The Long Smoke: Pulled Pork Sandwiches
I shuffled through the darkened house, groggy-faced, with hair tossed like a bad salad. I merged barefoot into the cold boots which were docked by the back patio door, and dawned my old, woolen smoking jacket there, turned up the collar, and stepped outside. It was 5:30 in the blessed morning, a toe nail moon shimmered through cracks in a cloudy veil, and the cold December breeze rustled the cotton fibers of my pajama pants. The world was still, almost abandoned it seemed, in perfect hibernation, whilst pale-blue moonbeams fell silent on crusty snow, and frozen ponds. A lovely time of day, peaceful like early mornings are, and unto which I thus and heartily pandiculated on my patio. Yes, that’s a word. Means to yawn and stretch at the same time. Something, off-hand, it turns out I am very good at come 5:30 in the morning. After that, and in one, easy motion born of sheer muscle memory, I snatched the charcoal chimney off the patio, shook the snow clean, and crammed a few choice wads of the political section up it’s underside. In no time, I had a pile of charcoal on the blaze, and the big Weber Smokey Mountain prepped for a long day’s duty. On the pit this morning, a classic in the smokey arts. Slow-smoked, pulled pork sandwiches. BBQ doesn’t get any more authentic than this folks. Or any tastier. This is the real thing. So grab your pork butt, and let’s get after it.
Good BBQ takes time. Lots of time. And pulled pork is the epitome of the concept. In case and point, this butt began its journey to excellence the night before it even hit the pit. We slathered it down in a cheap mustard to start, working it everywhere, like an Ecuadorian with a bottle of sun tan lotion, neath what balmy rays bequeathed. Then, we dusted it liberally with Grill Mates Sweet and Smokey Rub, for that first step in the flavor profile. After that, it was wrapped in foil, then swaddled in a plastic bag, and placed in the refrigerator to marry overnight. The reason we opted for the mustard rub here, is to make the surface of the butt good and sticky for to receive the rub. That is the reason for any mustard slather – to act as an adhesive agent. Or maybe a primer for your rub, if you want to think of it that way. Regardless, and far be it any tongue nor taste bud that I know, can ever taste the mustard anyways. Hence, you might as well make it the cheap stuff then. At any rate, the better your rub sticks, the more potential you have for a robust and flavorful, and suitably awesome, bark.
Bark. Bark is the hallmark of good butt smoking. To the uninitiated, they will take a gander at your beautifully-barked-butt, and fall into a state weeping, and/or finger pointing, croaking forth their condolences as if you have just lost a loved one or something. No, that is just bark, you have to tell them. The magical residue wrought from the wages of smoke, rub, and hour upon hour of low and steady heat, at roughly 225. If you want to read about the science of bark formation, and all that sort of thing, we would refer you to amazingribs .com, which if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, is a fabulous resource for your BBQ aspirations.
Anyways, for the long smokes, such as brisket, and in this case, pork shoulder, it is hard to argue against the minion method. It is without hesitation the technique we turn to most concerning the longer cooks. Invented by a feller named Jim Minion, it is really rather elegantly simple. We ring the fire bowl parameter with unlit charcoal, resembling a doughnut, and dump a chimney full of blazing hot ones, right smack dab in the middle of it. What goes on here is the lit charcoals slowly ignite the unlit ones sitting next to them. And those coals, in turn, light the unlit ones next to them. And so on. Like a fuse. And it works exceedingly well. Such a technique will give you long, sustained burns to span the hours long. Which is perfect for the world of the big butts and savory pulled pork sandwiches. Man! Lets get this thing going already.
Once the pit was up to 225, and stabilized with a thin smoke, and the butt was on, fat cap up, I am not ashamed to admit that I went back to bed. And the sun rose over the pit with out me, casting long, morning shadows up to and onto my patio. Tweety birds emerged from their nocturnal tidings, and fed on the pit-side feeder, like they always do when I’m not there. And the world in general, was alive again, reborn, sunbeams falling through the spruce. But I slept in and was privy to none of this, courtesy of the minion method. A little pit boy needs his beauty sleep. Eventually I rose like a black bear, rubbed my back on some pine molding skirting the bathroom door, and ambled out to the patio henceforth to check on my plunder. The pit puffed contentedly away still, apple wood smoke softly curling from its damper, catching the morning sun. Ah what a way to start the day. Again.
The hours passed, and the sun, how it swung across a beautiful, Minnesota sky, like a fiery pendulum to the gods. Chickadees flirted to and fro. Snow dripped fiercely off the roof. And I liked how my pajamas smelled like smoke. After breakfast, I went and did some errands for a while. After lunch, I settled into my man chair, which afforded a view out to the pit which sat stoically in the sun, still puffing away. Pork butts are safe to eat at 165 internal, but you’ll want to bring it up to 195 or so, whence the collagen has broken down, and the beast at last becomes pull-able. That is where the money is at. It is also done when the bone pulls out easily and clean. But again, it takes time. Be not in a hurry for this one. I thus kicked up my feet into a posture more suitable for the BBQ arts, and upon the cusp of instinctual reaction, I may have pandiculated again. In point of fact I did. And I won’t apologize for it. Then I fell asleep. This is the inherent rigors of making pulled pork sandwiches, people. It is not for the faint of ticker, nor those who fancy themselves impatient, or incapable of listing over on a couch if need be, for to fortify that bark a little more. And expect more than your fair share of lovely beverages to be drained whence commencing upon such mountains of pork. For there is a great spanning ocean of clock between you and your intended gastronomic rendezvous. And the only way to get there, the surest way, is to wait for it. To tarry in the wake of deeds well done, where the wood smoke also rises, and patron to the pit. Amen.