After having seasoned my smoker and following the suggestion of a good friend to smoke a whole chicken first (I wish I would have taken pictures of that bird! It looked amazing and tasted even better!) to get the flavor cooked in to the WSM, I decided to try my hand at cooking a pork shoulder. Not one to do anything at half-speed, I decided that “hey! I got room, why not cook two?!” and so this smoke started taking shape.
It started on Friday night (once again, my wife’s wise recommendation!), when I prepped the WSM with the necessary amount of charcoal in order to get 8 to 10 hours of heat which turned out to be about 12lbs. For the pork shoulders, I coated them with a light coat of honey mustard then gave them a generous coating of dry rub that I found in a cookbook. Man, that rub is amazing, but more on that later! I then wrapped them in plastic wrap and placed them in the fridge.
I got out of bed at 4:00 AM and started the fire in the chimney. it was cold outside, around 30 degrees, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. After learning from my previous attempts to let the charcoal in the WSM burn a little more, I waited 10 minutes after pouring my burning chimney full of briquettes before I assembled the smoker. I filled the water pan with enough hot water until it was about an inch below the edge, placed the grates in place, and covered it with the lid.
After 30 to 45 minutes the thermometer was holding steady at 240 degrees. How accurate is that thing anyway? Probably not very good, but at least it gives me something to go by. I then put in some hickory chips that I had been soaking in water since I started the chimney. Smoke slowly started to escape from the top vent, and it was marvelous! Inside, I unwrapped the shoulders and placed them on the grates fat side up, placed the lid on the smoker, and joined my wife for morning coffee.
After about 3 hours I had to add some water to the pan and some more chips to the fire. The lack of water was causing the temperature to rise to around the 275 degree mark, and I was worried that the meat might dry out. It stabilized to around 225 and the smoke continued.
At the 7 hour mark curiosity was driving me crazy! I wanted to take a peak to see what the shoulders looked like, but to paraphrase what I’ve heard many, many times “if you’re looking, you’re not cooking!” so I resisted. I did notice that the temp had dropped to around 200 degrees due to the wind picking up and the coals burning out. So I added two handfuls of briquettes and closed the door.
Many pitmasters, pros and amateurs, will tell you that meat will top out at a certain temperature before being fully cooked, or as many call it, the stall, and they all have their own techniques for getting past it. I, however, hadn’t heard that, or at least I hadn’t paid much attention to it or forgot about it, but in any event, after the 9 hour mark the internal temp still wasn’t where it should be, it was only sitting at 165 degrees. I checked again an hour later, still it hadn’t climbed above 170 degrees. I closed the lid, added some more charcoal, and came back in two hours.
As luck would have it, when I checked it at 12 hours, it was 200 degrees! Perfect!! I pulled them off the grates, took them into the house and let them set for 15 minutes. Then I began pulling one of them apart (our plan was to freeze the other for a later date) and the meat just fell apart on its own! It was so moist and juicy and the smell was incredible!! Who could resist trying a couple of bites? Not us!! And was it ever delicious!!
As our family and guests all were gathered around the dinner table, my wife, who’s tried pulled pork from all over said “Honey, this is the best pulled pork I’ve ever had!” Mission accomplished!!! Even the second shoulder tasted amazing after being frozen and then thawed! With those kinds of result I’m anxious to smoke more pork shoulders!