Foil or no foil?
That is often the question debated among many barbecue and smoker connoisseurs. You might think that foil can keep your pork shoulder nice and juicy, but is it really necessary for a perfect piece of tender meat?
Here are some things to consider if you are trying to decide where to use foil or not.
Should I Foil Pork Shoulder?
The answer to this question comes down to personal preference. There are some benefits to wrapping up the meat or leaving it in the smoker.
If you want to get technical and sound like a barbecue expert, make sure to use the term “Texas crutch.” When you crutch, you will wrap the meat tightly in a foil during the smoking process. There are several variations of this process, but the easiest involves wrapping the meat in foil and adding it to the smoker.
When the wrapped meat is returned to the smoker, it will continue to cook. This method can save you a few hours of cooking time. In many cases, the meat comes out tender but might miss out on the smoky flavor. In addition to that, you will not develop a nice bark.
Some people will applaud the efforts of those who choose to use foil on a pork shoulder, while others wouldn’t think of wrapping up the meat. In most barbecue circles, it is often common knowledge that if you need to cook the pork shoulder at a higher temperature, you may want to place some foil around it.
However, if you want to get a nice char on the surface, it may be beneficial to skip foiling altogether.
Foiling is often a personal preference, and there are plenty of differing opinions about what method you should use. Let’s look at the benefits of not foiling your pork shoulder.
Pork Shoulder Without Foil Benefits
Most people use their smokers to get a nice bark on the surface of the pork shoulder. While you may think that the bark comes out too charred, it actually contains most of the flavor of the meat. By wrapping the pork shoulder in foil, you can save time on cooking. However, this method will reduce the thickness of the bark.
You could throw the foiled meat on a grill, but it doesn’t have the same taste as pork exposed to the smoke. Since the surface doesn’t have a chance to dry out, you miss out on that delicious bark.
Foil reduces your cooking time, but there is a higher chance of drying out the meat. Without the foil, you have to keep an eye on this pork shoulder and make sure it cooks to your desired tenderness.
Keep in mind that foil makes sure that the meat stays enclosed. What does that mean? All those cooking juices remain in the foil, but they can also seep out and wash away any of your rub or seasonings on the meat.
You might be left with mushy, flavorless meat that has been soaked in its own juices. That doesn’t sound appetizing at all! When you skip the foil, enjoy a tasty pork shoulder with full flavor.
Another issue: foil creates a mess! Let’s just say foil might seem like a hassle-free way to smoke your pork shoulder, but that wrapper can be wasteful and leave you with a messy cleanup.
Pork Shoulder Without Foil Effects on Bark
The bark is part of a chemical reaction when the meat is exposed to oxygen and heat. Meat that is exposed to smoke develops a dark bark with a licorice-like flavor. For those who foil their pork shoulder, you just don’t develop that rich flavor and color. Instead, the meat will have a more reddish mahogany flavor. And the taste? You cannot get the same flavor without using some sort of additive to the meat.
Smoke plays a vital role in the creation of the pork shoulder’s bark. The longer the meat is exposed to smoke, the darker the bark will become. You might think that the pork shoulder is burnt – however, it has developed a delicious flavor and texture. While the foil can shorten the cooking time, you just can’t get that same bark as cooking without a wrap.
Pork Shoulder Tenderness When Not Using Foil
Some people think that by wrapping the pork shoulder in foil, they can cook it at a higher temperature and get great results. However, that is not always the case. You should not rush the smoking process.
If you are ready to eschew foil, then don’t crank up the temperature of your smoker. When pork is cooked at a high temperature, the meat tends to get tough and chewy. Tough pork is not a great way to kick off your barbecue. You can get a nice tender piece of pork shoulder by keeping it unwrapped and cooking at a low temperature.
Does Pork Shoulder Take Longer To Cook Without Using Foil?
Getting a delicious pork shoulder will take time. You could rush the process by wrapping it in foil, but you are missing out on that tasty flavor. When you have pork shoulder in foil, it will reach a higher internal temperature faster than those meats without a wrap.
All that foil keeps in the moisture and allows the meat to cook with its own juices. Many people who are short on time will use foil to speed up the cooking process.
The average time to cook a pork shoulder is around seven hours. If you are looking to cut it in half, then foiling might be a great idea. However, the saying “low and slow” is beneficial for this type of meat. Yes, it takes longer to cook an unwrapped pork shoulder, but the flavor is worth all of that hard work.
Smoke Flavor When Not Wrapping the Pork Shoulder in Foil
Foil creates a barrier between the smoke and your pork shoulder. Some individuals cook the meat for a short period of time in foil, then unwrap it to develop a smoky flavor.
However, that often does not produce a flavorful bark on the surface. When the meat is exposed to the smoke in the cooker, you can guarantee that your meat develops a rich flavor.
While you can unwrap your pork shoulder for a short amount of time, it will not compare to leaving it in the smoker for several hours. Some people might want to use artificial “smoke” to add to their meats, but that can just give the pork shoulder an unnatural flavor.
If you want to have an authentic and flavorful addition to your pork shoulder, keep it unwrapped in the smoker.
Should You Be Smoking At Higher Temperatures When Not Wrapping in Foil?
Anyone who wants to cook at a higher temperature should foil the pork shoulder before adding it to the smoker. If you leave it unwrapped, you will be left with a tough piece of meat. Don’t think that cranking up the temperature will get you the same results as the slow smoke process.
Your pork shoulder needs time to reach an internal temperature, and you cannot do that at a high temperature. If you must insist on smoking at a high temperature, then that is when you grab the foil and wrap up the pork shoulder. Otherwise, leave the foil alone and let your pork cook properly in the smoker.
Foil does have its advantages, but the clear choice is to leave the pork shoulder unwrapped and smoked at a lower temperature. When you do that, you will have a delicious pork shoulder with a tasty bark. Those results cannot be achieved when you wrap up the meat in foil.