The other day, I was in Asda in Peterborough. I don’t normally shop there, but I happened to be parked in their carpark. Anyway, they had some decent joints of pork shoulder. Whereas my local supermarket tends to only have rolled shoulder, these were the whole joint, with the bone still in – perfect for pulled pork.
It was dirt cheap, so I bought two, on the principle that while I had the Traeger going, I may as well fill the shelf.
I’ve cooked pulled pork before, but always a small cut-down joint, and always during the day. Invariably, I have cooked it on my Traeger’s smoke setting it for 9-10 hours, then turned it up to finish it off and let me rest the meat, and then pull it, before getting to bed. The pork I have ended up with has been nice and tasty, but I know I could do better.
This time, having two shoulders, I know it is going to take longer, so I started cooking them last night. Having had it sit with a rub for 8 hours, they went into the smoker about 8pm. I checked them this morning, and the fire was still going – the smoker temp was at 180 F, and the meat was at 140 F. Throughout the day, I’ve been working, with my remote thermometer on my desk, and watched the temperature gradually rise. They are now coming up to 22 hours on the smoker, and they have reached 170 degrees.
There is the temptation to wrap them in foil, and then increase the temperature – but because I am still working with only 3 settings – smoke, medium and high – this will put the temperature up to 325 F – unless I sit in the garden, and keep switching between smoke and medium. This is why I want the new controller that I am building, to give me new options.
So I am going to hold my nerve, and follow the advice that I have received on the BBQ forums – as long as I can see the meat temperature increase, leave it as it is.
One of the things that happens with pork shoulder, is that the temperature increases stall at a certain point, where the collagen starts breaking down – the energy is doing this, rather than heating the meat further. This is good – it is what makes the meat tender – so I don’t want to interfere. I have been told that the stall can happen anywhere between 150 and 170, so I think I should be coming out of it soon.
I am going to foil these joints either when the temperature hits 190 or at 8am, whichever happens first. Once foiled, then the temperature can go up until the internal meat temperature hits 200 F. Then they will be put into a pre-warmed cool-box for an hour or so, before pulling.