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Pulled pork is a staple of barbecue joints and backyards everywhere.
Whether you like a tomato- or a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, most people can still agree that pulled pork is a barbecue icon.
You can take a giant pork shoulder and turn it into pull-apart, smoky meat perfect for a bun in your own backyard if you take the proper steps.
However, there is one question about smoking a pork shoulder that each pitmaster should consider when it comes to wrapping during the smoking process.
Is wrapping your pork shoulder with butcher paper a necessity?
Why would you wrap a pork shoulder in butcher paper?
How to wrap pork shoulder with butcher paper?
You will wrap the pork shoulder with butcher paper when the pork shoulder has reached an internal temperature around 160 degrees Fahrenheit and has stopped raising, also known as the stall.
You should use extra-wide untreated food-grade butcher paper to completely encircle the pork shoulder without any gaps.
Butcher paper is a heavy paper that has been treated to hold strong despite the moisture from the meat and to resist burning up in the smoker.
You should use enough paper to create a double layer around the pork shoulder to help keep it sealed well.
A good rule of thumb is each piece of paper should be four times the length of the pork shoulder to ensure you can properly wrap it with good overlap to prevent any gaps from forming in the smoker.
Should you be wrapping pork shoulder with butcher paper?
There are multiple ways to smoke a pork shoulder, and wrapping it in butcher paper during the cook is a great option.
While it is not a necessity, it does help with cooking the pork shoulder.
Wrapping with butcher paper helps keep the pork shoulder moist and helps speed up the cooking process while keeping the bark from getting soggy.
Wrapping meat in aluminum foil can steam the meat, but if you leave the pork shoulder in foil too long, the meat can become mushy.
Butcher paper has more permeability, allowing more moisture to escape while still keeping the pork shoulder wrapped enough to help get it through the stall.
You should keep an eye on the bark of the pork shoulder as well as the temperature.
While butcher paper does keep a bark from getting softer like in foil, you will not have that good quality bark if you wrap your pork shoulder too soon.
You want to make sure the bark is the right color and texture you want before you wrap.
You can also hold your pork shoulder after taking it off the smoker to let it rest properly before you pull it.
Unlike smoking a brisket, you do not need to let the pork shoulder rest for an hour or longer, half an hour should be enough for the juices to redistribute enough while still keeping the heat well for pulling.
That rest period also allows for some carryover as the meat will continue to cook another five or so degrees after taking it off your smoker.
That can make your life easier when you go to pull the pork.
What does wrapping pork shoulder in butcher paper do?
Barbecue pitmasters typically wrap pork shoulders in butcher paper to power through the stall when the internal temperature of the meat stops raising.
The stall occurs when the moisture in the meat evaporates, cooling the meat off enough to negate the heat in the smoker.
The process is similar to sweat evaporating off your skin to help cool you down on a hot summer day or when you have stood too close to your firebox.
Pitmasters use butcher paper because it allows some airflow to ensure the bark that formed prior to wrapping stays more firm.
You can wrap in aluminum foil, but because it is less permeable, more juices collect in the foil, and the bark that formed softens up.
While it is possible to smoke a pork shoulder without wrapping it in foil or butcher paper, it takes much longer and increases the possibility of drying the meat out.
When you want to make pulled pork at home using a pork shoulder, you should consider reaching for pink butcher paper.
Make sure you have plenty of paper so you can ensure the pork shoulder is properly wrapped twice over without any gaps.
Using butcher paper helps get meat through the stall, and almost no one wants to watch the internal temperature sit around 160 degrees Fahrenheit for hours waiting for the smoker to push the pork shoulder through the stall.