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How to: smoked pork shoulder on a pellet grill

Here’s how to smoke this versatile cut like a pro.

Ingredients:
  • 1 pork shoulder (7–10 pounds)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise or yellow mustard
  • 1 cup BBQ rub
  • Optional: the spritz
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • ½ apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 9 hours
  • Servings: 8

The pork shoulder is one of the most delicious cuts of meat for the price. Like any shoulder cut of meat, the pork shoulder is muscular from constant use. These muscles are strong, always working and seldom at rest. Strong muscles equal delicious flavor and the shoulder is perfect for smoking. Typically available in large hunks or roasts, they’re perfect for meal prep or feeding a crowd. On top of that, you can create a wide range of dishes using the leftovers. Here’s how to smoke a pork shoulder on the pellet grill and get delicious results.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. 1

    Prep your pork shoulder.

  2. You can begin preparing the meat between 1-24 hours ahead of time. First, place the pork shoulder on a cutting board, and using a sharp knife, trim and remove any silver skin. Trim any excess fat. It’s fine to leave ¼ inch of fat or so as it will mostly render.
  3. 2

    How to season pork shoulder.

  4. Make diagonal cuts in a diamond pattern diagonally across the meat about ½ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Slather the entire pork shoulder with either mayonnaise or mustard to help the rub adhere to the meat. Liberally season the pork with BBQ rub on all sides. Allow the pork shoulder to rest seasoned for at least an hour before smoking. If you have more time, the seasoned meat can rest uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. 3

    Cooking temperature.

  6. Preheat your pellet grill to 225°F. Insert a temperature probe into the thickest part of the meat, taking care to not touch any bone. The temperature probe will remain in the meat for the entire cook, so be sure and find a location that will take an accurate reading.
  7. Smoke the pork shoulder fat side up, to an internal temperature of 160°F.
  8. 4

    What do you spray your pork shoulder with when smoking?

    This step is optional. If you choose to spritz the pork shoulder, combine the apple juice, vinegar, and water in a food safe spray bottle and spray every 30-45 minutes after 2 hours of smoking.
  9. Reserve about ¾ of a cup of the spritzing liquid, and set aside.
  10. 5

    What temperature to wrap pork shoulder?

  11. When the meat has reached an internal temperature of 160°F, prepare to wrap it by placing 4 large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil in an overlapping X pattern on a large baking sheet. If necessary, spread and orient the foil so it will be spread wide enough to generously wrap the pork shoulder snugly and without allowing liquids to escape.
  12. Start wrapping the pork in the foil. Before sealing the foil pouch closed, add the remaining spritzing liquid. Then tightly seal the pouch shut.
  13. 6

    Get back to cooking.

  14. Although optional, setting the pork into a deep roasting pan or disposable turkey pan when returning to the smoker is advised. Place the wrapped pork back onto the center of the smoker, then increase the heat to 300°F and continue to cook.
  15. It’s common for the internal temperature of a pork shoulder to stall or stop climbing for a while between 165°F–170°F. Although frustrating, this is a completely normal part of the process. The stall can last as long as a few hours so do not get discouraged if the temperature does not seem to increase for some time.
  16. 7

    Get back to the cooker.

    For pulled or shredded pork, continue cooking until the pork reaches 204°F and remove the meat from the smoker. Do not open the foil just yet. Allow the meat to rest covered for one hour.
  17. 8

    Pull, shred, get ready to eat.

  18. After the meat has rested, transfer it to a large bowl and reserve any juices. If you plan to pull or shred the meat, it’s much easier to do while the meat is hot or at least warm. Warm meat and cooking liquids are also easier to combine.
  19. Shred the meat in the large bowl. Remove any large globs of fat. Return any juices to the meat and stir to combine.

How do I cook pork shoulder?

Cooking a pork shoulder is relatively simple, especially when it’s smoked on a pellet grill. If you see excess fat, trim it, but don’t obsess over it. A lot of the fat will render, so it’s not a bad thing to retain some of it.

Season the pork shoulder with your favorite BBQ rub. Be generous with the seasoning. It’s a large hunk of meat and the extra seasoning enhances the smoke and natural pork flavor. Place the trimmed and seasoned pork shoulder in your preheated pellet grill and let the smoke work some magic.

How long should I smoke pork shoulder?

Every large cut of meat will cook slightly differently based on how much intermuscular fat or marbling is present. A good rule of thumb is to plan for a minimum of 90 minutes of cooking per pound. This works well at a temperature range between 225°F-275°F.

At what temperature should I smoke pork shoulder?

The temperature you smoke pork shoulder depends a bit on how much smoke flavor you prefer. Anywhere between 225°F-275°F works fine for smoking this forgiving cut of meat. At 225°F the pork shoulder will probably take more time, resulting in a richer, and more concentrated smoky flavor. Anything in this temperature range will be delicious.

How can I cook pork shoulder in a pellet grill?

Pork shoulder is one of the more forgiving meats you can smoke in a pellet grill. Very little preparation is required.

Trim any significant amounts of excess fat from the exterior of the shoulder, keeping about ¼” intact. Cutting diagonal diamond patterns in the meat will allow for additional smoke and seasoning to penetrate the shoulder. This will give you a more flavorful crust or bark and a delicious variety of texture.

When it’s time to smoke your pork shoulder, place it in the center of your grill. Aligning the roast to favor one side or the other of your pellet grill can cook the meat unevenly. The center is where the heat is most consistent and the hardwood smoke will season the food most evenly.

What are the best pellets for pork shoulder?

Pork shoulder shines when cooked with a blend of fruit wood and hardwoods. Kingsford® Classic Pellets hit the sweet spot with a combination of hickory, oak, and cherry wood. Pork can handle the robust hardwood flavors, while the sweetness of the cherry wood will coax out nuances in different ways.

When is smoked pork shoulder done?

Technically, pork is cooked and safe to eat at 145°F. However, pork shoulder benefits significantly from being cooked to a much higher internal temperature.

What should the internal temperature of smoked pork shoulder be?

When finished, the internal temperature of smoked pork shoulder should be between 190°F–205°F. We cook more muscular roasts like pork shoulder slowly over lower temperatures in an effort to melt collagen or connective tissues.

When collagen melts it turns it into flavorful gelatin. The gelatin when hot tastes like a delicious broth. Be sure and serve it with the meat either in the form of a gravy or simply mixed back into shredded or pulled pork.

The internal temperature of the pork will affect the meat’s tenderness. At 190°F, the meat will be tender with a slight chew and perfect for slicing. Pork shoulder cooked above 195°F tends to be extremely tender. Cooked between 200°F–205°F, the meat will effortlessly pull away from the roast in chunks or shreds.

What can I do with smoked pork shoulder?

Smoked pork shoulder is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of ways.

Shredded or pulled pork with a little barbecue sauce is all you need to make a wonderful pork sandwich.

If you fancy Mexican style dishes, use smoked pork shoulder for tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, and tamales.

Pork shoulder can be cooked up with diced potato and topped with a poached egg for a flavorful pork hash.

When you crave a crunch, wrap pork shoulder with some coleslaw in an egg roll wrapper and give it a crisp in some oil or the air fryer. It’s a unique egg roll that can be served with equal parts oyster sauce and barbecue sauce for dipping.

You can also make some spectacular side dishes with smoked pork shoulder. Diced into small cubes, it’s delicious with pinto or black beans, baked beans or added to lentils. Smoked pork can be added to chili for a smoky element, or to bring some depth of flavor to macaroni and cheese. You can even enjoy sliced pork shoulder as a tasty addition to a bowl of ramen with a soft-boiled egg.

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