Are you planning to cook a massive 20 lb pork shoulder for your next family gathering or backyard barbecue?
If so, you might be wondering how long it will take to cook this behemoth of a cut. Fear not, because we’ve got you covered!
In this article, we’ll explore different cooking methods and provide you with some helpful tips to ensure your pork shoulder turns out perfectly juicy and tender.
So grab a drink, put on your apron, and let’s get cooking!
How Long To Cook A 20 Lb Pork Shoulder?
When it comes to cooking a 20 lb pork shoulder, the cooking time will depend on the method you choose.
If you’re smoking the pork shoulder at a low temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit, plan for 18-20 hours of cooking time. This slow and low method will ensure that the pork shoulder is cooked to perfection and falls off the bone.
Alternatively, if you’re roasting the pork shoulder in the oven, preheat it to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and cook the pork for 45 minutes uncovered. Then, decrease the heat to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and add sliced onions, chicken broth, beer, and chili flakes to the bottom of the roasting pan. Baste the pork with the pan liquids every hour or so and roast for about 7-8 hours until the internal temperature reaches 170-175 degrees Fahrenheit.
Another option is to season the pork shoulder with a garlic and herb paste, refrigerate it for 2-24 hours, and then roast it in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 6-8 hours until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
No matter which method you choose, be sure to let the pork shoulder rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute and ensure maximum tenderness.
Understanding The Pork Shoulder Cut
To understand how to cook a 20 lb pork shoulder, it’s important to have a good understanding of the cut of meat itself. The pork shoulder is a primal cut that comes from the front leg of the pig and is divided into two sub-primal cuts: the picnic shoulder and the pork butt.
The picnic shoulder is the lower portion of the pork shoulder, closer to the foreleg, and is tougher and leaner than the pork butt. It contains a lot of connective tissue and can benefit from slow cooking methods such as braising or stewing. The pork butt, on the other hand, comes from the upper portion of the shoulder and includes parts of the neck, shoulder blade, and upper leg. It has more marbling and fat than the picnic shoulder and is often used for smoking or slow roasting.
When cooking a 20 lb pork shoulder, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a large piece of meat that will take a long time to cook properly. Whether you choose to smoke it or roast it in the oven, plan for several hours of cooking time to ensure that the meat is tender and fully cooked.
No matter which method you choose, be sure to let the pork shoulder rest before carving to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. With proper cooking techniques and a good understanding of the cut, you can create a delicious and impressive dish that will be sure to impress your guests.
Preparing The Pork Shoulder For Cooking
Before cooking a 20 lb pork shoulder, it’s important to prepare it properly to ensure maximum flavor and tenderness.
First, preheat your oven or smoker to the desired temperature. While it’s heating up, remove the pork shoulder from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. This will help the pork cook evenly and prevent it from drying out.
Next, trim off any large pieces of fat from the outside of the pork shoulder, but leave small pieces and the interior fat. If using boneless pork, cut the pork into several large fist-sized pieces. If using bone-in, leave the pork as is, on the bone.
Season the pork with salt, pepper, and any other flavors you like. The seasoning choices will depend on what you want for the end result: if you’re making tacos, sprinkle it with cumin, chili powder, and oregano. If you want to use the pork for several different types of meals, keep it simple with just salt and pepper.
If you have time, searing will deepen the final flavor of your pork and give it some textural contrast. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pork and sear on all sides, working in batches as needed so as not to crowd the pan.
If you’re braising on the stove top, roasting in the oven, or cooking in a slow cooker, place the pork in the pan fat-side up. Add enough liquid to the bottom of the pot to come halfway up the pork. Use chicken or vegetable stock, beer or cider, vinegar, or apple juice for the most flavor. Onions, garlic, and other vegetables also deepen the final flavor of the pork but are optional. If using, nestle them around the pork in the Dutch oven.
Once you’ve added your liquid and vegetables (if using), bring it to a simmer and cover your pot with a lid. Transfer it to your oven or smoker (or keep it on the stove top). If using a slow cooker, simply put on the lid.
Cook your pork shoulder until it is falling-apart tender. Depending on which method you choose and whether it’s bone-in or bone-out, this could take anywhere from 6-20 hours. Be sure to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to ensure that it’s cooked through before removing it from heat.
Finally, let your pork shoulder rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute and ensure maximum tenderness.
Choosing The Right Cooking Method
Choosing the right cooking method for your 20 lb pork shoulder can make all the difference in achieving a perfectly cooked and tender result. The three main methods to consider are smoking, roasting in the oven, and slow cooking in the oven.
Smoking the pork shoulder at a low temperature for a long period of time is a popular choice for achieving maximum tenderness and flavor. This method requires patience, as it can take up to 20 hours to fully cook a 20 lb pork shoulder. However, the end result is worth it as the meat falls off the bone and is infused with a smoky flavor.
Roasting in the oven is another option for cooking a 20 lb pork shoulder. This method involves starting with high heat to create a crispy exterior, then reducing the heat and adding flavorful liquids to the roasting pan. The pork shoulder is then roasted for several hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 170-175 degrees Fahrenheit. This method can take 7-8 hours to fully cook the pork shoulder.
