I received an early morning text from a friend alerting me that Rouse’s grocery store had Pork Shoulder Picnic Roasts on sale for 76 cents a pound. That had me rushing right down Tchoupitoulas Street for one of my very own.
I’ve got a busy week ahead of me so I didn’t have time to brine and cook in a day or two. I’m also running low on charcoal, so I didn’t think I’d be able to do the entire thing on the grill so I did a basic cheat of starting it on the grill and then transferring to the oven. As a picnic cut usually has the skin on it, I then finished it over high heat to crisp it up for cracklin’.
To begin with, I rinsed and patted the hefty piece of pork dry and then scored the skin side and sprinkled Kosher salt into the slits. Turning it over, I rubbed my favorite dry rub (see recipe below) all over the exposed meat. I left it sitting on the counter while I prepped my Weber kettle grill for indirect cooking (a chimney full of charcoal white hot and poured over about 20 unlit briquettes formed into a half moon along one side of the grill) and soaked a hickory chunk in water.
I put the hickory and pork shoulder on the grill with the vents part way open and left it alone for three hours. At that time, I preheated the oven to 320 degrees F and then brought the meat in and put it in a pan over a rack with about a cup of water in the bottom. I let it cook slowly for another four hours. My basic yardstick is about an hour to an hour and a half per pound or until it registers 190 degrees F.
I pulled the pork shoulder out of the oven and transferred it to a baking sheet that I had lined with aluminum foil. I raised the temperature of the oven to 500 degrees F and returned the meat to the oven for about 30 minutes (check and rotate at 15 minutes). You are looking for the skin to be well browned and crispy and it should sound hollow when tapped with tongs.
Before final trip into the oven:
After 30 minutes at 500 degrees:
Remove from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes. Remove the skin and chop into bite sized pieces. Pull apart the meat with forks, discarding any lumps of fat that remain.
Oh, and here is a serving suggestion: while the oven is coming up to 500 degrees F, pour the pan juices into something to separate out the fat. Slice some potatoes into wedges and toss in a bit of the fat (discarding the rest). Once the meat is out of the oven and resting, put the potatoes on a baking sheet in a 360 degree oven and roast until golden brown on the outside and soft in the center, flipping over once during cooking. Use some of the remaining juices in a BBQ sauce:
Basic BBQ Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup pork juices from pan (or water and 1 tablespoon butter)
1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup minced onion
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Cayenne to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan, and whisk well. Bring to a quick boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or chilled.
My favorite rub is Chef Emeril Lagasse’s Rustic Rub:
8 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons cayenne
5 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons onion powder
6 tablespoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme
Combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight container. Yield: 2 1/4 cup