Pork shoulder is a very forgiving cut of meat and is perfect for the novice cook. Pork shoulders average about 7-9 pounds and can be found in two packs at your local warehouse or butcher. I cook my pork shoulders between 225-250 degrees until the meat reaches and internal temperature of 195-200 degrees. Pork shoulder normally cooks around 1.5-2 hours per pound of meat and my shoulders normally cook for 15-19 hours then rest in a cooler for 2 hours before serving. Pork shoulder yields delicious pulled pork sandwiches and the left overs are perfect for bbq pizza, tacos, and can be frozen for later use.
I cooked these three pork shoulder during an over night cooking session on the Peoria Custom Cooker 24X48 Backyard Unit. Total cooking time was 18.5 hours.
Since I was planning on serving the pork shoulders on Wednesday afternoon I fired up the pit at 3pm Tuesday afternoon. I placed a full ring of unlit charcoal in the fire box and light a half chimney of kingsford (about 15-20 coals). Once the coals were ashed over I dumped them onto the unlit charcoal and placed 2 logs of hickory on top. This method of starting your pit is commonly referred to as The Minion Method. It allows you to cook for extended periods of time without refueling since the charcoal ignites and burns slowly. I let the pit warm to 250 degrees while I trimmed and rubbed the the pork shoulders. When trimming the pork shoulders I remove all of the fat cap located on the bottom of the pork shoulders and any other visible chunks of fat. For this cook I used Bad Byron's Butt Rub. I choose to put a moderate amount of the rub directly on the meat. However, I also like to rub yellow mustard or worcestershire sauce on the shoulders before I rub the meat. These techniques ensure a thick outside bark on the pork shoulder. Also, at this point you could inject the pork shoulders with your favorite apple juice based recipes. Once I finished rubbing the shoulders I put it in them refrigerator for 1 hr. You can also refrigerate them overnight if time permits.
At 4pm the Peoria custom Cooker was right at 250 degrees and it was time to put the pork shoulders on the cooker directly out of the refrigerator. Over the next several hours I added several more logs of hickory and cherry and about 48 ounces of a mixed hardwood sawdust.
At 10:30 pm the pork shoulders had been cooking for 6 hours and I was ready for bed. I filled the charcoal basket completely up with unlit charcoal and 2 cherry logs. This way the smoldering coals underneath the unlit charcoal will slowly ignite the unlit charcoal over the next several hours as I sleep.
To make sure I would get a good night sleep I set up my Maverick ET-73 wireless thermometer. This thermometer has two probes and monitors the temperature of the pit and the internal temp of the meat. This unit also has high and low alarms. I set the alarms to go off if the temp in the pit rose above 250 degrees or if the temp dropped below 200 degrees. I placed the wireless thermometer on my night stand and fell asleep. At 10:30pm the internal temp of of the pork butt was 160 degrees.
Around 3:30 am the temperature in the pit fell to 200 degrees and my wireless alarm went off and woke me up. I went downstairs and added another full load of unlit charcoal, a hickory log, and was back asleep by 4am. Again at 7:30am the alarm sounded as the temps had dropped to 200 degrees. This time however I did not add any fuel. I simply stirred the coals to remove any ash and the temperature shot right back up to around 225 degrees. The internal temp of the pork shoulders at 8:30 am was 170 degrees.
At this point my shoulders had hit a plateau at 170 degrees and the temps started to rise very, very, slowly. This is the time when the fat and connective tissues is rendering off and will allow to easily shred when finished. It is not uncommon for your temperatures to remain in the 160 degree range for several hours when cooking chuck rolls, pork shoulders, or briskets. A few hours later at 10:30am the shoulders had finally reached 180 degrees and it was time to foil. I wrapped the pork shoulder in several layers of heavy duty aluminum foil and placed it back on the cooker. The foil will help to speed up the cooking process and also keep the pork shoulders plenty moist.
At 1 pm the internal temp of the pork shoulder were 195 degrees and had been cooking for just about 18 hours. Since I would not be serving the pork for another few hours I decided to wrap a few more layers of heavy duty foil around the shoulders. Then I wrapped a towel around the shoulders and placed them in a cooler. I also placed several other towels below and about the chuck roll in the cooler to fill up all of the areas of "open" air in the cooler and keep the shoulders warm.
Time to Eat!
Finally at 5 pm it was time to eat. I use a tool called bear paws to easily shred the pork. I then added about 3 tablespoons of butt rub to the shredded pork and mixed it up. I served the pulled pork with my favorite vinegar based sauce Georges as well as my favorite red sauce head country. All of my guests enjoyed the pulled pork. The shoulders had a thick bark, were plenty moist, and very very flavorful.