How to Smoke Pork Shoulder on a Charcoal Grill

What You Need to Make Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill

Regarding BBQ, Inc.

Pulled pork is a delicious contribution to any cookout, tailgate, barbeque or casual lunch at home. It’s a classic that can yield as many flavors as it does servings. A Boston butt or Boston pork roast is about 5 to 6 pounds of tough meat filled with bone, cartilage, and fat. Turning this block of a pork roast into a delicious and tender barbecue is going to take patience and a full-sized charcoal grill. It requires a charcoal grill and a griller that can hold a consistent cooking temperature of 250 F/120 C and is large enough that the pork roast can fit on half the cooking surface with space all around and good vent control. Plan on a cooking time of 6 to 8 hours from start to finish.

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Grilled Pork Steak Serving Suggestions

We love to serve the grilled pork steaks family style on a big platter or simply on a cutting board, surrounded by various sides and with plenty of craft beer to wash down all the goodness. 

You can always throw some corn on the cob and some sweet peppers, padrons or shishitos on the grill to accompany the juicy pork. Potato salads or cheesy potatoes are always complementary as are all manner of other salads – this hearty barley salad, coleslaw, greens with berries or grilled peaches, etc.

Wrapping the Pork

Regarding BBQ, Inc.

After about 4 hours of cooking time, the internal temperature will rise above 150 F/65 C. It is time to wrap the pork. By this time, it will have absorbed all the smoke it is going to get and the temperature needs to rise faster while holding in moisture. Wrap the roast tightly in a double layer of aluminum foil and place it on the grill. Check to make sure that the fire is burning well and that the grill's temperature is around 250 F/120 C. There is no need to add additional wood chunks at this point.

Keep the water pan full. This water pan has been not only keeping the moisture in the grill high, but also acting to keep the temperature inside the grill level.

Continue cooking for another hour or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 185 F/85 C. Pork is considered cooked at 145 F/63 C, but barbecue requires much higher temperatures to ensure tenderness and flavor.

Tips

  • Marinate the pork shoulder overnight in the refrigerator for added flavor.

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  • Brine the pork shoulder before cooking for extra moist meat.

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Salt before you rub

Salt is a small molecule, and it permeates the meat with ease. Most of the flavor molecules in a rub, however, are much larger, and they cannot penetrate deep into the meat. (According to AmazingRibs.com, most rub ingredients only make it around an 1/8th of an inch below the surface.) That’s fine. In fact, that’s exactly what you want a rub to do—sit on the surface and create a beautiful bark of complementary flavors, but it does mean you should treat salting and rubbing as two different flavoring steps. Add salt 12-24 hours beforehand to give it time to draw out moisture, dissolve, and make its way into the muscle; then apply your (salt-free) rub right before you start smoking.

If you are using a salt with a small crystal structure—and I’ve been using Morton Natural Sea Salt, which is the size of table salt but iodine-free—you’ll want to aim for at least 1/4 teaspoon per pound, though I usually end up sprinkling out a little less than 1/2 a teaspoon per pound. (I used a full 3 teaspoons on my most recent 7 3/4-pound pork shoulder, and it was perfect.) If you’re using something with a larger crystal, you can use a larger volume of salt—Meathead Goldwyn uses a ratio of 1/2 teaspoon of Morton coarse kosher salt per pound, and it seems to serve him well.

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Special Equipment

Sous vide precision cooker, vacuum sealer, spice grinder, wire rack and rimmed baking sheet (if finishing in oven), grill or smoker and hardwood chunks (if finishing over live fire)

Clean as you go (the ash trap, that is)

Your charcoal will turn to ash as it burns, and that ash will accumulate, blocking the flow of air and suffocating your coals. This will result in a drop in temperature, which you do not want.

Luckily, the solution is simple. A few quick back-and-forth swipes of the little cleaning blades—the same ones that control the air flow through the bottom vents—is all it takes to clear out the ash and get you back on track. (Just remember where you had them set so you can put them back where they were after cleaning.)

