Hybrid Smoked Pulled Pork Vs Traditional

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I love smoking meats on a sunny day. There's something magical about taking an incredibly cheap cut of meat and turning it into smokey gold. Pulled pork is one of the easiest cuts to smoke but it can take a very long time. Typically 10-12 hours for a full pork butt or shoulder. I recently purchased an Instant Pot and I wanted to try an experiment. What if I smoked a pork shoulder for a few hours to get the smokey flavor but finished it in a instant pot to speed up the cooking time? How would it compare to a regular fully smoked pork shoulder? I was nervous I would miss out on all the smokey flavor it typically has so I smoked two shoulders side by side to find out.

Step 1: Preparing the Meat

I started off with two pork shoulders that were similar in size. I made a basic rub and coated both shoulders:

-1/2 Cup Kosher Salt

-1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

-1/4 Cup Paprika

-2 TB Garlic Powder

-2 TB Black Pepper

-1/2 TB Cayenne Pepper

Feel free to customize the rub. I typically make the basic rub and then throw in little bits of other spices while tasting it. I fired up my Weber Smokey Mountain using the Minion Method. Essentially you fill the charcoal bin up with unlit charcoal and pour on a small amount of lit charcoal. This slows down the burn and keeps the smoke from getting too hot right at the start. You keep the vents open until you reach the desired temperature ~250F.

Step 2: Pulling the First Butt

After 4 hours of smoking, I pulled the first butt off the smoker. The meat was still very tough and nowhere near done. I cut the shoulder in half and stuffed it into the instant pot. I added the following and cooked it on the "Pressure Cooker" setting with "High Pressure" selected for a total duration of 45 minutes.

-1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

-1 Cup Apple Juice

-1 Cup Water

The liquid allows the build up of pressure. Without it, the shoulder would just burn. After the Instant Pot finished, I pulled the shoulder out and allowed it to cool off and rest for about 15 minutes. The Instant Pot did the trick and the pork was completely tender and fall apart. It was easily shredded with two forks.

Step 3: The Fully Smoked Butt

After 10 long hours, the other butt was ready to come off the smoker. I let it rest for a few minutes and cool off, like the other shoulder. The bark on the outside was crispy and delicious and the pork shredded very easily. Now for the pros and cons.

Step 4: Pros and Cons

I love cooking meats low and slow but pulled pork can sometimes be a bit much, whether it's loading more charcoal in or babysitting it all day. It can also be a hassle if you are hosting a party and it just won't seem to finish. When comparing the two pork shoulders, the flavor was nearly identical. The Instant Pot version still had plenty of smoky flavor and was super tender and juicy. The fully smoked shoulder had a bunch of crispy bark, which the Instant Pot version lacked, and seemed to be a bit more dry. I suspect it's because the long cook allowed more fat and juice to render out of the shoulder, while the half smoked shoulder still had a lot of that left. All in all, I think I may have to start utilizing the Instant Pot to cut cooking times unless I'm really craving some of that delicious crispy bark.

Pros of Using a Smoker/Instant Pot Combo

-Cooks in Half the Time

-Tastes Nearly Identical

-Juicier

Cons of Using a Smoker/Instant Pot Combo

-No Crispy Bark

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    13 Discussions

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    wonkoman

    3 months ago

    Just came upon this instructable now after having made a shoulder this same basic way yesterday (less smoke time for me, but I did cut up the shoulder for more surface area). I can attest even with <2 hrs. in smoke, the flavor was abundant, and the cook time was 1/5 of a smoke all day shoulder (maybe less).

    Well Done Dandeman321!

    6 replies
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    marcebwonkoman

    Reply 3 months ago

    How long/setting did you use? Just got my Instant pot.

    Thanks!

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    Dandeman321marceb

    Reply 3 months ago

    I used Pressure Cook, High Pressure. I first did 30 minutes but it needed a bit longer so I put it in for another 15 minutes. I also wasn't using the Instant Pot correctly, I didn't have the steam valve locked (first time using it). So it was releasing a lot of steam. 30 minutes may have been ok if I had that locked. Not sure.

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    wonkomanmarceb

    Reply 3 months ago

    I first cut a 9lb boneless shoulder into four slabs (if it were a loaf of bread, fat cap is on top, and slice across the grain of the muscle), and rubbed it with montreal steak seasoning. I smoked and pressure cooked two slabs at a time (half the shoulder). Two hours of not very well regulated smoking in my Weber kettle, top vent all open, bottom almost closed. Then about 35 mins under pressure in the instant pot. Turned out great, but I'll probably go 5-10 minutes longer in the pot next time, and of course more smoke is always better, but I had time constraints, and basically had to do two batches back to back.

    Good luck, there's a lot of room for error here so DON'T PANIC.

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    Dandeman321wonkoman

    Reply 3 months ago

    Awesome! Yeah, depending on the size of the shoulder, pressure times will be different. Glad it worked out though!

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    RoelandV2

    3 months ago on Step 4

    Maybe you can get more crispy bark if you put a torch to it or put it back in the bbq for a short time

    2 replies
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    spark masterRoelandV2

    Reply 3 months ago

    I was thinking the same thing go with a torch or a broileror on a grill, but the torch just seems like it will yield more even results! And way faster!

    Hey it works for creme brulee, flan, meat if you must (yecck) microwave it then heat it, then char it.(due to time issues)

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    Dandeman321RoelandV2

    Reply 3 months ago

    Oh yeah! Good idea! I use a similar technique sous vide steaks. Blow torch them at the end.

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    seamster

    3 months ago

    Nice! We're going to have to try this at our house. Thank you!

    2 replies
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    bbqandbeerseamster

    Reply 3 months ago

    Ive done this myself a few times. works great and you cant tell the difference like you can with straight instant pot and liquid smoke.