BBQ Pork Shoulder – Low and Slow
The only way to do BBQ pork shoulder is low and slow, outside, over charcoal and with wood smoke. There’s all kinds of gimmicks out there but I’ll show you all you really need to do it the right way. Here I did a pork shoulder, or sometimes called a pork butt, but this method works for ribs, brisket, or any other tougher pieces of meat that needs to be tenderized.
First, you need a good piece of meat. This shoulder I had in the freezer and came from a pig I bought a while back. As with other articles on this website we try to use as much grass-fed, pastured, free range meat as possible. This pig was raised in a family’s back yard. Its delicious and has a different, “nutty”, flavor compared to pork from a grocery store. However, meat from free-range animals tend to be a bit smaller and less fatty. Overall this is healthier but you’ll miss out on a bit of that delicious melted fat flavor.
Start by making sure its totally thawed out and then rub it down with your favorite rub. Cover the whole thing liberally, put it back in the fridge and let sit. Ideally, let it sit over night, but at least a couple hours.
Now get the grill the ready. You’ll need to set up 2-zone, indirect heating. You can do this with a Weber Kettle Grill , a gas grill, an off-set smoker or any other sort of contraption you might have. It doesn’t matter, the idea is the same; don’t cook over direct heat. Place the meat on a part of the grill without fire under it, but is getting heat from another part of the grill. I really like the Smokenator. Its a neat little device that keeps the fire pushed to one side and allows you to use the rest of your grill for the meat.
Maintain a steady temperate of 225-275 degrees F. Cook with the lid down tight. Use the vents to control temperature. Closing your vents reduces the temperature, opening the vents increases the temperature. Oxygen is fuel for the fire, more oxygen that can get in makes the fire hotter and vice versa. I find that closing both the bottom and top vents half way keeps me where I need to be but it’ll also depend a lot on the outside temperature. You’ll need to add more fuel ever couple hours but you shouldn’t have to screw with the fire very frequently. Once you have it going, the lid on tight, and the vents set properly, it’ll keep a consistent temp until the fire starts to die. Then just stir it up a bit, knock off the ash, add some more fuel and close the lid back up.
Use a thermometer! You’ll need to maintain the grill’s temperature and monitor the meat’s temperature. You’ll know when its done when the meat has an internal temperature of about 205 degrees F. The only way you can know this is by using a thermometer. Thermometers are notoriously bad, so get a good digital one. I like this one. It’ll measure both the grill’s temp and meat’s temp and has a remote. You can sit inside watching football and drink a Bloody Mary without having to run outside to check on the grill.
How long will it take? That depends. It depends on the meat itself and how hot the grill was. Cooking at exactly 225F can take 8+ hours. You can reduce the time by increasing the temp or wrapping the meat in foil. Note, once the meat hits a temp of around 150F, it’ll sit there for a LONG TIME. Don’t worry, this is normal. Don’t increase the temp, or put it in the oven. The temperature of the meat does not increase in a smooth, linear pattern. I cooked this shoulder at about 275F and it took 4-5 hours.
Take the meat off the grill and carve it up. There’s not need to “let it rest” like some thing. You can slice it into pieces like I did here or you and pull it into smaller pieces like a more traditional pull pork.
Add some BBQ sauce. Some BBQ. Don’t smother it. The point of BBQ is the meat, not the sauce. Also, BBQ sauces are notorious for having crap ingredients. Try to find one without high fructose corn syrup. I really like this one.