Pork shoulder (pork butt) is one of the easiest meats to cook on your Weber Smoky Mountain. More forgiving than most other low-n-slow smoking meats, pork shoulder is hard to mess if you understand the fundamentals of slow barbecue. In this article, we’ve tapped into the expertise of top barbecue gurus to bring you their best tips and techniques for smoking pork shoulder on a Weber Smoky Mountain.
To make pulled pork using a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) smoker, you will need a pork shoulder, barbecue rub, and apple cider vinegar. To begin, fill the WSM’s charcoal basket with charcoal, leaving a gap in the middle for a chimney of lit charcoal. Place three chunks of wood on top of the charcoal or bury them underneath. Rub the pork shoulder with barbecue seasoning, then adjust the vents on the WSM and hold the temperature at 250°F. Fill the water pan and place the pork shoulder on the top rack of the WSM. After three hours, spritz the pork every 30 to 40 minutes with apple cider vinegar or apple juice. Once the pork reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, remove it from the smoker, wrap it in aluminum foil, and continue cooking until it reaches an internal temperature of 200°F. Let the pork rest for at least one hour before slicing or shredding. The total cook time will depend on the size of the pork shoulder and the cooking temperature, but a good rule of thumb is two hours per pound at 220°F. For a more detailed recipe, see the instructions listed below.
- Fill the WSM’s charcoal basket with charcoal, leaving a gap in the middle for a chimney of lit charcoal. Place three chunks of wood on top of the charcoal or bury them underneath.
- Rub the pork shoulder with barbecue seasoning.
- Adjust the vents on the WSM and hold the temperature at 250°F.
- Fill the water pan and place the pork shoulder on the top rack of the WSM.
- After three hours, spritz the pork every 30 to 40 minutes with apple cider vinegar or apple juice.
- Once the pork reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, remove it from the smoker, wrap it in aluminum foil, and continue cooking until it reaches an internal temperature of 200°F.
- Let the pork rest for at least one hour before slicing or shredding.
- The total cook time will depend on the size of the pork shoulder and the cooking temperature, but a good rule of thumb is two hours per pound at 220°F.
- Pork shoulder
- Barbecue rub
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Fill your WSM charcoal basket with charcoal, leaving a gap in the middle for one full chimney of lit charcoal.
- Place three chunks of wood on top of the charcoal, or bury underneath.
- Apply an even layer of a rub on the pork shoulder.
- Adjust the vents on your Weber Smoky Mountain and hold the temperature at 250°F.
- Fill the water pan on the WSM.
- Place the pork but on the top rack of the WSM.
- Leave the pork alone for three hours without opening the lid.
- After three hours, begin spritzing the pork every 30 to 40 minutes using apple cider vinegar or apple juice.
- Once the pork but reaches an internal temperature of 165°F remove it from the smoker and wrap it in aluminium foil.
- Continue cooking the pork until it reaches an internal temperature of 200°F.
- Allow the pork to rest for at least one hour before slicing or shredding.
Serving Size:100 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 168
How Long Does It Take To Smoke Pork Shoulder?
Obviously, the total cook time will depend on the size of the pork shoulder and the cooking temperature. A good rule of thumb for a pork shoulder is two hours per pound at 220°F. So a large pork butt at 8 to 10 pounds will take 16+ hours. If you don’t have that sort of time to spare, and you need it done sooner, crank up the temperature to 250°F range.
Cooking Between 220°F or 250°F
When it comes to smoking pork shoulder, there are a few different temperature ranges you can consider. One option is to cook the meat at a lower temperature of around 220°F. This slow and steady approach allows the flavors of the smoke to penetrate the meat and results in a tender, juicy pork.
However, if you’re cooking a large pork butt, consider raising the temperature of your smoker to around 250°F. This higher heat will allow the meat to cook more quickly, reducing the total cooking time. It’s important to keep in mind that pork shoulder is a fatty cut of meat, which means it is less likely to dry out even if cooked at a higher temperature.
