Smoked Meat 101

The thing to keep in mind about smoking meat is that it is a process that can never truly be put into tightly controlled scientific terms.

Sure, we know that there are a few variables that we can manipulate, and if you are really in the zone you could make a good case for whether or not you might be able to control the process… but once we start talking about sourcing high-quality meat, and the natural variance and all the nuance therein, smoking meat reveals itself to be a deeply intuitive process. To that end, we are steering clear of any regionally specific interpretations or methods!

So, fundamentally, if you have good meat, and a means to smoke it, you are in luck! And we are here to advise you and show you around! First off, a thermometer is incredibly helpful! It's hard to say necessary because it isn't especially once you've been around the block a few times, but as far as a tool goes, and especially while learning, it's priceless. 

Next, we should do whatever it takes to get away from any deeply rooted stigmas like "rights" or "wrongs." As we cover how flexible the various control point is, it'll become pretty clear that whatever your set-up, whatever your desired outcome, it is most likely achievable without too much difficulty.

Our case study is going to be a bone-in pork shoulder.

The shoulder has a lot of connective tissue, coupled with a reasonable amount of fat; a prime candidate with a lot of flexibility built into it! The cartilage will convert to gelatin (the secret ingredient of any good roast or braise).
Basic Ingredients: 
A bone-in pork shoulder roast, weighing around 3.5 pounds.
Dry Rub:
-6pt brown sugar
-4pt sea salt
-3pt paprika
-1pt black pepper
-1pt coriander
-1pt cumin
-1pt onion powder
-1pt garlic powder

Basic Method:
Don't let equipment limitations slow you down!
You can use a grill with some charcoal or live wood (or a blend of those fuels,) a smoker with a thermostat, or just about anything that you can maintain a steady degree of heat in. You can even use a Dutch oven--paired with a strong indoor hood system--in your apartment's oven, with an aluminum foil packet of damp, smoldering wood chips, nestled inside… The long and short of it is there is most likely a great option. If you are feeling lost about it, please write to us. We'll brainstorm with you!
For simplicity, we'll run through our process using a basic outdoor grill with charcoal.
  1. Integrate all the ingredients you will use for your rub
  2. Rub down your meat! It's simplest to work in a large bowl to contain it all. Really work it in and press deeply into the meat.
  3. Light your fire! In our case, we are going to be starting a pile of about 12-15 briquettes, to one side of our grill. Allow the coals to fully come up to temp, add 4-6 more, and if you'd like, a piece of fruitwood or something to add some complexity!
  4. Place your seasoned meat on the opposite side of the grill (optionally, add a small metal bowl of water of to the side, it'll add moisture to the air and smoke, helping regulate the heat)
  5. Wait. If you have a means of assessing the temperature, somewhere between 275-300 is an absolutely suitable range to roll for what will most likely be 4-5 hours. Periodically add a couple of coals or chunks of wood to keep your smoldering pile a similar size for most of the smoke.
If you do not have any way of regulating the temperature, then you will be doing it like most people have been for a very long time: slowly, and optimistically. It's gonna work out.

If you have a standard kitchen thermometer the shoulder will be done when the internal temp is somewhere between 190-202, and temp alone won't mean much, we want that temp, after 3-4 hours, not before, AND, a soft, jiggly sort of texture to set in. 
After you feel like it's reached its final state, you can pull it out of the smoker, let it rest for around 10-20 minutes, and carve it or shred it!