Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jun 29, 2012 04:23 AM


I am venturing into the world of smoking!! First time tomorrow!! I am torn about what cut of pork! Tenderloin, butt, or shoulder...and also torn about brining...yes or no? everywhere i look gives mixed replies....i diohowever feel that if i go with the tenderloin i will definately brine first! Any recommendations to a first timer???Im also nervous about temp control!!!! OMG, the pressure lol!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Butt or Shoulder, which are pretty much the same thing. Take the skin off. Season. No need to brine. Get a remote thermometer, cook it till at least 200. Be patient.

    1 Reply
    1. Okay, first of all, relax. It's not that hard.

      I would do a shoulder first. It has plenty of fat and connective tissue to help keep things moist. Pretty bullet proof. When I do mine I do nothing with it. Just put it out there. I'm suggesting you do this because it's nice and easy. No fuss, no muss. After you feel comfortable, then look at brining, curing, slathering, seasoning, whatever
      I smoke for about 7 hours skin up and then flip and put into a foil roasting pan. Cover and let go another 7 hours or so. Let it rest a couple hours before opening. Pour off the juice and reserve. Shred the meat and put into another pan. Skim the fat off the juice and save it. It's basically smoked lard. Good stuff. Add some BBQ seasoning and some of the defatted juice and mix in. It's almost like a BBQ sauce but not as assertive.

      If you want to make beans to go with it, use some of the meat and fat and you'll be amazed at how good they turn out.

      If I do a tenderloin I salt cure it for a week and then smoke. It's almost like extra lean bacon. Very tasty stuff. I would do a loin before a tenderloin.

      What type of smoker are you using??


      11 Replies
      1. re: Davwud

        Its actually an inexpensive one, got it for 100 bucks, its a kettle style with a smokestack on the top...i didnt wanna go all out til I have mastered the art! i am more worried about temp control, and things like, how long does it take for the charcoal to be ready before i put the meat on? and how do i keep the temp at a constant 200? doesnt it spike as i add mpre charcoal? i read that i have to check every hour to 90 mins, at the same time i add more charcoal i need to rotate the meat, and add more chips/chunks.i will go with the butt or shoulder, and i will marinate overnight as opposed to brining, and i will be sure to wipe the marinade off before it goes to the smoker...

        1. re: encoretraiteur

          First of all, barbecuing/smoking meat is more art than science. There are tricks to making it more scientific - thermometers, electric smokers, foil wrapping, etc., but your still going to need to practice and develop your skill. Just relax and embrace the process, grab a beer after the first few hours.

          Don't get too hung up on temperature spikes - they are going to happen. You will need to keep the temperature close to 225 for as long as it takes - probably in the neighborhood of 8 to 9 hours (for a relatively small butt). Nevertheless, keep in mind this simple tenet - "Barbecue is done when barbecue is done." Outside weather conditions will affect the cook time - wind, dampness, temperature all impact the cook with traditional methods. As does the size of the meat.

          My preference is for the picnic half of the shoulder (the other half of the front leg is the butt) because I like the extra skin. A whole shoulder is even more fun, but makes for a longer cook (but is really dramatic to serve without "pulling"). I also don't think a wet marinade is the best way to go. An overnight dry rub will infuse flavor and can be as simple as only salt & pepper (paprika, ground chile, and sugar are also commonly used).

          The following thread has some good advice about a way to approach the cook with a charcoal fuse that may help you out given your description of grill.

          1. re: encoretraiteur

            Take it out of the fridge as early as possible as you want it to be as dry on the surface as it can be. Smoke doesn't stick to wet very well.

            Again, all these suggestion from people are nice but I would make it as simple as possible. Which, as has been said, is easiest (if pork) when you use a butt.

            Good luck and let us know how it goes.


            1. re: Davwud

              I completely agree about dryness and starting with a butt.

              1. re: Davwud

                Actually, it's the exact opposite. From Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking:

                " . . . smoke vapors are deposited most efficiently onto moist surfaces, so "wet" smoking has a stronger effect in a shorter time."

                1. re: 1POINT21GW

                  Moist, yes, raw meat is inherently wet, especially after sitting overnight in a marinade or dry brine. What the OP doesn't want is to take something still cold and dripping and place it on the grill rack. Setting it out for a while will solve this problem.

                  1. re: MGZ

                    No need. By the time he walks from the kitchen to his smoker, any dripping will have stopped even it he just took the butt out of a brining solution. Also, no need to bring the meat up to temp.

                    1. re: 1POINT21GW

                      her kitchen and her just teasing, though i do wonder if all the people who replied are men, and if there any other women crazy enough to undertake this sort of stuff....i know there are but my guess is not many ! i appreciate all of your comments, and am taking everything into consideration....i have a feeling though that once face to face with my smoker, all of my natural cooking instincts will take over, or not lol...i will update ofetn, and post pics!

                        1. re: encoretraiteur

                          me too! 9 lb brisket in my freezer awaiting my next unscheduled weekend day!