What Is Pork Shoulder?
Pork shoulder contains many different muscles and intramuscular fat. The reason pork shoulder is so delicious is because this part of the animal contains a lot of fat and connective tissue. Because where there’s fat, there’s flavor. The other benefit of fat is the meat is less likely to dry out during a long cook. Fat keeps the meat moist whereas lean cuts tend to dry out.
The shoulder also contains large amounts of collagen, which is what gives shoulder meat that wonderful texture. However, collagen needs time to break down and render and turn into gelatin, otherwise the meat will be too chewy. The only way to breakdown the collagen is by cooking low-and-slow over several hours.
How To Choose A Good Pork Shoulder
There are a few things to look out for when buying a pork shoulder. First, buy a pork butt with the bone still intact. The bone will help hold in some of the moisture and help with the pork not to dry out. It’s also important to select a butt with a large money muscle. Educate yourself on the anatomy of the pork shoulder, and learn to pick a good money muscle because this is the best part of the pork shoulder.
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How To Trim A Pork Shoulder
To trim a pork shoulder, you will need to remove any excess fat. It is recommended to leave a quarter inch of fat on the pork shoulder, as any more than that may not render during the cooking process. Instead of completely removing the fat cap, it is often recommended to score it in a crosshatch pattern. You should also remove any arteries or artery fat from the underside of the pork shoulder. This will help to ensure that the pork shoulder is properly prepared for cooking.
The excess fat on the pork shoulder won’t render well if it isn’t adequately trimmed before smoking. This may cause the pork shoulder to become oily and you’ll end up with a not-so-nice texture. Also, too much fat may result in uneven cooking of the pork shoulder, with some sections being overdone and others being underdone.
The Best Rub For Pork Shoulder/Butt
The most basic way to season your pork butt is with salt and pepper. Use a 50/50 volume mix of kosher salt or sea salt with a coarse black pepper. If you have a favorite rub for pork, use it. If you want an award-winning pork rub, check out BBQ guru Harry Soo’s Slap Yo Daddy rub or Mal Read’s Killer Hogs.
Be careful using store-bought rubs on your pork butt because many contain a lot of salt and sugar. If you are using a sugary rub, it may turn the pork black since sugar burns easily. If the rub is too salty, that could also ruin your pork if you have pre-brined the meat prior to cooking.
The Best Wood For Pork Shoulder
When choosing wood for your Weber Smokey Mountain, use hickory, pecan, or any fruitwood such as apple or cherry. You can either bury the wood chunks underneath the charcoal so it smolders, or you can place the wood on top of the fire. The pros will tell you that burying the wood produces a better smoke.
According to world famous pitmasters, Aaron Franklin prefers to use oak for smoking pork because it has a versatile and subtle flavor that goes well with many different types of pork, such as pork shoulder and pork belly.
Meathead Goldwyn also favors oak for smoking pork, stating that it is hearty and can stand up to bold flavors, while also adding a nice smoky flavor to the meat. Malcolm Reed uses a combination of hickory and oak for smoking pork, with hickory adding a strong, smoky flavor and oak adding depth.
Harry Soo prefers a blend of hickory and fruit woods for smoking pork, with hickory adding a strong, smoky flavor and fruit woods adding a touch of sweetness. These pitmasters all have different preferences for the types of wood they use when smoking pork, and the best choice will depend on the specific flavor profile desired.
Lighting Your WSM
To prepare your Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) smoker for cooking pork butt, you will need to start by filling the firebox with charcoal. It is important to leave a gap in the middle of the firebox, as this is where you will place a charcoal chimney full of lit coals.
The lit coals will help to maintain the heat and keep the cooking temperature consistent throughout the cooking process. To add additional flavor to the pork butt, you can also add two or three large chunks of wood on top of the charcoal or bury them underneath so that they smolder as the pork cooks.
