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Smoking Pork Shoulder Question

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chazmtb

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Hi Y'all,

I am planning to do a weekend potluck picknick with a group of friends, 15 families. I will be doing smoked pork shoulders, about 12 lbs each. I have a large ceramic Alton Brown style ceramic terra cotta smoker, which can consistently put out 225 deg of heat at the 18.5" round grates.

OK, I just want to get a rough idea of time required so I can plan accordingly. BTW, this is my first attempt at pulled pork shoulder at this magnitude. Most places I have searched recommend about 1.5 hours for each pound. So, will I be alloting 36 hours (24 total bls x 1.5), give or take, or 18 hours (12 lb x 1.5) for both shoulders.

I plan on only "smoking" the meat for only about 6-8 hours with the rest of the time in a low consistent heat.

Thanks,

Bao
 

mano

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Your 1.5 per pound is about right but your butts are a bit large at 12 lbs each. Sounds like you've done this before so I won't get into rubs etc.

If at all possible put in a lower grill and both at once, smoke for 8 -10 hours and then wrap them individually in foil with a cup or so of apple cider then in the oven until they hit about 190-200. Rest 45 minutes and you should be ready to go.

Unlike brisket pork butts are almost idiot proof.

Cole slaw, a good vinegar based mop, buns, beer and a cigar and you're headed toward nirvana!

No doubt others will have their own opinions, after all we're talking about smoking meat.
 

mhlee

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There's no magic calculation as to when a large piece of meat will be done; numbers are just guidelines. However, I'd bet money that it will be closer to 18 than 36. :thumbsup:

However, I would start checking the internal temperature after 10 hours, since cookers generally have spikes and drops in temperature when opening the cooker and depending on the amount of fuel in the cooker. (If you use a remote thermometer, you won't have to check.) Also, the pork will hit a plateau or "stall" around 160. It will take several hours for it to get past this point. Be patient here and just let the heat do its thing, once it gets past 175 or so, the temperature will increase steadily and faster.

If you're only going to be smoking the meat for 6 to 8 hours, you can also finish them in an oven. (Or just partially cook them in the oven in case you want to get some sleep, and finish them on your cooker. ;)) Also, if, as you get closer to serving time, and you realize the temperature is not where you want it to be, throwing it in an oven at a higher temperature (and wrapping in foil) will help you increase the temperature faster.

Alternatively, if you get to your desired temperature faster than expected, take the shoulders out of the cooker, double wrap in foil, put in an insulated cooler and cover and stuff with towels, the pork will stay over 150 for at least 4 hours. And, when you unwrap the pork, drain off the juice into a gravy separator, pour out the juice onto your pulled pork or add to your sauce for extra porky goodness.
 

chazmtb

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Thanks for the tip. That's what I am planning to do, smoke them for about 8 and wrap and them until the int temp is about 200 in the middle. I am trying to get the largest shoulders I can, so I can feed some people. I will be using an internal temp probe to monitor until they are ready.


Yep, I'm doing shoulder because it is pretty much idiot proof. I have been doing beef brisket, and although everything came out great, juicy and tender, with no sauce needed, I think that the combination of hickory and mesquite and longer smoking were too strong for the meat. I think I smoked it too much. Anyway, smoked shoulder is much easier.
Thanks,
 

chazmtb

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Anyway, with the brisket, everyone thinks it is great, and no problem, but I am always my worst critic. You know you want to strive for the best.
 

WildBoar

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Bao, has all of your experimenting been with the AB terra cotta smoker? I want to try one of these soon. Did you tweak the design at all? TIA,
 

mhlee

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Thanks for the tip. That's what I am planning to do, smoke them for about 8 and wrap and them until the int temp is about 200 in the middle. I am trying to get the largest shoulders I can, so I can feed some people. I will be using an internal temp probe to monitor until they are ready.


Yep, I'm doing shoulder because it is pretty much idiot proof. I have been doing beef brisket, and although everything came out great, juicy and tender, with no sauce needed, I think that the combination of hickory and mesquite and longer smoking were too strong for the meat. I think I smoked it too much. Anyway, smoked shoulder is much easier.
Thanks,
If you're going to wrap, they'll DEFINITELY be cooked closer to 18 hours than 36. I'd say you'll be done somewhere around 12 to 14 hours. I cook 7 - 9 pound Boston Butts (bone-in) at 275 and don't foil until after taken off the heat, and I'm done anywhere between 9 and 12 hours.
 

chazmtb

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David,

I wanted something large, so I got a really large pot, that can fit a standard weber 18.5 grate with handles. I think it is about 22.5" at the opening, so the 18.5 grate sits well below the opening. Most I see are smaller and uses a 14" webber charcoal grate.