            2. Butt/shoulder was my first non-poultry smoke. Applied a rub and set the butt overnight in the fridge. Took about 10-12 hours until it was pull-able. What kind od a smoker are you using?

              15 Replies
              1. re: nofunlatte

                its a kettle style, inexpensive one...made by kingford. i didnt want to invest too much until i have mastered it! i read some reviews on this smoker and it appears difficult to maintain temp, though not impossible!...i read an old thread that had to do with smoking butt, and alot of folks seem to do couple hours in the smoker, and finish in a low oven...i was really hoping for more feedback regarding smoking a loin, i didnt want serve a pulled meat...more of something that i could slice

                1. re: encoretraiteur

                  Cooking a loin on a grill like that is really best done with more of an indirect grilling technique than a true barbecue smoking technique. There is not sufficient collagen in the meat to benefit from a 8 hour cook at 225 with a finished meat temp of 190 or so. Instead, you can infuse a significant amount of smoke flavor into the meat by mixing wood chunks with your coals and cooking at a temperature around 300 for a much shorter period with a finished temperature of 145 or so.

                  Davwud's approach to the tenderloin, mentioned above, could also be modified to work, but would result in a different product than what I have just explained.

                  1. re: encoretraiteur

                    I am actually planning to smoke a pork loin (not tenderloin) on Sunday. Easy, relatively quick, and sliceable. A three-pound pork loin takes about 2-2.5 hours once it is on the smoker. The loin is brined overnight, patted dry, injected with apple juice ( you can probably skip this step--the first time I made it, I wore more apple juice than that which went into the loin), and rubbed. I used the Minion method for the coals. Recipe is from Saveur issue 139 (June /July 2011).

                    1. re: nofunlatte

                      Smoking a pork loin is one of those crossover dinners that dresses up really well but has many of the flavor profiles of a pulled pork butt. I treat them in a similar manner for basic prep, just scaled way back. The loin gets a good rinse, dried well before lightly seasoning with a very mild rub (dizzy dust and Mary cherry at 50/50) and no more than 4 hours. An hour before cooking remove from fridge and inject kosmo's pork marinade made with apple juice.....a 4 lb roast takes about 1.5 cups. Pat the loin dry and clean up my mess and then rub the outside with olive oil, chopped rosemary, and either fresh ground pepper or some mcCormick's Montreal steak seasoning. It goes onto our BGE set for direct searing heat to grille and char the exterior turning frequently. After 6 to 8 minutes remove to a foil pan and throttle back the fire by shutting all air vents to maybe 10% flow, throw a log of cherry or apple wood and a few large chunks of charcoal. Gets the fire down from 700 degrees to 225 and steadies there within 10 minutes. Set up the plate setter to create an indirect smoke, place a drip pan of apple juice below the cook surface and get the loin in position with a wired thermometer probe inserted in its center. I use a dual probe thermometer so monitor the chamber temperature for the 2 to 3 hours it takes to bring the loin up to 155 degrees. I peek every 30 minutes and look to see if it needs to be rotated and for the final 30 minute cook, I brush the crust with some melted salted butter. Pull it off the BGE and tent lightly for 15+minutes. Never fail very moist with crusty exterior. Slices easily for beautiful presentation. Smoke, fruit, pork, rosemary flavors coupled with the trace richness of some melted butter. Sauce with a pork based demiglace with dried tart cherries and a touch of fresh sage. Killer.

                      1. re: ThanksVille

                        that sounds fabulous! thank you soo much for that!

                        1. re: ThanksVille

                          well...i guess i am hooked...went back to the butcher this morning, got a loin...which i will smoke tomorrow....i will be rubbing tonight, and injecting with apple cider tomorrow...but I think instead of brushing with butter I will brush with maple syrup for the last 30 for the sauce, a nice reduction of demi glace, apple cider, and sortilege...I also picked up some beautiful peaches so I think peach crumble for dessert....and while all of that is happening, making sweet potato gnocchi for 25 guests for an event later this month...a day of pure bliss for me...

                          1. re: encoretraiteur

                            Great to hear that you're hooked, fellow female smoker! I smoked a pork loin Sunday and it was VERY well received by guests. The leftover meat made wonderful sandwiches, too.

                            1. re: encoretraiteur

                              Just smoked a pork shoulder and veal breast for the 4th. Hooked is the word. If you haven't done so already, make sure to have a probe thermometer. Loin is not forgiving. You want it to cook to just medium, around 140-150 degrees.

                              1. re: sbp

                                thanks for the tip, and i do have a thermometer, though I have changed my method a bit....I decided to brine instead(i used brown sugar salt H2O, star anis, mustard seed, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and peppercorn) tomorrow i will chop some rosemary, with olive oil and garlic while smoking...and I still plan to baste with maple syrup the last 30 minutes...the sauce will stay the same! I will be sure to keep you all posted...

