Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

How to Pacify the Masses: 17 Hour Slow Smoked Pulled Pork

Part One

The Ring Of Fire

The lightning bolts shot jaggedly through the early morning sky, and the thunder boomed with a deafening authority, whilst our fellow patron stirred restlessly in his bed.triple pit It was 5:30 in the blessed morning, the hour of the butts, as it were, and time then to light the fires three. Three pits and 55 pounds of marinated pork shoulder. An estimated 15 hours of cooking lay ahead. A day of smoking bordering pert near biblical – a life event and utopia in meat. But the rain storms which parlayed through the night, and lingered into the morning, did not dampen the resolve of our faithful patron, and caretaker of the Track-Side Pit.

Hark“, he belched, “I am a patron of the pit, I won’t let a little rain and lightening keep me from my appointed rounds! ”

Thus tarps were strung, and wind breaks sought, as he trimmed his pits towards the tempest. A pit keeper always finds a way, you see. And soon, the rains dissolved, as if in submission to a warm, blue sky and passionately curling plumes of hickory smoke. The fires hath ignited, people, and the games were on.

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It seems our fellow patron was throwing a party for 200 of his closest friends. So like any man would, he bought a bunch of meat. Pork shoulder to be exact. Fifty five pounds of it. Glory be! This turned out to be a fair share and quantitative mass to exceed the capacity of his off-set smoker. And so about two days ago, naturally, he came knocking at my door. A patron has got to back another patron’s play, don’t you know, so I let him drive off with my beloved 22.5 WSM. I told him to treat it as if he were dating my offspring. He obliged heartily, and made off in a cloud of gravel dust.

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The meat load exceeded the capacity limits of his off-set, and the WSM too, which I didn’t think was even possible, so somewhere along the way, he managed to scrounged up yet another smoker. A wee little electric model from the MECO company. A pit keeper proper will find a way people. Every time. download

Turned out three pits were just right. Three smoking vessels set up for business, wrapping in a picturesque, smokey arc about his man chair, forming the hallowed BBQ dwelling and smoke camp our fellow patron lovingly coined, “The Ring Of Fire“. And the Triple Pit Smoke Out of 2014 was thus official. And by high noon, a total of 7 pork butts with adorning drip trays were already 5 hours into what would be a 17 hour marathon smoke. A hickory scented campaign of which would ply and test the very fabric of patience that which loosely clings to a tender soul. Smoking butts is a time-rich indulgence, and lest your butt be of the wee sort, it will extract some considerable clock out of your day. It will. The scope of common sense would harken it not even worth the trouble. But to an old-time pit jockey, this is what we live for. This is what we do! And what did here, you might say, was a whole lot of nothing. I digress.

Part Two

The Stall

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That’s the nature of good BBQ. That is, at heart of the matter you will find a soul on the scenic path. For there are quicker ways to cook dinner in this world. Those of us who do it over wood and coals, and low and slow, quite frankly are in no hurry. Nay, we cherish the rising tendrils of blue-tinted smoke, and the longer the cook endures, well, the more we revel in its hearty spoils. The more we savor the journey. The process. It is our privilege to take that which we love, in this case, BBQ, and extend the moment for the moment’s sake. To hold the sun by the tail, and try to pause it there, hemorrhaging in a pastel sky. Ho hurries. That’s how we roll. Anyways, long about five in the afternoon, ten hours total thus far into this smokey campaign, the internal temperatures of the butts were hovering in around the 165 degree range, and you know what that means. Or maybe you don’t. If you are not familiar with the art and science of smoking the big meats, what happens around 165 is what meat maestros affectionately refer to as “The Stall“. And it’s always an interesting time.

At around 160 – 165, basically what happens is your meat forms a union and it goes on strike. It refuses, most times, to rise in internal temperature. The thermal doldrums of conventional BBQ. And it tries a man. What happens, they say, is the water in the pork is cooked out at that point, and the collagen begins to render. And tough begins to turn tender. It’s where the “magic happens”, pit keepers like to say. And for a while, sometimes even a greater while, the internal temperature gets stuck. And it appears on the surface of things as tho no progress is being made, even tho it is. Eventually tho, and reluctantly at that, the temp starts climbing again, and finally exits the stall, some times hours later. If you’d like to know more about the science of what is going on here, and it is some very interesting stuff indeed, we’d refer you to this article by one, Meathead, who explains it very nicely. Anyways, I went to pay our fellow patron a visit during the stall. To offer support during this trying time, and to partake in some of his smokey ambiance he had going on at the Track Side Pit.

