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Advice on Pulled Pork

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    Advice on Pulled Pork

    I have a large pork shoulder, purchased at Costco, that I plan to smoke this weekend on a WSM 18. I have done a small PB on a Brinkman electric but this is the first time trying one on the WSM. It is also the first time I have tried one over 7 lbs.
    It is a 13 1/3 lb. whole PB. One side looks pretty well trimmed. The other side has half covered with a fat cap. I was not planning on doing any trimming of fat.

    Here is how I plan to cook, smoke with the fat side up at 225-240 for 12 hours and let rest wrapped in a cooler for two hours before pulling.

    I hope you folks can comment on and give recommendations on the following steps:

    - Apply Salt Lick dry rub in the morning and let PB sit uncovered in refrig for about 12 hours.

    - Start the coals at 9 pm. Minion with one large unlit chimney and one large lit chimney. Kingsford blue and a mix of mesquite and apple chunks. Remove PB from refrig at this time.

    - Put the PB on at about 11 pm, once the WSM has stabilized. Monitor from 11 pm til midnight to make sure temp is in 225-240 range at midnight. Cook unattended til 6 am, then check WSM and IT (Maverick 732). Adjust temp and add coals if necessary.

    - Monitor until IT hits 165. Pull and double wrap in foil with a little beef stock. Put back on WSM and cook until IT hits 203-205. I am targeting this to be at about 11 am at which time I will remove, wrap in towels and place in cooler for 2 hours.

    - Remove from cooler at 1 pm, pull the pork and mix with any reserved juices from the wrap. Eat at 2 pm.

    - Is this enough time for the 13 lb at 225-240?

    - Do you see any reason the two chimneys would not last through the night?

    - Would it be better to cut the PB in half and cook two smaller pieces a shorter period of time?

    - Cooked whole, do you see any chance of PB hitting 165 before 6 am?

    - If I need to bump the temp in the morning to be at 205 by 11 am, how high a temp would you recommend?

    - Open to any and all suggestions. Thanks, John

    I would cut it, not only in half but personally I would do thirds. Then you'll have three ~4.5 pounders. More pieces allows you more surface area for rub contact and salt penetration, smoke contact and bark formation, PLUS allows a shorter cook. You have numerous factors in your favor when doing smaller pieces. If you run out of probes you can just monitor the one and spot-check others.

    Unless you like wads of pork fat in your pulled pork, I would trim all the fat cap you can. Fat won't allow rub/salt penetration, and once it's pulled chances are you'll toss the wads of fat anyway.

    Have you done dry runs to see if your temperature and fuel amount are feasible in your situation? If not I highly recommend doing so. You could be in for one miserable night of tending the WSM if you're going into this with an unpracticed plan.

    Pork butts are very forgiving, so anywhere from 225-275 would be ok especially if you only cut it in half or don't cut it at all.

    Your plan of double tight wrapping them in foil is great, but it might not stall right at 165, it might stall at 155, or 170. It's a great idea to chart your butt's temps every 10 min or so, so you can recognize the stall when it happens. I like to let mine go a good hour, sometimes 2, into the stall before wrapping. I do this since I like the extra smoke exposure. Some folks don't wrap at all, they 'power through the stall' unwrapped. I don't like to waste the time doing this. This can make your cook 18hrs+ especially with a big butt. Ha ha. I said big butt.

    This is just me, one guy's perspective here.
    Last edited by Huskee; January 15, 2015, 02:41 PM.


    • Guy
      Guy commented
      Editing a comment
      Huskee, have a question and I may know the answer but wanted your input. Just because you cut it into thirds does not mean that you have 3 single butts that will cook in the same time as one, correct. Hope that makes sense after reading it myself not sure. How much time would it take to cook one 4.5 butt vs. three 4.5 butts?


    • Guy
      Guy commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah Spinaker, why do you ask about Huskee?

    • Huskee
      Huskee commented
      Editing a comment
      @Guy, I guess that depends on your cooker, if you have a smaller cooker it would likely extend the cook somewhat due to a larger mass of cold meat in it, but in most cases it shouldn't affect the timing much.

    I totally agree with trimming all of the fat cap off of pork butt/shoulder. You don't get bark or much seasoning from fat in pulled pork. It is totally different than brisket. I also trim surface fat from pork ribs. I even did it with my beef ribs the other day.

