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wilburpan

It's been a while — twin pork picnic shoulder roasts

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Hi everyone,

It's been a while since I've been on this forum. I've been using Smaug, but work has been crazy busy — so much so that I haven't had a chance to shoot photos or post. But things calmed down a little this past weekend, and I managed to take some photos of what I made.

Some friends of ours were hosting a karaoke party, and my wife volunteered me to make some pulled pork. During the week, work was still nuts, so she went out to get the meat. I said, "Look for Boston Butts, or pork shoulders". She came back with two pork shoulder picnic roasts.

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When I unwrapped them, I found out that this was not the usual cut that I was used to in making pulled pork. It had the skin on, and the bones were different. But I didn't have much choice, as it was 1 AM, and I needed to get the cook started, as it was for the next day.

I did a quick internet search on making pulled pork from a picnic roast cut, and for a second I considered doing one with the skin on, and the other with the skin off. 

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But then I remembered something my wife told me once: Never experiment with a new method of cooking when bringing food to someone else's house. I decided to do both with the skin off. I also figured that with the amount of skin and fat that came off the first piece, the cooking times for the two picnic roasts would be quite different.

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I used my usual Aaron Franklin rub recipe.

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And the roasts went on Smaug at 2 AM. They wound up cooking for 15 hours, finishing up at about 5:30 PM.

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Temperature control was interesting with this cook. After starting the cook at 2 AM, I was up and checked on the grill at 7 AM. Smaug had settled in at about 180ºF. I opened the vents a crack, and the temperature settled in at 250ºF. Around 2 PM, the temperature started falling. I checked in on the charcoal, and it was almost all gone, so I refilled the charcoal basket. In an attempt to speed things up, I bumped the temperature up to 275ºF.

I think the complicating factor for this cook was that the outside temperature was in the thirties, and the cooler incoming air made me go through the charcoal faster than usual, since the incoming air needed to be heated more than if it was summertime. My charcoal situation was also not optimal when I started, as I was using the last bits in the bag, which tend to be smaller, so they burn faster.

The pork turned out really well. Our friends put away one of the shoulders pretty easily, and made a dent in the second one. And instead of having us take our leftovers back, they divided up the remainder of the second shoulder among themselves. That's never happened before. I was kind of sad about that, because I wanted to have pulled pork sandwiches the next day, but that gives me an excuse to make another pulled pork soon. ^_^

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The other thing I learned from this cook was how different this cut of pork is from a Boston butt. As you can see from the picture above, the bone is round, not like the flat bone that comes in a Boston butt. The bone in a Boston butt is the pig's shoulder blade. Based on the appearance of the bone, I think this cut is from the "upper arm" of the pig. The picnic shoulders took longer to cook than the Boston butts I've done in the past, even adjusting for weight, and my bet is that the increased size of the bone is part of it.

The bark set up really well, but there was a few parts that I thought were a little too well done. I kind of expected this, since a Boston butt is nice and round and compact, whereas the picnic roast had some thinner parts that flopped away from the main part of the meat. Also, there's this one muscle where the fibers run all the way across the meat, and so when that got pulled, you got these strands of meat that were 8-9 inches long. They were good, but not as much fun to eat as the smaller chunks of pork.

In the past, I've passed up on picnic roasts for a Boston butt, but I think I'll make some more of these now. Picnic roasts seem to be more available than Boston butts here in New Jersey, and they're noticeably cheaper. Besides, I want to try one with the skin on. ^_^

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Tasty cook and I imagine your friends were thrilled with the flavour. It must have felt great to have some time to take pixs and do a post. I know I appreciated it.:)

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I always say the pork roast cook is the highest purpose of a KK. When I do picnics, I just leave the skin on and take it off after the cook, it's MUCH easier. Honestly I don't prefer the Boston to the picnic or vice versa. I just grab one that's the right size. One thing I harp on about the KK is the non critical nature of temp control, especially with a pork shoulder. Your 180º to 275º cook demonstrates that. I laugh when I remember my very first cook. It was a Boston butt, done in the driveway after the guy dropped  off the KK. It was mid afternoon and I knew my wife was going to be pissed as hell I spent the money. I had been planning this for weeks, get the KK, take the afternoon off, smoke a pork shoulder and feed it to Penny the day of delivery, just to shove that wonderful smoky goodness down her throat before she could rage at me. Well, it wasn't done when she pulled in the driveway and had to park in the grass because this giant Bronze Behemoth was sitting on a wooden crate smoking away in the middle of the drive. After giving me a tongue lashing, she grudgingly admitted it was pretty good after I finished and served the pulled pork. But all day I was staring at my Maverick having a shit fit if the temp crept up to 230º or 240º from what I assumed HAD to be a constant 225º every second of the cook! I was diddling those vents like an idiot. Only with experience did I discover that temp control is not very important at all, at least for a lot of things, Maybe some few cooks demand it, but not many. 