I ordered a shallow bowl that is about 22.5 inches in diameter too with a nice size hole about 1.5 inch diameter at the bottom (top when I invert it as a dome)The smoker is about 24 inches high. The dome sits another 10 inches. I also have the tera cotta panter feets that raises it up and lets the electric cord come out of the bottom.

Anyway, I used some bricks inside the bottom of the planter to raise the heating element. I used a replacement metal charcoal/wood pan (14 inch or 15 inch) I believe from a brinkman smoker. I use a quarter size aluminum pan, and put some water in it. The pan sits right underneath the 18.5" grate and catch the drippings from the meat too. I also cut out some aluminum tray and cover the electric coil heating element so as only the element is exposed to the dripping, if any that comes down. Pretty much the water pan, or the charcoal/wood pan. The electric element is continuously touching the charcoal/wood pan.

I drill some small holes, mayby 1/4 inch around the pot just for some small circulation. Actually adding the small holes has raised my temp up. When I did it without holes, the temp was about 25 degrees less.

For long smokes, I add some hardwood charcoal to the bottom pan along with the soaked smoking woods. It has worked well, since I have tried briskets, chicken, whole pork loins, and smaller boston butts. Most of the time, when I am doing large briskets, it is in the smoker for 6 hours. After that, it is wrapped and put back in the smoker for another few hours, probaby until 160 int. That's when I take it out and put it in the oven. I did not realize about the stalling of the internal temperature until now,, and that's probably why I put it in the oven, as I think the temp in the smoker is not as high to get the internal temperature going.

Anyway, I think this setup, the temperature remains pretty much consistent. I don't trust the cheap metal smokers, because there is too much heat loss.
 

chazmtb

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Michael,

Thanks for the tip. I may not want to wrap. I wrapped briskets before, just because the fat content is not as much as the shoulder. Since the shoulder has a lot of fat, I want a nice crusty bark, and the meat can handle being exposed. Really this is all depenent on internal temp, I just want to know how long, since I have never done something this large before.

Bao
 

WildBoar

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Thanks for outlining your setup. I like the bigger size you are using vs the much smaller AB used in his shows. I need to start assembling parts to make one of these.
 

chazmtb

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Thanks for outlining your setup. I like the bigger size you are using vs the much smaller AB used in his shows. I need to start assembling parts to make one of these.
Cost to me was about 140.

Large Planter - 20 (from a place locally here in Orlando called old time pottery)
Shallow Planter (dome ordered from Arizona Pottery which was the most expensive) - 80
Planter feet 3 sets - 6
Weber grate - 15
Heating Element - 10
Brinkman pan (free) but I would imagine no more than 10.
 

mhlee

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Michael,

Thanks for the tip. I may not want to wrap. I wrapped briskets before, just because the fat content is not as much as the shoulder. Since the shoulder has a lot of fat, I want a nice crusty bark, and the meat can handle being exposed. Really this is all depenent on internal temp, I just want to know how long, since I have never done something this large before.

Bao
Bao:

I think the bark is the best part of the pork as well, that's why I try not to wrap unless it's necessary to keep it warm when I transport the meat from home to somewhere else. I think you'll be just fine as far as letting the pork go as long as you want, and since your set up seems like a direct cooking set up, you'll probably end up with some nice crunchy cracklin's if you use a skin on whole pork shoulder and cook it skin side down. (I haven't had luck with getting skin crunchy enough with an indirect set up, although I've only done a whole shoulder once and a picnic cut once; I generally cook bone-in Boston Butts. From what I've read, you pretty much have to do direct heat to get enough heat to cook the skin until it's crunchy.)

And if you run out of coals, you can finish in the oven like you've done with brisket. All in all, I think you're good to go since you're monitoring with an internal probe; just make sure it gets to your target temp. For Butts, mine is 190 if I'm going to wrap, 195 if I'm going to leave it in the oven to hold. Meats that large will have at least a 5 to 10 degree increase in temperature during the resting period; I've found that cooking it to 200, which causes the meat to get to 210 (or more), causes the dark meat in the Butt, IMHO, to get a little too soft.

One last thing, a whole pork butt will hold for a few hours in an oven at 175 to 200 (lower for longer holds), once it's fully cooked through, and just tented with aluminum foil, so I'm pretty sure those pork shoulders will also be fine if held in the oven if you finish earlier than expected, so I would err on the side of finishing early.

