Smoking pork shoulder

Today I’m experimenting with smoking a pork shoulder on my gas grill. I’ve been meaning to get a smoker “one of these days” but today I couldn’t wait. So this week I had the idea to try and smoke wood chips on my gas grill. Sure enough, there were plenty of videos on YouTube on how to do this.

So I went and got a 6.5 lb. pork shoulder at BJ’s and I bought some cherry wood chips, a small smoker box, and a bluetooth temperature sensor. The latter piece of technology turned out to be essential since maintaining the temperature I wanted was a challenge. More on that later.

Some members of my family don’t like spicy rubs so I found a recipe for a non-spicy rub. Well honestly I just found a rub recipe and omitted the Cheyenne pepper. It smelled nice and in the end, spoiler, tasted great. It seems to me that these rubs are probably hard to mess up.

I added two small bread pans of water because one of the videos said you want a moist environment. I had to continually top these off with more water every hour as the water boiled away. In hindsight, I’m not sure this moist environment did anything but I’ll have to read and experiment some more.

The ideal temperature changes from recipe to recipe but my main constraint was time. I needed to finish in about 7 hours so the temperature range that I tried to keep was 275 to 290 F. If I cooked it longer, say for 2 hours per pound, I’d use a lower temperature of like 220 F.

As I said earlier, maintaining the proper temperature was a challenge and without the constant monitoring and alerts from the bluetooth sensor, I would never have been able to come close to a stable temperature throughout the cook. As you can see here, my temperature was all over the place anyway.

The wood chips didn’t burn at first so I spit some lighter fluid onto them, let the flam get them burning, and then blew out the flame. After that they were on a nice steady burn and I added new chips every half hour to an hour. Still, over the duration of the long cook, I had to repeat this process. As it turns out this must be one of the main benefits of a real smoker, that is there is a dedicated flame to keep these chips burning. In my grill, the flame was mostly indirect and low (to keep ambient temperature low) so the flame was not exposed enough to the chips to keep them burning. Sigh.

In the end, the shoulder tasted great. Well, half of it tasted great. The half of the shoulder that faced the back of my grill was perfectly cooked and pulled apart with a fork. The half of the shoulder which faced the front got colder faster every time I opened the lid and the meat needed to be cut with a knife. Still tasty!

I’ll have to try this again, possibly in my oven next time. I spoke to a friend and they said there is a product called “liquid smoke” which essentially gives your meat a smoked taste even if you don’t have a smoker. I’ll have to try that.

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