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He was hard at work when I got there, sitting in his folding man chair, considering the curvature of his belly button or something. I knew he was dilly-barprobably concerned for his plunder tho, not to mention a bit weary from ten hours loitering in the ring of fire, so I did what any good patron would do, I brought him a Dilly Bar. Ah yes, the venerable Dairy Queen stand-by. The ice cream swirl on a stick and dipped in chocolate gastronomic wonder, one of which brought a large smile to us both, as we sat back and watched the smoke curl together. It was clear, he enjoyed some company no less than the Dilly Bar. And understandably so. A man, you see, is particularly receptive to the good things in life when his meat has stalled. Any little victory he will take.

I’ve been out here since 7 AM“, he croaked.

Oh yeah“, I said, quizzically

Yeah“, he continued, “I would have started earlier if it weren’t for the lightning storm this morning

He slurped a big chunk off his ice cream, and added, “But I had to man up and get it done. The heck with the storms, I’m a Patron of the Pit!

I finished off my dilly bar, and looked at all the pits puffing serenely into the muggy, Minnesota sky. The rains long gone now. It was a beautiful sight indeed. A train loaded with heavy coal suddenly rumbled by, rattling the earth like a waking volcano, rhythmic and pounding, yet some how soothing and therapeutic. It rumbled for a couple of minutes until it finally tapered into the distance and silence flooded back to the track side pit.

I tossed my ice cream stick into the trash, and yammered, “You know, you can go inside once in a while if you want to. These pits can baby sit themselves for a while.”

Oh, I can’t do that“, he countered, “The wife thinks I’m working hard out here!

Crikies“, I croaked, “Yes, you mustn’t mess with that illusion! Good move old boy!

This is one of the greater acts of deviance in the BBQ condition. The oft held high esteem for the pit master as being some sort of wizard that which requires long and protracted hours of manning the pit. If you value the quality of your supper, you’ll leave the pit keeper alone to do his duties, you see. This notion that he should be left alone out there is maybe only one half-engendered by circumstance and myth perhaps, but more importantly, it is widely accepted as truth by the significant other. Thus releasing a man for the duration of his smoke-out to do what ever he bloody well feels like. And this might explain, when you think about it, the occasional need for a pit keeper to smoke a 17 hour pork butt. Savvy?

 

Part Three

Pit Hijinks and The Final Pull

We enjoyed some mutual agreement and insight there on the patio, and I lingered a bit more, I must say, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, watching our fellow patron’s acute talent for pit craft. He did something of which I don’t reckon I’d ever seen the likes of before in backyard BBQ. Lifting the lid to the little electric smoker, tongs in hand, he sought to manipulate the pork shoulder residing in there. Plumes of hickory smoke bellow out as he attempts to muckle on to the meat. And most of it he does, except for piece that prematurely pulled, you might say, and shot head long into the sky. And there it went, a good-sized chunk of smokey pork, a sandwich’s worth at least, launching skyward like a hickory scented meat missile. Up up up it went, until it too stalled at the hand of gravity, rotated slightly there against a lovely, Minnesota sky, crickets chirping, and made henceforth its return trip to earth. Now here is where it gets interesting. That glob of dripping pork landed smack dab in the middle of a piece of tin foil, one that our fellow patron had rolled out on a side table there just prior. It plopped to foil with a metallic thud, followed by a wiping of the patron’s brow, and I think a couple of hallelujahs were uttered too, just cause.

Nice show!” I belched, “You could take this act on the road!”

Anyways, we lamented a spell more about the mysteries of stalling meat, and then I bid the man farewell. I had places to go, and things to do. OK, not really, but the bugs were coming out, and it was getting late. He understood, and thanked me kindly for the visit and the ice cream. And I left him to his own devises , there amid the curling smoke, sizzling pork, and another choo choo train building in the distance.

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The Smoke De Force endured into darkness. With great resolve, numerous lovely beverages in hand, and an I-Pad on his lap, our fellow patron stayed the course. The smell of slow-smoked pork mingled with the earthy aromas of a summer’s night, and the sound of a pit keeper slapping his forehead for the carbide-tipped mosquitoes which prospected there. At one o’clock in the morning, 17 glorious hours later, he pulled the last butt off the pit and retired to bed. It had been a long day indeed. But a good day, as day’s go, where the wood smoke also rises. Amen.

