Pork shoulder, commonly referred to as pork butt or Boston butt, is the upper part of the shoulder from a hog’s front leg. It’s a relatively inexpensive cut of meat that can be found (when on sale) for as little as under a dollar a pound!
Aside from it being super affordable, what I love about the pork shoulder is how versatile it is. This cut can be used in many ways because it takes flavor so well—from traditional BBQ to Asian fusion, pork shoulder is a great starting point for flavor utopia. The only limit to pork shoulder recipes is your imagination!
Because we do gourmet grilling here at grillseeker.com, we always try to go beyond the basics. A full shoulder typically requires 10 hours or more to cook and yields way more food than a typical family would eat in a week. Consider having your butcher cut the shoulder into four- to five- pound sections. That’s what I’ve done here.
Cooking time and leftovers are drastically reduced and it opens the opportunity to do different flavor profiles on each section, like this amazing Cuban-style pork.
Speaking of experimenting with flavor, let’s talk about cinnamon and brown sugar for a minute…or longer because it is cinnamon and brown sugar after all. Usually reserved for desserts, the sweet tones in this flavor combination do exceptionally well with pork, especially when combined with the savory and smoky rub used in this recipe. What’s more, the bark that forms on the meat as a result is arguably the most flavorful meat candy ever eaten. You can thank me later for that!
Cinnamon Whiskey and Brown Sugar Pork Shoulder Recipe
Serves: 12-14 | Prep time: 20 mins. | Cook time: ~4 hours
4-5 lbs. pork shoulder
1/4 cup honey mustard (for binder)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup smoked paprika
3 tbsp coarse sea salt
2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp garlic power
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup cinnamon whiskey
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
Grill or smoker
Wood chunks (I recommend apple and pecan)
Step 1: Light your grill or smoker, setting up for indirect heat, and stabilize temperature at 275°F-300°F.
Step 2: Remove pork from packaging, rinse under cold water, and pat dry.
Step 3: Coat the entire piece of meat with a very light coat of honey mustard. This is going to add just a little sweetness to the pork but is mostly used as a binder for the rub and to help form that incredible bark. Notice how thin the mustard is on the pork.
Step 4: Combine the ingredients for the rub in a bowl and mix well. Coat pork generously with rub. As you can see below, don’t be shy with this rub. It’s going to add some amazing flavor to your pork.
Step 5: Drop wood chunks onto hot coals and place pork over indirect heat. Insert your meat thermometer (like the Thermoworks Signals or the ThermoWorks Smoke X4 RF) into the thickest portion of the meat. For this, I use the FireBoard system which I have reviewed here.
Step 6: While pork is cooking, combine whisky, brown sugar, and nutmeg, mixing thoroughly and set aside.
Step 7: Remove the pork when internal temp reaches 160°F, this will take about 2 hours. Your pork will look like this after about two hours, not nearly ready to eat yet but it will smell amazing.
Step 8: Place pork on a double layer of tin foil. A double layer is really important because if this glaze leaks, it will make one hell of a mess on your grill. Ask me how I know, ugh! Add whiskey, brown sugar, and nutmeg glaze to the pork. When wrapping your pork shoulder, it’s important to do so as tightly as possible to prevent the pork from steaming—this will adversely affect your bark.
Step 9: Return to cooker until the internal temperature reaches 200°F-203°F. At this point, the pork should be probe tender (a toothpick should easily slide in and out of the pork with little to no resistance).
Step 10: Open the foil and let steam out. Let the shoulder sit open for about 20 minutes.
Step 11: At this point you can pull the pork, but if you have the time once the steam has dissipated, recover with foil let it rest for a couple hours in an insulated cooler. Simply wrap the foil covered pork in an old, but clean, towel to keep it warm while it rests.
Step 12: Pull the pork and ensure the juices that formed are mixed thoroughly into the pulled pork.
Step 13: Serve hot on a roll with some coleslaw or pickles—or both.
Make this Cinnamon Whiskey and Brown Sugar Pork Shoulder Recipe:
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- 4-5 lbs. pork shoulder
- 1/4 cup honey mustard (for binder)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup smoked paprika
- 3 tbsp course sea salt
- 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp garlic power
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp dried sage
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup cinnamon whiskey
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- Light your grill or smoker, setting up for indirect heat, and stabilize temperature at 275°F–300°F.
- Remove pork from packaging, rinse under cold water, and pat dry.
- Coat the entire piece of meat with a very light layer of honey mustard.
- Combine ingredients for rub and use it to coat pork generously.
- Drop wood chunks onto hot coals and place pork over indirect heat. Insert your meat thermometer into thickest portion of the meat.
- While pork is cooking, combine whisky, brown sugar, and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly and set aside.
- Remove pork when the internal temp reaches 160°F degrees, about 2 hours.
- Place pork on a double layer of tin foil. Add whiskey, brown sugar, and nutmeg glaze to the pork then wrap tightly.
- Return to cooker until internal temperature reaches 200°F-203°F.
- Remove from cooker, open the foil, and let steam out. Let sit open for about 20 minutes.
- Once the steam has dissipated, recover with foil let it rest for a couple hours in an insulated cooler by wrapping the foil covered pork in an clean old towel to keep it warm before pulling it apart.
- Pull the pork and ensure the juices that formed are mixed thoroughly into the pulled pork.
- Serve hot on a roll with some coleslaw or pickles-or both.