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Sep 6, 2008 05:35 PM

Help re: boneless vs bone-in for pulled pork

I'm going to make pulled pork tomorrow for the first time. My husband went to pick up the boston butt at the store and all they had was boneless. I had wanted bone-in, but he didn't realize that all they had was boneless and that's what they gave him. I called a couple of other supermarkets and no one sells the bone-in butt/shoulder (I'm in the Boston area). I'm still going to try to find one tomorrow morning, but just in case I can't I thought I'd ask for some input.

I did a search on the board and it seems like most people use the bone-in. So will the pulled pork come out as good, or should I not bother with the boneless? What kind of adjustment in cooking should I make? I was planning on trying the Cook's Illustrated recipe which calls for cooking for 4 hours on the charcoal grill and then finishing it for 2 hours in the oven. Has anyone tried this recipe? What kind of cooking adjustment would you make for this method with the boneless?


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  1. It will help if you tie it, even if only around the perimeter. Salt the meat when you take it out of the fridge, then let it come to room temperature before cooking. This of course means you'll need to get up early...

    I have not seen the Cook's Illustrated recipe you mention. I usually sear my butts (LOVE to say that!) in oil in my enameled-iron braising pot, then throw in a glass of wine (and maybe a chopped, sautéed onion) and braise with the lid on for six hours in a 275º oven, or overnight at 250º. The one I cooked last Sunday spent six hours in my water smoker and never got over 150º internally, so I wound up finishing it in an electric cooker set at 350º for another hour or so. Not the best ever, but it disappeared almost immediately, so I guess it was okay...

    1. boneless will take a little while longer to cook, but it's fine-- you get a little more meat, after all. when you put it on the grill make sure the fat side is up. i am unfamiliar with your recipe and can't help there-- i'd go by internal temp of the meat rather than the time in any bbq recipe. ime, bone-in shoulders are widely available, try at a non-supermarket butcher shop or farmer-direct.

      1. If you can't find a bone in roast, keep your eye on the boneless, they tend to dry out faster than a bone in. I've found to get pork to pull really good, it needs an internal temperature of at least 185 degrees. I always judge a bone in roast by when the bone pulls out, usually when the bone pulls out with no effort it's done and temperature is around 195 to 200. I would probably wrap the boneless in bacon to give it a bit more fat and hopefully it wouldn't dry out quite as fast.

        1. I use the Cooks Illustrated technique all the time and it comes out very well. The boneless roast should work fine, just take a little longer, but if you cook until it gets to 190-195 degrees it will be all melty and good.

          I actually do it a little longer on the grill in the smoke, but I like it smoky. It just means less time in the oven.

          1. I use a full shoulder and tell them not to touch it. If you're calling around and no one is selling bone in, perhaps in future you can pre order one. It shouldn't be hard.
            Another tip is to go where the Italians live. They buy pork shoulders for making sausage and most butchers in the area (At least here in TO) will sell them. You could even ask Italians at work (Or wherever) if their families make sausage and where they get their pork.

            I've done boneless with absolutely no issues but I prefer bone in. The best part is, you get a nicely smoked bone that you can put in a pot of peas or beans.