Seizing the Day: Pulled Pork on the Kettle Grill
As I tarry now in my writing room, with stereophonic music in play, the wind driven sleet of an April blizzard raps against the window pane like a house guest no longer welcome. It was 60 degrees the other day here in Minnesota. 60 degrees. That’s like Miami beach around here. People were gleefully expelling their breath into pool noodles and slapping on last year’s sun tan lotion. My but it was lovely then. All the snow save for the deepest recesses of shade had melted into the grass. The nice cars of the world were back on the roads. And joy had returned to the eyes again of the mass captive audience that is the north-land. Indeed, our spirits lept in proportion with the mercury. But today all of that is gone now- humbled under a half-foot of wet snow. Like a sucker punch to the gut. Like the candy bar of summer dangled in front of thee, and then yanked from your outreached and trembling hands.
We stand strong in our mukluks tho, waiting and tingling, ready to pounce on the exploding sun.
Taking the Summit
I think back to just two days ago, standing in shirt sleeves at the pit, nurturing this beautiful pork shoulder. Oh how the tweety birds rejoiced in the trees, and the migrant Buffleheads frolicked in the pond. I reveled in how the sun felt warm against my shoulders, and how the air tasted so sweet, mixed with the soft, rising tendrils of hickory smoke. This was the measure of weather we northern pit keepers have waited so long for. That which we pined for amid the enduring winter tempests of yore. I thought maybe we were done with winter. Yes, there was a glimmer of hope naively affixed to my soul, even tho the weather man said the snows were coming back again. That schools would close. And roadways would go asunder as they do. He said it was coming. And sure enough it did. But for this brief window of time, this lull between the storms, like a mountaineer who claims his pocket of good weather for the summit, we parlayed our moments pit-side, under pastel blue skies, and we gloried there. Seizing the day, as they say. And procuring some really good pork along the way. Here’s the skinny on that.
How To Make Pulled Pork in the Weber Kettle
- The Seasoning
Pork butts are the easiest thing in the BBQ arts, provided you’ve got the time. Firstly, the night before we hit the shoulder with liberal quantities of our favorite butt rub, Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and let it soak into the meat all night long on the fridge, wrapped in plastic of course. Then we hit it again as it went onto the pit.
- Kettle Set up & Operating Procedure
This is easy too. For this cook we used the two baskets that came with the kettle, along with the stock grate with the two hinged trap doors deals on either side. Very handy for this style of cooking. Filled each basket half way with lit coals, and half way with unlit briquettes and a couple chunks of hickey wood. Basically creating two little minion fires. We put an aluminum pan with about an inch of water in between said baskets, and plopped the shoulder on the grate rightly in the middle. Fat cap up to self baste later on. That’s it. You don’t touch the meat until it’s done, or about 195 internal. The pit dampers were set to about 50% top and bottom, or until your kettle settles in to around 225 to 250 degrees. We did have to occasionally add some unlit briquettes to baskets too, and more wood chunks, but that is standard O.P. for this sort of smoking. All part of the BBQ arts, and kettle cuisine at its best.
Another fine smoke suckled from the scant offerings of pleasant weather dropped from above. If only for a day, weren’t we the kings. Or at least well fed, patron to the pit. Amen.
An Ode To Weber: Memphis Kettle Ribs
Just beyond the stately Spruce, the prickly bows of which conceal the flirtatious exploits of the Black Capped Chickadees, and across a modest lawn sodden with snow melt, at a quiet patio tucked up to the back of a house, you will find a serene column of wood smoke curling from my old kettle grill. And there patron, you will find me also. It’s the weekend, and I haven’t a thing in the world I need to do, or would rather do, than this – to toke a small blaze amid a bandy of coals in the steely bosom of the old steed it’s self – the Weber Kettle Grill. We’ve traveled long and far, this grill and I, through the unknown passages of time. Through every season. And every inclement of weather. And this old kettle grill has been stalwart every step of the way. Faithfully waiting out on the patio for me, straddling it’s little ash pan, I swear I can see it’s top damper quivering like a puppy’s soft tail, every time I round the bend.