                        2. re: encoretraiteur

                          I’d do a Boston Butt with this setup. It is more forgiving. Set it up for indirect. Coals one side, water pan\meat on the other.

                          1. re: encoretraiteur

                            "i didnt want serve a pulled meat...more of something that i could slice"
                            You can bake a pork roast with charcoal - it ain't BBQ (low and slow), but you'll still get a smoky product. Theres also nothing *wrong* with doing so, it all depends on what you want.
                            I happen to like this method in my repetoire. You can see a picture of a whole leg I baked on a barrel smoker at the end of this thread:

                            Just my 2c: keep notes on what you do (times/temps/amount of smoke/charcoal etc etc). Its likely that you'll have something good, but will probably want to tweek it next time (and the next and the next, until you get what you want). Notes help when, 4 months down the line, you give it another whirl.
                            Realize that you can oversmoke (something that I only came to know after plenty of trial and error). I like the smoke-then-wrap-in-foil method, but *when* you have enough smoke is a personal choice and will come with experience. Once wrapped, you can use just charcoal for a heat source, or you can finish in a conventional oven.

                            1. re: porker

                              heres an update! just got back from my butcher, i got two pieces from the neck(he assured me it was best for pulled pork) , and all my spices for a rub....then off to Canadian tire where i found apple, and cherry wood, and the hardwood briquets...i will rub the pork later and let it sit overnight. i plan to smoke for about 3 to 4 hours, and then finish in the oven...i have been working in the food industry a really long time, so i am a pretty good cook by now, but living in Montreal where the bbq season is quite short, i have never ventured into smoking before...even at culinary school, it is not a method that we were taught...pretty sure itll be great, and thanks so much for the input!! i love all the opinions here, keep them coming, and i will definately keep updating!!

                              1. re: encoretraiteur

                                "but living in Montreal where the bbq season is quite short"
                                I live 10 minutes from downtown (well, an hour and a half taking construction into consideration) and I BBQ year-round.
                                The bigger problem is the lack of local BBQ culture in Montreal (and the north in general, I guess); no one I knew BBQed while growing up in the 70s. "barbecue" meant brickets in a budget grill with hamburgers and hot dogs.
                                I started BBQing and smoking in the 80s and really didn't know what I was doing. The world wide web wasn't what it is today and references were mostly obscure books. It was lots of trial and error.

                                1. re: porker

                                  i live in Laval, also grew up in the 70's to hot dogs on the grill....i stand corrected....MY bbq season is quite short, I only fire up the grill in March, and keep it going maybe til October....and since this is my first time smoking anything, I am not sure yet if I will become passionate enough about it to go through the winter....and you are right, there is definately a serious lack of bbq culture here, and that is very unfortunate!I was really thrilled to find everything at Canadian Tire, though they didnt have the chunks, so i setteld for chips this time around...

                                  if anyone is interested in my progress, you can follow me on twitter fact my first post is all ready up!

                                  and if anyone is REALLY interested, I will be taking notes, and blogging about my experience on my website

                                  thanks for all the helpful info guys, please keep it coming!! i love chowhound...

                              2. re: porker

                                and porker, i will definately keep a log so that i can tweek and readjust for future reference!!

                          2. A whole pig shoulder is comprised of the butt (upper part) and the picnic (lower part near "bicep"). Get the butt (or Boston butt), and not the picnic. The butt doesn't have any skin on it and it is what is normally used for pulled pork. Cut as much of the fat cap off as you can, there's enough inter-muscular fat to keep it moist. No need to brine as long as you take it low and slow. If you try to rush it with higher smoker temps, you may end up with something drier and tougher. Your rub on the meat will form a bark. More surface area (that's not fat), more bark.
                            Keep the smoker around 225* - 250* for around 10 -14 hours or until the butt's are 190*-195*. You'll find that the temp will plateau around 160*, but be patient. They will eventualy rise above that and continue the steady climb. Wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and place in a warmed cooler lined with towels to rest for 1 -2 hours. Unwrap and pull. I've had butt's resting in the cooler for over 4 hours and they were still too hot to touch when I finally pulled them.
                            For temp control using charcoal, look up "Minion method". Using the Minion method, I'm able to keep my Weber bullet steady at 235* without touching anything for 8 hours of the 12 -14 hour cook. Usually I'm jockeying with the heat and air flow at the beginning and the end of the cook.

                            1. I teach to start your journey with chicken... Easy to cook.....It's very good to eat...and should you make some mistakes along the way the investment is small.....It's a great teacher......

                              Have Fun & Enjoy!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Uncle Bob

                                I agree with you. I have at one time or another ruined every other meat cut on the smoker but a whole chicken has never failed me. For the first time I would puree chiles, limes, cider vinegar, soy sauce, allspice, thyme, and brown sugar to make a salty jerk marinade, soak the whole chicken 24 hours and smoke upright on the grate.

                                If you must do pork your first time out, I personally think the spare ribs are the most forgiving. The only tricky part is trimming but there are many good online guides for that.