We were having a bunch of people over for a 4th of July parade and barbecue. I wanted to serve something other than burgers and hotdogs, aka the good-old standby. So, I decided to make pulled pork. It turned out great! Maybe the best things about it was that, for $13, we served several people and still had enough for leftovers.
I purchased an 8-pound Pork Shoulder Picnic Roast. A picnic roast is one where the shoulder cut has the shank — or hock — attached. This cut is cheaper than most because it requires less butchering and has more bone in it. Picnic roasts usually come in a cryovac’d package, all ready to go.
I decided to go with my electric smoker for several reasons. The biggest reason was that, since we had a lot to do that day (attend a parade, prepare a bunch of dishes for the barbecue, etc.), I did not want to be tending to coals for over 8 hours, which I would have to do with the Weber.
In using the smoker, I first soaked 4 cups of Apple wood chips in water, set it on the smoker, and turned the smoker on to its highest temperature (275 degrees).
Second, I prepped the shoulder. This was easy. I took it out of its package, dried it off with paper towels, slathered it in yellow mustard, and put a rub on it. I did this all at 4 am, and I forgot to take pictures. D’oh!
Here is the rub I used. Why did I pick it? It was on sale. I used almost all of this rub on the shoulder.
All of that said, my only piece of advice is be generous with the mustard and the rub. This will create a great bark on the pork by the end of the smoke. If you feel you need more guidance, you can check out the pictures I posted for the beef ribs. The same slathering technique used there applies here.
Next, I filled the smoker with wood chips. I let them begin to smoke before I put the meat in.
Once the meat is in, leave it alone. Remember, if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’.
Here is the pork after 3 hours. I only opened the smoker to spray the pork with a 50/50 mixture of water and apple cider vinegar. This keeps the surface moist and promotes a better bark.
To keep track of this cook, I used a thermometer with a probe. I made sure to put the probe in the middle of the roast, but not touching bone. The “set” temperature on the right can be set for whatever temp you want. It will beep when it reaches that temp. Initially, I wanted an internal temperature of 195 degrees. However, I changed that to 203 degrees during this cook. Meathead Goldwyn at Amazingribs.com has a post where he says that he thinks 203 degrees produces the most tender pulled pork. (After eating this pulled pork, I agree.)
Here is the roast after 5 hours. Again, I only opened the door to spray the pork. I stopped adding wood chips to the smoker after 5 hours. Many pitmasters prevent oversmoking their meat by doing this. Moreover, pitmasters that are using wood as the only source of fuel will wrap their shoulders in foil to prevent oversmoking.
Here is the roast after 10 hours and 45 minutes. It was in the smoker for 9 hours and 40 minutes, and it rested, wrapped in foil, for 1 hour. The hole on top is where the probe thermometer was inserted.
After the one hour of “resting,” I “pulled” the pork using two forks. You lose about 30% of the pork’s weight while cooking. So, I ended up with about 5.5 pounds of meat.
Everyone commented on how moist and tender the pulled pork was. I think there were three keys to why this was so:
- First, pulled pork is done when it is done. One rule of thumb I found online is that the cook will take 1 hour per pound. In reality, this shoulder, which weighed 8 pounds, took 9 hours and 40 minutes.
- Second, you have to let the shoulder rest after you take it out of the cooker. Many sites online say to let it rest at least half an hour to let the juices redistribute. I wrapped this shoulder in foil and let it rest for 1 hour. Even after an hour, the shoulder was still very hot.
- Third, pull the pork right before you are going to serve it. It will start drying out immediately, so make this the last thing you do before people start digging in.