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Pork Shoulder - Starting Temp

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    Pork Shoulder - Starting Temp

    I am going to try my second pork shoulder this week. First one turned out good but I am going to try this one without wrapping.

    I have a 13.3lb shoulder that I am guessing it will weigh about 12lb after trimming. I will cut into two pieces as Huskee recommends. So I should have a 5lb piece and a 7lb piece of equal thickness. Plan on cooking at 225 for 90 min/lb for a total of 10.5/12 hours. Target will be 203.

    I will be cooking on a WSM 18.5 with a BBQ Guru and using Kingsford Competition.

    Every time I have smoked so far, once I put the cold meat on, the temp of the WSM drops (as expected). It takes me about 30 min of adjusting the vents to get the temp back up to 225 and stabilized.

    Here is my question. Once I get the WSM up to 225, should I be putting the meat on immediately? Am I getting additional smoke flavor while the WSM has to climb back to 225? Or should I initially wait until the WSM is up to about 275 and then put the meat on with the temp then probably dropping to near the 225 range? Or does it make any difference in which approach I use? What do you recommend?

    Plan on mixing half of the pulled meat with a homemade sweet and spicy sauce (my wife likes it this way) and half with sauce on the side.

    Here is the sauce recipe I came up with. I like it because the tomato sauce doesn't give you any lingering ketchup taste like some recipes I have tried.

    John's Sweet and Spicy

    Hunts Tomato Sauce 15 oz can
    Dark Brown Sugar 3/4 cup
    Granulate Sugar 1/2 cup
    Apple Cider Vinegar 2 Tbs
    Garlic Salt 3/4 Tsp
    Onion Powder 1 Tsp
    Molasses 1 Tbs
    Table Salt 1/2 Tsp
    Ground Black Pepper 1 Tsp
    Lime Juice 2 Tsp
    Lemon Juice 2 Tsp
    Liquid Smoke Flavor 1 1/2 Tsp
    MSG (Accent) 1/2 Tsp

    Combine ingredients and bring to a boil in a saucepan.
    Reduce heat and simmer 50 minutes to thicken. Stir frequently.

    I always get the start up heat up to around 300 or so before putting the meat on. It doesn't take as long to get the smoker back to temp then I can adjust accordingly.


      I don't think it will really matter one way or the other. I do butts unwrapped occasionally and they take me that long at 275. Others may correct me, but I think you should be thinking more like 2 hours per pound at 225, depending on thickness.


        225 is fine but bump up the starting temp - it's going to drop 50-75* then pull it to the temp you want. I don't know that it makes any difference but you're at least cooking vs warming


          +1 on overshooting the temp a bit. Depending on the cut of meat I'm cooking, on my drum, I'll usually dial the temp in 50 to 75 degrees higher than my target temp and let it sit there for around a half an hour. Then, after I put the meat on, I'll roll the Guru back to my desired cooking temp.


            it's not how you start... it's how you finish! ... and i love the sauce, but i would trade the liquid smoke (and Accent) for some Chiptole in Adobo. start with one or two (minced), and a couple teaspoons of Adobo. That should add a nice smokey spicy flavor. don't forget to remove the seeds... they don't add heat or bring anything worthwhile to the party.


            • jlazar
              jlazar commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks. I will give the Chipotle in Adobo a try. It will be a first for me.

            • _John_
              _John_ commented
              Editing a comment
              I use the extra adobo in some mayo for some good flavor in sandwiches. Also a cup of yogurt with the leftovers and some garlic is an awesome sauce for leftover pulled pork.
              Just a couple ideas for the remaining chipotle as a whole can is usually too much for any single thing.

            Just dial it to 250, put the meat on when the dirty smoke is gone.
            Things start going bad when we start over thinking and over analyzing the process. Have fun.


            • Breadhead
              Breadhead commented
              Editing a comment
              +1 on as soon as dirty smoke clears! Letting the meat warm up with the cooker makes perfect sense.

            Well, I did my second pork butt and wanted to give you some feedback on how it went.

            Cut it into two pieces, I ended up with one piece a little over 5lbs and one at 6.5lbs. Salted and let sit a day and a half.
            Started the coals at 9:30pm and put the pork on at 11pm. Temp in WSM was about 275 but quickly dropped below 200. Left all vents wide open and was up to 225 by midnight. Closed all bottom vents and went with the BBQ Guru. By 12:30 in the morning, it was stabilized at 235. Went to bed and did not check anything overnight. At 6:30 in the morning, the temp was still 235 and the meat was in the stall between 165 and 170. Added some more charcoal at that time.

