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A Simple Guide on How to Smoke the Perfect Pork Shoulder

So, you’ve purchased and assembled your new smoker—now it’s time to fire it up. The best and easiest cut of meat for learning how to smoke is pork shoulder. Also known as the pork butt, it comes from the front shoulder and leg area of the hog. Pork shoulder is a delicious, simple piece of meat to smoke due to its marbling, making it tender and heavenly. Interested in trying it out? Check out our guide on how to smoke a pork shoulder.

Dry it off

Once you get your 8-10 lb. shoulder home from the butcher shop, you’ll want to unwrap and dry it off. Grab a few paper towels and blot the moisture off of the meat on all sides. This helps the meat cook evenly and creates a nice bark from the rub.

Apply the rub

This is the most important part of the entire process. A good rub can make or break your pork shoulder.  The best ones to use are brown sugar-based.  There are dozens on the market or you can make your own. Pour some rub in your hand and liberally rub the entire shoulder, covering every inch.

Leave it out overnight

Leave the meat out overnight—this will allow it to get to room temperature. The idea behind cooking meat is to raise the internal temperature. So, don’t make it any lower than you need too by placing it back in the fridge. Putting a cold piece of meat on the smoker will only add to the cooking time.

Soak the wood chips

To ensure your smoker is operating at the highest level, we recommend soaking the wood chips in water overnight. When it’s time to cook, and you throw them onto the fire, they will create a thicker smoke. This thick smoke will allow the shoulder to absorb more of the delicious flavor as it cooks.

Set the proper temperature

Before you put the meat in the smoker, make sure that your fire is burning at a constant 180 degrees for about 20 minutes. Having a low temperature can increase cook time, while having too high of a temperature can cause the meat to cook too fast and become chewy.

Add the wood chips

Once the fire temperature is set at 180 to 200 degrees and the meat is in place, add the wood chips to the fire. There will be thick, white smoke pouring out of the smoker once you complete this step.

Don’t look at it

Remember, for every pound of pork shoulder, it will take 2 hours of cook time. Leave the door closed on the smoker—every time you open it, the smoke and heat will escape. If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’!

Wrap it up

Once the meat is fully cooked and has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees, take some butcher paper or foil and wrap it tightly. This stops any moisture from escaping and helps the fat render.

Rest it in a cooler

After reaching an internal temp of 190 to 195 degrees, take the shoulder, wrap it in a towel, and put it in a closed cooler for 2 to 4 hours. Resting the meat in a cool environment allows the meat to retain moisture. More moisture means better texture and tenderness.

Eat, drink, and enjoy

Prepare some sides, get some BBQ sauce, and set the table. Even if your first smoked pork shoulder isn’t perfect, it will still be enjoyable. Remember, smoking is a learning process—keeping practicing, you’ll get better!

Written by Logan Voss

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