OPERATION BBQ: Pork Shoulder #1

Once I finished building the smoker, I couldn’t wait to use it. I was like a little kid trying to go to sleep early on Christmas Eve to pass the time quicker. I finished assembling the smoker on Friday after work and was pleased with how all of my materials came together and called it a night. Saturday’s are long days for my wife and I at the coffee shop, so I don’t usually have an abundance of energy after work. Alas, my excitement to get this new smoker operational made up for my lack of energy.

I spent my Saturday evening building a roaring fire to season and burn out the smoker of all the impurities and bullshit that may or may not have any negative impact on my first cook.

While tending to the fire, I spent a lot of time contemplating what would be the first cook in this new smoker. After much deliberation, I opted to go with something familiar and purchased a 12 pound pork shoulder from my local butcher shop.

For this cook I opted to keep things extremely simple to get an idea as to how the cooker behaved. I didn’t brine, I didn’t use a water pan, I didn’t do much of anything in advance. I used a basic dry rub consisting of salt, pepper, and a bit of Louisiana Creole seasoning. I built up a 2″ coal bed and then I loaded the shoulder onto my freshly burned out grate, placed a new log onto the coals, and got to smoking. I opted to use Ash for this cook. I’ve been using ash a lot lately and although it’s not the wood of choice for most BBQ enthusiasts, it’s abundant in Indiana and I have enjoyed the mild and sweet smoke that it produces. The only drawback to Ash is that it burns with the quickness, so it takes a lot of wood to get through a long cook.

Anyway, that’s enough talk about the prep and setup, let’s focus on the results and what lessons can be taken away. I pulled this pork shoulder off after 10 uninterrupted hours on the cooker.

I was pretty pleased at the bark development and smoke permeation. This thing had supreme smoke flavor and was pretty tender, however, I think it would have come out better if I had incorporated a water pan and/or gave it a thorough spritzing of apple cider vinegar around the 8 hour mark. There’s definitely room for improvement, and I am looking forward to smoking another shoulder next Sunday. My plan is to continue cooking the same thing until I feel I’ve hit my peak before moving on to something else. I’m already psyched for Pork Shoulder Number 2!