Below is a detailed recipe for how I smoke a juicy and tender pork shoulder. This recipe can be used for pulled pork to make pork tacos and pulled pork nachos. If you follow the recipe, you will be amazed at how well the pork shoulder turns out!
1. I usually try to purchase a pork shoulder that weighs roughly 8 pounds. I have found that larger shoulders may be a little bit harder to smoke because the outer meat may dry out before the inner meat is done. Larger shoulders also take longer to smoke. Remember to use a good BBQ mop mop during the smoking process to add moisture, flavor and to help tenderize the meat.
2. The night before you are going to smoke the pork shoulder, apply a thin layer of yellow mustard. Any brand will work fine. This will create a paste that the rub will stick to. Here is a recipe for the rub I use on pork shoulders. After you apply a layer of mustard to the pork shoulder, completely coat the shoulder with a good BBQ rub. I have found that it helps to pat the rub into the shoulder to make it stick better. Make sure you have some brown sugar in your rub to add flavor. This also creates a nice bark on the pork shoulder.
3.Wrap the shoulder in plastic wrap, and refrigerate over night.
4. Take the pork shoulder out of the fridge about 1 hour before you are going to put it on the smoker. Although this is not a firm requirement, this will help to bring the internal temp closer to room temperature and reduce the time it takes to smoke. In my opinion, letting the shoulder rest on the counter before putting it on the smoker will also aide in developing a nice smoke ring on the pork shoulder. I have prepared the shoulder many ways, and this is my preferred.
1. When the pit reaches operating temp, I usually smoke a pork shoulder at 250 degrees F, place the pork shoulder on the pit, and let it smoke for about one hour, bone side down. ( The Fat will render and keep the pork shoulder moist if it is top while smoking) I do not turn or flip the shoulder during the cooking process. I leave it alone to prevent disrupting the bark that is forming.
2. Next, apply a good mop to the pork shoulder after the first hour of smoking. . You can find the one I use here. Keep the outside of the shoulder moist while smoking by applying the mop about every 45 minutes or so after that. (A good idea is to use a spray mop. I mix 3/4 cup apple cider and 1/4 cup cooking oil in a spray bottle, and spray the shoulder while cooking. This is much easier than a mop, and adds great flavor.) The apple cider also helps to tenderize the meat.
3. Smoke the pork shoulder for about 1 hour per pound, or until the internal temperature of the thickest portion of the shoulder is 180 degrees F or so. If I want pulled pork, I will usually bring the temperature up to 190 degrees F or so. The meat pulls apart much easier when I do. (I never worry too much about time. I just worry about reaching the temperature I want. Time is a guide.) I use and temperature probe hooked up to a Maverick ET73 so I know what the internal temperature of the shoulder is at all times. It has a remote display so I can sit on my couch while the shoulder is cooking and I know exactly when it is done. It also has a pit temp probe so you know what the temp is by the meat you are smoking
4. I have smoked pork shoulders directly on the pit with no foil for the duration of the smoking time, and I have wrapped them in foil after they have smoked for 6-7 hours. The wrapping method works well because you can control the moisture level of the shoulder. The mop, and the juices create a very humid environment inside the foil wrapped shoulder pocket, and I think that smoking a shoulder this way produces excellent results too.
5. Leaving the shoulder on the pit for the duration of the smoking time, not wrapped in foil, tends to produce a firmer, drier crust on the shoulder, but the internal meat is very good. You will just have to experiment both ways to find out which way you like most. Smoke the shoulder to an internal temperature of 190 for pulled pork. It pulls apart much easier that way. If you want sliced pork, cook until 180 or so.
My favorite way to eat the shoulder is to make pulled pork sandwiches. Smoked pork shoulders will literally fall apart, and making a pulled pork sandwich is fairly simple. Shred the smoked pork shoulder with a couple of forks to prepare the meat for the sandwich. The sandwich basically consists of two hamburger buns, some good barbeque sauce, the pulled pork, a few onion slices, and whatever else you think will taste good.
Pulled pork tacos are also very delicious too. First, I heat up a couple flour tortillas. Next, I sautee onions and bell peppers, and then I put the pork in the tortilla along with barbeque sauce and the vegetables.