Recommended Sous Vide Pork Shoulder Temperatures

I cooked a number of pork shoulders sous vide at various bath temperatures, cooking each until I achieved complete breakdown of tough connective tissue. Here's what I found:

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

At a bath temperature of 200°F, pork shoulders take only a few hours to become fall-apart tender. At 145°F, this same process can take over a day. The results of cooking pork at these temperature extremes are wildly different. Cooked at 145°F, the pork has a firm, almost steak-like texture and can be easily sliced, but not easily pulled apart. It's also very juicy. Cooked at 200°F, the pork shreds at the slightest touch but is also quite dry—most of the internal moisture leaks out into the bag and can't be reabsorbed. Like Goldilocks, I like my pork cooked right in the middle: 165°F for 18 to 24 hours yields pork that is pull-apart tender, but still moister than anything you've ever pulled out of the oven or off the grill.

Incidentally, cooking the pork for longer periods of time will eventually allow it to break down to the point where individual muscle fibers begin to soften, giving the pork a mushy texture I find off-putting.

 Temp and Time  Result 145°F for 18 to 24 hours  Sliceable and extra moist 165°F for 18 to 24 hours   Shreddable and moist

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Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill

Course Main Course Cuisine BBQ

Keyword Pulled Pork

Prep Time 10 minutes Cook Time 7 hours

Resting Time 1 hour

Servings 12 Calories 294kcal

Instructions

Place the pork shoulder on a clean surface fat cap down, score the top of the meat in a crisis cross pattern about ½ inch deep. Coat the entire pork butt with mustard on all sides then season generously with dry rub making sure to get the seasoning into all the grooves you cut. Build your fire using a dual-zone cooking method so that all of your coals are on one side preferably in baskets to keep the coals in place. Your target temperature should be between 275-300 degrees F. You can place a pan below the grill grates and fill it halfway up with water. this will catch drippings from the pork keeping your grill clean as well as adding moisture to the pit. once the grill has reached temperature place the pork butt fat side down opposite the fire source. Cook for about 90 minutes before you begin brushing with your mop solution. Continue to brush the pork butt once an hour until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 165-170 degrees F. At this point Its time to place the pork into a 9×13 pan and cover with foil. Place the pork back on the grill and continue cooking until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 205 degrees F. The true test for doneness is to probe the meat with a thermometer. it should go into the meat with almost no resistance. Once the pork is fully cooked vent the pan and let it rest for 1 hour before shredding. You can hold the pork for up to 4 hours by placing the pork into a dry cooler and covering it with a towel.

Nutrition

Calories: 294kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 124mg | Sodium: 483mg | Potassium: 700mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 54IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 3mg

References

How to Cut Pork Shoulder Steaks

  • Buy a pork steak ready shoulder aka bone in pork shoulder. It should be mostly neck shoulder meat and one end of it will have a bit of shoulder blade bone. It looks like this:

 You will be able to see a cross-section of the sh

  • You will be able to see a cross-section of the shoulder blade bone on one side. The opposite side, closer to the neck will not have a bone. 

 Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the pork

  • Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the pork (preferably against the grain). With pork shoulder the muscles run in all sorts of directions and it is hard to accurately read the meat to determine the grain. Do not worry about it too much. 

 On average you can carve up to four thick (just o

  • On average you can carve up to four thick (just over an inch), boneless pork steaks out of an average sized bone-in pork shoulder before you reach the blade bone. You can trim the fat from the sides if pan frying, for grilling we like to leave it to maximize flavor.

TIP: Once you have your raw pork steaks cut the re

TIP: Once you have your raw pork steaks cut the rest of the meat from around the bone and freeze it for another meal.

When you thaw it if you cut it in cubes while still semi-frozen you can easily grind it or you can simply thaw it all the way and slow cook it with BBQ sauce and spices until it falls apart and then shred it.

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