The choice of wood will depend on the desired flavor profile and can include options such as oak, hickory, pecan, or cherry. It is important to carefully monitor the temperature and adjust the vents as needed to maintain the desired cooking temperature throughout the process.
Controlling The Temperature On Your WSM
To cook pork butt on a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) smoker, you will need to bring the temperature of the smoker up to around 250°F. To do this, you should open all of the vents until the temperature stabilizes. Once the temperature reaches 250°F, you can adjust the vents as needed to maintain this temperature. It is generally a good idea to allow the smoker to preheat for about 30 minutes before adding the pork butt to ensure that it is at the proper cooking temperature.
To add moisture to the cooking environment, you can fill the water pan, although this will also lower the temperature slightly. It is important to carefully monitor the temperature during the cooking process and adjust the vents as needed to maintain the desired cooking temperature.
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How To Develop a Nice Bark
To cook pork butt on a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) smoker, you will need to start by placing the meat on the top rack of the smoker. It is important to leave the meat alone for the first three hours, without opening the lid, to allow the smoke to penetrate the meat and the fat to render.
During this time, you should focus on maintaining the temperature in the range of 220°F to 250°F by adjusting the vents as needed. The first three hours of cooking are crucial for developing a good bark and flavor on the pork butt.
After about three hours, you can check the meat by poking it with your finger. If the rub sticks to your finger, it’s too early to start spritzing the meat. However, if the bark feels firm and the rub does not stick to your finger, then you can commence spritzing the meat.
Spritzing the meat involves using a liquid, such as apple cider vinegar or apple juice, to moisten the surface and add additional flavor. You should continue to spritz the meat every 30 to 40 minutes until it reaches the desired internal temperature.
Spritzing The Pork Shoulder
After the first three hours of cooking pork butt on a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) smoker, it is a good idea to start spritzing the meat with a liquid such as apple cider vinegar or apple juice every 30 to 40 minutes. This helps to moisten the surface of the meat and add additional flavor.
When spritzing, it is important to aim for the sides and bottom of the pork butt, rather than the fat, to avoid washing away the seasoning. You should continue to spritz the meat until it reaches an internal temperature of around 165°F, which is a good indication that it is almost done cooking.
Spritzing the meat will slow down the cook slightly by cooling the surface, but it will also help the rub to stick to the meat and produce a more pronounced smoke ring.
When To Wrap Pork Shoulder
When cooking pork butt on a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) smoker, you should continue to monitor the internal temperature of the meat using a meat thermometer. As the pork butt approaches 165°F to 170°F, the bark should be nice and firm and the fat should have nearly rendered.
At this point, you can decide whether or not you are satisfied with the bark and appearance of the meat. If you are happy with the way it looks, you can wrap the pork shoulder in paper or two layers of aluminum foil to help lock in moisture and flavor.
Some people like to sprinkle additional rub or brown sugar on the meat, or add a few sticks of butter, before wrapping to add even more flavor. Alternatively, you can give the meat another spritz with a liquid such as apple cider vinegar or apple juice before wrapping. Wrapping the meat will help to keep it moist and tender as it finishes cooking.
Insert a thermometer probe into the pork, so you can track the internal temperature. At this stage of the cook, some people close their smoker and bring the pork inside and finish it in the oven. This will save on charcoal and wood.
Wrapping is an essential step. Not only will wrapping keep the pork nice and moist, it will also speed up the cook. A wrapped pork but will shave two hours off the total cook time. Also, when you wrap your pork butt, it will help push the meat through the stall.
How To Tell When Pork Shoulder Is Done?
The best way to determine when pork butt is done cooking on a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) smoker is to check the internal temperature of the meat using a meat thermometer.
The pork butt is generally considered to be done once it reaches an internal temperature of around 200°F. However, many experienced pitmasters recommend using the “poke test” to determine when the pork butt is done, rather than relying solely on temperature.
