Trial by Pork

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Ate a week’s worth of these.

This is post a few weeks late due to overall laziness and having to deal with a bunch of other things, so details may be a bit fuzzy now.

A few weeks ago, I thought I’d smoke a pork shoulder. As the weather around here would have it, it ended up being cold and rainy. But I decided that one does not become a barbecue master unless they’ve cooked in freezing rain, and besides, it builds character.

I picked up a pork shoulder the night before from the neighborhood Giant again. I would have preferred an actual pork butt — something I’m actually more familiar with in making Dr. Pepper pulled pork tacos. For those of you that don’t know, the pork butt (which is not actually anywhere close to the butt) is comes from the top part of the shoulder. The picnic shoulder, which is what I ended up with, is the lower part connecting to the leg.

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The picnic shoulder has a tendency to be bit less fatty and apparently just as good as a pork butt at higher temperatures. In any case, it’s pretty cheap. This particular one was about nine pounds.

For this particular cook, I made a rub from amazingribs.com, mostly containing dark brown sugar and curiously, rosemary. I also made a vinegar sauce, something that is usually more Carolina style.

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I got to use my boning knife gratuitously to remove the hide on the shoulder. I also trimmed off some of the extra fat and some blood vessels that were poking out.

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I dry-brined it overnight to let the salt penetrate. And woke up at 6 a.m. to start.

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Outside temperature was pretty cold, at one point I think some freezing rain came down. I hid in the car for warmth. Definitely got some weird looks.

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If I recall correctly, I took off the meat around 7:00 p.m. after having been on the grill for roughly 12 hours (one hour was lost when I left Jennifer and Willy in charge while I went to go pick Stuart and Elena from the airport).

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I was able to pull it alright, but it was a little drier than I would have liked. Bark wasn’t too bad. Jennifer said she liked it so I guess that’s good enough.

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I’m going to keep this post brief (because otherwise I’ll never post this). The dryness issue may have happened for two reasons: the first is that I may have left it on too long — that combined with the relatively low air temperature and high humidity may have dried it out too much. At some point I probably should have just wrapped it to push through the stall. The second, which I read on the Internet, is that I didn’t let it reach 203 degrees — I took it off around 196. Apparently, the collagen for this particular cut melts at higher temperature than pork butt, which would mean that the shoulder would counter-intuitively be juicier by leaving it on longer. In any case, I’ll have to try again (hopefully in nicer weather).

One particular issue I encountered this time around is having to clear leftover ash. Throughout the ten hour cook, I was finding that the large amount of remains was potentially clogging the vents and also smothering other coals. I tried dumping extra coals on at least two occasions, partly because I haven’t quite figured out how to reload them.

Overall, everything¬†went okay. Hopefully I won’t be barbecuing in the freezing rain for a while.

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