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Smoked Pork Shoulder Without Rub (Explained)

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Given the fact that pork shoulder comes from the dense part of a pig’s working area, the shoulder, it needs time to cook and soften. That happens as the fat is slowly heated and melted out of the meat, creating a juicy eating experience. Of course, the best tool to use then, is a smoker. Some folks swear on a rub for added flavor, but it’s not necessary. 

Smoked Pork Shoulder Without Rub

Again, the key ingredient in a good pork shoulder is the fat that naturally comes with the meat. Ideally, the meat should have a marbled look (the term comes from the stone marble, which has streaks of white or dark mixed into the primary part of the stone).

The fat naturally embeds into the pork shoulder as the animal grows, and that same factor provides all the flavor, which is why a rub is not needed. But it’s only as good as the selection you buy at the butcher or store. 

Once you start the cooking process, you’re going to need to make sure it is slow and long. This is needed to raise the internal heat sufficiently that the fat melts inside, and the juices flow into the neighboring meat as well as out and off the pork shoulder entirely.

As it melts out, the flavor increases, but the heat has to be low enough that the process is long. High heat will fail in both melting the fat inside as well as burning the pork on the outside. 

Should I Season Pulled Pork After Cooking?

The point of not seasoning is to eat the meat naturally cooked in the first place. That said, some groups will insist they expect a certain level of seasoning added. In fact, it might even be cultural; everyone is going to season their own plate to some extent once they are eating certain types of food. This is why salt and pepper are commonly placed on every table in a restaurant. 

However, it’s quite possible to add some additional spices or flavoring as the meat finishes the cooking process and is pulled from the heating element. It’s best to do so as the meat comes fresh off the oven or grille and then has to sit. The seasoning will blend into the juices oozing out of the meat, creating a flavor layer on the outside as it cools. Avoid putting the seasoning on the meat just before serving. It will be obvious, gritty, and the taste won’t work well with the meat.

What Does not Rubbing a Pork Shoulder Do if you Smoke It

By avoiding the rub while cooking, you’re letting the pork shoulder cook and infuse the meat with its own natural flavor. Rubs and seasonings add an artificial flavor that can sometimes be intense, depending on how much is used.

They also frequently include a lot of salt as an additive. Instead, a naturally cooked shoulder without additives will come out with a lighter taste that is “connected” to the meat and tastes very much the same since it’s all from the same animal. This is particularly advantageous for those trying to keep their blood pressure down by lowering their salt intake.

When Would You Not Rub a Pork Shoulder Before Smoking?

There can be a lot of reasons for not using a rub automatically. Some of the most obvious involve cooking for people who have specific dietary requirements. Allergies, medical conditions, and religious dietary needs may block the use of some rubs or seasonings, depending on the details.

Alternatively, seasonal considerations can come into play as well. Heavily seasoned food tends to go best with side dishes during the Fall and Winter, particularly when people are eating fewer salads, vegetables and fruit. Using the same in late Spring and Summer tends to clash with lighter eating menus. 

Final Thoughts 

Cooking a pork shoulder without a rub is not a new invention; people have been cooking meat with just heat, ovens and natural flavor for centuries. So try it and enjoy the difference. Just make sure to use a long cooking process with lower heat for the best results. Most folks find that a reduction in artificial seasoning and additives actually brings out a cleaner taste in meats like pork, as well as a significant reduction of added salt.