Smoked Pork Shoulder
By Chef Steve
One week from last Saturday marked the autumn equinox. We have officially left summer behind! I see the mercury reflecting lower temperatures but rather than launch into winter woes, I choose to extend my celebration of the arrival of autumn. What better way to do that than with an incredible recipe from my personal kitchen.
One reason to hang on to autumn’s arrival is the UK’s barbecue-unfriendly summer weather this year. Try as we might to get the coals going for the Majesty’s Jubilee and for Yorkshire’s Olympic athletes, we usually had to order takeaway in the end. My Autumn Smoked Pork Shoulder is the perfect revenge for all those rainy summer days.
The other reason I like to prepare this recipe this time of year is because it reminds me of the hot meals I want to curl up with while I keep warm next to a fire in the coming months. In New England, I remember supping from warm mugs of apple cider and indulging in soft sourdough with creamy apple butter as I joined clusters of locals to admire nature’s brilliant transition – leaves once green now flash yellow, orange, deep red. I marvel at how food has the power to bring memories rushing back.
Food also unites us and whether you like to fry, bake, or grill, food preparation can be very satisfying. I want you to think of smoking as a long term investment that yields generous dividends of deliciousness. So do not let the recipe and directions overwhelm you. A great deal of it is sitting back and relaxing while the meat cooks. All you need is the right cut of meat and the right kind of method and I am here to help. So get ready friends – in honor of extending autumn equinox celebrations, I am pleased to share with you my Autumn Smoked Pork Shoulder recipe. Enjoy!
Autumn Smoked Pork Shoulder
Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 7 hours
You Will Need
One pork shoulder with a nice large fat cap if possible
Barbecue or bullet smoker
Smoking pellets (BBQr’s Delight Hickory are perfect)
1 tupperware container
Ingredients for Rub
Salt, modest handful
Black Pepper, 1 tbsp
Spanish Paprika, 1 tbsp
Mustard Powder, 1 tbsp
Thyme, 1 tbsp
Sage, 1 tbsp
Rub mix from above, 4 tbsp
Apple cider vinegar, ½ cup
There are five stages to smoking. Also consider the prep time if you are serving a party of guests. You can’t rush it.
The night before you are due to cook, give your pork shoulder a good coating with your dry rub. As you work it in, the rub becomes damp on the meat surface, and that’s fine. Do not rub the seasoning on to the fat cap, it will not penetrate the skin.
The morning you are due to cook, take your ½ cup apple cider vinegar mix and fill your meat syringe with it. Spend time slowly injecting the thicker parts of the meat. It will swell as you inject and some will run out. Try to keep it off the surface of your meat as it will blacken too early while cooking. Save a little of the seasoned vinegar for mopping. As your meat cooks, the seasoned vinegar will be pulled to the outside, seasoning and tenderizing as it goes.
You will need to make a judgment call here. If you have a kettle or barrel barbecue, light your charcoal to one side as you want no direct heat under the meat. You MUST keep the meat in the range of 100 – 120C therefore the charcoal must be a good distance away. The aim is to surround the meat with enough smoke to work its magic at the correct temperature. Some experimentation may be required.
If you have a bullet smoker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you have a different design altogether, don’t worry. You only need it to work for an hour! Take a handful of Hickory smoking pellets and put them into a foil pouch. BBQr’s Delight has instructions on the packet. Prick a small hole in the pouch for the smoke to escape. Put your meat on the grill, AWAY from the charcoal. Then put your foil pouch on the charcoal to heat up. Put the lid on the barbecue and let that smolder away for one hour. There will be a good amount of smoke and it will smell absolutely delicious.
Preheat your oven to 110C and transfer the pork shoulder onto a roasting tin in the oven. The cook time will depend upon how big your joint is, but for a 2 to 2.5 Kg joint, you’re looking at about 5 to 6 hours. If in doubt, the best way is to test with a meat thermometer. The meat needs to be 75C inside the thickest part for it to be ready. The low and slow process aims to melt the fat around the meat without coagulating it. The joint will become incredibly tender. The moment that the temperature gets higher than the recommended range, the meat will toughen.
About one hour before the meat is ready, baste it thoroughly with the remaining seasoned apple cider vinegar. This will give it a nice dark colour and tangy flavour. It also helps develop the “Bark” – a delightful pink ring that forms around the meat.
Once the joint is ready, wrap it tightly in foil and let it rest for 30 minutes. I usually put it back in the switched off oven once it has cooled below 50C or so. Letting the meat rest is a very important step and essential for tender meat. Do not skip it!
…And wow, you are done! Give yourself a pat on the back for the fantastic smoked pork shoulder you prepared. You can shred it with two forks, or whack it with a rolling pin – anything to separate the fibers. My favorite is to serve it simply on sourdough with coleslaw on the side, but there are countless ways to put it to good use. For leftovers, try adding it to stir fry or spring rolls. Whatever you do, it’s sure to be delicious.