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I really enjoy pulled pork. Lately, I’ve eaten more pulled pork than I ever have in my life. With grocery store shortages during the lockdown, finding proteins that all my kids will like was a little difficult. I wound up leaning on the pork shoulder quite frequently. And while I really enjoy it, I always felt like it needed something else. A little, “Je ne sais quoi,” which is French for, “I don’t know what.” (Thank you Mrs. Matzker for putting up with me through four years of French class in High School. You were my favorite HS teacher). I’m not looking for something to change the pulled pork drastically. I just want a little extra. I saw a friend of mine on Instagram garlic stud a pork shoulder so I decided to try it. And low and behold, I found my Je ne sais quoi.  Garlic Studded Pulled Pork. That little extra is the garlic studs that cook inside the pork shoulder and become soft and buttery like roasted garlic. It infuses the the meat with garlic and that soft garlic is amazing mixed into the meat on pulled pork sandos. Using Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil for this pork, I can keep all the juices inside without having to worry about ripping or tearing. Let’s get to it.

Garlic Studded Pulled Pork Ingredients:

  • 1 Pork shoulder/pork butt (these are the same cuts)
  • 8 Cloves of garlic, sliced into slivers
  • Duck fat spray
  • Salt
  • Your favorite BBQ rub
  • Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil

Start with the star of this show, the pork shoulder or pork butt:

Pork shoulder
That is a glorious pork shoulder!

Why would a shoulder be called a butt and vice versa. Because back in the day of wooden sailing ships, pork shoulders were packed in salt in barrels called butts. The pork was preserved for the long voyages. At the time, Boston was one of our biggest ports and thus these cuts of meat are still sometimes called Boston butts. In the end, whether Boston or not, whether shoulder or butt, they are all the same cut. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to it.

Start off by carving those garlic cloves into slivers:

Slicing garlic
Chop, chop, chop

Make a bunch of slivers. You want to load this shoulder up with garlic:

Sliced garlic
Make sure you have plenty of garlic

Start with the meat side up (fat side down). Take a slender bladed knife and cut a slit in the pork shoulder. Leave the knife blade in the meat and slide one of those slivers of garlic down the flat side of that blade:

Then pull the knife blade out, leaving the garlic in the meat. Now do this every inch and a half to two inches around the entire pork shoulder.

Now for an added twist, flip it over on the fat side and carve a crisscross pattern in the fat, about 1/3 – 1/2 of an inch deep:

That criss cross pattern will increase the amount of the surface area and thus more bark. More bark means better pulled pork. 

Now add more slivers of garlic into the gaps in the grid and then flip over to the meat side to salt and season.

A lot of the time I slather the meat with mustard and then season to have the mustard act as a binder. In this case, I gave it a spritz of fat. Duck fat in particular:

Spraying the pork shoulder with duck fat
I’m a big fan of using a binder

Then liberally salt the meat side and then hit the shoulder with your favorite BBQ rub:

Seasoning the pork shoulder
Hit it hard with that rub. Don’t go light.

Don’t season the fat side yet. Let’s get that cooker set up first. I prepared my pellet cooker by filling it with cherry pellets and cranking it up to 275F:

Pork shoulder ready to go on the grill
This butt is ready for some smoke

I added a pan of water on one side and then put the pork shoulder fat side up on the other side:

Now I hit it with that duck fat, then salt and hit with the BBQ rub:

Liberally rub the shoulder
Liberally rub the shoulder

And now our shoulder is ready for some smoke:

So why didn’t I season it all the way around? Because whatever side of the meat that sat on the cutting board would leave a ton of the seasoning on that cutting board. That’s why I seasoned the top last, after it hit the smoker.

Pork shoulder on the grill
Evenly seasoned all the way around

Next up, wait. And wait and wait and wait. Here we are an hour or so in:

Garlic Studded Pork Shoulder one hour in
The color is coming along nicely

And another hour or so:

Garlic Studded Pork Shoulder 2 hours in
That’s lookin’ purdy!

And three hours plus in:

Pork shoulder three hours on the smoker
The bark is forming up nicely

When the shoulder gets near 160F, about 4.5 hours in, I break out the Texas Crutch which is Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil:

Pork shoulder ready for some foil
Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil is your friend

What is the Texas Crutch? It’s foiling meat to allow the protein to cook in its own juices which hyper accelerates the breakdown of connective tissues while keeping the meat juicy. In other words.  Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil is your crutch for this recipe. It’s high quality and durable so all the juices stay intact without the foil breaking.

And here is what happens when I lean into that smoker with my foil and the smoke wrecks my eyes:

The Grillin' Fool getting the Texas Crutch ready
Yeah, that hurt
Pork shoulder going into the aluminum foil
How pretty is that?

Make sure to use heat resistant gloves or tongs to do this. I have cloth gloves on inside the black nitrile gloves here:

 

Now wrap it up:

Pork shoulder foil wrapped and ready for the smoker again
Notice I leave the probe thermometer in the pork shoulder:

And then place the foil wrapped shoulder back in the smoker:

Foil wrapped shoulder back on the grill
Time for some more heat

I kicked up the temp on the grill to 350 at this point because I wanted the shoulder to feed my kids before it got too late.

