Advice: how to smoke a pork shoulder so that it stays moist?

Discussion in 'Pork' started by polefalc, Jun 15, 2015.

  1. polefalc

    polefalc Newbie

    I'm new to smoking and I have a 30" MES.

    I got a 10# pork shoulder and trimmed some of the fat off and put a dry rub on it and left it in plastic overnight in the fridge.

    Preheated the MES to 225 and put the pork shoulder in and put the MES meat probe in and also a Maverick probe.  Both probes essentially reported the same temps.

    Used applewood chips.  No water in the tray but had an aluminum foil pan to catch the drippings on a lowest rack underneath the pork shoulder, which was on the second rack.

    Added more wood chips every hour for the first three hours.

    When the meat probes said the meat was at 165, I double wrapped the pork shoulder in heavy duty aluminum foil and spritzed it with apple juice before sealing it, put the meat probes in and put the meat back in the MES.  Temp dropped to about 180 but since it was out of the MES during the wrapping, I wasn't concerned.

    The instructions I was using said to wait until the meat was 200 to 210 before pulling it out of the smoker.  The meat plateaued at 183 for three hours, crept up to 185 for another 3 hours and by this time I decided to put it in an oven because a storm was coming and I needed for the MES to cool so that I could take it into the garage from the patio.

    The pork was great before I put it in the oven.  The temp was still 185 and the meat was very juicy and tasty - I couldn't help myself and had a taste.  At this time the pork had been in the MES for 16 hours.  The meat was still in the foil.

    I left it in the oven, which was set for 230 for five hours.  The meat temp inched up to 189 from 185.  By this time the meat was dry and I took it out (it had been cooking for 21 hours).  

    I put the pork in a cooler with towels and let it sit for 2 hours.

    Took it out and it was still dry but falling off the bone.  It was extremely easy to pull the shoulder bone (scapula) out.  The meat was falling apart but it was dry.  It is tasty but dry.

    My wife and kids like moist meat, not dry.

    Any pointers on what I should have done?  Other than stop cooking it and not put it the oven?  Was it done when it first got to 185?

  2. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    21 hours on a 10 lb shoulder at 230F is not unusual. I've done many shoulders, both bone in and boneless.  I've done them low n slow, hot n fast, and a combination of the two (low start, wrap, hot finish).  Early on I had one roast that would not climb above 185F, a 4 lb bone-in butt at 225F chamber temp that took ten hours and never got to an IT hotter than 185F.  I remember it was kind of dry.   

    Before I moved into the hot n fast camp I used to keep track of the time when a butt/shoulder crossed the 170F IT threshold.  Collagen melts pretty steady at that temp and above.  Melted collagen is what makes butts and shoulders moist.  3-4 hours above that temp is usually enough for a tender, succulent roast as long as it passes the probe test.    

    Near as I can tell from the above description you were in the 180-189 IT range for about 11-13 hours, so one of two things happened.  Most likely is you melted all the collagen out of the meat, resulting in it being dry.  Less likely but still possible, is it wasn't done and there was still collagen to melt, which will also make the meat taste dry.  The answer is in your description though.  Because you tasted it before you put it in the oven and it was moist and juicy, the first scenario is what happened.    
  3. bmaddox

    bmaddox Master of the Pit

    I have never had one stall at that high of a temp while wrapped in foil. Is it possible that the probe on the thermo had some fat dried to it? I have had a probe get some of the bark stuck to it when I pulled it out and re inserted it for foiling and that gave me a false reading. Whenever I am getting a reading that just doesn't feel right I check it with another thermo.
  4. drewed

    drewed Meat Mopper

    Once you foil a butt, you can crank up the heat.  I don't do overnight smokes as I have a charcoal smoker and I like to sleep.  So I get up at 6 am or so and tend to have my butt in the smoker by 7 am.  I will smoke until about 2-2:30ish in the afternoon.  The gets me usually to the stall.  AT that point I remove my butt from the fire, place it in a roasting rack with some juice in the roasting pan, and tightly foil the whole thing.  IT either them goes into a 350-375 oven or back into the smoker with the heat increased to about the same range.  I then cook to 205.  At no point have I removed the thermos.  If I am doing only one hunk of meat, I will place 2 thermos in it at different locations, just to be sure I haven't hit the bone or a hunk of fat or something.

    Sound to me like you just over cooked it.  If it is tender and juicy at 185 I say stop and eat.  Any temp above 145 on pork is safe according to USDA.  
  5. polefalc

    polefalc Newbie

    I had two probes in the pork shoulder in two slightly different spots:  the meat probe that is part of the MES and a Maverick probe.  Both probes were reading the same temp most of the time, or they were within a couple of degrees (e.g. one may read 185 and the other 184). 
  6. polefalc

    polefalc Newbie

    Thanks.  Next time, I'll quit when it is cooked and it tastes good. Lesson learned [​IMG]

    The pork shoulder got to 165 in about 7 hours and it was put in foil then; it was at 180 in about 10 hours or 3 hours after putting in foil.  I moved it to the oven at about 16 hours or 9 hours after being put in foil.  That is when it was sampled.  
  7. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Everyone is different, all are right for their own type smoke. BUT....... it all gets back to basics. The old easy ways always prevail. You ever hear the old adage, "stick a fork in me, I'm done"? All the new computerized apps and electronic helpers, are just tools and guides. When you think a large mass of meat is ready, stick a toothpick in it, an ice pick (if you can still find one), or even a fork. if it moves in & out like warm butter, its ready. All meats are not the same, I have had 10 lb butts done one in 13 hours, the next in 28 hours. Ok, thats really unusual but it shows the range possible.

    I smoke my butts at 210/220 in an Electric and I figure about 2 hours per pound, This is never right, but it gives me an approximation of when I should be checking. Oh I don't foil. Foiling is made to break a stall IMHO. I just allow my butt to work its way thru it. I assume that whatever time I put it on today, it will be good to eat at that same time tomorrow. I nearly always do approx. 10 lbers.

    But all that is just me, if you'll use the toothpick test with any piece of meat (especially large mass), it will make you a much happier smoker.

    Just remember, "stick a fork in me, I am done". I keep a good ice pick in with my coking tools.
  8. polefalc

    polefalc Newbie

    Thanks.  Will do the stick test.  Wish I had done that yesterday.  Before I put the pork in the oven, it was perfect for us:  flavorful and juicy.  

    I'm approaching retirement age, so I know what an ice pick is.  Heck, I remember the milk man!  Amazon still sells ice picks, so I'll order one and keep it with the rest of my smoking gear.
  9. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Another great indicator on pork butts is around the 10-12 hr. mark go out and grip the bone and give it a wiggle, if it's loose and about to slide your done. If not go another two hours and check again.

    I usually run my chamber between 250-275 for pork butts and most 8-10 lb. butts end up between 10 and 13 hrs.

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