    Other things:

    1. 205°F is too high. The pork will be overcooked and starting to dry out. 203°F is the magic number. If you are uncertain, a couple of degrees less (201°F) is much better than 205°F IMHO.

    2. I would not "crutch" with liquid in the wrap. Pork butt/shoulder doesn't need the additional moisture and will just braise if you do it. Wrap, if you are going to, tightly and without added liquid, IMHO.

    3. 12 hours to done with that size roast will take a lot of luck, at least, again, IMHO.

    On top of that, I agree with everything Huskee said. He is the butt-king, after all!

    Last edited by Dewesq55; January 15, 2015, 02:53 PM.


      Thanks for the feedback.

      I have am pretty confident, from other long cooks with brisket, that I can make it all night with two chimneys and vents set to 225-240. But: I will plan on cutting smaller and cooking the smaller pieces. What should I expect as a total cook time for three 4lb pieces? If I went with two 6lb pieces, what would I expect as cook time? I am looking for a two hour range in your estimate.

      I will trim all the fat off first. Don't want it to eat. Thought maybe it would help baste the brisket.

      Will not plan on adding any liquid in the wrap.

      I will target 201-203 for pulling the meat from the WSM.

      Do you baste (spray) with water? Apple Juice? Other?

      What are your thoughts on just applying the rub directly on the meat vs. using mustard or Worcestershire?

      What are your thoughts on using water in the water pan or ceramic briquettes? I would use one or the other to help maintain the temp.
      Last edited by jlazar; January 15, 2015, 03:43 PM.


      • FLBuckeye
        FLBuckeye commented
        Editing a comment
        I would read the article on pulled pork


        It answers many of your questions and if you follow it exactly, you will have a great cook. The fat doesn't baste the meat.

      • jlazar
        jlazar commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks FLBuckeye. I will look at that.

      As for the water pan or spraying, it depends on your cooker. My gasser needs water in the pan to supply humidity. The electric, if anything, is too humid so I levee the pan empty and keep the vent full open all the time. A lot of people fill the water pan in the WSM with sand as a heat sink. Harry Soo cooks with it empty. I'm the wrong guy to give specific advice on the WSM.


        I recently cooked a 2 1/2 lb-er that took 9 hours. I would think 12-14 for yours.


          I did a 4.7lb a little while back, I didn't crutch and it took about 12 hours if I remember right and I pulled it off at 199. my last PB was a 8lb and took 16hrs with the crutch (My wife was hoping to have it for dinner that night, even though I told her "No Way"). Both of these were on a Weber 22.5 around 225-240, except the last couple hours on the 8lb was about 265.


            I've added my thoughts in bold italics below...

            Originally posted by jlazar View Post
            Thanks for the feedback.

            I have am pretty confident, from other long cooks with brisket, that I can make it all night with two chimneys and vents set to 225-240. But: I will plan on cutting smaller and cooking the smaller pieces. What should I expect as a total cook time for three 4lb pieces? If I went with two 6lb pieces, what would I expect as cook time? I am looking for a two hour range in your estimate.

            I will trim all the fat off first. Don't want it to eat. Thought maybe it would help baste the brisket.

            Will not plan on adding any liquid in the wrap.
            If you want to go ahead, this wont harm anything but it's not neceesary

            I will target 201-203 for pulling the meat from the WSM.

            Do you baste (spray) with water? Apple Juice? Other?
            I don't baste/spray. It will prolong your cook slightly, since it cools the meat similar to how we sweat. Basically this is inducing a stall. However, you certainly can spray if you want. It technically does help your smoke ring and may help increase the smokiness of the bark.

            What are your thoughts on just applying the rub directly on the meat vs. using mustard or Worcestershire?
            Using either of these as a binder wont change the flavor. I regularly add rub right to the nekkid meat. You could also try a thin coat of oil, or even a spray of Pam (or similar) to help seat the rub.

            What are your thoughts on using water in the water pan or ceramic briquettes? I would use one or the other to help maintain the temp.
            I would use the water pan, it helps regulate temps and acts as a buffer between the met & heat.
            I know nothing about ceramic briquettes in this application, so I can't offer any advice there.