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They looked like meteorites swaddled in tin foil, and smelled nothing short of ridiculously wonderful. Each butt marinated over night and seasoned in raspberry chipotle rub, from the Wayzata Bay Spice Company, before the smoke. It was enough to make a hungry bloke mist over, it smelled so good. Later it was pulled to perfection, and set forth unto our people, with no less than three home-made BBQ sauces, of course, representing each end of the heat spectrum, and a little honey mustard sauce some where right in the middle, for those who just can’t make up their mind. Rounded off with a dollop of cool home-made slaw, Carolina style. Man! And the masses of people were thus pacified.

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17 Hour slow smoked pulled pork topped Carolina style with homemade coleslaw and touch of sauce. Man oh man! This is what BBQ is all about, people. It don’t get no better.

 

Congrats Austin!

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47 responses

  1. I thought I had put in a long day with my ten hour session smoking pork chops the other day. Congratulations to you fellow pit master for his efforts and what looks like excellent results.

    I smoked turkey (pavo down here) pieces yesterday and they were unbelievably good. Mary and I will be eating the left overs from that tonight. Life is good wherever a man has good meat and the patience to smoke it.

    God Bless you guys!

    July 29, 2014 at 11:51 am

    • Many thanks, John. Good to see you are finally enjoying paradise with a good pit at your side. Making good use of it you are too, looks like. Finally, food to match the paradise!

      Take care, John and Mary in Ecuador.

      July 29, 2014 at 11:59 am

  2. I just love the way you love BBQ. 🙂

    July 29, 2014 at 12:32 pm

  3. Man, this looks good! Still have to find out how not having a gallbladder affects my BBQ days, I hope not much… would love a burger like that!

    July 29, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    • Good question. The answer of which I have no idea. I know a few gall bladder less folk who ingest bbq, so I think your odds are fair.

      Blessings Sir. Thanks for chiming in!

      July 29, 2014 at 2:19 pm

  4. You have much more stamina than I do. But, being female, I allow myself the indulgence of monitoring the process from inside the air conditioned house with only occasional forays outdoors.

    July 29, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    • Well there is something to be said for those tactics. But rest assured, it’s not all work out there at the pit. There is much protracted chin-on-chest time going on. Aka, napping!

      July 29, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      • But in Texas when the temps outdoors are nearing 100, napping is better done in the lazy boy.

        July 29, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      • Truth!

        July 29, 2014 at 3:27 pm

  5. Wow! Looks utterly delicious. I have the perfect playlist for your post – Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire.

    July 29, 2014 at 4:35 pm

  6. Now thats epic my friend, plays like a mini series. Gotta love 55 lbs of pork butt smoking over an entire day. Has me drooling and wanting one of the pulled pork sandwiches,

    July 29, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    • A mini series indeed. Entitled, The Pork Butts! No you’ve made me ramble. It sure was tasty tho and one seems to appreciate it more knowing how long it took to get to the plate.

      July 29, 2014 at 6:10 pm

  7. Ron Duke

    G’day Patrons. After your last post I too spent the next day conducting a low and slow on a beautiful shoulder piece. In all around 10 wonderful hours spent tending to the pit, there is nothing more relaxing, yet with a little bit of anxiety at the end. This is only because we want the best for our eating pleasures, and bragging rights. I am truly humbled by your mates 17 hour marathon at the “ring of fire”. Thank you for a wonderful story, as always I look forward to your next verse. ps It is true what you said about the time we spend at the pit, my lovely lady thinks I work very hard whilst tending to the pit……shhhhh.

    July 29, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    • Thanks Ron. Appreciate that! Your last smoke sounds every bit as pleasant and satisfying. Indeed, it appears you have the hang of things upholding your image as a smoke wizard. I shan’t divulge otherwise!

      Cheers!

      July 29, 2014 at 6:14 pm

  8. Rob

    You nearly had me in tears reading this. I am reminded of illiterate BBQ enthusiast Robbie Burns:

    Some hae meat and canna eat,
    And some wad eat that want it,
    But we hae meat and we can eat,
    And sae the Lord be thankit.

    Amen, Robbie, amen

    July 29, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    • Haha, cool quote! Thanks for sharing and chiming in.
      Take care,
      PotP

      July 29, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      • Rob

        http://t.co/gA5XT4ZVvf my first successful pulled pork! Not quite as prosaic, but damned fine food

        July 30, 2014 at 8:04 am

      • Well done, Mr. Meat Maestro! It looks great, even despite the stall shenanigans. I shall peruse your write-up more in depth here in moment. Thanks for sharing, Rob!

