When you think barbecue, it’s hard not to think about smoke. Why not try a smoked, Porter-infused pork shoulder? This recipe utilizes a beer brine, flavoring the meat from the inside out, making sure to have moist and juicy BBQ pork shoulder. This Porter Beer Brined Pork Shoulder recipe is perfect for a crowd, any summer BBQ, making pork sandwiches with it, to serving it alongside some amazing BBQ Side Dishes.
What is the difference between a Pork Butt and Pork Shoulder cut?
What’s in a name when it comes to a cut of meat is important. What you might think is one thing, is actually another. When looking at the anatomy of a pig, the “pork butt” is actually located behind the neck, not the rear of the pig. Yes, that is correct, the pork butt is not the gluteus maximus of the pig. Pork butt is sometimes called a Boston Butt, depending on where you live. And to make it more confusing, a “pork shoulder” isn’t the shoulder either, this cut is actually below the butt, above the foreleg. Why these definitions and names were labeled this way, I do not know. I just want to help you understand what you are buying and why it matters.
Both pork butt | shoulder have many things in common. Both cuts of the pig are marbled with intramuscular fat, the butt having more of it than the shoulder. This fat to meat ratio is important, as the meat cooks, the fat melts, making the meat tender and full of flavor. Yes, the saying is true, “fat = flavor”. Yet, when it comes to cooking these meat cuts, they both benefit from the low and slow method of cooking, meaning a longer cooking time and a lower cooking temperature. In other words, these pork cuts don’t make a good steak. Leave that to a pork chop or the loin section of the pig.
The pork butt is usually preferred over the shoulder, as the shape of the butt is move uniform in size and shape. The butt is more rectangular, with a more even thickness from one side to the opposite. The shoulder is more triangular, with a tapered side that will cook faster than the thicker, wider end.
Both the pork butt | shoulder are sold with or without the skin. I usually prefer a skinless cut for this beer injected smoked pork butt recipe. As the crispy skin isn’t the goal of this recipe and the BBQ rub doesn’t stick to the skin as well as the meat muscle, skinless makes more cooking sense.
To learn more about the different cuts of a pig, check out this page.
How to Make a Porter Beer Brine:
With pork, creating a Beer Brine and using it to not only flavor the protein, but to increase the moisture content of the meat. Using a roasty Porter beer, with the addition of molasses (increasing the dark lingering flavors through sweetness plus the additional minerals and vitamins that are from this sugar byproduct), Dry Malt Extract (DME) reinforcing the beer’s flavor and salt. This is the basic brine, that has salt and sugar, enough to balance out each other, yet this only adds so much flavor. To increase the flavor umbrella, I add garlic and bay leaves to the classic cooking elements of onions, carrots, and celery. These vegetables add sweetness and savory undertones, just as the French and Italians use these basic vegetables, called mirepoix and soffritto. These foundational ingredients, add depth to the beer brine, that infuse into the meat, flavoring the protein inside out, in the same way as my Beer Brined Turkey recipe does.
When cooking with beer, the beer style is important, as are the flavors the brewer is trying to capture with his | her inspiration. There are many different Porter styles that could all work in this recipe. An American Porter and English Porter will be the most entry-level brews to use, constructing a wonderful, rich, malty, and roasty base flavor profile for the rest of the ingredients to shine with. A Robust Porter and Imperial Porter are stronger alcohol versions, with a more aggressive intensity with more perceived bitterness and astringency. These brews will leave a stronger flavor in the finished pork recipe. If a Baltic Porter is used to craft the beer brine, a sweeter undertone, with a stronger malt profile will be perceived when tasting the Porter Beer Brined Pork Shoulder. Using a Smoked Porter is especially helpful in the cooking process, as the smoked malted used to make this beer style will infuse with the meat, allowing you to not use a smoker and instead of using a standard oven, set to the same temperature as a wood-fired smoker would be used.
Charcoal is great to start a fire, building a bed of good coals to keep the heat, yet charcoal doesn’t generate the needed smoke to a BBQ as wood chips or chunks contribute. When thinking about BBQ over a fire, we have to look around the world to all the types of wood one can use for heat and smoke. I do like Hickory Wood Chunks and Oak BBQ Smoking Chips as the smoke is rich and strong. For this recipe, I prefer to add a more delicate smoke with more subtle flavors, that won’t overwhelm the Poter beer choice that was used in the beer brine, to marinade the pork meat. Other types of oak are now available, which have had a prior life, crafted into barrels, soaked full of bourbon. These Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Barrel Smoking Chips will add a different nuance to the final BBQ much like a barrel-aged Porter would. This is were fruit and nut woods create a unique and delicious twist to any BBQ recipe. With the addition of fruit tree wood, the smoke from apple | cherry | pecan | peach | fig wood is more well rounded. my preference to make great BBQ is to layer the smoke, using different wood chips | chunks, over the cooking time. I will divide the wood chips | chunks in different containers and submerge them in more beer and | or water, to soak and rehydrate them. This is critical, as the wet wood will smolder and create more smoke, filling the smoker, grill, or Big Green Egg with smoke. Every hour I will check the coals, adding a different soaked wood, to layer that smoke onto the beer brined pork. This culinary technique will improve your smoke ring, or the deep red hue that surrounds the meat, showing the flavor infusion into the protein. If you are using a gas grill, wrap the soaked wood in aluminum foil, creating a packet that can be placed over the flames. Preheat the grill, then turn off the center flames, leaving only a side or both sides going, adjusting the heat to keep a steady heat. Place your foil packet over those flames to create smoke and not leaving a mess to clean up later.
If you chose to use a different beer style to cook with, a different type of tree should be considered to yield a different flavored smoke that will complement the beer brine. Maple | Mesquite | Alder is popular woods for smoking | BBQing. A Porter | Stout | Märzen | Chili Beer | Gose | Red Ale | Amber | Rye beer could benefit from the right choice of wood, using to smoke a beer brined pork butt | shoulder.
Once finished beer brining the pork, do not save and re-use the brine. It will have done its job, infusing its flavor into the meat and will not be as good, nor yield the same results for the second brining.
If you don’t have as much time to Beer Brine this pork, follow my directions and steps to create a Blind Pig-Injected Smoked Pork Butt, instead substituting a Porter beer for the Russian River Brewing Co. Blind Pig IPA.
Many recipes for BBQ Pork and Brisket, often rub the protein with a Spice Rub. If you are a lover of a thicker bark, then add a Spice Rub, such as my Home Brew Chef All Purpose BBQ Rub, rubbing it in, all over the meat before placing it into the smoker.
Makes: 1-gallon beer brine, good for a 6-pound pork shoulder | butt, feeding 8–10 people
Porter Beer Brined Pork Shoulder Special Equipment:
Equipment: Smoker | BBQ Grill | Big Green Egg
Temperature Control: Probe style Thermometer
Charcoal: LAZZARI Mesquite Charcoal to start the fire if using a wood fire-heated smoker
Firewood: such as oak, almond or a fruitwood like cherry or apple