My 1st Pork Shoulder Experiment

Twas neither a complete success (I wanted pulled, got roasted) nor a complete failure (skin was nice and crispy, meat was smoky and flavorful).

Friday night: I wash and pat dry the 9-lbs picnic shoulder. Score the skin and rub goes on. Home made mix of salt, pepper, sugar, brown, sugar, paprika, cayenne, chipotle chile powder, onion powder and oregano.

Saturday: Shoulder comes out of fridge at around 11am. Start soaking some mesquite chips and light the lumpwood coals. Coals are off to the side and a big pan of water rests below where the shoulder will be. Piggy goes on the grill a few minutes after 12pm. Temp hovers around 225F.
While the cooking commences, I prepare the mop on the stove. Cider vinegar, water, brown sugar, cayenne, black pepper, dry mustard and paprika are whisked together, brought to a boil and then simmered for 30 minutes.
I replenish the coals every 45 minutes or so and mop the shoulder with the vinegar mix as well. Mesquite chips go on the coals at hours 1.5, 3 & 4.5. Temperature fluctuates from a low of about 200F to a high of 275F. Every 2 hours, I turn the roast over. It finally comes out at around 8pm. Beautifully deep red in color and an internal temp of 165F. On the plate I try pulling the meat apart with two forks. No can do. Ended up slicing it off the bone. Awesome taste, but disappointed a little with the lack of pulled meat.

Sides were: home-made cheddar & chive cornbread, coleslaw and sweet, bi-color corn on the cob. Wine was an 06 Rosenblum Petite Sirah Heritage Clones…quite á propos. The wife made Pavlovas with whipped cream and mixed berries for dessert. A good night overall.

45 minutes into cooking:

After 8 hours:

Shredded porky goodness:

Ok, so what went wrong? Not enough cooking time or temperature was too high?

Not enough time. It needs to get to around 200 degrees to pull properly. Figure about an hour per pound. Plus, a picnic isn’t the ideal cut, a shoulder butt is.

Made the same rookie mistakes myself last year. The “Boston Butt” is what you want, usually boneless. You just keep it on until you can fork it apart on the grill. Much easier to tell with the butt than the picnic. Also, I’m no expert but with my experience you can really tell by the drippings when the collagen hits that breakdown point that you want so the meat can be forked apart.

Two bits of sage advive above Mr Jorge.

I’d only disagree with Brent to the extent that I think a bone-in butt works best. Among other things, the bone will pull out readily when the roast is done, so it’s a bit like that little pop-up thingy on a turkey - except that the turkey is overdone by that time.

Figured as much. Thank you gentlemen. I know I was already treading dangerous territory having gone with the picnic instead of the Boston butt. Problem was that the smallest butt available was 15 lbs. We were only 4 and on top of that, I would have had to start cooking at around 4 am.


Looks good Jorge.

I’d love to do that but I’m in a No Pork Zone, which means I’d have find a bunch of guests to come over to help me eat it, and make something for her besides. I’ll get there this summer.

I’ll do a brisket next week.

Definitely need more time, and I agree that the better pork shoulder has the bone in.

Funny that you have the “problem” of the smallest butt being 15lbs! I usually can’t get a piece larger than 3lbs from the supermarket. Bob was right now that I think of it, there are bones in the ones I’ve had but they were so small as to be almost negligible. Perhaps that was due to the small size and the bone in a 15lber is larger.

Where are you shopping Jorge? I know you’re further south than me but might be worth the trip to finally get my hands on a 15-20lb butt.


The beast in question was at BJ’s Wholesale Club. Smallest clocked in at 15 lbs, but the average packaging was closer to 20 lbs. I don’t know if it may have been that there were 2 butts in each package, but that still puts them in at around 10 pounds each. Let me know if you want to come down one weekend. Their meat selection is actually quite good. They have awesome skirt steaks.

If they’re 15-20 pounds there have to be two of them in there. That’s what I see quite often.

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Great site Bob. I’ll probably try it again, but this time in the oven…easier to manage temperature and no need to refuel every 45-60 minutes.

It won’t be as good without the smoky goodness. Try smoking for 2-4 hours and then finishing in the oven.

Another smart suggestion. Best of both worlds. Will do. Also, I should definitely shoot for a smaller cut (4-5 pounder) in order to not be chained to the grill and/or oven the entire day.

The smaller roast tends to dry out. Try smoking the previous afternoon or early evening and then putting it in a 200-degree oven until morning. It can’t overcook because it will never get above 200 degrees. In fact, it may not be quite done when you get up. No worries, just leave it in there for a while.

When it is done, remove, wrap in foil and hold in a 170-degree oven until about the time you’re going to serve, then pull. The stuff freezes well, too, so there’s no need to worry about the leftovers.

Either that or stop being a wuss and just get your ass out of bed early. [berserker.gif]

And when you do drag yourself out of bed at 4am, reward yourself by making up some “fatties” for breakfast. Carefully take a basic package of breakfast sausage out of it’s wrapper, bisect it lengthwise and then scoop a little from the center of each half. Fill each side with goodies like cheese, jalapenos, onions, etc. Reassemble the sausage (you can use some of the sausage that you scooped out to form a seal), apply your BBQ rub and then wrap it back up with a couple of slices of bacon. The bacon is optional, but really…why wouldn’t you want to add bacon? Throw it on the smoker/grill for the first 3-3.5 hours while smoking your pork, and you’ve got a nice little treat for breakfast by about 7:30am.

Here’s Fatty!

Fatty on the bullet:

Lunch fatty stuffed with peppers, mushrooms, cheese, jalapenos, and onions:

Now that’s what I’m talking about! Where’s the bacon, though? [dontknow.gif]

My other favorite BBQ snack is Armadillo Eggs. Take a whole jalapeno, cut the stem and remove the guts, and then refill with pepper jack cheese or cream cheese. Encase the pepper with about a 1/4 inch of sausage and then toss on the smoker for a couple of hours. You gotta have something to much on while staring at the smoker.

my quick .02…

@ 165 it was just getting to the plateau. A couple of hours at the plateau, then the temp of the butt would start to rise again. Pull it off the grill at 190-200 internal, wrap in foil, and let it rest for an hour or 2, or 3…then pull the pork. @ 165 it probably had another 3-5 hours to go on the grill.

If you have a grill that can keep a constant temp of 225 or so, smoke the butt indirect…and put it on at 10pm or so…an 8 pounder should be done smoking at 10-12 the next morning…ish.

Good luck…