Cooking a Huge Pork Shoulder Slowly and a Tri-Tip Quickly

Last weekend it looked like the weather was going to hold out for a good long smoke, so for the first time ever I went to the butcher to get a pork shoulder and decided to get a tri-tip for good measure. I’ve always bought my pork shoulders at a big grocery store. I find that Meijer actually has real good butchered in house pork shoulders. The other guys have cryovac packed Hormel shoulders which are fine because lets face it the original point of barbecue was to take the cheapest cuts of meat and smoke them until they are tender and delicious. That’s been one of the great things about this hobby and what can make it so “relaxing”. Even if you screw up you still have great food at the end of the cook. It might not be what you wanted but it’s edible. The butcher sold me a whole bone-in shoulder that came fresh out of the shrink wrap. He trimmed it up a bit but unlike the stuff I buy at the grocery store I had to do further trimming once I got home. This is what it looked like when I unpacked it.

I trimmed off some of that raised fat. I did an ok job but what I didn’t know is that I would be doing even more fat trimming later in the day. Even with the trimming this shoulder was over 10lbs the biggest shoulder I’ve ever tried to cook. My goal was to get it done as close to 5:00pm as possible so I started the fire at 3:45am. I knew it was going to be a cold morning and that the temp wouldn’t start to rise until almost 9:00am so I had to get things going early. While the fire got going I rubbed the pork. I used olive oil instead of my usual mustard because I had done it two weeks prior and I thought it helped with moisture. I don’t think it did so I’ll be going back to the mustard. For a rub I used this recipe from the Virtual Weber Bullet website.

By 4:30am I had the shoulder on the cooker. I used a 75/25 mix of Apple and Hickory wood. I usually brine my shoulders two days before I cook them. Unfortunately I didn’t have the shoulder in time for this cook so I decided I was going to spray the shoulder with a 75/25 mix of apple juice and apple cider vinegar. I did this every hour for 3 hours starting at 10:30am. This is what the shoulder looked like when I lifted the lid for the first time at the 6 hour mark.

At this point things started getting hectic for me. The fuel in the cooker was starting to run out, the water pan was empty, and I decided it was time to get the tri-tip ready for lunch. When I took the tri-tip out of the fridge and unwrapped it I found out that the butcher had left the fat cap on one side. I definitely didn’t want or need that much fat so I had some trimming to do. It took me a few minutes but I can’t believe what a great job I did.

I didn’t have any made for beef rubs so I found my original tri-tip recipe someone sent me when I started smoking last year. That recipe had a rub in it and something didn’t feel right when I was making it but I was pressed for time and I threw it together and rubbed it on.

I decided to run my Mini Smokey Mountain for the tri-tip since I had the pork shoulder on the bottom rack of the full size smoker and I wanted this guy to come up to temp quickly.  Here’s a picture of me running both my smokers simultaneously for the first time ever.

After 45 minutes on the smoker I was getting 118 degrees in the thickest part of the meat. So I took it off and placed it on my smoking hot Weber Q. I did 3 minutes on each side and after letting it rest a few minutes it looked fantastic.

But what happened when I cut into it I can’t even describe. I’ve been trying to make beef that looks like this my entire adult life.

So, how did it taste? Well, that’s the problem. The rub I applied to the beef was heavy on salt and cayenne so it was a bit salty and a lot spicy. I wrapped up the leftovers for people to try later and it had mellowed out a little bit but I’m currently searching for a better tri-tip rub.

The pork shoulder cooked on the smoker for about 12 hours total. At the bottom of this post I’ll put the hourly temps so you can see how it progressed. I was pretty happy with how the smoker held temp. I only had to change the coals completely once probably due to the very low temps in the morning.

When I went to go take the shoulder out of the cooker it was so tender that the whole thing fell apart while transferring it to the pan. Here’s a pic, sorry its so bad. I’ll work on my camera techniques.

And then about 45 minutes later I pulled it all by hand….well, hand and shredders. This is the finished product.

A couple of quick notes about the finished shoulder. I forgot to sprinkle additional rub into the meat as I pulled and mixed it and I DID NOT use enough wood for a 10lbs pork shoulder. As with all barbecue it tasted fine and everyone was happy to eat it but I can definitely say this was one of my worst shoulders. I went out and bought a Hormel for this weekend. I’ll definitely have time to brine it and its a little smaller at 8.7lbs. I’m also going to work on smoke management a bit more. Making sure there’s wood smoke until the shoulder hits about 160.  I’ll be sure to do my best to document the cook. Thanks for taking the time to read all this!

COOK LOG

4:30am
38 degrees
225 degrees
5:30am
54 degrees
238 degrees
6:30am
85 degrees
236 degrees
7:30am
112 degrees
239 degrees
temperature dropped to 30 degrees, wind held steady
8:30am
132 degrees
236 degrees
9:30am
148 degrees
226 degrees
Temperature up to 39 degrees but wind picked up
10:30am
159 degrees
207 degrees
11:30am
164 degrees
208 degrees
12:30pm
167 degrees
247 degrees
1:30pm
171 degrees
258 degrees
2:30pm
181 degrees
245 degrees
3:30pm
189 degrees
252 degrees
4:00pm
195 degrees
Pulled off smoker

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