A full pork shoulder consists of two halves, the 'Picnic Ham' and the 'Boston Butt' and can weigh 8 to 20 pounds. A picnic ham is not a true ham but a roast that runs from the shoulder socket through to the elbow. True hams come from the rear legs only. The picnic usually weighs from 4 to 12 pounds. The top half of the shoulder, that being the roast from the dorsal of the animal near the spine through the shoulder blade, has way too many names: Boston butt, pork butt, butt, shoulder butt, shoulder roast, country roast, and the shoulder blade roast. Why the heck we call it a butt seems ironic, I mean it comes from the front of the hog for crying out loud.
In case one wonders what all goes on inside the cover of that smoker (even when cooking off-heat on a grill) and what it takes to ensure a bodacious roast, here's what I know. Ideally you want to maintain the inside of the cooker at a temperature between 225-240 degrees F. On average, given the fact that roasts take between 1 to 2 hours per pound to cook, there is a stalling period or plateau at around 155 degrees during which the internal temperature of the meat levels out without much change in the temperature. During this stage the energy from the heat goes about doing its thing, breaking down the connective tissues, collagens and the fats while moisture moves toward the surface. This is what in layman's terms we call 'making it tender.' If you are able to gauge the internal temperature with, say a digital thermometer, you will not notice any changes for a long period, not until most of the internal tissue starts to really cook and the fats are rendered will you notice the temperature starting to rise again.
|BBQ Mop recipe here|
As a rule of thumb, depending on how you plan on serving your roast, plan on removing it from the cooker when the internal temperature reaches one of these degree points:
Slicing - 170 degrees F
Chopping - 180 degrees F
Pulling - 195 degrees F
Of course, I believe the most important step of all is the resting period after cooking your roast. Wrapped tightly in heavy foil, the roast actually rises a few degrees more. Many folks like to place it in a warm oven set around 170 degrees but most importantly, do not let it rise above 210 degrees or the fibers will toughen up and release too much excessive moisture. And we all know what toughen meat taste like....
Now here's a dry rub I use often when I barbecue meats, or in this case, cook off-heat on my grill this 10-pound shoulder butt pictured. This rub is excellent for just about any meats - beef, chicken, seafood, whatever you fancy in barbecuing. Enjoy!
Note: Because this rub contains brown sugar, never use it when slow-cooking cooking above the burning temperature of sugar, 265 degrees F.