My first shoulder

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Original poster
Dec 23, 2013
Southern California
This morning at 7:15 AM PT I started my first shoulder in what I am calling my first official smoke.  I have a 6.3 lb butt that I trimmed most of the fat from, tied, rinsed then coated with vegetable oil and then applied my rub.  The butt hit the slightly modded ECB at 7:15.  I'm burning Cowboy lump charcoal with some hickory splits having built my fire using the Minion Method.  I'm adding more hickory every 30 mins for the first two hours, and then we'll see how this goes.  At the 4 hour mark I'll insert the meat probe.

So far things are going "ok".  My ECB is all over the place from a temperature perspective.  I've had spikes of up to 400 on the grill surface when I rake coals and add hickory.  The temp seems to stabilize near 270 before it is time to add more hickory.  If shoulder is as forgiving as people say, and heaven knows I'm counting on it, then hopefully this won't cook too quickly.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed though!

Here's a shot of the butt post rub.

Pouring over the grates to refill my water pan did NOT work out well.  Nearly put out my fire.  Need to find a better means of replenishing the water pan through the side door so as not to kill off the temp.  Nursed the fire back to life quickly enough though so still going strong.  Probe is going in shortly to see how the shoulder is holding up.  I have a feeling that due to the high temps this shoulder may finish up earlier than expected but temp control is more consistent now and not as prone to flare ups.
I got through the stall and things are going well.  I'm not tenting on this go around as it looks like things are progressing well and the shoulder looks plenty juicy.  The winds kicked up which have made holding temps a bit more interesting.

Just a few more hours now...  :)
Heh, the shoulder got pulled and then deposited in bellies quickly.  I think I have enough leftovers for 3 more sandwiches as the 6.3 lb shoulder ended up serving 9 people last night, a few who went back for seconds so it must have turned out good.

I definitely learned a few things in the process and kept a running log checking the smoker every 30 minutes.  The winds and the ECB seemed to command that as temperatures were really erratic.  

From a setup standpoint I'm glad I modified the ECB slightly.  I reversed the legs and propped up the fire pan on pavers after drilling a number of holes in the fire pan to allow in air to feed the fire.  But not having proper vents and dampers likely lead to the erratic temps, or at least prevented me from being able to do much about them.  I think I'll insist on a WSM for my birthday this summer.  My wife certainly dug into the pulled pork and was happy with the result so she seemed game on the decision.  :)

I butchered the cut shoulder on the morning of the smoke, next time I'm going to do this the night before as I could have gotten the cut on the smoker faster.  The overall cook time was 11 hours and 30 minutes, and we ended up having guests who were awaiting the tasty goodness.

Also using the Cowboy Style lump charcoal was interesting.  The large chunks, of which there are only a handful of in the bag, burned nice and evenly and gave me the overall best burn.  The smaller shavings that dominate a full bag burn hot and fast.  I'm going to look into sourcing some Stubbs charcoal which I have seen recommended on this site.

I specifically purchased the Maverick ET-733 and Thermapen knowing I was going to do this smoke and many more to come.  They both performed wonderfully.  I bought the wrong size drip pans which didn't end up detrimental but I'll be sure to get the right size next time.  Lost some of the smokey goodness but not all.

A question for those more experienced with shoulders, it seemed that from a temperature perspective on the 10's of degrees it felt like the shoulder kept stalling.  I know there is a heavy stall around 150-160 as the moisture in the shoulder begins to evaporate so you can get stuck at 160 for a few hours (as I did).  But is it normal to see another heavy stall at 170, 180 and 190?  It seemed that right on the 10's a single degree lift took an hour.  Also the last 4 or 5 degrees of the smoke seemed to take a very long time.  The one environmental variable that changed on me during the last few hours of the smoke is that the winds finally settled down so that may have contributed but it seemed a bit inconsistent.

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