hours then finished it off in a crock pot. I would like to do the entire thing in the smoker.

        Entire shoulder..?? You mean a Boston Butt, Pork Butt…not the entire shoulder…Right? Maybe in the 8 to 10 lb range? At three hours you were just getting started…Avoid Crock pots and Ovens when BBQing.

        Is it possible to do this within 6-8 hours in the smoker, or should it be transferred to the oven to finish the temperature off?

        If you can maintain 225*-250* for 8 hours you may be getting close…What you are looking for is eternal temperature of the meat...Use a thermometer to judge doneness...Not your watch….In fact don’t even put on your watch Saturday!! What’s the rush? Check the temperature in the thickest portion of the meat. For good pullable meat shoot for 185*-200*

        I'm using a charcoal grill as a smoker so I’m afraid it’s going to be difficult to do anything more than 6-8 hours.

        Why?? You can refuel as needed. If you are using Lump charcoal add it directly to the existing coals. If you are using briquettes…start a new batch in a Charcoal chimney starter using newspaper. Avoid using liquid charcoal starters. Let them be completely lit (white) before adding to the cooker…. Replenish as often as needed to maintain the 225*-250* inside the cooker.

        Get your meat out about two hours prior to cooking…You applied the rub Friday night right?? Get your cooker stabilized at 225*-250* put your meat on, and go find something to do…Come back in 2 or 3 hours to check on the temperature inside the cooker…add fuel if needed…then leave it alone again. Remember if you are “lookin” it ain’t “cookin”

        You can do this!!

        Have Fun & Enjoy!!!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Uncle Bob

          Yes, I mean butt. I'm very new at this. I have a weber performer and this will be my 4th time smoking. I've done ribs twice and a pork butt. My first time with the 3 hours and then the crock pot, well that was just to see if i could even get the charcoal grill smoking. it was a test!

          yes, friday night rub.

          ill take your advice!

        2. As mentioned below, you want to keep it large. However, if you have a full shoulder (the butt and the picnic), at about 12-14 lbs, you can separate into the two pieces of 6-7 lbs each.

          What grill do you have? If a Weber Kettle or similar, check this pic: I set up a "fuse" of three briquettes running 3/4 of the way around the fire grill... and light one end. Keep vents open, lid closed, and it will burn 6 hrs, at about 250 dome temp. Perfect for the butt placed in center, with drip pan below. You will need to go about 10 hrs on a 6-7-lb butt, so when the fire runs down, just add coals to the end of the fuse every 45 min or so til you are done. Go to 200 degrees internal, or when the bone will twist right out.

          15 Replies
          1. re: woodburner

            That's a really clever idea. I will give that a try!

            1. re: johnandscooter

              Your picture brings up a good point. I see three wood chunks? Is that your only smoke source for the 6 hours? I was adding a few chunks each hour to keep the smoke rolling out.

              I guess the question is: how much smoke is enough?!

              1. re: johnandscooter

                Smoke rolling out is a bad thing. I add about 6 unsoaded chunks to my WSM at fire up. You will see some smoke at the beginning but it will die down to almost nothing.

                If you're seeing a lot of smoke, the fire is not burning cleanly and you risk creosote building up on your meat. I always keep the exhaust vent wide open and regulate the temp with the intake vents to ensure a clean fire.

                1. re: chileheadmike

                  BRAVO!!!! Spoken like a true Pit Master!!!

                  John&Scotter...Think of Smoke as a flavoring componet..much like salt & pepper.. to much is not good.. .Meat cooked in the dry heat of wood/charcoal embers for 8-10-12 hours can easily take on to much smoke...Even if you can't see's there.

                  Blue Skies!!

                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                    Right on! Yes, I find that a few chunks -- usually a combo of hickory and mesquite -- suits my taste just fine. Unlike an offset smoker, which is running a full-burning fire, a low-oxygen fire like this will slow burn that wood, mixed with the charcoal which is -- to a certain extent (lol) -- wood, for a number of hours. Plenty of smoke on the meat. By the way, add the wood in the early portion of the burn, when the meat will best absorb it. Late in the cook it will absorb much less. The pic here is actually a picnic section of the shoulder...

                    1. re: woodburner

                      So is there an agreement on roughly how many wood chunks to add over the course of an 8-10 hour smoke?

                      In my previous attempts, i apparently have been oversmoking. Now I see how it is possible to keep the lid closed for a long time!

                      I was adding wood chunks (maybe 2 or 3 of the 3 in high by 5 in wide chunks to my charcoal per hour).

                      You guys are helping me out quite a bit. I thank you!

