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First time making pulled pork. [Moved from Midwest]

k
kyleboon Jul 7, 2009 04:23 PM

I'm having a mojito party this weekend and I'm going to make pulled pork to go along with the drinks. I've never made "real" pulled pork before and I'm wondering how long it will need to smoke. The party starts at 6 so I'd like to have the pork done an hour or so beforehand. I think about 15 people are coming so I was going to start with about 20lbs of bone in pork shoulder (thinking about going to costco for this since thats where I'm getting the other supplies - thoughts?)

Can you guys give me any hints to make this go smoothly?

  1. g
    GrillMaster Jul 8, 2009 01:30 PM

    DON'T LISTEN TO THE NAYSAYERS. YOU CAN DO THIS!!

    Ok, here's the A #1 best way to do it if it is your first time.

    1. Don't go by time...buy a meat thermometer and let it go until it is 195 degrees.
    2. Cook it the day before and put the whole thing in the fridge. The next day when you pull it you won't have to worry about burning your hands and the fat strips off of the meat leaving you with much leaner fare (don't worry there will still be plenty of fat)
    3. Start it in the smoker and finish in the oven. The meat will only absorb the smoke for a few hours. I generally go 3 hours on the grill (I use a weber kettle) and finish mine in the oven. The best I can do on the grill is to keep the temp between 200 and 300 but the oven stays at 250.
    4. When I pull the meat I generally separate the burnt ends (the crust on the outside) from the inside meat but different people do it different ways.
    5. Once you pull it put the meat in a big casserole dish, cover it with aluminum foil, and put it in a 300 degree oven. If you plan to use sauce add some now to help keep it moist (not that that will be much of a problem, like I said, still plenty of fat in there). Stir it every 30 minutes or so until good and hot.
    Dinner served and best of all you were in control of the process the entire day of the party rather than being at the the whims of a smoker you've never used.

    You can always start the butt the evening before the party as well if you can't take the whole day. Just time it so that it comes off of the grill rather late giving you a few good hours of sleep before you have to start checking it (about 4 hours).
    Good luck. Let us know how it comes out.

    1. Niki in Dayton Jul 8, 2009 12:32 PM

      This may be sacrilege, but I make pulled pork from a large shoulder cooked in the oven overnight. I score the skin, rub in whatever spice mix I'm using (canned chipotles, garlic, and salt pureed into a paste is a favorite). I usually let it marinate in the spice mixture all day, then that evening before bedtime I put it, skin side up, on a rack over a pan in the oven. I start it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, turn it down to 225 degrees, and go to bed. I check it in the morning, and when the meat starts pulling away from the bone (generally 10 to 12 hours total from when it went in the oven), then it's done. I shred the meat with a fork, then refrigerate until time to reheat. I make some bbq sauce and add it to the pork then reheat on the stove. I'd love to have the time and patience to actually smoke a shoulder, but that will have to wait till retirement ;-)

      5 Replies
      1. re: Niki in Dayton
        paulj Jul 8, 2009 12:35 PM

        Using a reliable oven makes a lot more sense than a smoker that you have never used before. Maintaining an even low heat in a smoker is not a trivial task.

        1. re: paulj
          k
          kyleboon Jul 8, 2009 02:20 PM

          I think I am going to do it in the oven, you guys have convinced me. I'll also do it on Friday and have a backup ready just in case.

          How much should I be looking to pay for Pork Shoulder per pound?

          1. re: kyleboon
            tommy Jul 8, 2009 02:31 PM

            depending on where you live, anywhere from 99 cents to 1.79 or so. it's still damned cheap, for what you get.

            1. re: kyleboon
              g
              GrillMaster Jul 9, 2009 08:21 AM

              I'm telling you, start it on the grill and you get the same effect.

          2. re: Niki in Dayton
            greedygirl Jul 8, 2009 01:34 PM

            This is what I did at the weekend for my first attempt at pulled pork (and I'd never even tasted it before!). It worked a treat.

