Need help with a pork picnic shoulder!

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Master of the Pit
Original poster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Jul 3, 2005
Northeast Ohio
I promised a friend that I would provide approximately 20-30lbs of pulled pork for a party this Sunday. When I went to my local supplier yesterday I was informed that his weekly order was mixed up and that instead of the boston butts that I usually buy did'nt arrive and that all he had received were the "picnic" shoulders. I have never used this cut before and I have noticed some obvious differences from the boston butts that I'm used to. I have two picnics (approx 10lbs each) and plenty of Jeff's rub and yellow mustard at the ready. My concern is in regard to the very firm leathery skin or rind that covers the roasts. The butcher assured me that there is ample fat/marbling beneath this skin, however, my concern is what kind of effect will it have on smoke penetration and heat for rendering the fat and breaking down the collagen etc.., to get tender and pullable end result. :?

If anyone has any advice, I would sure appreciate it. There will be 80-100 people at this party, and plenty of other food as well, but as much as I've bragged about my pulled pork bbq successes, it would be my worst nightmare to have the only dish on the table that nobody liked.

Thanks, in advance for any help :)

Brian- 2 picnics weighing 10 lbs each = 20 lbs. You'll only end up with 10-12 lbs of pulled pork after removing the skin, fat, and bone plus the reduction during cooking. So you may need another one or two to feed that many.

I too prefer the pork shoulder for pulled pork but have used the picnic before just to see if there was a difference. What I do is cut off the hard skin and most of the fat. Your local supplier was right there is enough marbled fat to keep it moist so just leave a little on the outside. I've heard of some folks scoring criss-cross cuts through the fat before applying rub to help the smoke and spice penetrate but I haven't tried this. Then apply the mustard slather and rub at you normally would.
Thanks, Bob,

I'm going to stop at Sam's Club on the way home from work tonight to see if I can pick up a regular boston butt or two as a safety measure. If not then I guess I'll have to get another picnic and role the dice.

Brian, I've used pork picnics before for pulled pork. Like Bob said there is more bone and fat to the picnic than the butt. Most stores sell the picnics with the skin still on the shank and part of the shoulder. If you have to use a picnic try to find one without the "rind" on it. I find that there is no difference in the taste of the meat as the Butt and the Picnic makes up the whole shoulder of a hog.
i also got a picnic on sale at the store last week and need help on cooking it. So i trim the skin and some of the fat off, should i cook it like a ham or boston butt ?
Mark that cut can be cooked either way to 170* for slicing or 195-205* for pulling. The only thing I would mention is that since the "ham" hasn't been cured it won't taste the same as a ham, it will still be good pork, mind you, but a different flavor.
Crazyhorse, It's really up to you-I'll give you a couple of lines of thought on this and you can take it from there.

For pulled pork, I would remove the skin and some of the fat (there is more fat on the butt than the picnic). Removing the skin before the smoke will allow a good bark to form on the meat. By leaving the skin on you don't get as much bark to add to the pulled meat.

By leaving the skin on during the smoke makes it easier to remove the rind and fat after the smoke (provided that you remove the rind while the meat is still warm).

Now what to do with that smoked rind with the fat on it? You could give it to Rover and he would love you forever, but take the rind and with a very sharp knife or kitchen shears cut the rind into 3/4-1 inch wide strips. Take the strips and cut them into 1 1/2 -2 inch lengths and fry them puppies until they puff up for some Smoked Pork Cracklin's. For an added kick, give the cracklin's a healthy sprinkle of some ground red pepper and have plenty of beer on hand!

Since I opened this thread, originally, I thought I would post my results as an answer to your inquiry.

I ended up smoking 3 picnic shoulders for this party, each one was approximately 10lbs. Using a very sharp knife, I removed all of the rind and left most of the fat attached. I smoked them just as would do a boston butt. I don't remember exactly how long it took to reach internal temp of 195*-200*, but I do recall that it took a little bit longer than it normally does with the regular boston butt. This makes sense, of course, because the picnic is larger and has a much bigger bone by comparison.

Once the roasts reach my target temp (around 200*), I double wrapped in HD foil and let them rest in an insulated cooler for about two hours.

The final result was everything I had hoped for. The bone was easily removed by hand and the meat was so tender that it practically shredded itself! There was no discernible difference in taste between the picnic and the butts that I was used to.

All in all, if I see the picnics on sale for a good price, or if boston butts are out of stock, I wouldn't hesitate to use this cut again. Removing the skin adds an extra step, but with the proper knife, its really not difficult at all.

Hope this answers your question. Good Luck!

Thanks for the recap Brian, but I want to throw in my .02, just so that we have a good picnic thread that is well rounded.

So here goes.

You got your wrapped picnic, its been in the cooler for 2-3 hours getting all happy.

You open the foil in a casserole dish to preserve the liquid, move the picnic to a cutting board, and start pulling.

(here is where I'm adding my .02)

You slide off the rest of the fat cap into the trash, start pulling, and your fine.

All of a sudden, you come up to this section of the meat that is different than the shoulder meat. Its more the consistency of ham (but as said above, no curing so its still shoulder)

I take this piece and place it aside. I pull all that is easily "pullable". Then I take the harder portion ( I take it to 200 as above) and then take the Henkel and chop that piece up.

So when doing a picnic, I almost always pull, and chop, to ensure a consistent product.