Best of luck! Feel free to ask any more questions.

P.S. - Just as a point of reference, I became a die hard barbecuer in 2003 after going to KC for a conference, and eating 3 barbecue meals in two days. I don't have fancy set up (22.5 Weber Performer), but at one point, between 2004 and 2007, I barbecued, on average, twice a month, no fewer than two items (ribs, butts, chicken), created a short spreadsheet of different cooking times vs. weights for pork butts at several consistent temperatures (using my oven), became a KCBS CBJ in 2006, and judged a few competitions here in LA, when we had them. I've tried various woods including hickory, plum, peach, apple, cherry, mesquite, oak and various charcoals as well. I love barbecue and thank God for Lipitor.
 

chazmtb

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Boston butts are marinating in the dry rub. Could only get a 10 and 8#, but they have trimmed it. Actually I wanted skin on but that's what Costco had.

I plan to smoke tomorrow so it will be ready Sunday
 

mhlee

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Boston butts are marinating in the dry rub. Could only get a 10 and 8#, but they have trimmed it. Actually I wanted skin on but that's what Costco had.

I plan to smoke tomorrow so it will be ready Sunday
Good luck tomorrow!
 

99Limited

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I actually smoked the same meat from Costco two weeks ago. If you want your shoulders to have a bark on them your going to need to smoke them for around 12 hours. If you're just after a good smoke flavor, smoke them for 6-8 hours and finish them in the oven like you planned. You also have some options smoking two shoulder. You could take one and let it finish cooking until it reaches 190 degrees for your pulled pork. Take the other one and stop cooking it when it reaches 160-170 degrees, let it cool and slice it. This way you give your guests a choice of sliced or pulled pork sandwiches or maybe some people would just like sliced pork without a bun.
 

chazmtb

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OK, here's the set up. Since I didn't have large enough boston butts, I decided to get 3, but the 3rd, I only used 2/3rds, The part that still has the shoulder bone in it. The other 1/3 to be saved for something else.



Here it is marinated in the dry rub for about 36 hrs.




The terra cotta smoker set up.



Set and ready to go. I was able to get the smoker temp at a little over 225 consistently for the smoke period. I used cowboy brand lump charcoal, and large hickory chunks. That probably added to the temp. With this big terra cotta smoker, the heating element is just too weak.




After 9 hours of smoking, and internal temp of 160. Time to put it in the oven, set the temperature probe at 195, and go to sleep.
 

chazmtb

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After another 8 hours in the oven and the internal temp getting to 185, I had to pull it out so I can get to the picnic.



The final product. Had to add a little salt to liven up the flavor, and the vinegary BBQ sauce.



Luckily everyone liked it and took any extras home. Boy what a wonderful Easter day.
 

apicius9

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Oh man, that does look great. I could easily eat a few rolls with that meat and some cole slaw right now.

Stefan
 

Ratton

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Pulled pork has to be one of my favorite meals!!! Looks yummy!!!
 

WildBoar

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Possible pass-around?!? Where am I on the list???? :happy2:
 

mhlee

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Nice job. Looks great! I'm sure everyone really enjoyed it.
 

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What's everyone's preference for rolls to use for pulled pork sandwiches? Currently I am searching all the local bakeries/roll makers to find something suitable, any suggestions.
 

Jim

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What's everyone's preference for rolls to use for pulled pork sandwiches? Currently I am searching all the local bakeries/roll makers to find something suitable, any suggestions.
If you can find them, a pretzel roll is a great if not traditional choice. I like a nice bite and some crumb in my bread, so the traditional "wonder bread" type roll is the worst choice for me.
 

chazmtb

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Potato rolls are my favorite for pulled pork...

Makes me want to make another batch...

Maybe next month.
 

chazmtb

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Going to make 4 shoulders this weekend. Two for a family picnic, and two to save for Thursday, my wife's one year anniversary of her office.
 

mhlee

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Nice. :thumbsup:

Makes me want to cook pork butt for my first cook on the BGE.
 

chazmtb

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OK, this is sacrilegious, but I just returned from Samsclub where I was going to get the pork shoulders. They had these Jack Daniels fully cooked pulled pork for only 3.25/lb, and the regular pork shoulders were 1.80/lb. It taste damn good, maybe better than mine (except that I have bark). So I decided to buy those instead. No smoking for 18 hrs.

I feel dirty for doing so...
 

mhlee

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:jawdrop:

:eeew:

:censored:

:angry2:

:angry1:

:soapbox:

WHO ARE YOU???!!!! AND WHAT DID YOU DO TO BAO???!!!
 
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