Now it is time to wait. And it will seem like forever. What happens after the shoulder hits 160 is the stall. What’s the stall? The temp will rise at a steady pace until the stall at which point the temp plateaus and stays there for seemingly an eternity. What happens is all the fat and collagen inside the shoulder will liquify and cool everything off. Eventually the heat and the Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil will work their magic and the temps will start to climb again. The foil helps to speed this process up a great deal as the meat will steam in its own juices which will hyper accelerate the breaking down of the connective tissues and get us to that super tender and juicy pork.

The target temp we are looking for here is 203F:

The foiled pork shoulder measuring in at 203
NAILED IT!!!!

Once it hits 203, pull that probe thermometer out, wrap in another layer of Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil to keep any juices from leaking out and wrap in a towel:

Pork shoulder foiled and wrapped in a towel and ready to rest
This pork butt has had quite the work out, time for some rest

Now put the towel wrapped and foiled pork shoulder in an empty cooler or powered off microwave or oven and leave it there for at least an hour. You could leave it in there for more than 4 hours and it will still be hot as can be. I did this with a turkey last Thanksgiving for THREE hours and the turkey was amazing!!

I put the shoulder in the smoker at 2:00 pm and took it out at 7:30 pm when it hit 203F.

Here we have the shoulder removed from the towel and microwave and ready to pull:

The shoulder is ready to be pulled into pulled pork
The shoulder is ready to be pulled into pulled pork

The great thing about pork shoulder is it has a surefire test to show if you got it right built right in. The shoulder blade should come out clean like this if it is perfect:

But what if the blade won’t come out clean? This happens. There are two options. Either chop the pork, as it won’t pull, if dinner needs to be served immediately. If there’s time, wrap it back up in the foil and place it back on the cooker for a little longer.

If the shoulder blade comes out clean, then the meat looks like this:

How does that smoke ring look?

Smoke ring on some pulled pork
That’s not a bad smoke ring, eh?

Now it’s time to make up some sandos. I like to get a little creative with the buns. I went with brioche buns here, both regular size and sliders for the kids:

Pulled pork sammy topped with BBQ sauce and cole slaw
Pulled pork sammy topped with BBQ sauce and cole slaw

I’m not a fan of cole slaw at all as a side dish. But as a condiment it’s AMAZING. I ate every bite of this sammich:

In fact, I ate that sando, and two sliders. My kids asked for seconds. That’s how great this was. The garlic flavor permeated the meat really well and the roasted garlic in the sandwiches was just out of this world good. This is my go to now. I will never NOT garlic stud a pork shoulder that I smoke. I can’t recommend this method enough.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or shoot me an email

If you need any other grilled/smoked pork recipes, we can help

This post was sponsored by Reynolds Wrap®

Also, you can follow us on our GrillinFools Facebook page and Instagram.

Garlic Studded Pulled Pork

Pork shoulder studded with garlic and smoked before being placed in the Texas crutch (aluminum foil), and being smoked some more, until probe tender.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time5 hrs 30 mins
Total Time6 hrs
Course: Entree
Cuisine: BBQ

Equipment

  • Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil

Ingredients

  • 1 pork butt/shoulder these are the same cuts
  • 8 clove garlic sliced into slivers
  • duck fat spray
  • salt
  • your favorite BBQ rub

Instructions

  • Slice the garlic cloves into slivers
  • Start with the pork butt meat side up/fat side down
  • Using a thin bladed knife, cut slits in the pork shoulder every 1.5-2 inches
  • Leave the knife in the slit and slide a sliver down the flat side of the knife into the slit and then remove the knife blade
  • Cover the meat side of the pork shoulder with slits filled with garlic slivers
  • Flip over to the fat side and give the fat a 1/3-1/2 inch criss cross cut
  • In the gaps in the criss cross cut, make more slits on the fat side and insert more garlic
  • Flip fat side back over to the bottom and apply a binder (I used duck fat but mustard or mayo work too), and then season with salt and the BBQ rub
  • Prepare the grill and set at 275F
  • Place the pork shoulder fat side up//rubbed side down on the smoker and apply the binder and hit with salt and the BBQ rub
  • Insert a heat resistant probe thermometer and close the lid for many hours
  • After the shoulder gets to around 160 foil the pork (I foiled at 156), which took about 4 hours
  • Leave in the foil until the pork butt hits 203F (this took a total cook time of 5.5 hours)
  • Once it hits 203, remove the probe thermometer and wrap in more Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Foil to keep liquid from leaking out the hole from the probe thermometer
  • Wrap in a towel and place in an empty cooler or an unlit oven or microwave for at least an hour
  • After an hour of rest (or more), pull back the foil and pull the shoulder blade out. If it comes out clean, it's perfect.
  • Pull the pork and put it on buns and top with BBQ sauce and/or cole slaw

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

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