              I would expect a 6 lb to take about 13-15 hours with a crutch, based on my 8.5 lb butt taking about 18 hours (with some minor snafus). Also, I would hold the butt in a cooler wrapped in a towel for a couple of hours. I think this gives the connective tissue more time to break down in the 170+ range (I timed my cooldown last time. It took about 4 hours to drop below that from 203). I also agree with everything said above (particularly removing the fat cap).


                Since you guys are talking Butt's, I have one in the refrigerator after having put a nice layer of salt on it for dry brining. the question becomes, do you rinse that and dry before the oil and rub?

                I know everyone does things differently, just checking if there is a "right or wrong" way to do this...



                  I wouldn't bother rinsing. Unless it was excessively over salted, most of the salt has been absorbed anyway. I have never rinsed and never had a problem (with a butt, that is). I also don't bother oiling after brining. Just put the rub on and put it in the smoker. But that's what I do, I don't think it's "wrong" to oil after the brine.


                    Nothing excessive going on with the salt. Will just rub and go...thank you for the response.


                      Click image for larger version

Name:	Pulled Pork and Sausage.jpg
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ID:	53830 Thanks to all for your advice on smoking the pork shoulders. Cooked them overnight on the WSM 18. Used water in the pan and did not spritz.

                      Put them on at 10pm. Overnight temp was 41. Set the alarm a couple of times to look at the Maverick remote. Held right at 230 all through the night. Vent settings were: top wide open, bottom vents 1/4-1/3.

                      Hit 160 about 7am. Double wrapped in foil and put back on smoker. Allowed temp to rise to about 250-260. One hit 201 and the other 203 at 10am. Wrapped and placed in cooler.

                      While the pork was resting, smoked a couple of polish wedding sausages and a sausage fatty. Took about 2 hours at 250-275.

                      For this cook, I filled the charcoal ring to full with charcoal and then carefully poured a well lit chimney on top. I cooked at 230 for 10 hours and 250-275 for two hours. As a test, I let it keep running empty to see how long the charcoal would last. It has been over 18 hours and the temp is still over 290. Very happy to see that I can do a very long cook.

                      Thanks again to all for your advice. This forum's members are great!!
                      Last edited by jlazar; January 18, 2015, 04:41 PM.


                      • Guy
                        Guy commented
                        Editing a comment
                        J. can I ask you a few dumb questions? A lot of folks don't say how they started their fire so it was good to hear what you said about it. Did you pour a whole lit chimney on the full unlit coals? I am not sure about what you mean, "as a test I let it keep running empty". Did you let it run out of charcoal and then add more? How much?

                        Thanks for this great post on your cook.


                      Nice job, JLazar.


                        Just wanted to chime in on Huskee's split butt idea. I cooked a 10lb pork butt yesterday and cut it roughly in half prior to cooking.

                        What amazed me was how quickly it coooked! I put it on the Weber at about 8:15am and replenished the coals when we left for Mass about 11:00. When I got home about 1:15 it was already at an IT of 175.

                        This was about my fourth pork butt to cook and all three of the earlier ones had lengthy stalls that drove me nuts until I wrapped them and put them in a 275 degree oven to "power through". Even then they took upwards of a total cook time of 12 hours

                        This one (really two after splitting), I left on the smoker (which wasn't really smoking at all by this time) and just watched the temp. It kept slowly climbing and climbing until it hit 200 at about 3:30. There was really no stall at all.

                        I guess these cuts of meat are pretty finicky and it will change from butt to butt, "but" I was pleased with how this worked out.


                        • Guy
                          Guy commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Glad to hear that experience. I will file it away. This is what I love about this site. You can get experience just by reading. LOL Only cost is the subscription. LOL Do you think spliting the meat was more like cooking two small butts instead of one? Plus I assume they were half done anyway so when split you only had to cook one half of a half.

                        • PenskeFile
                          PenskeFile commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Yes, I definitely would say that splitting the meat was more like cooking two small butts. One point I didn't make above is that the mix of meat types in the two halves were a little different.

                          I'm probably using the wrong terms here, but the side that did NOT contain the bone was more "white meat" and more consistent. The side that contained the bone had some "darker" meat in it. Both were very good though.

                          We gave the half that was whiter to some friends, which is why I noticed the difference as I pulled it about a day later.

                          Not sure what you meant in that last sentence though Guy, can you restate? I split them before cooking and cooked both halfs on the smoker at the same time


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