Grill-Smoked Pork Shoulder with Spice Rub

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 150 minutes
Servings: 8

Although many recipes instruct you to soak wood chips before grilling, cookbook author Brigit Binns says she’s never found that this enhances the smoking process. Here, the steam rising from the water in the drip pan keeps the meat from drying out during the long cooking.


For the spice rub:

  • 1/3 cup sweet paprika
  • 2 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. celery salt
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 1/2 to 6 lb. bone-in pork shoulder, fat trimmed to about 1/8
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil


To make the spice rub, in a bowl, stir together the paprika, black pepper, brown sugar, kosher salt, celery salt, garlic powder, mustard, cumin and cayenne.

Rinse the pork shoulder under cold running water. Pat dry thoroughly, including all the nooks and crannies. Rub the oil all over the pork, then rub in the spices, working them in well. Let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Prepare a charcoal grill for indirect grilling over medium heat, using hardwood charcoal, or prepare a gas grill for indirect grilling at about 300°F. Place a drip pan underneath the position on the grill rack where you will place the meat. Add about 2 cups hot water to the drip pan and, if there is room, place a small pan of hot water on the grill rack. Be sure to leave room to add more coals as you cook.

Scatter a handful of oak, hickory or fruit-wood chips over the hot coals; if using a gas grill, add the chips in a smoker box or foil packet. Place the pork on the grill rack over the drip pan. If you have a probe thermometer, insert it through the grill vents and into the center of the meat, without touching the bone. Cover the grill and maintain the temperature at 250° to 300°F. Cook the pork for 2 1/2 to 5 hours. The timing will depend on the diameter of the meat, the ambient temperature, how many times you check the temperature, and whether you add hot or cold charcoal to replenish the spent coals. You will need to replenish the coals about once every hour, when the temperature starts to drop. Add 1 handful of wood chips the second time you add more charcoal or after about 2 hours in a gas grill. Don’t worry if the temperature spikes higher, especially right after adding fresh charcoal.

The pork is done when it is fork-tender and the internal temperature registers 160° to 165°F. If you don’t have a probe thermometer, use an instant-read thermometer. Don’t check too often, however; every time you lift the lid, the heat loss slows down the cooking time.

Transfer the pork to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes. Carve into thick slices and arrange on a platter. Serve immediately. Serves 8.

A note from the butcher: My favorite cut is pork shoulder. It is versatile and practically indestructible. Don’t be afraid to leave on a little fat. The fat will render off during cooking, seasoning the meat at the same time.

— Otto Demke, Gepperth’s Meat Market, Chicago, IL

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Cook and The Butcher, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, 2011).

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