Monday, June 4, 2012

Smoky Sweet Pulled Pork

The traditional method of making pulled pork is to smoke the pork for hours and hours, which gives the meat a deep smoky flavor and a fall-off-the-bone unbelievable tenderness. The long smoking time also creates a beautiful "bark" crust on the outside. This style of cooking is typically equated to lazy days in the South where you can smell the meat literally melting in the smoker while you go about your business.  HA!  Little did I know, in my inexperience, that smoking meat is a real babysitting job!  That said, when it was all said and done, the boys and I stood there pulling thick strips off of it saying "Oh - My - God!"  In my family, that is pretty much a good indicator that you've made something amazing!

There are four major components to this pulled pork recipe - a pork butt (which is really a pork shoulder), a smoky sweet and spicy rub, LOTS of time out there in the smoker, and a spicy vinegar barbecue sauce.  I slow smoked this pork butt with hickory and apple wood.

Click for Printable Recipe
Ingredients:
  • The smallest bone-in Boston butt pork roast I could find was about  6 - 7 pounds.
  • Smoky-Sweet Dry Rub
    • 1/4 cup kosher salt
    • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp paprika
    • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
    • 2 tsp garlic powder
    • 2 tsp freshly ground pepper
    • 1 tsp dry ground mustard
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • Apple and hickory wood chips 
  • A couple cups of apple cider vinegar
  • Cole slaw mix of your choice
  • BBQ sauce of your choice 
    • I used the Dr Pepper "Sweet and Kickin' BBQ Sauce"
  • Fluffy white bread buns
Step-by-step
The rub is something that you can throw together in about 5 minutes.  I had all the stuff already in the cabinet.  The night before, I trimmed the pork of the majority of the fat (because I have super picky kids here who do NOT like fat), then smothered it with the entire batch of rub.  I rubbed and patted those spices into the pork like someone getting an expensive massage! 
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp paprika
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground ginger
Rub it in, rub it in!
I covered it and let it sleep with that blanket of spices overnight in the fridge.
The next morning!

The next morning, I added the wood chips (which I had soaking for a couple of hours in water) to the charcoal coals which my husband started before he left for work. 
soaked apple wood chips
I slow smoked this pork butt with the hickory and apple wood for basically the whole day - going out about every hour to add more coals and more soaked wood chips. Ideally, you want the smoker to maintain a temperature between 225 - 250 degrees F.  After about 5 hours, I turned the pork over for the duration of the day.  I had a digital, internal thermometer stuck into the biggest part of the pork to keep an eye on the actual internal meat temp.  Once it got to about 130 F, I took it out of the smoker.  I just covered it and put it in the fridge at that point.  

The next day, I popped it in the oven on 300 F (covered) with about 2 cups of apple cider vinegar in the bottom of the pan and about a cup of BBQ sauce slathered over the top.  I wanted that acidic vinegar to steam into the pork, adding back moisture.  I kept it in the oven until my digital thermometer read that the internal meat temp was 195 F.  At that point, the meat has begun to pull away from the bone; the collagenous tissues have all broken down and gelatinized, and the fat has liquified.  
After smoking and being in the oven.... This is how it looks when it reaches 195 degrees internal temp.  See my trusty thermometer sticking into it on the right.  See the meat pulling away from the bone?
You can see the level of smoke penetration when you pull off a strip of the "bark"... all that outer pink color is smoke.  And don't let the black part fool you.... it is NOT burned.  That is the BEST part - all of those smoked spices create this caramelized outer crust that is SO SO good!

We allowed it to rest for about 20 minutes, then started shredding it.  - well actually we started just pulling strips off of it (in the interest of "testing" it).... and the rest is history. 
The smoke has penetrated the outer edges of the meat (the depth of the pink edges) but the inner parts are so juicy and tender that they fall apart.
After shredding it, I took some of the apple cider vinegar from the bottom of the pan, which at this point had become its own sauce of sorts, and poured about half of it over the shredded pork.  We literally stood there pulling chunks of meat and stuffing our mouths with it.  I know - that doesn't sound very civilized.  Hey... it is what it is! Enjoy!!
Most folks in the South like to have a pile of cole slaw on top of their pork.  It gives you a balance of fresh crunch with all that smoky goodness.

Food Nerd Notes - 
Why is it called a Pork Butt if it's really the shoulder? 
As stated by the National Pork Board.... "In pre-revolutionary New England and into the Revolutionary War, some pork cuts (not those highly valued, or "high on the hog," like loin and ham) were packed into casks or barrels (also known as "butts") for storage and shipment. The way the hog shoulder was cut in the Boston area became known in other regions as "Boston Butt." This name stuck and today, Boston butt is called that almost everywhere in the US,… except in Boston.


 Written Directions:
Here's my disclaimer...  As awesome as this did turn out, this was my first experience with cooking something in the smoker... so there may be better ways to do this.  That said, if a novice can do it, so can you! Thanks to the folks in Southern Living for this BBQ Rub recipe. The rub is something that you can throw together in about 5 minutes.  I had all the stuff already in the cabinet.  The night before, I trimmed the pork of the majority of the fat (because I have super picky kids here who do NOT like fat), then smothered it with the entire batch of rub.  I rubbed and patted those spices into the pork like someone getting an expensive massage! 

 I covered it and let it sleep with that blanket of spices overnight in the fridge.

The next morning, I added the wood chips (which I had soaking for a couple of hours in water) to the charcoal coals which my husband started before he left for work.

I slow smoked this pork butt with the hickory and apple wood for basically the whole day - going out about every hour to add more coals and more soaked wood chips. Ideally, you want the smoker to maintain a temperature between 225 - 250 degrees F.  After about 5 hours, I turned the pork over for the duration of the day.  I had a digital, internal thermometer stuck into the biggest part of the pork to keep an eye on the actual internal meat temp.  Once it got to about 130 F, I took it out of the smoker.  I just covered it and put it in the fridge at that point.  
The next day, I popped it in the oven on 300 F (covered) with about 2 cups of apple cider vinegar in the bottom of the pan and about a cup of BBQ sauce slathered over the top.  I wanted that acidic vinegar to steam into the pork, adding back moisture.  I kept it in the oven until my digital thermometer read that the internal meat temp was 195 F.  At that point, the meat has begun to pull away from the bone; the collagenous tissues have all broken down and gelatinized, and the fat has liquified. 
We allowed it to rest for about 20 minutes, then started shredding it.  - well actually we started just pulling strips off of it (in the interest of "testing" it).... and the rest is history. After shredding it, I took some of the apple cider vinegar from the bottom of the pan, which at this point had become its own sauce of sorts, and poured about half of it over the shredded pork.

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2 comments:

  1. Amazing recipe! Thanks for the share and the photos are great too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jeff! I appreciate the kind words! :)

      Julie

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