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Using a smoker to cook pork shoulder makes for a succulent and delicious meal, but only when the temperature is just right!
Nothing tastes as rich and flavorful as a perfectly smoked pork shoulder. It’s a cookout classic, but it takes some finesse to nail the smoking technique, and temperature control is key.
One way to achieve the ideal temperature is by wrapping the shoulder and increasing the temperature. Learn all about this delicious trick with this tasty pork shoulder grilling guide!
What is Pork Shoulder?
Pork shoulder is the perfect cut of pig for smoking. This rich cut comes from the shoulder portion just above the front leg or hock; it is situated below the butt and next to the spare ribs. Pork shoulder is a somewhat triangular cut and is usually sold with a nice layer of fat and the skin still on.
Pork shoulder is sometimes labeled ‘picnic roast’, and it can be used interchangeably with Boston Butt in many recipes. However, the shoulder has good marbling but less than a typical pork butt.
Pork shoulder lends itself to longer, low-temperature cooking methods, like smoking. It is essential to nail the right temperature in your smoker so that the shoulder always comes out tender and juicy!
The Benefits of Wrapping Pork Shoulders
True pit masters will wrap their pork shoulder partway through the smoking process to help the pork stay tender while it finishes in the smoker. This handy trick is both easy and inexpensive to do. All you need is foil and a few good folds to seal the shoulder perfectly.
It’s crucial to wrap the pork at the right temperature. The shoulder must be smoked to an internal temperature of about 150 °F, or about 4–5 hours into the cook, and then wrapped. This seals in all the pork juices and protects the pork from overcooking while it slowly finishes in the smoker.
Here are some tips on how to wrap a pork shoulder:
- Lay out 3- 4 extra-large sheets of foil. Optionally, top this with one piece of butcher or parchment paper for an extra-crispy bark.
- Place the pork on top of the foil fat side up. Spritz the pork one last time.
- Fold the foil around the shoulder. Pinch the sides in to make a parcel, and roll it to seal. The wrapping motion is similar to folding a burrito.
- Repeat the wrap 2–3 times with the remaining foil to tightly seal the shoulder.
Once wrapped the shoulder can be returned to the smoker. On the smoker, use a temperature probe to pierce the foil parcel at the thickest part of the shoulder. Leave this probe in to monitor the temperature.
The only time one might not want to wrap their smoked pork shoulder is when they are doing a ‘mopped’ barbecue method because this calls for constant reapplying of the sauce. Otherwise, wrapping the shoulder will help you achieve perfectly juicy pulled pork every time!
When to Increase the Temperature
Sometimes a piece of meat takes longer than expected. If that’s the case it might be time to turn up the heat. If you have properly warped your pork shoulder, increasing the smoker’s temperature can help you reach porky perfection quickly.
Avoid this temperature pitfall by raising your smoker’s temperature after wrapping the pork shoulder. If you start the shoulder at 225 °F, raise the heat to 300 °F after wrapping. The foil protects the pork from heat, and this little jumpstart can help the pork to finish nicely.
Keep a temperature probe in the pork shoulder to monitor its progress throughout the smoke, especially after raising the temperature! Pork shoulder should be pulled off the smoker at 203-205 °F and rested for at least 30 minutes.
The Risks of Increasing the Temperature
The temperature when smoking can be a fickle thing. If you don’t have it perfectly dialed in, you can overcook the pork shoulder and nobody wants that! Over-smoked pork can be dry, tough, and unpleasantly smoky, so closely monitor the pork shoulder’s temperature.
Do not try to speed up smoking by raising the heat above 300 °F. The shoulder needs low and slow heat, so going any higher can compromise the quality of the meat.
Monitor the temperature of your smoker using the smoker’s built-in thermometer, and always keep a probe in the meat for easy adjustments. If you notice the pork’s internal temperature climbing quickly after the heat increases, get ready to pull it and rest it.
Best Practices for Increasing Temperature After Wrapping
Smoking delicious pork shoulder is easy with a little culinary love and patience! Here are some simple steps to follow for wrapping and increasing the temperature of smoked pork shoulder:
- Cook the pork unwrapped for up to 5 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of about 150 °F. Remove the pork from the smoker and close the smoker to retain the heat.
- Tightly wrap the pork shoulder in foil, as described above.
- Place the pork shoulder back on the smoker and pierce the thickest portion of the foil-wrapped pork with a temperature probe.
- Close the smoker’s lid and increase the heat to 300 °F.
- Allow the pork to continue cooking until it reaches an internal temperature of 203-205 °F.
- Remove the pork shoulder from the smoker, unwrap it, and allow it to rest for 30–60 minutes before serving.
Smoked pork shoulder is all about timing and temperature, but if you are willing to put in the time and the work, this piece of meat is truly incomparable! Having a few handy tricks to help you make perfect pork shoulder every time never hurts, and there is nothing quite as easy or effective as wrapping the shoulder!
Pair this trick with an increased temperature, and combat temperature plateau while keeping your pork super juicy!
Now that you know the ins and outs of temperature control for smoked pork shoulder, you can roll up your sleeves and start smoking!
If you want to learn more about smoking pork shoulder, keep exploring the world of smoking with these helpful articles:
- How to Smoke Pulled Pork | Kingsford®
- How to Wrap a Smoked Pork Butt With Pitmaster Aaron Franklin – 2023 – MasterClass