        July 30, 2014 at 9:19 am

  9. An Epic post!

    July 29, 2014 at 9:45 pm

  10. Wow, you really took us on the journey, I felt like I was with you for 17 hours but was definitely worth the juicy result at the end. You have a way with words sir, you have a way with words!

    July 30, 2014 at 12:28 am

    • Many thanks, Liam. I do appreciate that. And yes, a journey indeed is a pork shoulder. It’s a lot of fun to do.

      Thanks again, man.

      Take care,
      PotP

      July 30, 2014 at 9:03 am

  11. The converted looked up the offerings and feel upon the assembled burgers. When the last scrap of meat was wiped from smiling faces they said, ‘It is good.’ Actually it looks bloody marvellous PotP. An awful lot of work went into this, well done those men.
    Cheers
    Laurie.

    July 30, 2014 at 4:56 am

    • Ah thanks, Laurie. I like it when you get poetic! And yeah, it was good alright!

      July 30, 2014 at 9:07 am

    • I hate not being able to rectify errors on WP. The converted looked at the offerings and fell upon the assembled burgers. (It’s what happens late at night when you’re in a hurry.)

      July 30, 2014 at 4:04 pm

  12. 17 hours? How much difference between that and 8? Don’t tell David though!

    July 30, 2014 at 7:19 am

    • The answer is 9 hours, Debbie Spivey!

      Well, they say it takes an hour and a half per pound. Odds are they would both taste good, but slower would promote a better bark for starters. And slower lessens the risk of drying some meat out. In the end tho, good is good I suppose. 8 hours is still a lot of time. That’s about right for a wee little butt!

      July 30, 2014 at 9:15 am

      • I like your answer! I know it makes a difference and your pictures prove how succulent the meat is. A wee little butt is usually what’s on our grill since I’d rather have cow any day. 🙂

        July 30, 2014 at 9:19 am

  13. Pingback: There Will Be Pulled Pork = How To Pacify The Masses | THAT DANG OL' SHOW

  14. Sounds like an incredible day! Beautiful pork!

    July 30, 2014 at 10:15 am

    • Yes, it was a journey. But then, most good BBQ is I suppose. Thanks David!

      July 30, 2014 at 10:16 am

  15. Looks ONO (delicious) POTP! May I humbly suggest trying my favorite, Noh’s Hawaiian Bar-B-Que sauce…
    http://www.nohfoods.com/htdocs/Products/hawaiianbarbequesauce.htm
    ALOHA!

    July 30, 2014 at 11:17 am

    • Thanks Auntiedoni! That sauce looks mighty tempting. Might have to pick up a bottle indeed. Thanks for the link.
      Aloha!

      July 30, 2014 at 11:41 am

  16. I too am ramping up my plans for my annual Porkapalooza in mid August … my mouth is watering again … damn !!

    July 30, 2014 at 3:44 pm

  17. Pacify the masses? I want it all for myself!
    You make me hungry again…

    July 30, 2014 at 4:18 pm

  18. Indeed. It gets no better. God is in the details, and the details are more than ample in a cook like this one. You are no doubt a trusted pitside ally and good egg. Thanks for the yarn. May you spin many more before winter returns.

    July 31, 2014 at 12:37 pm

  19. Great story. I always hate the stall. At home, no problem. At a competition, not so good. Especially when it is long…

    August 3, 2014 at 8:45 am

    • Thanks Bill. Man, I do not envy uncooperative meat in a competition setting. That sounds a wee bit stressful. You have my smokiest respect!

      August 3, 2014 at 10:51 am

  20. Liz

    oh wow–what an undertaking. Bet the party was grand! But not sure you wanted to blow the (grill) lid off that secret about the pit-master working hard when he (or she, of course) is maybe just looking for solitude in the great outdoors. Now I’m on to Mr. food for fun.

    Good call on the dilly bar.

    August 5, 2014 at 12:03 am

    • Yes, Mr Food For Fun is likely having much fun indeed, pit side. You may need to keep an eye on him. There is much going on there that he must contend with. Such as naps. Quietude. Enjoying the meaty aromas bellowing forth. Re-filling his beer mug. True, I wasn’t keen on letting folk in on the idle secrets of the pit keeper, but our readers are of a responsible lot, and know how to keep quiet on such antics. That is if properly bribed perhaps, with a big steak or something. If the pit jockey keeps turning out a good product, well, he’s allowed to do it again. And the myth continues. It’s a tender line in which we stroll. But effective.

      Thanks Liz!

      August 5, 2014 at 11:38 am

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