Slow-smoking large cuts of meat, like brisket and pork shoulder, is a waiting game. They can take anywhere from 12 to 18 hours to cook in a pit running at the standard 225°F, which makes for a sleepless night if you're going to check your meat every hour or so. Luckily, ThermoWorks has a better, and more restful, solution for us pitmasters with its new 2-channel wireless BBQ Smoke Thermometer, which lets you remotely monitor the temperature of both the grill and your meat. There's also an alarm function, so you can doze off worry-free.
We got the Smoke Thermometer just in time to cook up a chili-rubbed pork shoulder for burritos. After injecting the meat with an orange juice-based solution for added flavor and moisture, and rubbing it down with a Mexican-influenced chili rub, we fired up the smoker and unboxed our new toy.
The first thing that caught our eye was the quality of the device. It felt solid, the probes heavy-duty, giving us confidence that they would hold up in unfavorable environments. Once the smoker was ready, we affixed the pit probe, whose clip held far better to the grates than the standard alligator-type clamp that you might find on other tools. Then we rested the pork on the grates, inserted the meat probe, and covered it up.
We set our desired temperatures for both pit and meat. The Smoke Thermometer lets you define a maximum and minimum temperature on each channel, so you can account for temperature spikes or dips from the desired set points. We set a high alarm of 240°F and a low alarm of 200°F for the pit, plus another high alarm of 203°F for the pork.
Then it was time to wait. And wait. And wait...
The Smoke Thermometer comes with a wireless receiver that has a 300-foot range, so, no matter where you are around the house, you can always keep track of how things are going. (No need to pop outdoors every so often or uncover the meat.) The receiver also has a backlit display, which allows you to check the temperatures one last time, after lights are out and before bed. You can rest peacefully knowing that if anything changes with the temperatures, the alarm will do its job and wake you up.
With a smooth night of smoking completed, we were still many hours away from finished pork. We made use of some of this time by putting together a charred-corn salsa, firing up the grill to cook a couple ears of corn and roasting a Poblano pepper to mix with tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime juice.
After we'd put the finishing touches on the salsa, the alarm started going off on the Smoke Thermometer receiver. Our hopes that this was the desired 203°F pork temperature were dashed when we saw it was actually a signal that the fire had finally burned out after 16 hours of cooking, falling below our 200°F set point for the first time. (Looks like that alarm did do its job.) The pork temperature was pretty close to what we wanted, though, so we removed it, wrapped it in foil, and nestled it in an empty cooler for an hour, until it was just cool enough to handle.
The first few pulls of the pork revealed a soft and glistening interior. All those hours had paid off. We stuffed that pork into large flour tortillas and topped it with refried beans, the corn salsa, and sour cream, rolling it all up into some of the best burritos we've ever had.
The pork may have tasted even better thanks to the solid night's sleep afforded by the Smoke Tool, which allowed for total confidence in the grill—without the babysitting it usually requires.
Mexican-Spiced Smoked Pork Shoulder Burritos
Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 13 to 18 hours
Yield: Serves 8
For the Rub:
2 tablespoons (30g) chili powder
1 tablespoon (14g) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon (15g) kosher salt
2 teaspoons (10g) oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the Injection and Mop:
1 cup (240ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup (120ml) water
1/2 cup (110g) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup (60g) kosher salt
1 pork shoulder (about 8 pounds; 3.6kg)
For the Charred-Corn Salsa:
2 ears yellow corn, shucked
1 Poblano pepper
2 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 small jalapeño pepper, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon (15ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt, to taste
To Assemble the Burritos:
2 cups refried beans (18 ounces; 500g)
3/4 cup (180ml) sour cream
8 large flour tortillas
1. To Make the Rub: In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, dark brown sugar, salt, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, chipotle powder, and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. To Make the Injection and Mop: In a medium bowl, whisk together orange juice, water, dark brown sugar, vinegar, and salt.
3. Using an injection syringe, inject pork shoulder at 1-inch intervals, using half of the injection solution. Pat pork dry with paper towels. Coat pork shoulder evenly all over with rub.
4. Fire up smoker or grill to 225°F (110°C), adding chunks of wood when desired temperature is reached. When wood ignites and starts producing smoke, place pork shoulder in smoker or grill and smoke until an instant-read thermometer registers between 198 and 203°F (92 and 95°C) when inserted into center of meat, about 14 to 16 hours. Baste pork with remaining mop every hour during final 4 to 5 hours of cooking. Remove pork from smoker, wrap in foil, and set in an empty cooler to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Shred pork with hands or two forks.
5. To Make the Salsa: Light 1 chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate. Place corn and Poblano pepper on grill. Grill corn, turning occasionally, until lightly charred on all sides, about 10 minutes. Grill Poblano, turning occasionally, until completely charred all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer corn to a cutting board and Poblano to a bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let pepper rest until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Remove charred Poblano skin, stem, and seeds. Finely chop pepper and transfer to a medium bowl. Cut corn kernels from cob and transfer to bowl with pepper. Add tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime juice and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste.
6. To Assemble the Burritos: Place 1 tortilla on grill and cook until soft and pliable, about 15 seconds per side. Place desired amount of pork in center of tortilla and top with refried beans, corn salsa, and sour cream to taste. Fold sides of tortilla over and roll closed. Wrap burrito in aluminum foil, if desired, to help it remain closed. Repeat with remaining pork, beans, salsa, sour cream, and tortillas. Serve immediately.