Have you ever tried smoking multiple pork shoulders at once? Assuming that you have a unit large enough to accommodate them, this can be a great way to boost your total meat yield. In this guide, we’ll share our most useful tips regarding this method.
Smoking Multiple Pork Shoulders
In order to smoke multiple pork shoulders—or any large cuts—make sure not to crowd the cooking grate. As long as they’re evenly spaced, each pork shoulder should cook at the same rate that it normally would. Also, keep the lid closed as much as possible to prevent the hot air from escaping.
How Big Is A Pork Shoulder?
The answer to this one depends on whether you’re buying the whole pork shoulder or one of the subprimal cuts.
To clarify, a whole pork shoulder consists of two subprimals: the Boston butt and the picnic shoulder. When sold whole, the cut may weigh up to 20 pounds, though it’s more common to find them in the 12- to 18-pound range.
The Boston butt, or pork butt, is the upper part of the shoulder. The cut is barrel-shaped and weighs about 5 to 10 pounds.
The picnic shoulder, also called the picnic roast or picnic ham, weighs around 4 to 10 pounds. To confuse the issue, it might be labeled simply as “pork shoulder,” but you should be able to tell it apart from a whole shoulder based on its smaller size.
When we talk about smoking multiple pork shoulders, we’re referring to the smaller subprimal section. Unless you have an enormous smoker (see the section below), you probably won’t find yourself smoking more than one whole pork shoulder at a time.
What Size Smoker Do I Need To Cook Off Multiple Pork Shoulders?
If you want to smoke more than one pork shoulder at once, your smoker should offer at least 200 square inches of cooking space.
The thing to remember about smoking multiple cuts of meat at once is that you need to leave plenty of space between them. Otherwise, they’ll take longer to reach their target temperatures. We’ll discuss this in more detail later on.
The Traeger Pro Series 575, with a total of 575 square inches, should be able to accommodate 3 or 4 pork shoulders at once. A larger model like the Pro 780 might be able to hold 6 to 8, depending on the weight of the cuts.
Our best advice is to buy the largest smoker that you can afford—in terms of both space and money. If you have the room for an oversized unit and cost is no object, go ahead and splurge.
Does Smoking Multiple Pork Shoulders Take Longer?
The best aspect of smoking more than one cut at a time—aside from all the extra meat you’ll get as a result—is that it shouldn’t increase your total cooking time.
As long as you don’t crowd the cooking grate by putting the pork shoulders too close together, you’ll only need to wait as long as it takes to cook the largest cut. Each one should cook at its usual pace—there’s no need to add up the weight to get an estimate.
One thing you might want to keep in mind is that the larger cuts will take longer to cook than the smaller ones. As such, you should position them as close to the heat source as possible. This will help them reach their target temperature more quickly.
How Long Does It Take To Smoke a Pork Shoulder?
Each pork shoulder will cook at its own pace. There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to timing. The best way to gauge for doneness is to use an instant-read meat thermometer.
If you’re planning to carve the pork shoulder into slices, a target temp of 185-190 is ideal. For pulled pork, let the meat cook until it reaches the 195-200 degree range. Remember that the meat will continue to rise as it rests due to carryover cooking.
That said, you should keep some basic guidelines in mind so you’ll know when to start checking the temperature. At 225 degrees, the pork shoulder should cook at a rate of 1.5 to 2 hours per pound—perhaps a bit more or less, depending on the circumstances.
The breed of the pig, the fat content, and the humidity inside the smoker can all affect the total cooking time. One pork shoulder might weigh exactly the same as the one beside it, but they still can cook at different rates. Keep that in mind throughout the smoke.
A Word About Airflow
When you smoke a pork shoulder (or any cut), the warm air inside the smoker is endeavoring to raise the temperature of the meat from the outside in.
As the meat cooks, that warmth travels toward the center. How quickly it does so depends on the quality of the warm air, the thickness and temperature of the meat itself, and the location of the heat source.
What does this mean for your barbecue? Essentially, it means that you should open the door as little as possible. That’s important even if you’re smoking a single pork shoulder, but it’s critical if you have more than one hunk of meat in there. Here’s why.
Every time you add a large cut of cold meat to the smoker, the temperature inside will drop slightly. The more cuts you add, the more significant the drop. You’ll also have to leave the door open a bit longer, which will decrease the temp even more.
You can offset this effect by keeping the door closed as much as possible during the smoke, or raising the smoker temperature a bit. However, you also need to remember to keep the pork shoulders at least two inches apart.
When the pork shoulders are touching, the hot air won’t have a chance to flow between them. As a result, the meat will cook as if it were all one large piece, which will increase the cooking time.
Of course, the pork shoulders will start to shrink after a while, as we’ll discuss later on. But if you put them too close together, it will take longer for that to occur.
Timing is Everything
You should know how much each pork shoulder weighs before adding them to the smoker. That will give you a general idea of when you can expect each one to be ready.
When you’re testing the temperature of the meat, check one pork shoulder at a time. It’s a good idea to keep a disposable aluminum pan handy, so you can take the meat out of the smoker while you insert the probe. That way, the door can remain closed as you work.
The same rule applies if you’re wrapping the pork shoulders partway through the smoke. Remove one cut at a time, add the wrapper, then proceed to the next one. The smoker should have time to regain its target temperature while you’re wrapping.
How Much Meat Will I Get?
Another excellent reason to smoke multiple pork shoulders at once: The meat will shrink down a great deal while it’s on the smoker.
For fatty cuts like pork shoulder, a meat yield of 50 percent is realistic. That means if you add three 8-pound cuts to the smoker, you should end up with 12 pounds of cooked pork.
In terms of serving sizes, try to aim for 1/2 pound of cooked meat per person. Therefore, those 12 pounds of pork should serve 24 people. This is a generous estimate, but it will allow for the possibility of leftovers.
The Bottom Line
As long as your smoker temperature holds steady, it shouldn’t take any longer to smoke three 8-pound pork shoulders than it would to smoke a single one. The key is to space the meat out properly and resist the urge to peek during the initial stage of the smoke.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!