Updated: May 17
This is one technique to smoke a pork shoulder with professional results--from the brine, to the rub and to smoke, to the compliments you will receive. Smoke is the key to breaking down the fat which adds flavor and moisture to the shoulder. Slow and low on the cooking temp is a must to really get the fats to render down into that supple and moist pork everyone craves. Remember, this is one of many ways to smoke a butt. However, play with this and make it your own technique.
1. In a large plastic container or food safe bucket, combine all of the brine ingredients and stir until the salt and sugar crystals have completely dissolved. Be sure the pork is almost fully immersed in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, but no more than 12 hours.
2. When ready to cook, start your smoker going at 225 degrees F and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes. While the grill gets up to temperature, remove the pork from the brine and set on a large cookie sheet with raised edges. Do not discard the brine liquid. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel. Pour about 6 cups of the remaining brine into a pot and bring to a boil to kill any raw pork germs and discard the rest.
3. Now that the meat is brined, it is time to rub. Rub Cherry Blast liberally onto your pork butt, using your hands to massage the rub across every surface of the meat. Food grade latex gloves make clean up much simpler... wink.
*Technical Note: SMOKING ON A STANDARD CHARCOAL GRILL
For those of you that DO NOT own a smoker, you can still achieve amazing pulled pork form a charcoal grill. Smoking on a charcoal grill is really easy to do, especially if you are already comfortable grilling with indirect heat. Begin by filling a chimney starter about one-third full with briquettes. When they are fully lit, pour all of the charcoal on one side of the charcoal grate (if desired, use a charcoal basket, which holds the coals close together so they burn more slowly) and place a large disposable foil pan on the other side. Then, carefully add about 2 to 3 cups of water to the pan. The water in the pan is important because it helps to maintain a low cooking temperature. It also adds some moisture to the food, which in many cases will cook for hours and hours, so it could dry out otherwise. Allow 30 minutes to 1 hour for the coals to burn down to the correct temperature and the water to heat up. Next, drop damp wood chips or dry wood chunks directly onto the coals. Then place your food on top of the cooking grate over the water pan and cover your grill. Expect to add more coals every hour or so to maintain the heat. Maintaining constant temp at 225 degrees is critical, don't allow temperature to swing heavily.
4. Put the pork directly on your grill grate, fat-side DOWN, and cook for 3 hours, mopping with your reserved brine every hour after the first hour. *Fat-side up will wash way the bark as the fat cap melts down the butt.
5. After 3 hours, the pork is going to have taken on as much smoke flavor as it can, so it is time to turn up the heat! Transfer your roast to a large disposable aluminum foil pan and pour about 1 cup of the brine liquid in the bottom of the pan. Increase your grill temperature to 250 degrees F, and cook for 6 to 8 additional hours, or until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat (but not touching bone) registers 195 to 200 degrees F. If the pork starts to brown too much, you can cover it loosely with aluminum foil. I usually put foil on after the pork has been on for 6 hours or so, but that is personal preference.
6. Once your pork is up to temperature, remove it from the grill and carefully transfer it to a large cutting board or serving dish and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. Pour the juices from the bottom of the aluminum pan into a liquid measuring cup and separate any fat that rises to the top. Now it's time to pull the pork into lovely shreds. You can use your hands, Bear Paws, or whatever method you like discard the bone and any lumps of fat, including the cap. Season the pulled pork with additional rub (if desired) and moisten with the reserved pork juice.
7. Serve on King's Hawaiian buns, with bread and butter pickles with Dukes Carolina BBQ sauce, if you like! Freeze any leftovers in labeled gallon freezer bags. Will keep in the freezer for at least a month for your future use.