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Should You Use Netting On A Smoked Pork Shoulder? (Explained)

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What Is A Pork Shoulder Netting?

Netting is a string mesh that tightly wraps around meat to keep it from falling off the bone while cooking. It helps in retaining the meat’s form both before and after the smoking process.

Aside from cosmetic reasons, netting is sometimes used to keep the pork shoulder from drying out while it cooks. However, some argue that the netting actually hinders airflow from moving around the pork, causing it to dry up quickly.

It’s also thought to cause uneven cooking of the pork shoulder due to the netting trapping too much moisture inside the pork cut. 

What Material is Used for The Netting? 

Typically, the mesh netting is composed of fire-resistant string known as “butcher twine”, making it safe to cook with. Regular twine can be utilized in some cases, but because it burns easily, it is not always the ideal solution. The last thing you want is charred burnt bits of string all over your smoked pork shoulder. 

Can Elastic Netting be Used? 

Elastic will dissolve into the meat. Don’t use anything made from plastic. If any part of the netting is made of plastic, or anything else that can melt, you should remove it before cooking. 

What Does Netting Do for the Pork Shoulder? 

Keeps Its Shape

Butchers frequently sell particular cuts of meat with netting to assist them retain their shape after being portioned and packaged. This is especially true for boneless pork.

After being deboned, pork shoulder, for example, may seem lumpy or uneven. Its pleasing shape is maintained by the tight netting.

The netting also helps in the protection of bone-in pork. As the meats smoke or roast, the fatty and connective tissues breakdown, causing the meat to separate from the bone.

This might cause the meat to become lopsided and unattractive. As the meat smokes or roasts, the netting will keep it together.

Netting is Mostly Cosmetic (Holding the Pork Shoulder Together) 

Mostly is the keyword here. 

Aside from securing the meat together, netting has little applications in the smoking process or flavor. 

Some professionals believe that smoking the pork shoulder with the netting on helps it retain moisture. The netting is supposed to aid in the preservation of a brined pork shoulder, allowing it to retain a healthy brine. However, this can cause the seasoning to become crusted onto the netting and peel off with the netting when removed.

Butterfly Cuts

One of the most enjoyable things about smoking your own meats is being able to be creative with it.

The term “butterflying” refers to cutting the meat horizontally, almost but not quite in half. The meat should then be able to open like a book.

This enables chefs to season the insides of the cuts as well as load them with various contents.

The meat is then closed with its contents inside and securely wrapped in netting to keep it sealed while roasting or smoking.

Should Pork Shoulder be Netted While Smoking? 

As previously said, the netting (should be) composed of fire-resistant material, making it completely safe to smoke with. If your pork shoulder is going to be pulled pork, you don’t need to worry about netting. You’re already going to shred it.

However, netting will help a shoulder or roast stay tight and together for a simpler and more pleasing presentation if you plan to carve and serve it in slices.

However, if you choose this route, be wary of one risk: shrinkage.

The pork shoulder tends to shrink slightly as it smokes.

Because of this shrinkage, the netting may fall loose and fuse with the meat. When removing the netting, this might cause quite a bit of the beautiful bark to peal off with the string. 

Can Pork Shoulder be Slow Cooked with Netting? 

Absolutely! Slow cooked pork shoulder with netting on will keep its shape just like smoked pork shoulder.

Because slow-cooked pork shoulder does not acquire a crispy bark, you don’t risk pulling it off when removing the string after it’s cooked. Although, most people prefer to remove the string before adding to the slow cooker. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, it’s perfectly fine to prepare your pork shoulder with netting as long as you follow the precautions. 

Preparing and smoking pork with netting is the traditional method, but that doesn’t mean you must abide to that when smoking your own meats.

In fact, it might be better without the netting at all. After a couple of your own roasts, you’ll be able to gauge what does and doesn’t work. 

Cooking is a mad science, so have fun with it!