To do the poke test, you simply poke the meat with a thermometer probe or a sharp knife and see how easily it gives. When the pork butt is done, it should feel similar to poking a probe into a stick of butter – that is, it should be very tender and easy to penetrate. This is a good indicator that the pork butt is fully cooked and ready to be served.
Allow Adequate Resting Time
After the pork butt is done cooking on a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) smoker, it is important to allow it to rest for at least one hour before slicing or shredding. To do this, remove the pork butt from the smoker and open the foil to allow some of the steam to escape.
Allowing the pork to rest will allow it to reabsorb some of the moisture that was lost during the cooking process, resulting in a more tender and juicy final product. It will also allow the muscles to relax, which helps to prevent moisture from being pushed out of the meat.
If you are not ready to serve the pork immediately, you can place it in a dry cooler to keep it hot for several hours. Just be sure to keep a thermometer probe inserted to continue monitoring the temperature.
Shredding Shoulder For Pulled Pork
You can shred the pork by pulling it apart with two forks, using a meat shredder, or by breaking it into tiny pieces with your hands. The easiest approach to keep the pork from drying out is to shred it right before serving since once it is shredded, the meat loses moisture.
You can add some of the meat juices or rendered fat back in for some extra moisture and flavor. To make the shredded pork taste better, you can also add more barbecue sauce or seasonings.
Once the pork has been shred, you have two options: serve it right away or reheat it in a slow cooker or on the stove.Also, only shred what you need. Shredding hot pork can be difficult, so use heat proof gloves or Bear Claws.
Inject The Shoulder
For competition-style pork butt, some pitmasters choose to inject the meat with an injection solution to add flavor and moisture. Using a special syringe, an injection solution gets injected directly into the pork.
A variety of ingredients, including broth, apple juice, wine, and spices, can be used in the mixture, which should improve the taste and moisture level of the meat. If you’d like to add more flavor and moisture to the pork butt, injecting it with an injection solution can be an excellent method to do so, especially if you’re cooking a big piece of meat that might take a while to cook.
When injecting the pork, care must be taken to avoid over-injecting or using an fluid that may overpower other flavors. I always use Butcher BBQ Pork Injection mixes because they are an award-winning formula and taste amazing. If you don’t have a needle, you can buy a meat injection on Amazon for about $30. For the latest price check here.
Brining Pork Shoulder – Does It Help?
Pre-brining is a method that involves treating the meat with salt, water, and other ingredients before it is cooked. Salt can make the pork soft and tasty because of the salt’s ability to break down the muscle fibers. Also, the salt helps in retaining moisture during the cooking process, preventing the pork from drying out. You can make a basic brine solution to pre-brine pork shoulder by combining water, kosher salt, and any additional ingredients you prefer. Make sure to evenly coat the pork shoulder with the mixture as you rub it. As long as it’s possible, let the pork soak in the brine all night. Take the pork out of the refrigerator when you’re ready to cook it.
How Long Does Pork Shoulder Stall?
When cooking large chunks of meat, like pork butt, the “stall” is part of the process. The stall usually happens when the internal temperature of the meat reaches between 150 and 160 °F, and it is brought on by the moisture evaporating from the surface of the meat. The meat’s surface becomes cooler as a consequence of moisture loss, which results in the internal temperature plateauing or even briefly dropping. Pitmasters may find the stall frustrating because it can significantly increase the cooking time and linger for several hours.
To beat the stall, do the following:
Use a water pan: By adding a water pan to your smoker, you will help to increase the humidity and moisture in the cooking environment, preventing the meat from drying up and stalling.
Wrap the meat: By wrapping the pork butt in butcher paper or aluminium foil, you can help the meat retain moisture and heat, that will reduce the cooking time.
Add more fuel: To raise the heat and cooking temperature in a charcoal smoker, consider adding extra hot coals to the firebox. This may help to cook quicker, and shorten the length of the stall.
Use a meat thermometer: Keeping an eye on the pork butt’s internal temperature using a thermometer is one of the best ways to track and manage the stall.
My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.