How To: Smoked BBQ Pork Shoulder, Pulled Pork Sandwiches, and BBQ Sauce from Scratch – Recipe / by MEAT ME

Enough of other peoples food, now it is time for my BBQ. I rant all the time about the difference between Grilling and Bar-B-Que. So today I am going to show you how to Smoke BBQ a Pork Shoulder from scratch and make your own BBQ sauce to use with a Pulled Pork Sandwich. Here is what you will need to barbecue:

Barbecue Checklist
1 Charcoal Smoker with a side Fire Box (Horizontal or Vertical)
1 Pair of Gloves
1 Pair of Tongs (if you don’t want to pick up the charcoal with the gloves)
1 BBQ lighter
1 Bag Hickory Wood Chunks
2 Bags Cowboy Brand Charcoal
1 Bottle of Lighter Fluid
1 Painters Bucket (Half full with water)
8 pound pork shoulder (bone on or off)
1 bottle of French’s yellow mustard
1 spray bottle filled with apple juice
1 container of Rancher’s Reserve Tender Beef All Natural Savory Roast Rub

By no means am I a professional barbecue’er. I would consider myself a novice beginner at best. I have a history with smoked pork ribs, beef ribs, chicken, pork butt and shoulder. I still hope to get my hands on a full pig and a turkey before the year is over. The end result is always unbelievable smoked goodness, but there is always tons of learning along with way. One of the hardest things you will learn is how to control the consistency of the smoke with the temperature.

Before I leave to Home Depot to get supplies I pulled the 8 pound pork shoulder out of the fridge. I want it room temperature before I put the salt rub on. At this point you want to change into clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and smoky. Your clothes will stink and so will the laundry basket you put the clothes in. For courtesy points I would put them in a plastic bag. Don’t be surprised if you still smell barbecue in your nose the next day.

I did not grow up with barbecue, I was taught by avid smokers and restaurant owners. Though some of the best things I have learned were from books. Being a visual person, after about 5 minutes in a conversation, I am usually lost. For a great BBQ book I recommend “How to Grill” by Steven Raichlen. It has great tips and teaches you how to smoke out of pretty much anything. This book is a very easy read and has a shit ton of pictures to help you out.

So to get started I have a Brinkmann 40'' Barbecue that I will be smoking/barbecuing out of. This can be purchased at Home Depot check your local hardware store for availability. I also have a vertical wood smoker but I always struggle with the temperature. It could just be me but I find the horizontal smoker a lot easier to control. They have electric smoker’s that make BBQ so easy that most competitions consider it cheating.

I get my supplies at my local Home Depot. To smoke, I only get the Hickory Wood Chunks. For smoking I recommend the wood chunks over the chips; they seem to smoke longer. You can also get Apple or Mesquite flavors. Some combine Apple and Hickory. I do not combine anything with Mesquite, I have heard it is not recommended. Get a bottle of lighter fluid any brand will do. After 20 to 30 minutes it burns off anyways.

For the charcoal my Home Depot only carries Cowboy Brand Charcoal. I get 2 bags (you can get away with one). The charcoal at the bottom of the bag brakes down to really small pieces. I like to use the medium to large chunks. They seem to help keep the temperature up and not burn too quickly. You want your charcoal to look like “black as night” burnt wood. You do not want coals, stay the hell away from Kingsford charcoal, especially the presoaked in lighter fluid. If you use these food is almost guaranteed to taste like chemicals. Yes I have actually done this and you think you are going to get sick. So save your mouth and trust me.

Before you leave the store you may want to grab a pair of their $1.99 garden gloves to handle the charcoal. They are going to turn black after one or 2 uses.

