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What am I doing wrong?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi, I am having troubles getting it right with regards to smoking a pork shoulder and making some pulled pork. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I am fairly new to using this smoker. Everything I make turns out great, except pork shoulders. What am I doing wrong? I am using a Dyna Glo, vertical, gas smoker. I had a 3.5 lb shoulder completely thawed and seasoned with my favorite rub. I readied the smoker by filling the water tray and wood box. I got it up to about 225 degrees, and put the meat in. Now, I know that those thermometers mounted in the door aren't ideal for accuracy, I just know that my smoker won't even start smoking until it reads about 225. Anyways, I've read that as a general rule, it should cook 1 hr per pound. I figured a 3.5 lb shoulder for 3.5 to 4 hrs. I always use a meat thermometer for internal temps.

But, if I go by the time rule, and internal temp of 160, it always comes out really fatty and tough. So, this time, I left it on there for over 7 hours. Every hour or so, I would baste it and refill the water tray. After 5 hrs, I checked the internal temp and got 160 degrees. I left it alone for 2 more hrs. Upon pulling it out, it looked great. It looked perfect. After letting it rest for about 20 min, I pulled it open. As usual, it was fatty and tough. I'm about to give up on pulled pork. This is the 5th one I've made. I've adjusted cooking temps. I've lengthened the time on the smoker. All with the same result. Absolutely no change whether I cook it for 4 hrs or 7 hrs at higher temps. Fatty and tough. What am I doing wrong?
post #2 of 9
are you getting bone in pork shoulders? 3.5 lbs is small so I'm guessing you are buying pieces of a shoulder. Also are you getting butts or picnics? Butt is the top of the shoulder and picnics are the bottom, butts pull easier in my opinion. The saying goes if you're looking you're not cooking, you shouldn't be opening your cooker every hour, this is extending your cooks. Basting constantly isn't necessary with pork shoulder and filling the water pan repeatedly will cause temps to drop. You also need a better thermometer, i don't trust the ones that come with any cooker, always use two, even a cheap oven therm sitting next to the meat will help give you a better idea. Try getting a whole bone in Boston butt, 7-10# is normal, run your cooker at 250-275 until the internal is 195. If you aren't hitting the mid 190's the meat will not pull easily. The other thing is at 225 you're looking at 1.5-2 hrs per pound until you hit the 195 mark. Don't give up! Pork shoulder is easy as long as you have patience and give yourself enough time. If all else fails you can foil the shoulder when it hits 165 and finish it wrapped, that will always give you pullable pork but the bark suffers. Good luck
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
1st...thanks for the advice. I will definitely follow those tips on the next one. Yes, they are bone in. The local grocery store doesn't have the best selection. These shoulders I've been buying are rather small. They must be the picnics. But that's all they have. I will definitely shop elsewhere to find a good one next time. Just thought I'd go small until I got it right, instead of ruining a $30 piece of meat. As far as opening the door every hour, or so. I realize that extends the cooking time, etc, but I do need to refill my water at least that often. I do it quickly and when I started this, I didn't open the door very often at all. I will have to invest in a better thermometer. And definitely shoot for the higher temp. Thanks for your time. Fingers crossed on the next one.
post #4 of 9
Everyone has their way to do pulled pork, this is just the way I do it. I rub it down as the smoker is warming up, and smoke round 250-275 usually. I have a Maverick ET-732 dual probe therm to track meat IT ! I don't smoke to time, but rather IT... With pulled pork, thats usually in the neighborhood of 200* IT ! Pork shoulders have a lot of collogen in them that needs to render & melt (break down) which is what makes the pulled pork tender & juicy. At 160* IT the collogen has not broken down yet, this is why your getting a tough finished product. Take it up to the 200* IT & I think you'll be much happier. Then when off the smoker, I wrap in foil & a couple towels & let rest for at least 2 hrs in my camping cooler before pulling. Not sure 20 minute rest is quite long enough. Hope this helps ya some & let us know if ya have any more questions... We wanna make sure ya succeed ! icon14.gif
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Yup. It sounds like my problem is not enough internal temp. That was kinda my thought since the fat wasn't breaking down. Better cut of meat. Higher temps. Will try again.
post #6 of 9
Where are you located? I don't think I've ever paid more than $15 for a butt, usually can find them for $1.50 a pound. one other bit of advice, if you have to fill your water pan every hour I'd be seeing if I can run that cooker without water or looking for something bigger to use as a water pan. I'm not familiar with your cooker, so I'm not not sure if you have to open the main door to add water or if there's a smaller door down below.
post #7 of 9
Also, one more quick thing... Your water pan is just a heat sink (temp regulator). My WSM has one as well. I filled my pan with sand & put a few layers of foil over it for easy cleanup. Sand works great as a heat sink & then you don't have to worry bout refilling your pan with water.
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
As I said, I am fairly new at this smoking thing. I was afraid of the meat drying out if I didn't keep my water pan full. After reading some of these tips, it all makes sense that keeping it full isn't really necessary. It is a vertical gas smoker with 2 doors. And with it being winter here in Minnesota, it's tough to get this thing really hot. You can only turn the gas up so high, you know what I mean? I have noticed higher temps with a dry water pan, so that may be my solution. You pros are allot of help, and I thank you.
post #9 of 9
Happy to help bud! Pulled pork is too tasty and economical to give up on. Another really helpful item with large cuts of meat are those meat therms with a wire that you can leave in the meat while its cooking and you can watch the internal temps without even opening the door. One of the best investments I've made in my BBQ arsenal, $20 bucks I think. And don't sweat higher temps, plenty of people cook pork butts at 300-325 and get great results with shorter cook times.
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