          3. alanbarnes Jul 8, 2009 11:58 AM

            I speak from experience here - never try to time barbecue to the beginning of a party. Too many things can go wrong.

            Cook it the night before. Cook it the day before. Cook it the week before. But don't cook it the day of the party. That's a recipe for disaster.

            1 Reply
            1. re: alanbarnes
              sbp Jul 8, 2009 12:10 PM

              VERY true -- as mentioned, every shoulder cooks differently and all equipment behaves differently. It's not like chicken or a Porterhouse steak. It might take 10 hours, it might take 15. That's not a big deal on an overnight cook, but you can't time a 5 hour difference into a party schedule!

            2. r
              ricepad Jul 8, 2009 11:53 AM

              I don't know where you are, but my local Costco does not sell bone-in pork shoulder, only boneless. Since the bone acts as sort of a heat sink, not having a bone will change your cooking time. A meat thermometer will be your best friend (cook to at least 190F for pulling).

              1. d
                duck833 Jul 8, 2009 10:13 AM

                If you are a newby I would cook it a couple of days ahead of time. Pulled pork reheats very nicely and you will be able to spend your time on other things. Using a new cooker with no experience is asking for it.

                1. Den Jul 8, 2009 08:10 AM

                  Bone in shoulder will take roughly 1.5 hours per pound. I do it all the time. If you want a good guide for smoked pork shoulder go to http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/foru... and read the pulled pork smoke "sticky"

                  When mine gets to an internal temp of 165 I double wrap it in foil and finish it in the oven set at 250 until it hits an internal temp of 205 to 210. You don't need to have it in your smoker past 165 as it won't enhance the flavor any further. I then let it rest for at least an hour. The best thing to do is make it a day or more ahead. I usually do butts around 8 pounds and after it's completed I freeze the meat in 1 lb portions. It keeps well.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: Den
                    k
                    kyleboon Jul 8, 2009 09:40 AM

                    If I have 2 separate shoulders is it 1.5 hours per total pound, or 1.5 hours per pound of the largest piece?

                    1. re: Den
                      grandgourmand Jul 8, 2009 09:44 AM

                      As Den and a few others have suggested, better to do it the night before. Otherwise, you ahve to get up in the wee hours of the morning, stressing out about time possibly, and not being completely rested for when your guests arrive.

                      If you do it overnight, you can wrap it in foil, then wrap in towels and put in a cooler. It will stay warm for several hours.
                      And as others have mentioned, the temp can get stuck at 170-180 for several hours. That's normal. Once the collagen breaks down, your temperature starts dropping in a pretty normal fashion.

                      Again, your equipment details would help. If you're using a gas BBQ and cooking indirect, it can add to the time of your cook since you're opening the lid a few times to replace the smoke pouches.

                      Be sure to trim excess fat from the outside. As sbp mentioned, you want bark formation and skin or fat prevents this. There's enough internal fat to keep the meat moist, so don't worry about that.

                      If you're uncomfortable cooking the stuff overnight, then I'd suggest cutting the shoulder into 3-4 lb pieces. I've had successfully made pulled pork with smaller pieces on several occasions. It cooks faster. In some ways, I prefer the smaller pieces because you get more bark.

                      Oh, and in terms of total lbs of meat, figure on about 30% lost weight due to the butts shrinking during the long cooking process. Plus you have to factor into the weight of the bone.

                      1. re: grandgourmand
                        k
                        kyleboon Jul 8, 2009 09:53 AM

                        If I cook overnight how often will I need to wake up and add more charcoal?

                        1. re: kyleboon
                          grandgourmand Jul 8, 2009 09:57 AM

                          Again, what is your equipment? If you have a WSM, you'll probably need to wake up 2-3x to go check the temps. You'll do so naturally since it's your first time and will likely be paranoid. It won't be a restful night, even if the WSM is a reliable smoker that arguably doesn't need to be checked at all.

                          If you're using an offset smoker (smoke box sitting next to the grill part) then likely more times. I don't have one of these, but all my research has made me aware that offset smokers require a lot more babysitting, day or night.