Now the second I get home I put half the bag of the wood chunks in a bucket of water. Put the gloves on and put 3 to 4 handfuls of charcoal in a pile in the firebox. Try to keep the charcoal on the grate and off the bottom of the box you want the air to be able to circulate in from under the charcoal – plus the heat of the charcoal wears down the bottom of the box. Over time charcoal will fall thru the grate and hit the bottom, it is inevitable but its better to start off on top. Squeeze about 3 seconds worth of lighter fluid on the coals and use a BBQ lighter to light it. Keep your distance. Once lit let the lighter fluid burn off for about 20 to 30 minutes until the charcoal has turned grey. Leave the firebox open during this process.

20 to 30 minutes is the same amount of time you want the wood chunks to soak. I let them soak the whole time I am barbecuing and take them out as I need them. This way they are always wet before use. It seems the wetter they are the longer they last. The idea is to get them to smoke.

My 8-pound pork shoulder should now be out for about 30 minutes the resulting in room temperature. If you rinse it, dry it with a paper towel before going onto the first step. I am going to apply my Rancher’s Reserve Tender Beef All Natural Savory Roast Rub. Before I do that I need my bottle of French’s Classic Yellow Mustard. Squeeze the mustard directly onto the pork and rub it in all over the meat (don’t worry it won’t taste like mustard). Remember you want just enough mustard to cover the surface area. You don’t want it dripping. The reason for the mustard is to get the rub to stick to the meat.

Once the mustard is consistent all over you want to apply the roast rub. Start by pour it out shaking it left and right as you cover the entire surface area. Don’t be afraid to be generous you can always put the left over back in the container. Do this to every side of the pork shoulder until the entire surface is covered. You should have a nice consonant layer over the entire surface. If it is NOT, it’s ok, BBQ is like horseshoes and hand grenades… close is good enough. Once this is finished you can place your meat in a tin container. You want a container large enough that the smoke will touch as much of the surface area as possible. If the container is touching any of the sides of the meat then those areas won’t get smoke. Eventually you are going to cover it with foil and put in the oven. So make sure the walls of the container are high enough. I also recommend something disposable, when you are done smoking the entire container will become black. If it is metal or glass it could take hours to clean. I say fuck that throw it away.

Some people like to marinade their meat overnight (12 – 24 hours). You can use anything from Italian dressing to beer. Its totally up to you the options are endless. You can also make your own salt rubs. There are millions of combinations, in the end it is totally up to you. The idea behind my set up is to have the least amount of prep time as possible.

Now you are set! Place your pork shoulder that is in your tin on the grate inside your barbecue. Get is as close to the smoke opening as possible. Close the cover and open the smokestack damper halfway. At this time you will want to grab 2 to 3 wood chunks, shake off the dripping water, and place them over the hot grey/red coals. Using your gloves (or tongs) place the wet wood while spreading out the hot charcoals in the firebox and close the lid. Some wrap the wood chunks in foil and poke holes in them. I have tried this; the wood does smoke slower, but takes longer to get smoking. I stopped using it.

Make sure the firebox air shutter is open all the way. The air shutter mainly controls the temperature. The more oxygen your fire consumes the hotter it will get. After the lid is closed it should take about 10 to15 minutes for your temperature to get between 175 and 205 degrees. This is the range you want to be in when cooking with your smoker.

Smoke the pork shoulder for a total of 6 hours. I usually go back and forth every 20 to 28 minutes adding 2 – 3 wood chunks and a hand full of charcoal. Only add it to the center of the firebox, over time the ash pile will begin to spread out.  I always worry about replenishing the fire and smoke too early, but I forget that the whole idea is to keep the temperature and smoke consistently up and not down. The fire may look like it doesn’t need it. Trust me add more.

Keep the barbecue cover closed as much as possible. The more you open it the more you let all the heat out. Every other time you replenish the wood and charcoal rotate the tin 180 degrees. To keep the meat from drying out fill a spray bottle with apple juice and spray down the meat until it starts running off the sides. Make sure the bottle is on spray and your not using a brush. Every time I tried to use a brush I would take all the salt rub off the meat and that drove me insane.