            We have had a lot of rain in San Antonio the past few weeks so I put up a tarp the night before to keep the Guru/Maverick dry in case a shower came along.
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            By noon, both butts were into the mid 190s, but not moving much. I raised the WSM to about 260 and both hit 202 at about 12:30pm. I did not use the crutch on this cook. Total cook time 13.5 hours.
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            Observations: Comparing the previous butts that were crutched to these that were not.
            - Crutched butts were a little more moist. The liquid that remained in the foil after crutching was poured back over the pulled pork and added a lot of flavor. But bark was not as thick or firm to the chew.
            - Non-crutched butts were a little drier but not what I would call excessively dry. Smoke flavor stronger than with the crutched butts and much thicker and more intense bark. The difference in bark between the two was almost like having bark or not having bark.

            In the future, I will probably not crutch when cooking butts unless I am running out of time. Since we either pre-mix the pork with my Sweet and Tangy sauce or pour in on the meat in a sandwich, you really don't notice the difference in dryness.

            Lesson Learned: When I pulled the pork, there was not any excess fat to separate out like I had with the crutched pork (both taken to 201-203). Maybe this is normal. But as I mentioned, I had to raise the WSM temp to get the un-crutched butts to move from about 195 to 202. I think, perhaps, these butts were done at 195 and I should have removed from the WSM at that time. I may have helped dry them out by forcing to go to 202. If I were doing it today, I would have pulled them when the temp stopped moving.

            As I learn to cook, I need to remember what you folks are always saying. The meat is done when its done. Don't chase a magic number.


            • barney
              barney commented
              Editing a comment
              That bark looks wonderful. I live in Kyle, about 1.5 hrs north of you. We need the rain. Would love to catch a big red there at Calaveras Lake and grill/smoke it.

            I assume by the time you didn't rest? That will help the dryness. I like crutching mine for moisture at least for a couple hours.


              I have the same WSM and PartyQ. I close all of my vents and let the PartyQ maintain the temps. Charcoal lasts a lot longer with reduced O2. That being said, I always wrap and rest for a minimum of 3 hours. The one time I accidentally left the bottom vents open, I had issues choking the temp back down. My bark is always good as I usually put the butt back on for a bit to firm the bark


                I cook mine overnight on my Kamado - usually take about 14-16 hours give or take for a pair of 8-ish pound shoulders, whatever comes cryo packed at Sam's. No crutch, no changing the temp from 225* - like you said, they are done when they are done.

                Cooking them overnight finishes them anywhere from 1:00-4:00 pm the next afternoon. Then double-foil wrap with towels tucked around them and stick in my 'faux-cambro' for a few hours. I've pulled them after sitting in the cooler for 3+ hours and they are still too hot to handle bare handed. I think this is way less stressful than getting up super-early and hoping they get done by dinner time by crutching, fiddling with themps, etc. I've never had any bark-related issues or complaints.

                BBQ should be relaxing - I figured I must be doing it wrong when I was all stressed about getting them finished.



                  Question for all of you with more experience.

                  The first shoulder I cooked, I crutched and when it hit 203, I wrapped in towels and put in a cooler for a couple of hours before pulling.

                  The second shoulder I cooked, I did not crutch and removed at 202. I let it sit 30 minutes before pulling. This shoulder had much thicker bark than the first one which was crutched.

                  Some of you are indicating you do not crutch but you do faux cambro when cooking is done. Will wrapping and faux cambro after cooking soften the bark and change the texture?

                  Assuming there is no time constraint, what most of you do to get the best blend of bark and moisture.
                  A - Crutch and Faux-Cambro (wrapped in foil, towels and cooler).
                  B - No crutch and rest.
                  C - No crutch and faux-cambro.

                  Is the answer different for Ribs, Brisket and Shoulders?


                    jlazar Depends on your definition of "best". If you want a thick chewy bark (most do) then your best bet is no crutch, and resting/not resting is a little irrelevant. But that usually takes so much longer to get to the 200+ IT range. By the time it gets there unwrapped it's usually plenty pullable, no rest or cambro needed.

                    Wrapping, and especially a faux cambro hold, will always soften your bark some, since you lock the humid hot air around the meat. My cookers are all manual (meaning I have to be there to tinker as needed, no pellet gas or electric cookers here) so I prefer a quicker cook. I like to wrap after it's been 1-2 hrs in the stall. I still like the bark that I have doing that. I cut my butts into 3 or 4lb max chunks, so I naturally have more bark. Then if it's a wee bit softer from wrapping I certainly don't mind, especially if it saves me 6 hrs of time & fuel.


                      Did 4 boston butts today it was awesome



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