Homemade Smoked Pork Shoulder on a Charcoal Grill
This pulled pork recipe is written for smoking on a charcoal grill. However, if you want to learn more about charcoal smokers, check out this charcoal smoker buyers guide.
Costco sells boneless pork shoulder for a pretty good price. I would love it if they sold bone in pork shoulder but they don’t, so this recipe has a 6-7 pound boneless shoulder. This cut is also referred to as a Boston Butt.
The night before you smoke your pork shoulder, you’ll need to apply a dry rub. I used a dry rub from Steve Raichlen’s cookbook, slightly modified below:
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of paprika
3 tablespoons black pepper
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
This guy has a lot of great recipes. I strongly recommend this book. And the pictures within the book are outstanding!
After your dry rub is on the pork shoulder, place it in the fridge overnight. Put your wood chips in a bucket full of water, or not. I haven’t seen this really make a difference.
The next morning (I usually start around 6:30AM) get your coals ready for a 250 degree heat. As soon as your coals have ashed over, add a few wood chips and place the pork on the grill over indirect heat. The picture below shows the indirect heat placement. Also be sure to place some aluminum foil under the shoulder or you’ll have a mess to clean up.
The plan is that every few hours you will be adding a handful of unlit coals on top of the lit coals, to keep things burning. You can also add some extra wood chips during the first 6 or so hours of smoking.
The first picture above shows a mop solution. Once every hour (about the same time you add your coals and wood chips) you’ll need to mop the pork shoulder. The mop consists of:
2 cups of white vinegar
1 Tablespoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 onion cut into circles
A few circles of jalapeno peppers from one of those jars of peppers.
The mop is also from the How to Grill cookbook shown above.
Once the internal temperature of the pork is in the range of 185-200 degrees you can take it off the grill. This should take at least 8-12 hours. It is believed that once the pork shoulder gets to this temperature the connective tissue basically melts along with the fats and really makes the pork nice and moist. Once the shoulder is off the grill, I wrap it in foil and let it rest for about 20 minutes.
2015 Update: Now if you start having major problems maintaining the charcoal grill temperature don’t be afraid to pull the plug. You can put the butt into a foil tin, or wrap it with foil, and place it in a 250 degree oven. As long as the pork has gotten some authentic smoke you are going to have a pulled pork sandwich that is incredible. Don’t worry about being tough and keeping it on the grill the whole time. That’s stupid. I’ve been there. Sometimes the grill has a mind of its own and will start to crash with a 185 degree dome temperature. You won’t be able to get it done on that. Sure, if you are good, you can light some coals and start it back up again but then you might coast into the 350 degree range. Anyway, after 4 or so hours of good smoke, don’t be afraid to foil it and put it in the oven.
After the rest, I grab two forks and start pulling!
The pork shoulder smells so good that the dogs couldn’t wait for a sample!
For a barbecue sauce, I used a simple North Carolina based sauce straight from the How to Grill Cookbook. The sauce consists of:
2 cups cider vinegar
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 Tablespoon of Franks Hot Sauce
2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes (I like it hot)
1 teaspoon black pepper
To finish it off, I topped my sandwich with some cole slaw. Now that’s authentic BBQ just by Smoking a Pork Shoulder on a Charcoal Grill.