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Lesson 9: Slow-Smoked Pork Shoulder

Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.
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Lesson 9: Slow-Smoked Pork Shoulder

Whether you’re already an accomplished griller or just a novice, grilling cookbook author Fred Thompson will turn you into a grill master in ten short episodes.

In Fred’s home state of North Carolina, “barbecue” is a noun, a word for pork that’s cooked slowly over low heat and often smoked. Though there’s a ton of mystique around good barbecue, this episode will show you how to do it on your own grill, whether you’ve got gas or charcoal. All it takes is a little bit of patience.

Recipes for Large Cuts of Pork
Fred's Ultimate Smoked Pork Shoulder Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Jalapeño-Lime Salsa Coffee-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Watermelon Rind Relish Pork Tenderloin Grilled in Rosemary Leaves 
Fred’s Ultimate Smoked Pork Shoulder   Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Jalapeño-Lime Salsa   Coffee-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Watermelon Rind Relish    Pork Tenderloin Grilled in Rosemary Leaves

Prepping the Pork
Barbecue starts with a dry rub of spices. This includes a little sugar, which helps produce an outside char. Rub the mixture all over the pork, then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. Reserve 1 Tbs. of the rub to sprinkle over the finished barbecue.

Injecting a brine into the pork is the latest trick on the competitive barbecue circuit. This not only keeps the meat moist and tender, it also seasons the meat throughout. Fred likes a Cuban mojo for his brine, which also lends a little tanginess and garlic flavor. To inject the brine properly, you need to slowly pull back on the syringe while you depress the plunger. This helps distribute the brine more evenly throughout the meat, without creating large puddles that will make the meat cook unevenly.

To Barbecue on a Gas Grill:
Set up the grill for indirect cooking as demonstrated in the two-zone fire episode, and add a packet of wood chips for smoking.

When the chips start smoking, put the pork on the grill on a cooler zone, cut off all the burners except the one under the smoking chips, and close the lid.

Every 20 minutes add a new smoke packet, until you’ve used all six. Work quickly when changing your smoke packet; the longer you leave the lid open, the more heat and smoke escapes. Then keep the lid shut and let it cook 4 to 5 hours more.

To Barbecue on a Charcoal Grill:
Set up your two-zone fire as demonstrated in episode 4. Sprinkle a handful of soaked hickory or apple wood chips over the coals.

Once the chips start smoking, put the pork shoulder on the grill’s cool zone. Put the lid on and close the vents almost completely.

For the first two hours, you’ll need to add another handful of soaked wood chips to the fire every half hour to keep the smoke going. After two hours, stop adding wood chips, but continue to cook over a low fire (the grill temperature should stay in the n neighborhood of 275° to 300 °F). You’ll need to replenish your charcoal every hour. See episode 3 for tips on getting a second batch of coals ready.

Finishing the Barbecue:
The pork shoulder is done when it reads 175° to 180°F on an instant-read thermometer. When you grab the flat bone that runs through the meat, it should move easily, or it may even slip out of the meat. Pull the barbecue off the grill, transfer to a large roasting pan, and let it rest 20 minutes.

After the meat has rested, use tongs or two forks to pull the meat apart in stringy chunks. Separate out the crispy outside brown crust–this you want to chop up finely and stir back into the meat. Sprinkle with the reserved spice rub and about 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, if you like, and mix well. Then it’s ready to serve.

More Grilled Pork Recipes
Barbecue-Braised Country Spareribs
North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Grilled Pork Blade Chops with Thai Marinade
Spicy-Smoky Mexican Pork Kebabs
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Honey-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Related Articles
Ingredient Profile: Pork Shoulder
Smoky, Tender Barbecued Pork
How to Grill-Roast
Foolproof Grilled Pork Tenderloin
The Juiciest Grilled Pork Chops

Other lessons in this series
Classic Ultimate Burgers New York Strip Steaks with Blue Cheese Butter How to Start a Charcoal Fire
Lesson 1: The Perfect Burger
  Lesson 2: Great Steaks on the Grill   Lesson 3: How to Start a Charcoal Fire
The Two-Zone Fire Buttermilk Brined Chicken Breasts How to Add Smoke to a Gas Grill
Lesson 4: The Two-Zone Fire   Lesson 5: How to Grill Bone-In Chicken Parts   Lesson 6: How to Add Smoke to a Gas Grill
Grilled Fish Tacos Lump vs. Briquette Charcoal Fred's Ultimate Smoked Pork Shoulder
Lesson 7: How to Grill Fish   Lesson 8: Lump vs. Briquette Charcoal   Lesson 9: Slow-Smoked Pork Shoulder
Fred's Finest Baby Back Ribs    
Lesson 10: Real Barbecued Ribs        


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