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We have a famous saying in the homebrewing world - "Relax, Have a Homebrew!" - meaning, it's not rocket science, so don't over stress on the minor details. Same applies to most BBQ cooks. 

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Hi @wilburpan.. Glad all things are good for you. That look like a fantastic cook. I love karaoke too. I'm getting one for Christmas.. I figure I got some time on my hands for another month or so. Coarse I might sound like a screaming goat.. But I figured singing heals the soul and maybe it will  heal my finger too. 

Edited by skreef
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On 12/12/2016 at 5:45 PM, churchi said:

Good to see you posting again @wilburpan. That looks like a good welcome back cook :)

I'm going to have to try the Aaron Franklin rub you talked about. Any chance of a link?

He has this progressive rub recipe that's worked really well for me. It's all here in this video:

 

I've made some adjustments to his approach. I don't worry about adding sugar if I'm doing pork, as I don't have the issues with burning that he's concerned with, and I'll go higher on the sugar if I feel like it. Having said that. he also cooks everything at 275ºF, where I like to go longer with lower temps. That's probably why he has issues with burning. 

I also don't add extra black pepper if I'm making ribs. I think there's plenty of black pepper in this rub method.

One other thing: I aim to make a little more than 1/4 cup total when I'm making a batch of this rub. That's good for a pork butt, 2-3 racks of ribs, or a whole chicken. For a whole packer brisket, I'll make about 1/2 cup of rub.

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22 hours ago, mguerra said:

I always say the pork roast cook is the highest purpose of a KK. When I do picnics, I just leave the skin on and take it off after the cook, it's MUCH easier.

What's the skin like when it comes off? Crispy? 

22 hours ago, mguerra said:

One thing I harp on about the KK is the non critical nature of temp control, especially with a pork shoulder. Your 180º to 275º cook demonstrates that.

Overall, I do like keeping the temp down in the 200-225ºF range for low and slow cooks of all types. When the weather is warmer, I find it a lot easier. My very first cook was a pork butt at 225ºF, and I had no problem having Smaug sit at that temp for the entirety of the cook. That's one of the great things about KK grills - they are much more "set and forget" than the other kamados out on the market. ^_^ 

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19 hours ago, skreef said:

Hi @wilburpan.. Glad all things are good for you. That look like a fantastic cook. I love karaoke too. I'm getting one for Christmas.. I figure I got some time on my hands for another month or so. Coarse I might sound like a screaming goat.. But I figured singing heals the soul and maybe it will  heal my finger too. 

I had to look back on posts I had missed out on when I was on my hiatus to see what this was about. Hope your finger is healing up well.

Edited by wilburpan
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5 hours ago, wilburpan said:

I had to look back on posts I had missed out on when I was on my hiatus to see what this was about. Hope your finger is healing up well.

Right... I'm doing good.. The finger is healing nicely. The Therapist was happy bout how I could bend my other fingers.. Cause the tendons are tight. But I have been trying to bend them some after surgery... So im happy.  Be glad when this is over. I'm so ready to go back to work. 

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Awesome Wilbur glad you got some time to yourself the pork turned out fantastic great to see everyone taking your lunch lol don't invite me to karaoke I suck

Sent from my SM-P600 using Tapatalk

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On 12/12/2016 at 10:32 AM, wilburpan said:

The picnic shoulders took longer to cook than the Boston butts I've done in the past, even adjusting for weight, and my bet is that the increased size of the bone is part of it.

Hey @wilburpan

The bone may be a contributing factor but that is a Smithfield pre injected cut. I find all the pre injected cuts take longer to cook. I think it has to do with all the extra water that needs to be expelled during the cooking process. 

I try and stay away from the red labeled Smithfield products as they are all pre injected. If sort of pisses me off paying good money for pennies worth  of water injection. 

 

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That's why I get most of my stuff either from my local butcher/food coop or CostCo (which sells the Swifts Premium "minimally processed" line - i.e., not injected/brined.)

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On 12/15/2016 at 8:20 AM, ckreef said:

Hey @wilburpan

The bone may be a contributing factor but that is a Smithfield pre injected cut. I find all the pre injected cuts take longer to cook. I think it has to do with all the extra water that needs to be expelled during the cooking process. 

True, but my bet is that the Boston butts I've made in the past are also injected. Or, if they are not injected, the grocery store isn't advertising that fact very well at all. 

I have a good line on prime quality beef here in NJ. Quality pork for BBQ is harder to come by in these parts. There are some local farmers selling heirloom pork, but they tend to concentrate on chops, ribs, tenderloin and ham, not so much shoulders for low and slow.

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