                          If you have an electric smoker, probably don't have to check anything.

                          1. re: grandgourmand
                            k
                            kyleboon Jul 8, 2009 10:01 AM

                            It's not a WSM, but it is a similar shape, and it isn't electric. I'm trying to ask my friend exactly what it is. I'll publish that ASAP.

                            1. re: kyleboon
                              Den Jul 8, 2009 10:16 AM

                              Let me ask you a question...isn't this at least a little ambitious a project for a party, for the first time, with borrowed equipment...just wondering if you hit your head somewhere?

                              If you want to make great tasting Memphis style Q, here's a recipe we developed before getting a smoker. You'll be a hero and save a lot of brain damage...

                              • 2 ½ - 3 lb pork roast, shoulder or loin;
                              • 3 tbs cider vinegar;
                              • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce;
                              • 1 tsp ground cumin or chili powder;
                              • ½ cup water;
                              • 1 recipe BBQ sauce or 3 ½ cups bottled BBQ sauce;
                              • Salt and pepper, to taste.

                              Trim fat from the roast and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the meat in a Dutch oven or Le Creuset pot. Combine the cider vinegar, Worcestershire, cumin and water in a bowl and pour over the meat. Put the lid on the pot and place it in the oven for 6 or so hours at 275°. Turn the meat over about every 2 hours and make sure there’s enough liquid (if not add more water). When done, either chop the meat or use two forks and shred the meat. Put meat back in the pot and add 2 cups of BBQ sauce and heat it through on the stove.

                              BBQ Sauce:
                              • 2 ½ cups catsup;
                              • 1 cup finely chopped onion;
                              • ¼ cup brown sugar;
                              • 3 tbs Pickapeppa Sauce (or Worcestershire);
                              • 3 cloves garlic, minced;
                              • ¼ tsp hot pepper sauce or Tabasco.

                              Combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 15 or so minutes, stirring occasionally.

                              1. re: Den
                                tommy Jul 8, 2009 10:21 AM

                                i totally agree that this is a bit ambitious. while bbq pork butt is one of the easiest pieces of meat to bbq, going into this as a novice with the hopes of supplying food for a party is a recipe for disaster. cook it ahead of time. a day or two. if it's good refrigerate it. if it's not go buy some hot dogs (skin on, of course), and call it a day.

                                1. re: tommy
                                  grandgourmand Jul 8, 2009 10:31 AM

                                  I would still do it. Have a backup plan just in case (hot dogs). Part of the fun of hosting a dinner party, and one where people are loaded up on mojitos, is if you pull off a successful Q, you'll be a hero. If not, it becomes a source of entertainment.

                                  But overall, as long as you do your research, I don't think pulled pork is that ambitious. In fact, it's one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to serve a large group (if you know what you're doing). That + coleslaw and hamburger buns, and you're rockin'.

                                  So if you're deadset on doing a pulled pork, I'd consider:

                                  -doing it in advance and reheating; or
                                  -starting in the wee hours of the morning, getting it up to 165 and finishing in the oven
                                  -maybe avoid bone-in, which can affect your times

                                  I don't think I'd do an overnight cook my first attempt.

                                  As an aside, I tried to make a pulled pork on my gas BBQ a few years ago for my own birthday. It turned out a disaster. It didn't pull, and I was way too drunk to salvage it properly. However, everyone had a good time regardless. And I hadn't done any meaningful research, and expected it would be done in 6 hours. Fast forward to earlier this year, another party, full of research and proper equipment, pulled it off without a hitch.

                          2. re: kyleboon
                            sbp Jul 8, 2009 11:10 AM

                            It's 1.5 hours per pound of any given hunk of meat, not the total number of hunks. That's an estimate, though, since every shoulder is different as far as density(think steroids vs. 98 pound weakling). You really are better off with a thermometer. For about $35, you can buy a relatively inexpensive remote unit. You plunk one end into the meat, set the temp on the remote end (in your kitchen, family room, wherever). When it hits that temp, it alarms.

