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Should Smoked Pork Shoulder Be Wrapped? (Explained)

To wrap, or not to wrap, that is the question, and, thankfully, we have the solutions!

Wrapping a pork shoulder implies covering it tightly with butcher paper or aluminium foil at some point during the smoking process. It aids in the preservation of the pork’s juices, keeping it moist and delicious.

When smoking a pork shoulder (and other thick cuts of meat), this is standard procedure. So, the question is, do pork shoulders always need to be wrapped during cooking?

It all depends on what you’re attempting to accomplish.

Certain recipes and dishes require different preparations, which may involve skipping the wrap entirely on your pork shoulder.

Or maybe it’s just a matter of personal preference. You might prefer the way the pork shoulder turns out without the wrap, and that’s perfectly fine!


Should Pork Shoulder be Wrapped While Smoking

Not Right Away 

It’s not so much a question of whether you should wrap it while it smokes as it is of when you should wrap it.

The pork shoulder should be unwrapped at the start of the smoking. This allows the smoke to fully penetrate the pork, imparting a full smoky taste. You shouldn’t wrap it until its internal temperature reaches 150 to 170 degrees (F). Wrapping at this point may also help the pork finish quicker.  Professionals refer to this strategy as “The Texas Crutch.”

Wrapping can Help Prevent Over Smoking

Unwrapped pork shoulder, often known as “naked” pork shoulder, can sometimes over smoke if not wrapped.

The wrap’s purpose is to create a type of greenhouse effect inside the wrap, collecting juices and fats and preventing them from escaping and rendering back into the cut.

If there is no wrap, the pork may dry out, lowering the quality of the finished product. Remember that smoking meat unwrapped takes significantly longer, which increases the risk of it drying out.

The stall can persist up to 4 hours even while wrapped, thus it may have to smoke considerably longer without a wrap.


When Shouldn’t You Wrap Pork Shoulder When Smoking?

Not Wrapping Can Provide a Thicker Bark

As I mentioned at the beginning, whether or not to wrap a pork shoulder is a question of personal preference.

Those who forego the wrap usually like a thick and crispy bark. The unwrapped pork shoulder will have a crispy texture, and the spices will be beautifully coated onto the meat.

Smoking unwrapped meats is not difficult; it simply necessitates more attentive effort during the smoking process.

In fact, a lot of smokers never wrap their meats and choose to avoid the old “Texas Crutch”. 

Achieving a Smokier Profile

Some people love their pork shoulder with a bit more smokiness, and that’s all OK! Allowing the meat to smoke uncovered absorbs far more smoke than wrapping it would. If you want more smoke but are concerned about the flavor becoming bitter, finish the pork shoulder in the oven or slow cooker.

Before the 5 Hour Mark

Alternatively, when the pork shoulder reaches 150°F, whichever occurs first. You’ll lose all of the smoky flavor if you wrap the pork shoulder before then. It takes time for it to absorb the smoke.

Avoiding Soggy Pork

Sometimes wraps can cause pork shoulders to become too rendered, which means its juices cause the bark and meat to become a little mushy and soggy. Properly smoking pork unwrapped assures the pork shoulder will have a nice crispy texture without drying out. 

Benefits of Not Wrapping Pork Shoulder

More Flavor from the Seasoning

The increased crispness from smoking naked pork can improve your seasoning and rub. It enables the spices to truly bake onto the meat. This technique is most commonly used for dry-rub ribs or Northern Style spareribs.

Achieving a Smoke Ring

You’ll never get a lovely smoke ring if you start the smoke with the pork already wrapped. Around 120 degrees, the smoke ring begins to develop.

This occurs until the internal temperature reaches roughly 140 degrees and the smoke can no longer permeate the meat.

This is right around the corner from the stall where most people will wrap the pork. Keep in mind that wrapping the meat during the stall will not affect the smoke ring.


Skipping the Wrap Using a Traeger Grill

Wrapping a pork shoulder on a Traeger Smoker may not be necessary until the very end.

The Traeger operates like a convection oven, evenly distributes heat across the smoker, producing incredible results when compared to a standard smoker.

Just be sure to baste the pork with spritz or apple (or orange) juice every thirty minutes to keep it from drying out. Only when it has been completed should it be wrapped for resting.


Final Thoughts (“Wrapping” Up)

As you can see, the overarching tone of this piece is that wrapping your pork shoulder before smoking it is a good idea in general.

It keeps it from drying out, protects the flavor, and keeps it tender. However, different recipes (and palettes) necessitate different techniques and outcomes.

So, if you decide to smoke a pork shoulder with no wrap at all, be aware that the outcomes will vary.

But keep in mind that cooking is a mad science, and any kind of experimentation is allowed!