Barbecue: Smoked Pork Shoulder – Barbacoa: Bondiola Ahumada

Note: The following article focuses mainly on cuisine outside of Argentina

Smoked Pork Shoulder
(No, that isn’t a burned and charred mess. That is known as the bark or crust which is basically caramelized sugars from the meat and rub(seasoning.) Although it looks burnt, the bark is actually kind of sticky and chewy with no resemblance to charred meat that has been cooked quickly over a hot fire)

I have started to spread the gospel of good barbecue, barbeque, BBQ, or Bar-B-Que to my local friends and family. A few refinements are still needed on my part in regards to cooking temps and time–a thermometer for the grill would help–but getting there. Smoking isn’t something new in Argentina, by the way. You can find a variety of delicious smoked treats around the country, particularly in parts of Patagonia. However, it isn’t something that is widely done. 99.97% (not a factual statistic) of the people prefer a typical asado like what most often is posted about here.

But smoking, in general, is not what I’m talking about in this case. I’m talking about the ‘Q. Pulled pork, chopped pork, brisket, ribs, and chicken that are sometimes “finished” with a tangy vinegar red pepper sauce, spicy mustard-based mops, or thick sweet tomato-based concoctions. Let me tell you that my soon-to-be converts are quite impressed.

Unfortunately they still have not witnessed the full power of good “barbecue”. Yes, lacking a proper thermometer to detect the temperature inside the grill is putting a damper on things. Don’t get me wrong, the results have been fantastic but I’m having a hard time getting the pork to a level where I can properly pull it (great pic of good pulled pork).

This past weekend I cooked a 3 lb. chunk of pork shoulder (bondiola) for a little over 6 hours. I could have probably left it in longer but without knowing how much heat the fire was putting off, I became a bit wary after looking at the crust (aka: bark) forming on the meat. My meat thermometer showed an internal temp of 150ºF at 5 hours but when the 6th came around and that temp didn’t budge, I decided to finish Mr. Pig in the oven. Into a medium-low oven it went for about 40 minutes wrapped in aluminum foil until the internal temp reached 180ºF. Then I let the little piggy rest for 30 minutes. My kitchen was heavily, heavily, filled with the smell of bacon and smoked ham. The meat was awesome! Juicy, and there was hardly any effort needed to carve and chop. Smokey flavor erupted from even the inner most morsel. Almost there.

Smoked Pork Shoulder
(The pinkish coloring along the outside is known as the “smoke ring”, a good sign)

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8 Comment(s)

  1. It look very nice.

    Zakaria | Jul 25, 2007 | Reply

  2. To get pork shoulder to the point where it can be easily pulled, you should cook it to 190 degrees (f).

    When the temp didn’t change, you were at the “plateau phase” where the fat is rendering inside the meat and the magic is occurring :-)

    Also, when the butt hits 190 degrees, wrap it up and let it rest for an hour or two. That lets the juices seep back towards the bark. Then, tear it apart and soak it in some vinegar sauce.

    My wife is at home in the USA making pulled pork today, and I just arrived in Buenos Aires for a weeklong trip. While I’m jealous that the rest of my family will be eating pulled pork, I’m anxiously awaiting dinnertime when I can have some mollejas and provoleta.

    Matt Smith | Aug 13, 2007 | Reply

  3. Thanks for the tips Matt! I remember seeing your site from before but it got lost in the mix. I’ll add it to my link list and feed reader.

    The wrapping part was one thing I got right and it really does make a difference. I read about that before but couldn’t resist slicing off a morsel between grill and wrap. Came out a lot better after resting for an hour.

    I finally found a thermometer. Huge one for commercial ovens and can read temps much higher than I need but it works great nonetheless. Gave the grill a try this past weekend with good results where the meat was done but still I should have let it cook a little longer. The inner part still had that quick oven roasted texture. However, this trial and error stuff doesn’t bother me one bit ;)

    Definitely want some pulled pork so next time I’ll let the meat reach 190.

    Asado Arg | Aug 13, 2007 | Reply

  4. The pork looks wonderful. Matt hit the nail on the head as far as temp and wrapping. One of the wonderful things about barbecueing is that you can get comfortable and work on increasing your tolerance to beer and other alcoholic beverages. Once your pork has reached the desired appearance and you wrap it you then can relax without too much worry and let it sit and steep in its own juices and heat.

    The same goes for ribs and pernil and other tasty pig parts. We cook a pernil (pig leg) every noche buena and a 15 lb. piece of meat with the bone in will take about 14 hours to get to that really good falliing apart stage. Ribs take about 3 to 4 hours cooking slowly so they have that slide the bone out consistency.

    Great blog, thanks.

    Leo | Aug 27, 2007 | Reply

  5. Thanks Leo!

    >pernil (pig leg)

    There’s a local shop that sells whole legs on occasion but you have to be quick or else they hit the band saw. That’s something I definitely want to smoke when I get this temp management down.

    Asado Arg | Aug 27, 2007 | Reply

  6. I always order about a week in advance and then check back a couple of days later to be sure they remember me.

    While doing the pernil, it’s good to pick up and throw in some chorizos and ribs and chickens so you’ll have something to munch on. Oh yeah, don’t forget to pick up some pig skin to make chicharones.

    Pig fat…mmmmmmm

    Leo | Aug 28, 2007 | Reply

  7. Looks great!!

    I ruined a good piece of pork on a charcoal barbecue in the past.

    I just got myself a Weber Gas Grill and whilst it will not sit well with the purists, it does have a smoking box and a better chance of actually regulating the temperature to good effect.

    I will try again … Hope it looks as good as yours.

    Food with Passion | Oct 21, 2008 | Reply

  8. Hi, I hope I am still on time to ask a question (I see the posts are a little old…). I am actually an Argentinean living in the US and wanting to cook some bondiola here. Unfortunatelly I cannot find the exact cut of meat. I have tried buying pork shoulder, but it seems to be a much tougher meat and comes with bone, which the bondiola doesn’t. So since you know both sides can you recommend me how to buy in the US something as similar as possible to the Argentinean bondiola?

    Thanks a lot!!
    Laura

    Laura | Sep 25, 2013 | Reply

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