Anyone else chop the "harder" portion of a picnic?
Hi Bill,

You make a very good point. Yes, as I recall there was a small portion of meat on the interior that was somewhat more dense than the rest. I chopped some of it and the rest was sacrificed as samples to the chef who did all the work (me) and my support staff (the dog), and lastly, to my brother in law who always happens to be "passing by" whenever I fire up the pit. :P

Sounds good Brian.

I just wanted to point out, what you already found out.

With a picnic, you need to "feel" your way around while pulling, and be prepared to chop.

This is a "go to" thread for picnics, to say the least.

Again, thanks for the recap to make this thread complete!
This is so exciting.. this is what forums are all about. :D

Reading thru this thread I get all of the information I need to..
  • Purchase my pork shoulder
  • know the difference between the picnic and the butt
  • Prepare the pork for smoking
  • smoke it from start to finish
Excellent thread guys! Keep up the great work!

I do not get in here often as most of you know but when I do and I see threads like this I realize that the forum is in very capable hands.
I chop the denser section, too and like brianj517 it often goes to the chef and the support staff. Sometimes I will save it and then slice it deli thin, pile it on a kaiser roll with some diced red onion and some honey mustard. This is the kind of sa'mich that makes the other folks at the lunch table drool with envy. :D
Wow what a great thread! Thanks brian for starting it. I have been wondering about the diff. between those 2 cuts of meat. And this clears it up!!

I had thought maybe to use the "tougher" hunk of meat for soups!! Just a thought.

Glad I couldhelp, Patrick. I've learned alot here as well.

Yeah, the soup idea could be interesting...I once used some chopped brisket from one of my "virgin" smokes in a batch of chili that turned out pretty good...but I s'pose that belongs in another thread...

Just finished reading this thread - great info!

Now my Smoke and Spice says 1.5hrs per pound, does this seem reasonable? Trying to have some pulled pork for the game tomorrow, and this will requre firing up the smoker about 5am. (New Braunfels with side firebox).

Also, how do you boys feel about mopping the dead pig occasionally?



1.5 hours per pound should be a pretty good estimate.. I would coat that bad boy with a light layer of plain yellow mustard then put some good rub on it (pretty heavy since it is a big piece of meat) making sure to get the rub down into all of the crevices.

Smoke it at around 225 degrees for 1.5 hours per pound until it reaches 140 degrees internally. After that you can continue cooking it as is (without smoke if you are using charcoal or gas) or you can wrap in foil as a nice alternative and let it tenderize in its own juices.

Feel free to mop with apple juice during the smoking/cooking process or if you decide to foil the pork butt, you can splash on a little apple juice for good measure just before you close it up.

Let it reach at least 200 degrees internally and a few degrees higher than this will not hurt.

If you foiled it.. after it is done cooking, remove from the smoker and let it rest for up to an hour before removing the foil.

(I have been known to let it rest as much as 2 or 3 hours before and with excellent results)

You can expect the shoulder to pretty much fall apart on its own once you remove the foil. Be sure and pour the juice that is left in the bottom of the foil back onto the pulled pork after you are done pulling.

If you did NOT foil during the cooking process, then wrap loosely in foil and let it rest for 30 minutes to an hour to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat (This is very very important)

Pull into shreds using 2 forks then pile on buns with coleslaw, pickles and your favorite sauce.

Do not expect leftovers :D

This is my way of doing it.. others will have specific ways of doing it but I think my way is better :D

All joking aside.. you will have a strong inclination to worship the pork shoulder after this and you will have a really difficult time eating that stuff they call pulled pork at restaurants from now on.
Thanks for the reply, I'll be printing some of this info off, and then making notes of my own.

I should remove the skin and leave the fat as well right?

I've done several butts, but this is my first picnic, can't wait to try it!

Will probably make the rub for the Perfect Picnic from my smoke and spice book, unless there are tastier suggestions here.

As for the sandwiches, I like to make some sanwich slaw with garlic and zingy vinegar type sauce - yum yum!

I am bumping this thread up, as i am going to try to find a shoulder to do for my "SECOND" birthday meal this sunday..........

i notice some of you guys talking about the HARD section of the shoulder, and chopping this up to add to the pulled part of the shoulder......

do you think a dicing of it, and maybe making PORK burnt ends?????

i will be starting a thread on my own, after i get thru reading 7 pages of the search i did on shoulders..........asking MORE questions........
This is so exciting.. this is what forums are all about. :D

Reading thru this thread I get all of the information I need to..
  • Purchase my pork shoulder
  • know the difference between the picnic and the butt
  • Prepare the pork for smoking
  • smoke it from start to finish
Excellent thread guys! Keep up the great work!

I do not get in here often as most of you know but when I do and I see threads like this I realize that the forum is in very capable hands.
I totally agree Jeff, it also shows what the search bar can do for you. This thread is over 6 years old and I found it. 

Our local Kroger has picnic's on sale this week for $0.79/lb and since my freezer is almost out of PP I was thinking of getting a couple I haven't seen butts around here under $1.99/lb in a long time, so this is a good deal for some PP.

I have seen picnic's in the store before but always strayed away because of that thick looking rind on them but after reading this thread I know exactly what I need to do so I'm heading to Krogers to get a couple to smoke next weekend!

Thanks everybody who contributed to this thread! I haven't seen any of you here since I started hanging around but thought I'd say Thanks anyway! is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.