Slow cooking in the oven is a third option that involves seasoning the pork shoulder with a garlic and herb paste, refrigerating it overnight, and then cooking it at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 6-8 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This method results in tender and flavorful meat that falls off the bone.
Ultimately, the right cooking method for your 20 lb pork shoulder will depend on your personal preference and available equipment. Whichever method you choose, be sure to allow enough time for cooking and resting to ensure maximum tenderness and flavor.
Oven Roasting A 20 Lb Pork Shoulder
Oven roasting a 20 lb pork shoulder can be a daunting task, but with the right technique, it can be a delicious and satisfying meal.
To begin, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Score the fat and skin of the pork shoulder into little squares and season it generously with salt and pepper. Place the pork shoulder on a rack in a roasting pan. In a small bowl, mix together garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and olive oil. Rub this mixture all over the pork shoulder.
Roast the pork shoulder uncovered at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes. Then, decrease the heat to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and add sliced onions, chicken broth, beer, and chili flakes to the bottom of the roasting pan. Baste the pork with the pan liquids every hour or so and roast for about 7-8 hours until the internal temperature reaches 170-175 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s important to check the pork shoulder every hour or so and baste it with liquids from the pan. If needed, add more chicken broth to keep it moist. Tent tin foil over the roast to prevent it from drying out and continue roasting until it’s done.
Once the pork shoulder is done, let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute and ensure maximum tenderness. Remove the skin and fat before carving and serve with your favorite sides for a delicious meal that will impress your guests.
Slow Cooking A 20 Lb Pork Shoulder
Slow cooking a 20 lb pork shoulder can be a great option for those who want to achieve maximum tenderness and flavor. Slow cookers are an ideal vessel for perfect braising, which means gently cooking food in a little bit of flavorful liquid in a covered pot. This method allows the pork to self-baste and stay moist, while also ensuring that it is nearly impossible to overcook.
To slow cook a 20 lb pork shoulder, set your slow cooker to low heat. It’s important to note that the high setting will boil the meat instead of braise it, which can lead to an undesirable outcome. After seasoning the pork shoulder with your desired spices and herbs, place it in the slow cooker and add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pot. This can be chicken broth, beer, or any other flavorful liquid you prefer.
Leave the slow cooker unattended and even leave your house if needed, as slow cookers are designed to cook food at a consistent temperature for hours on end. Baste the pork with the braising liquid every hour or so and let it cook for approximately 8-10 hours until the internal temperature reaches 170-175 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the pork is done, remove it from the slow cooker and let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and ensures maximum tenderness. For even better results, refrigerate the pork in the braising liquid overnight. The flavors will meld and improve, and any excess fat can be easily skimmed off before serving.
Slow cooking a 20 lb pork shoulder requires patience and time, but the end result is well worth it. The meat will be tender, juicy, and full of flavor that will leave your taste buds wanting more.
Smoking A 20 Lb Pork Shoulder
Smoking a 20 lb pork shoulder is a big task, but it can produce some serious barbecue. To begin, you’ll need a solid smoker that can hold temperatures steady for long cooks. The Ole Hickory MM is a great option for this.
Start by trimming the whole shoulder from 20 lbs to around 18 lbs. Remove most of the skin, fat, and anything that could be a barrier to the BBQ meat. To season the pork shoulder, start with a simple AP seasoning, apply a layer of mustard slather, and finish with The BBQ Rub. Next, inject the pork with a pork injection and allow it to sit out and come up to room temperature for about 1 hour while the smoker comes up to temperature.
Smoke the pork shoulder at 225-230 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour per pound, so expect a 17-18 hour cook for a whole shoulder. Use hickory wood until the pork shoulder gets a nice bark on the outside and hits around 150-160 internal temperature. At that point, wrap the pork shoulder and cook until it hits 192 internal temperature.
Once the pork shoulder hits 192 internal temperature, unwrap it and apply The BBQ Sauce as a glaze. Allow the glaze to set on the BBQ shoulder while it comes up to the 195-198 internal temperature you’re aiming for. Once the glaze has set on the smoked pork shoulder, it’s time to pull it and serve as BBQ pork.
During smoking, add a baking dish filled with water to the smoker on one side of the grate. Fill a small spray bottle with apple juice and apple cider vinegar and set aside. Every hour, open up the smoker and completely spritz the pork shoulder with the spray bottle. Keep the smoker temperature around 250-275 degrees Fahrenheit while smoking during these first several hours. Smoke for approximately 4 hours, spritzing with the spray bottle every hour.
After smoking for about 4 hours, check the internal temperature of the pork shoulder using a meat thermometer. By this time, the pork should be at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Completely spritz the pork shoulder one more time and carefully wrap it in aluminum foil or peach paper. Place it back into the smoker and lower the temperature to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Smoke for another 4 hours but do not spritz during this stage of cooking.
Check the internal temperature of the pork shoulder using a meat thermometer again. You’re looking for your pork shoulder to be about 200-205 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove it from the smoker and let it rest for at least 20 minutes but up to 2 hours while wrapped up tight in either a clean, empty cooler or an oven turned off.
When ready to serve, use your favorite tool and pull the pork into strings until it becomes pulled pork. Discard any cartilage or stringy fat as you pull. Serve with BBQ sauce on the side or as a sandwich.