                            I've done 14 hour cooks and never had to change the coals or do anything. It depends on the equipment (bullet shaped smokers generally hold a temp consistently). There is something called "the Minion method" that helps. You lay about half the coals UNLIT in the smoker. Then you fill a chimney with coals and light them. When those coals are ready, you pour on top of the unlit, drop a few hunks of wood on. This keeps the coals going low and slow for a long time. see www.virtualweberbullet.com for a good guide. If you're halfway on top of things, you CAN do a good job first time.

                            1. re: sbp
                              s
                              soupkitten Jul 8, 2009 11:18 AM

                              ime though, first timers really do tend to screw up, just from lack of experience-- lifting the lid to look, being too timid or too generous about the amount of coal required. . . and in an unfamiliar smoker, to boot (they are all different). i'd attempt a few days ahead of the party. if it works out, great. if not, have a backup plan and don't worry/stress about it. either way, post pictures :)

                              1. re: soupkitten
                                sbp Jul 8, 2009 12:08 PM

                                Oh, sure, I would recommend cooking ahead too -- it certainly keeps well, and if you're pulling and mixing with a thin sauce, you can even reheat well in the microwave on low heat. My first attempt I didn't have a thermometer, and after 10 hours, I figured "it MUST be done." It wasn't -- didn't shred all the way through. But it was still delicious. Butts aren't very hard.

                      2. c
                        chileheadmike Jul 8, 2009 07:12 AM

                        I cook in a WSM. A 9 pound butt will take about 14 hours. I cooked one for the 4th and let it go all night. Once done to 195F, I wrapped in foil and put it into a dry cooler. It stayed hot for 3 hours. Once the party was ready to start, I pulled and sauced. Came out great.

                        1. tommy Jul 7, 2009 05:02 PM

                          if you plan on cooking at 225-250 in a smoker, you might consider starting the night before just to be sure. a 7 lb butt at 225 can take over 10 hours to cook to 205 degrees (although can get to 185 more quickly, if that's where you want it).

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: tommy
                            sbp Jul 7, 2009 05:26 PM

                            I have a Weber Smokey Mountain smoker, and in fact, just smoked a picnic yesterday. At 225-250, it took 12 hours for a 10 pound picnic to reach 192. Anything over 190 should result in fall off the bone, pullable pork. I try to keep under 210 to prevent dry meat. Anything under 190 and it will be cooked in the center, but will slice like a beef roast, not fall apart into pullable shreds. Just be aware, the meat will plateau at some point under 190 while the energy from the heat source is melting the collagen instead of raising the meat temperature. It varies, but yesterday, my picnic got to 178, then stayed there for 2 hours without moving a bit.. Don't freak out- that's supposed to happen.

                            1. re: sbp
                              sbp Jul 8, 2009 07:02 AM

                              PS: take the skin off the shoulder before you smoke -- otherwise, you won't get a "bark" (crust) on the meat and the smoke won't penetrate as well. I keep the skin , trim off the fat and let it cook on the side. Chewy but delicious.

                          2. paulj Jul 7, 2009 04:59 PM

                            What sort of 'smoking' gear do you have?

                            To fit with mojitos, how about cuban style pork, rather than Carolina style smoked pork? It is still slow roasted, and pulled (shreaded), but the seasoning is more along the line of orange (bitter if possible) and cumin, rather than smoky.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: paulj
                              k
                              kyleboon Jul 8, 2009 09:40 AM

                              I'm not sure actually - I'm borrowing the gear from a friend. I'll ask him and get back to you.

                            2. s
                              smtucker Jul 7, 2009 04:46 PM

                              Search for Will Owens recipe in the middle of the "American BBQ in England" thread. Great instructions for a marvelous meal of porky goodness. There are additional tips on a thread called "Help with my Tough Pork Shoulder" [halfway down for a substantial discussion of many philosophies.]

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/623897
                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/634102

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