Smoked pork shank cooked low and slow over woodfire for the ultimate melt-in-your-mouth flavor. Prepared with sweet yellow mustard and dry rub seasoning, this easy barbecue pork recipe is out of this world.
Pork shank is one of the best cuts for smoking thanks to its rich and intense flavor. The tough muscle fibers, connective tissues, and bone marrow elevate the meat to another level, making it far more succulent than most other pork cuts.
Our easy smoked pork shank recipe takes full advantage of shank’s unique composition by letting the meat do the talking. We season it with simple brown sugar and paprika dry rub before smoking over applewood for four hours. The end result is a plate of juicy pork shank that melts in your mouth with every bite.
This is one of our best smoked pork recipes, and it’s easy to see why. From meat preparation to choosing the best smoking woods, discover how to smoke pork shank from scratch today.
What is Pork Shank?
Pork shank comes from the front forearm of the pig. It’s a tougher part of the animal because of the well-developed muscles in the arm and shoulder region.
Shank meat is leaner than other pork cuts because of the strong muscle fibers and connective tissue throughout. This tissue will slowly break down when cooked at low temperatures, creating a rich taste and texture. Furthermore, the bone marrow found in pork shank will render and infuse the pork with an incredible buttery flavor.
So it’s no surprise that the best methods for cooking pork shank are low and slow approaches, like barbecue smoking.
Benefits of Smoking Pork Shank
In addition to being one of the easiest ways of cooking a pork shank, smoking comes with several benefits.
One of the main benefits of smoking meat overcooking it in a conventional oven is that you can get away with using cheaper cuts. Cheap, fatty meats with lots of connective tissue make terrible choices for traditional cooking but are fantastic for smoking. Pork shank is usually inexpensive, but it can taste rich and luxurious after a few hours on the smoker.
Flavor and Tenderness
Smoking imparts a lot of delicious flavor to the meat. It can be fun to experiment with different types of wood to change the flavor. It’s also a low and slow cooking style, meaning the meat will get very tender as connective tissue breaks down and fat slowly drips into the cut.
How to Buy Pork Shank
If you’ve never bought pork shank before, don’t worry! It’s a relatively easy cut to find. If all else fails, you can always ask your local butcher for help. But, there are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re looking for a great shank.
Bone and Cartilage
Because most places sell pork shank on the bone, it’s important to make sure that it will be easy to trim. While a bone-in shank will have more flavor, one that hasn’t been properly trimmed could be tougher to eat.
Look for meat that is firm but not too hard. Pork shank is lean, but you want enough fat to prevent it from drying out when you cook it. A good rule of thumb is to indent the meat with your finger before buying it. If the meat is cold, the fat will be hard, and the meat will be firmer. The firmer the meat, the more fat it contains.
Pork shank is a cut of tough, flavorful meat. Look for a cut with lots of visible muscle striation. The surface of the meat should look coarse and grainy.
Once you’ve picked out the perfect shank, it’s time to get it ready for the smoker! There are a few key tips and tricks to keep in mind that will make a big difference in your smoking experience.
Trim your meat to remove excess fat, rough edges, and silverskin. If you want to remove the entire layer of skin you can, but remember it contains a lot of flavor.
If you leave the skin on, cut some hash marks into it to increase the surface area for browning. This also creates crevices for seasoning to stick in.
A coat of mustard and dry rub applied 12 hours ahead of time will help the shank retain moisture while cooking. Add some brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey to the rub to give the meat a delicious, sweet flavor. Let your shanks marinate for 12 hours before cooking.
Take your meat out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to cook it. Pat it dry to remove any excess moisture.
Best Smoking Wood
The wood you choose to smoke your meat depends on the flavor you want to impart. Most people choose hickory for pork smoking. Hickory gives the meat a classic smoky flavor without interfering with the meat’s natural flavor. Other great woods for smoking pork are apple and pecan. These will give the meat a subtly sweet flavor.
Never use softwoods like pine or fir for smoking. They burn too quickly and give off too much smoke.
Times & Temperatures
Smoking pork shank takes about 4 hours at 250°F (120°C) to an internal temperature of 190°F (88°C). While boneless pork typically takes 90 minutes per pound to smoke, the bone in shank means cooking time is a little longer.
Pork is actually safe to eat at 145°F (63°C) internal temperature for medium doneness, but we want to achieve a tender texture that we can shred. To do this, we need to smoke for longer, and raise the cooking temperature to 300°F (150°C) for the final hour.
Smoked Pork Shank
- Food-safe spritz/spray bottle
- smoking wood chips
- 4 pork shanks
- 2 tbsp yellow mustard
- 1 cup apple juice
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp garlic powder
- 3 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- Fire up your smoker to 250°F (120°C). If you are using a charcoal grill, ensure you are set up for 2-zone indirect cooking.
- In a small bowl, combine the dry rub ingredients. Use a fork to crush or remove any lumps that may appear.
- Rinse the pork shanks with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Apply a thin layer of yellow mustard over each shank.
- Apply the dry rub to each shank, covering all sides and working into any folds or crevices on the meat surface.
- Place shanks fat-side up on smoker grates. Add wood chips to coals or wood tray and close lid. Spritz every hour with apple juice and smoke until the shanks hit an internal temperature of 140°F (60°C).
- Once they hit target internal temperature, increase smoker temperature to 300°F (150°C). Continue to cook shanks until they reach an internal temperature of 185°F (85°C).
- Remove shanks from smoker and tent in foil. Rest for 15 minutes before serving.