Barbecue season is well and truly upon us now. Grilled and smoked meat is always better in the summer when you can knock back a cold beer to go along with it, so don’t waste any time in heading outside. If you’re trying to think of what to cook, though, then do we have the recipe for you.
Hot smoked pork shanks are a delicious but sometimes overlooked application for pork that you should definitely try out this summer. The flavorful shank takes full advantage of the seasoning applied to it, the long cooking time that comes with smoking being the perfect way to tenderize the naturally tougher cut. What you end up with is a truly mouthwatering piece of pork to rival any ribs from your favorite barbecue joint.
Reading about it is only ever so rewarding, though. To truly experience how amazing some hot smoked pork shanks can be, you’ll need to get out there and make them for yourself. We’re here to help with that by providing our recipe on how to cook them with a step-by-step guide on how to do it. Let’s not waste any more time and get started.
What You Need For This Pork Recipe
Before you jump straight into cooking, you first need to get what you’ll actually be using to cook with. The list is short but each ingredient is important in making the final product, so make sure you double check so as not forget something crucial.
- 5 pork shanks, uncured (1-2 lbs. each).
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar.
- 1/4 cup kosher salt.
- 1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper (coarse ground for best texture and presentation).
- 3 tablespoons garlic powder.
- 3 tablespoons onion powder.
- 2 tablespoons sweet paprika.
- 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper.
- 2 tablespoons dry oregano.
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard.
- 1 cup apple juice or apple cider.
- Plastic spray bottle.
- Food safe brush.
- Aluminum foil.
- Plastic wrap.
- Paper towel.
- Meat thermometer.
- Apple wood chunks or chips.
- Chunk charcoal.
- Charcoal smoker.
- Clean towel and plastic cooler.
Pork Shanks Recipe
Once you’ve gotten everything together, you’ll finally be ready to cook.
Step 1: Prep the Pork
Begin by trimming your pork shanks with a sharp knife. This means removing any stray bits of meat, fat, silverskin, and bone from the outside to make the shape more uniform, potentially requiring a rinse under cold water at the end just to get any stray particles off. If desired, you could also cut off any skin left on the outside, though this will crisp up during cooking. If you do leave it on, make shallow cuts in a diamond pattern along the surface to create more surface area for browning and seasoning to adhere. Once trimmed, pat the shanks as dry as possible.
Step 2: Season the Pork
Using the dry ingredients listed above, mix up a spice rub for your pork. Next, paint down your shanks with yellow mustard using a food safe brush, ensuring that each one is thoroughly coated in a thin layer. This gives the spices some extra help in sticking to the surface and provides more flavor as well as moisture.
After slathering them with mustard, begin patting your seasoning into your pork shanks. Rub as much of the spice mixture into the meat as you can, making sure to work it into the cuts you made on the skin earlier and into any crevices in the meat. There’s nothing worse than an under seasoned bite of otherwise delicious barbecue. Additionally, while the recipe calls for uncured shanks, you can get similar results with cured pork if you cut the salt by around half.
When you’ve seasoned the pork as much as reasonably possible, wrap them in plastic wrap and set them in the fridge for at least twelve hours and up to a full day to give the spices time to penetrate the meat.
Step 3: Prep the Smoker
Thirty minutes or so prior to cook time, take your shanks out of the fridge to give them a chance to warm up to room temperature. Blot the surfaces dry of any moisture that might have collected during this time, reasoning with a bit more spice if needed. You should also soak your wood chips in hot water if you’re using them instead of chunks.
Head outside and fill your smoker with plenty of charcoal. Light it and get the fire roaring before closing the lid and letting it burn down. If you’re monitoring the temperature, you’ll want to get things to around 300 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal smoking conditions.
When the temperature is around where you want it to be, toss on some extra coals, add your wood, and fill the water tank, letting the heat and steam build up inside for another few minutes before you introduce the meat to the heat.
Step 4: Smoke the Pork
With your smoker ready, you can confidently place on your meat and get to cooking. As always, smoking is a long cooking process, so don’t expect things to be ready for quite some time. Your target temperature is around 190 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of each shank, so you can expect a wait time of around four hours at minimum.
During this time, you’ll want to monitor the amount of charcoal, wood, and water in your smoker, adding more of each as needed. Keep the temperature consist during these changes by adjusting your air vents, too. Additionally, to help add more flavor and keep the meat moist, spritz it down with some apple juice or apple cider every half hour or so during cooking. Work quickly to avoid letting out too much heat or smoke, though.
Step 5: Rest the Pork
After the meat hits that target temperature of 190, remove it from the smoker and wrap each shank in aluminum foil. Place the wrapped shanks into one or two clean towels and store everything inside a large cooler. This provides the perfect resting environment for your meat where it can finish cooking and reabsorb some of its delicious juices, making for a more tender and more flavorful bite. It also helps to keep everything piping hot after the hour or so it takes for a proper rest.
Step 6: Serve the Pork
The resting process is always a good way to get yourself ready for a great meal, so don’t wait any longer. Dig into your delicious hot smoked pork shanks and taste the fruits of your labor in all their glory.
The sweet and spicy seasoning rub goes great with the mild smoke of the apple wood, all of which plays off the natural juiciness and flavor within the pork shanks. The long cooking process also helps to overcome the hurdle of the cut’s normal toughness, making for an almost fall-off-the-bone eating experience that everyone can enjoy on its own or plated up next to some fantastic sides.
Hot smoked pork shanks are a delicious treat that any barbecue aficionado deserves to try at least once. Now that you know everything that goes into them, that’s easier than ever to accomplish. Get out there and try it before the end of the summer. Neither you nor your cookout guests will regret it one bit.
If you enjoyed our recipe guide, make sure to leave a comment about it down below. What do you think goes into the perfect smoking rub? Let us know and we might even tweak our next recipe. As always, don’t forget to tell a friend about this, especially one who’s not exactly as barbecue-inclined as you might be.