Mastering the Art of Smoking Pork Shoulders on a Charcoal Grill

Have you ever thought about diving into the world of barbecue but found it a bit daunting? Well, fear not! Smoking a pork shoulder on a simple charcoal grill can be a rewarding and relatively easy endeavor. The process allows you to enjoy the peace and quiet of an early morning, while the smoker demands your attention throughout the day. So, let’s get started and master the art of smoking pork shoulders!

Embrace the Smoky Journey

Smoking a pork shoulder requires just a few key ingredients: a Weber Kettle (or a similar grill), an external digital thermometer, briquettes, wood chips, a drip pan, and a bone-in pork shoulder (also known as a “butt”). Don’t let the words “smoking” or “barbecue” intimidate you. This project is forgiving and hard to mess up, especially with a juicy and fat-marbled cut like a pork shoulder.

A Tool for Precision

To achieve deliciously tender results, investing in a dual-probed thermometer is essential. The built-in dome thermometer on your grill can be wildly inaccurate, making temperature control nearly impossible. You’ll need to accurately measure the meat’s internal temperature and the air temperature inside the grill. Don’t worry, you don’t need an extravagant tool; a simple $30 model will work perfectly fine.

Size Matters

When choosing your pork shoulder, keep in mind that bigger cuts take longer to smoke. While larger shoulders may be tempting, start with a more manageable size, around five pounds. This allows for a cook time of about 1-1.5 hours per pound, giving you consistently juicy and flavorful meat. Remember, patience is key!

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Trim the Excess

Before embarking on your smoking adventure, take a moment to trim some excess fat from the pork shoulder. While the intramuscular fat adds flavor and moisture, the thick fat cap on the outside can hinder the penetration of seasoning and rub flavors. Trim away the excess fat, leaving just a thin layer to enhance the final dish.

The Art of Salting and Rubbing

Salt plays a crucial role in flavoring the meat. While a rub creates a beautiful bark on the surface, it doesn’t penetrate deep into the meat. Therefore, it’s important to treat salting and rubbing as two separate steps. Salt the pork shoulder 12-24 hours beforehand, allowing the salt to draw out moisture, dissolve, and infuse the meat. When it’s time to smoke, apply your chosen rub right before you begin cooking.

Achieving the Perfect Burn

“The Snake” is a charcoal stacking method that ensures long, slow, and consistent cooking on your grill. Create a snake-shaped line of briquettes around the outer edge of the grill, leaving small spaces in between for airflow. Light one end of the snake and let the coals burn gradually throughout the day. Place wood chips on top of the snake, allowing their aromatic smoke to infuse the meat.

Maintaining the Flame

Temperature control is crucial for a successful smoke. While a charcoal grill lacks temperature dials, finding the sweet spot of 225℉-250℉ is achievable with proper airflow management. Experiment with adjusting the intake and exhaust dampeners until you find the right setup. Remember, small adjustments are key, and avoid opening the lid too frequently, as it releases heat and moisture.

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Keeping It Clean

During the smoking process, charcoal turns to ash, which can accumulate and impede airflow, ultimately affecting the temperature control. To prevent any mishaps, clean out the ash periodically using the cleaning blades provided with your grill. A few quick swipes will keep the airflow steady and the temperature right for an optimal cooking environment.

Overcoming the Stall

Often, smoking meats encounters a phenomenon known as “the stall,” where the temperature plateau lasts for hours around 150℉. This is caused by evaporating moisture cooling the meat, counteracting the warming effect of hot air. You can patiently wait it out or increase the heat to around 300℉ to power through the stall. However, wrapping the meat in foil is not recommended, as it can affect the formation of the beloved bark.

The Moment of Truth

With all the preparation complete, it’s finally time to cook your pork shoulder. Make sure you have a bone-in pork shoulder in the 5-6 pound range, along with your salt and rub of choice. Begin by salting the shoulder and letting it rest for 12-24 hours in the refrigerator. Next, set up your snake formation, ensuring the wood chips are in place, and light the charcoal. Once the grill temperature reaches around 200℉, adjust the dampeners, allowing the temperature to stabilize between 225℉ and 250℉.

The Art of Patience

Now, the waiting game begins. Let the pork shoulder smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 194℉. This can take several hours, so be prepared for the tantalizing aroma and mouthwatering anticipation. Remember to rotate the lid occasionally to ensure an even distribution of heat. Once done, remove the smoked masterpiece from the grill, and let it rest before shredding it with finesse.

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Bask in Barbecue Glory

Congratulations! You’ve successfully smoked your first pork shoulder on a charcoal grill. The blackened exterior is your well-earned bark, and the tender, juicy meat speaks for itself. Serve it on buns with your favorite BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and maybe some pickles. The compliments will come pouring in, and you’ll know that your dedication to the art of smoking has paid off. Enjoy!

Pork Shoulder

Source: Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