A long time ago, just before I fell in love with the whole shoulder, I had the pleasure of watching one made by Chris Lilly, the many-times barbecue competition champ and the man who oversees the amazing, gigantic shoulders hand-pulled at Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, Alabama. There's a reason old pros like Chris love the shoulder (it's made up of the picnic shoulder and the butt): It holds moisture so beautifully. My task as a chef, then, falls to giving it a flavor boost, since its size and shape means there's less smoke penetration and less space to add spice crust flavor. Fortunately, my apricot -nectar-spiked injection and tangy apricot BBQ sauce are up to the task. I'm not going to beat around the bush—this is a major time commitment and you might have to sacrifice some sleep. But barbecuing a whole shoulder is something everyone should do at least once in his life, because, oh man, is it worth it!

Tip: Heat-proof gloves really come in handy for moving the whole shoulder in and out of the cooker.
Servings: Serves 16—18
  • 6 cups apricot nectar
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Maggi Seasoning or Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 whole pork shoulder (15 to 17 pounds)
Mustard Moisturizer:
  • 6 Tbsp. prepared yellow mustard
  • 6 Tbsp. water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Seasoning Blend:
  • 1/4 cup mild chile powder , preferablyChimayo, Ancho or Hatch
  • 2 Tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 2 Tbsp. firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic salt
  • 3/4 tsp. coarsely ground fresh black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • About 1 cup Apricot Juice Spray
Wrapping Mixture:
  • 1 Tbsp. (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter or margarine , melted
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. apricot nectar
BBQ sauce:
  • 2 cups BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup apricot jelly
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. crushed hot red pepper flakes
  • Fleur de sel
  • Directions
    1. Combine all of the injection ingredients together in a large bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Place the shoulder in a large baking dish or disposable pan. Working in a grid pattern, inject the pork butt with an injecting needle, using all of the injecting liquid. A lot of the liquid will not remain inside the shoulder and will gather in the bottom of the pan. Let stand in the residual injection for 2 hours, at room temperature.

    2. Preheat an indirect barbecue with a drip pan and a combination of fruitwood and hardwood (preferably apple and oak or hickory), a ceramic cooker with deflector plate and combination of fruitwood and hardwood (preferably apple and oak or hickory), or a charcoal or gas grill with a box or packet with a combination of fruitwood and hardwood (preferably apple and oak or hickory) to 250°F.

    3. Combine the mustard moisturizer ingredients.

    Combine the seasoning blend ingredients.

    4. Lift the shoulder, letting any excess liquid run off and remain in the pan. Remove the shoulder from the pan and lightly pat dry with paper towels.

    Lightly moisten the entire surface area of the shoulder with mustard moisturizer and sprinkle with the seasoning blend.

    Using your hands or a brush, evenly, but lightly, coat the shoulder with canola oil.

    Place a remote thermometer in the thickest part of the shoulder, avoiding contact with the bone.

    5. Place the shoulder, fat side down, in the cooker, and cook until the internal temperature reaches 130°F, about 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

    6. Spray with apricot juice spray, and continue spraying every hour during the cooking until the internal temperature reaches 160°F, about 3 hours.

    7. Meanwhile, combine all of the wrapping mixture ingredients.

    Tear off 2 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil that will be large enough to encase the shoulder and place over a baking dish or disposable aluminum pan.

    8. Remove the shoulder from the cooker and place, skin side down, on the foil in the pan. Pour the wrapping ingredients on top. One sheet at a time, seal the foil, to keep all of the ingredients intact.

    Reinsert the thermometer, avoiding the bone, and transfer the wrapped pork in the pan back to the cooker. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 193°F, 3 1⁄2 to 3 3⁄4 hours.

    9. Meanwhile, line a small cooler with a beach towel or other large towels to insulate the inside of the cooler.

    10. Remove the pork from the cooker and carefully unwrap, letting the juices remain in the pan.

    Line a work surface with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Wrap the shoulder completely, using additional foil as needed. Then wrap completely in plastic wrap. Place into a new baking dish or disposable pan and then into the cooler. Wrap with the towels to cover the top of the whole shoulder. Close the lid, and let rest for 1 hour.

    11. At this point the meat will be very tender. Place a cooling or other flat rack over a baking sheet.

    Remove the meat from the cooler and carefully unwrap. Place the meat on the rack and place back in the cooker for 30 minutes.

    12. Meanwhile, combine the BBQ sauce ingredients.

    13. Remove the meat from the cooker and brush on all sides with the sauce.

    Place back in the cooker for 20 minutes.

    14. Remove from the cooker and spray with apricot juice spray.

    Using bear paws or heat-proof gloves, pull the pork, being sure to leave some in a semipulled, semichunk state.

    Mix with about 1 1⁄2 cups of the remaining sauce, or additional to taste. Season with fleur de sel.

    From Serious Barbecue by Adam Perry Lang. Copyright © 2009. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.


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