                      1. re: johnandscooter

                        It's more art than science. You've got charcoal to begin with. Try three nice chunks. Since you won't open the lid, they will not burn up in rapid flames... they will smolder. Do you have a thermo on the lid? I think Performers do. Start with top and bottom vents open, and if temp goes high, most people say to cut down the bottom vent slightly; I myself use the top vent to regulate temp, and have not suffered "creosote," or other wood gunk, on my meat. It's obviously easier to see and regulate the top vent. You can let that dome temp go 250 or even slightly higher, despite people who will parrot back classic temps of 200-225. I have smoked HUNDREDS of butts on my Webers. Butts can take the slightly higher heat. You will find that you need to go to a full 200-205 internal temp before they are truly done, when the bone will twist right out of the meat. It will not be there at 185. No way, no how. You can get a very nice slicing butt at that temp. What about the sauce? I like a nice western style N Carolina approach, as below. Pull the butt, add some sauce, eat. Refrigerate or freeze as well (with sauce added). Will reheat great.

                        1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
                        1/2 cup brown sugar
                        1 tablespoons kosher salt
                        1 tablespoons red pepper (crushed)
                        2 1/2 cps water
                        3/4 cup ketchup

                        One batch per tray (2 butts)

                        1. re: woodburner


                          I will give it a try with 3 nice size chunks. Now how long will 3 chunks last? Surely not the entire time?

                          I am planning on a carolina style sauce, i will consider yours.
                          alright, i need to head to bed. the smoking begins tomorrow at 7:30!

                          ill keep you posted, hopefully with a great picture of a nice smoked butt!

                          1. re: johnandscooter

                            Remember that the wood will only ignite as the "fuse" burns around the circle. So one piece or another will be burning for a good 3 or so hours during the first half of the burn. It will be plenty.
                            Look forward to your report!

                            1. re: woodburner

                              It turned out very well! Thanks so much for everyone's input.

                              I started the pork at 7:30 am and it finished resting at 8pm.

                              It was delicious. It pulled apart so easily. We made an eastern carolina style sauce which was pretty good.

                              For future reference and so we could learn from our mistakes, we decided to video tape a little bit of the BBQ. I posted it on you tube. I'd love any comments you guys have about our method:

                              We didn't do the fuse method but we were really interested in it. We used those charcoal containers and spread them out on each side of the grill.

                              In order to keep the temperature, we had to add about 3 or 4 charcoals every 1.5 hours. Each time we added 1 or 2 more wood chunks.

                              1. re: johnandscooter

                                another pic, from the grill. This was a few hours into it.

                                1. re: johnandscooter

                                  Good job fellers. Couple thoughts for you. If there is much sugar in the rub or mop, it will tend to burn over the long cook... hence the extreme blackness. I know it tasted good... so its fine, or try with less sugar.

                                  The inspiration for the fuse came from a technique developed by a feller named Jim Minion (the Minion Method), where he piles coals in a WSM (smoker) and just adds a handful of lit coal on top. The coals will, very slowly, catch from top down, and give a long burn. You could load one side basket with coals, start with 6 lit ones added on top, let it burn all the way down, then set off the second basket... and shake the ash out of the first. So you could alternate one basket, then the other. You would then probably only need to change every couple of hours.

                                  1. re: johnandscooter

                                    Looked nice. Your finished product has a nice smoke ring to it. If you liked how it tasted, I'd consider it a job well done and you have a method of making it.
                                    Of course, you'll probably continue to tinker like most of us.


                          2. re: woodburner

                            Yo woodburner. Not contradicting you by any means, but I do want to clear up some misconceptions about off-set cookers. They are not meant to run "full-burning fireplace fires" during cooking. I have two 48 in Klose off-sets that burn lump charcoal 98% of the time. Anyway, If wood is used as a fuel source, the meat should only be presented to the cooker "after" the wood is reduced to coals.

                            johnandscooter....How much flavoinrg wood to use will come wtih practice on your cooker with various meats and cooking times..I personally would ere on the side of "too little" a couple of times rather
                            than "too much" ...Do as someone suggested..start with two or three medium size chunks at the beginning and let that be it. Also I prefer to use/regulate the air intake portion of the cooker as a means of fire control, rather than the exaust ports/smokestacks/etc which I leave wide open.

                            Have Fun!

                            1. re: Uncle Bob

                              Come to think of it, you're right, Uncle Bob!! Guess I'm remembering how MY offset used to run before I got rid of it LOL. Guess they don't call me woodburner for nuthin!

                2. I used to do this all the time when all I had was a relatively small electric that used chips or dust. It definitely does not produce as good a result as I can do now keeping it whole and smoking for a longer period in my gas plus side box unit. The small chunks just lose all their juices - too much of the fat drips off. I was having to mix in way too much sauce (vinegar or tomato based) and making a mushy pulled pork where the sauce just overwhelmed the smokiness. Now, with whole shoulders and butts, the pulled pork is juicy on it's own, and the final flavor and texture are much closer to the really good stuff I've had in real que joints. The butts or blade roasts are generally smaller than shoulders and work well for pulled pork. Typically, shoulders take 10-12 hours or even longer while butts can be done in 8. I cook beginning to end in the smoker and do not finish in the oven or in a crock pot.

                  Anything you do without a real smoker is a compromise. It's just a question of what you're willing to accept for a final product. A bottle of liquid smoke and a crock pot may be all you need.