No-Work Smoked Pork Shoulder

This recipe produces a lightly smoky piece of meat that retains its intrinsic flavours.  The rub’s ingredients are all dry, and the mix is actually a fairly mild one. But the combination of sugar, cumin, paprika and chili powder really does it!

The resulting pork shoulder can be served straight off the grill, with no more than a squeeze of lime and a few drops of Tabasco or with any salsa or chutney  or it can be shredded into a vinegar-based red sauce to make a North Carolina-style barbecue. Or it can be refrigerated, sliced and put back on the grill — this time over direct heat — to make pork steaks that are ridiculously good.

Yield 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons mild chili powder, like ancho or New Mexico
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 pork shoulder, about 5 or 6 pounds
  1. Start gas grill, using burners only on one side to achieve a heat of 250 to 300 degrees.
  2. Put a couple of handfuls of wood chips in a tinfoil pan, and set it over working burners.
  3. While grill heats, mix together dry ingredients, and rub them all over pork, including under skin as best you can and in any crevices.
  4. Put pork on cool side of grill and cover.
  5. Check about 15 minutes later to make sure chips are smoking and heat is below 300 degrees.
  6. Check every hour or so in case heat escalates too much or chips need replenishing.
  7. Pork is done when it reaches an internal temperature of about 190F, about 4 hours later (less time if you used a smaller piece of pork, more if larger). Meat will be very tender. If you like, raise heat and grill meat to crisp it up a bit. Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight, slice and grill (or pan-grill) individual slices.

Some friendly advice re: smoking chips:

  • I would soak the chips in advance. Put the moist chips in the tinfoil pan. Put them ON the grill (to start) on the side with the fire. If the grill/distance is good and sufficiently hot, you should get a light smoke going. If not (and depending on your grill with either lava rocks or exposed burners) you may actually have to put the pan UNDER the grill.
  • If you do put it UNDER the grill, please check it every 1/2 hour and lightly sprinkle water on the chips to keep them from catching on fire.
  • If you want to add another layer of flavour, baste the pork with apple juice once in a while. Spraying it on (with a squeeze bottle) is better than basting, because it will knock of some of the rub.
  • Another related trick is to put a liquid alone – no chips (called a mop) ABOVE the grill on the fireside (it will boil and need to be replenished) to keep the meat moist. With the pork, this wouldn’t be a worry, but with turkey or chicken you can do the mop technique. Baste the meat with the hot mop every 1/2 hour to an hour.
  • When smoking on a gas grill we soak the chips, wrap them up in foil, pierce the foil to allow smoke to escape, and then put that little foil-log on the grate.



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