If it is windy you will have trouble keeping your temperature consistent. Unfortunately there is not much you can do about that. If you are having trouble overall with temperature play with the charcoal/vent combination. More times than not it just needs more air. In the event your charcoal almost dies out. Open the firebox side door for a few minutes while adding more charcoal. This should get it going again. Try not to play with your set up too much, its easy to kill a fire by not letting it do its thing.

In that case start on the barbecue sauce. To me, this flavor is your classic BBQ sauce. It is not too sweet and its not to spicy, and you can adjust it to your liking. This mix makes about 5 cups of sauce, more than enough for what you need. Store it in a sterile glass container and it will last you for months. You are going to need the following ingredients below;

Barbecue Sauce
4 cups of Heinz tomato ketchup
½ cup of Heinz apple cider vinegar
½ cup of Worcestershire sauce
½ cup of C&H Pure Cane Brown Sugar
4 tablespoons of Grandmas Molasses
4 tablespoons of French’s yellow mustard
1 ½ tablespoons of Tabasco sauce (add ½ tbls for medium and 1 tbls more for hot)
2 tablespoons of the Rancher’s Reserve Tender Beef All Natural Savory Roast Rub
4 teaspoons of Wright’s liquid smoke
1 teaspoon of black pepper

Through all these ingredients in to a pot on medium to high heat and bring it to a boil. Once boiling time it for 10-15 minutes and stir with a wooden spoon the entire time. Once complete mixed let it cool for an hour or two, then store it in your container.

I have noticed that while I am boiling it. It seems really spicy, especially if you place your nose over the steam and breath in. Your eyes may even water up but once it cools, for some reason, it is not as spicy. You will have to do some guessing at this point. Some people blend together different peppers and spices, feel free to make it your own.

Now I am at 5 ½ hours of smoking and its looking pretty dark, but the internal temperature isn’t even close to the recommended 177 degrees. So start the oven up at 400 degrees. It should take half an hour to get up to temp. Once the pork shoulder has smoked for the full 6 hours cover it with tin foil and stick it in the oven for 60 minutes at 400 degrees. Your covering it in foil to keep the moister inside while it cooks the rest of the way. After 60 minutes pull it out and you will see that the meat has shrunk about ½ to 1 inch off the bone. This means it has done. A good test is if you grab the bone with a pair of tongs it should slide right out. The meat is now juicy, moist, and perfectly ready for enjoyment.

With most meat if its pink it's not done yet. With BBQ pork it that equals perfect. You should have about ½ to ¾ of an inch of pink from the black crust in towards the middle of the meat. The pink is the smoke. The more pink the meat, the more smoke flavor it has. You can extend your smoke if you like. I have smoked these at 185 degrees for 12 hours and not had to even use the oven. It really comes down to how much smoke you can take.

To make the sandwiches you want to use a nice full French bread, something a little crunchy and crispy. Let the pork shoulder cool for an hour. There is no easy way to pull the pork apart you just have to use your hands. I just hurt’s less when the meat has cooled off. I did try using tongs and a knife, but I failed horribly.

My friend Jay was over so I whipped him up one. You don’t come by when I am barbecuing and not leave with a full stomach. I put about 1 ½ to 2 cups of pulled pork in a bowl and add about a ¼ to ½ a cup of barbecue sauce. I mixed it up with a folk and stuffed it in the French roll for Jay to enjoy. I can’t tell you what he said after his first bite but lets just say it translated to something along the lines of, “Damn Man that’s some fucking good shit!” Jay doesn’t use words like that (he’s like Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters) so I knew he felt things he’s never felt before.

Thank you Jay I am touched.

I wish you all lots of luck in making this man grunting epic meal. It is tons of work and well worth the journey. I ask that you use caution and as much as I have guided you, “Bar-B-Que at your own risk!” and use common sense.

Please feel free to email me with any questions… I am always open to suggestions but if I don’t like them I will probably tell you to go MEAT ME!

Barbecue is Love,
Sean Rice aka MEAT ME!