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Selecting the Proper Pork Butt/Shoulder
How do you determine how to which pork butt/shoulder to select for smoking. I generally use the theory that each person is going to eat around eight ounces if they have two sandwiches.
Some people may select to have pulled pork with no bread they will generally get about three ounces per serving. A good rule of thumb is to prepare a pork butt that will provide two to three servings more than the anticipated number of guests.
How to Choose the Right Pork Butt
Look for a pork butt that has a bone that goes all the way through it. This provides more flavor and helps the cooking process. You also need to have a fatcap on one side. The pork butt should have good marbling so that when the fat dissolves it helps enhance the flavor of the pork butt.
Choose one that you don’t have to trim very much. The more you trim will often lead less flavor and dryness. The overall look of a good pork butt will look similar to the one pictured below.
Preparing the Grill
You will want to prepare your grill differently than if you were grilling hot dogs or hamburgers. Your temperature will be lower since you are not going for a sear or fast cook. Make sure your grill grates are clean of any debris from any previous grilling. It helps for a better smoking experience.
Let’s say you are preparing your coals inside the barrel of your grill. On the end away from the pork butt, use a charcoal chimney to start your coals. After your coals are started, spread your coals out to form a nice bed. You may have to wait a few more minutes for them to get to the right temperature between 225F – 275F.
Use the Firebox for the Best Results
Using the offset smoker is a wonderful way to smoke a pork butt. To start the coals for smoking there are a variety of ways to do this. You will have to choose which method works best for you. I will show you both methods without using starter fluid.
The first method, which to me is the easiest. I will start my charcoal with a firestarter called tumbleweed. Place the charcoal in the chimney, underneath the chimney you will have the tumbleweed, light it. This will take a few minutes for the coals to become hot enough to spread throughout the firebox.
If I weren’t using the charcoal method of smoking a pork butt, I would use the method of having a bed of charcoal covered with the hardwood of my choice. For example, I could choose hickory, mesquite or a flavor wood such as pecan.
Another method to use is select woods only. You have to be a bit more careful with this method, otherwise you could get your firebox too hot. You will need to take newspaper or some other paper or tumbleweed put it in the bottom of the firebox and place your wood on top of it. I would recommend small pieces such as kindling for a quick start after lighting your paper or tumbleweed.
As the fire gets established, begin to add the larger pieces of wood. Do this in a manner that does not cause your fire to go out. I would not use more than two large pieces. After a couple of minutes check your temperature to make sure it is rising to the temperature you want.
Preparing the Pork Butt/Shoulder for Grilling
One of the most important things to do when smoking a pork butt is to season it correctly. You can use a wet marinade or a dry rub. You can use whichever one you prefer. I have had success with both.
If you use a wet marinade then it is best to put it in a pan that has some deep sides to it. Fill it about halfway up. I try not to use a marinade that is full of sodium(salt).
You can add different flavors if you like but use one that will go well with whatever wood you are using. If you are going to marinate overnight, it is best to turn it over halfway through the marinating process.
You are now ready to put it on the grill for a flavorful time that your guests will talk about for months or years to come. They may even want you to do their grilling for them.
If you are using a dry rub, apply the rub liberally. You can either put it on the grill at that time or let it dry marinate for a few hours so that the flavor of the rub will be infused deeper into the meat. You are now ready to put it on the grill for a flavorful feast.
Smoking The Pork Butt/Shoulder
Now at long last, the time has arrived to get the party started. It is time to put the pork butt/shoulder.
You have your grill set at 275 fahrenheit. You shoulder has marinated and smells great even before you put any heat to it. Put the pork shoulder/butt on the grill fatcap up. I generally put a pan of solution one-half water and one-half apple juice under the pork shoulder/butt to keep it moist throughout the grilling process.
Slow is the Way to Go
Put it on the slow side so that it cooks evenly low and slow. You have your grill set at 275F. You shoulder has marinated and smells great even before you put any heat to it. DO NOT put it on direct heat. Put the pork shoulder/butt on the grill fatcap up.
A good rule of thumb is 45 minutes per one pound of meat. Check your temperature periodically if you are using charcoal or wood and add more if necessary. For a pork shoulder/butt that weighs around 9 1/2 pounds it will take around 7 1/2 hours. You want your pulled pork to be moist and tasty.
Take a thermometer and see if it is registering between 165 – 190F. When it reads that temperature take it off the grill to let it rest before pulling. The resting time will be 30 minutes to 1 hour for best results.
Your tasty results
Now at long last, you have your pork shoulder/butt off the grill, you need to let it rest. I generally let mine rest around one hour then take my bear claws to pull it. You will need a large cutting board for pulling. I always have a deep aluminum pan to one side to put the meat in.
The meat is so tender that in no time at all you have all the meat pulled and torn. You can add some bar-b-que sauce to it if you so desire or leave it plain so your guests can add it later if they so desire. You will find that not all people like bar-b-que sauce.
Time to Eat at Last
You have waited all day for the opportunity to enjoy the feast you have helped prepare. Now is the time to enjoy with friends and family.
Some suggestions I have found that work well. During the cooking process have a waste can close by for anything that might need to be disposed of in a hurry. There is nothing wrong with sitting out listening to a game or watching the kids have fun in the yard.
You will probable get hungry and thirsty while the smoking is taking place. Enjoy a picnic while your pork butt is smoking. Have fun listening to some of your favorite music.
If you have a picnic table in the yard, prepare it for everyone to eat out there if the weather permits. Enjoy the natural surroundings and family while you have the opportunity.
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