Yes, when you grill as often as this, I guess you might say a bond is forged between man and the entity of porcelain-enamel-coated steel. And it’s measure is one to last the ages. A good kettle grill will do that for you. And for the money, Weber probably makes the best there is. I guess I got to thinking about the old grill today, when my fellow patron rang me up and announced he had finally purchased a brand new 22.5 inch Weber kettle grill. I could hear his lips smile. He’s always ran other pits, you see, and has done very well that way his whole grilling career. And we ain’t saying you can’t. But finally, after many years, he has joined the Weber masses. I do not know what has took him so long. I guess every pit jockey at one time or another in his or her life, is destined for a Weber kettle. It’s sort of a right of passage. Many of today’s greatest pit masters cut their teeth on these old standbys. Some folks are so content with Weber kettle grills, like me, that they rarely venture anywhere else. Anyways, I do hope he finds as much joy and excitement and satisfaction cooking with his new grill, as I have found using this old, beat up, patio work horse. If you’re faithful to just clean the ashes out from time to time, it will never let you down. And there are very few things you can’t cook with it, if properly inspired.
Today, for example, the kettle fare is a delicious rack of pork ribs. These grills are not just for hot dogs and hamburgers people. Nay, they are for what moves you. For what tickles your culinary aspiration. There is a reason the Weber Kettle is the in the back yard of so many people that you know. They work. Banking the coals to the far side of the kettle, and tossing on a few chunks of smoke wood, you create an indirect smoking environment. You could get fancier, but for this essay, we’ll just leave it at that. For ribs, you want to build your fire a little smaller than you normally would, to help keep the temperatures down to 225 or so. If you’re having trouble getting that low, try a water pan underneath your ribs, which will act as a heat sink. Also draw the vents on the bottom of the grill to thin slits, and maybe the top vent too. The less air you have moving through your kettle grill, the lower the temps. It’s as simple as that.
I suppose I ought to let you know what we used for seasoning this time. Well, the day prior, 24 hours before these ribs hit the pit, we coated them thoroughly with Miners Mix Maynards Memphis BBQ Rub, wowwy, wrapped them up, and left it alone in the refrigerator for a day or so to, as they say, “get happy”. I know we’ve been yapping a lot about these guys lately, but I’m sorry, when you happen upon the best of something, you just can’t help yourself but to tell people about it. These guys and kettle grills are a match made in BBQ heaven. And this was the only thing we seasoned the ribs with. Didn’t even sauce it, as I didn’t much want to spoil the flavor. *You can detect cocoa in the after taste. Yum!
We usually foil our ribs at about hour 3, but this time around, I don’t know, I may have been feeling lazy, and just “let em go nekkid“. But with routine spritzing with some fruit juice, they turned out fine enough for this old pit boy’s standards. The wife approved too.
Three Hour Pulled Pork Sandwiches
The smoke curled nicely from the old kettle grill, whilst the crispy cottonwood leaves scattered in the October breeze. Its cool today, half way between noon and supper time, and the heat off the pit sure feels good on my hands. The shadows are dropping swifter now, much quicker than those months ago and patron to the steamy days of summer. How the heat and humidity then seems but a distant vapor now, and also with the sun, which once dallied eternal in the sky. It is all gone now. And so we embrace a new season at the pit. A transitional season. And what better way to do that, than with some succulent, apple smoked, pulled pork sandwiches, POTP style of course. This one is a humdinger, folks. And here’s how to do it.
After a meeting with your local butcher, acquire your self a heaping mass of country-style ribs. These will be of the pork variety, and true to meat nomenclature standards, not ribs at all. What they really are is chunks of a pork butt, which of course isn’t from the hind end at all, but rather the shoulder. Anyways, this is the same section of pig where your pulled pork is created from. Country style ribs are just a small portion of that. And it is because of this, that a three-hour pulled pork sandwich is even possible.
Next, and whilst your cooker is coming up to speed, rinse off the meat under cold water for to irrigate any bone fragments stowaways possibly leftover from the band saw used to cut them. And then dust them liberally with your favorite pork rub. We tried out some Cajun Blast this time, so to pack a bit of spicy heat into our plunder, on this chill, autumn day. After a fashion, and a tip of the hat, take them out to the pit, properly stoked with coal and a small matter of smoke wood. We used apple wood for ours. But you can use what ever, and no, that doesn’t mean green treated two by fours!
Using the old kettle grill, this isn’t exactly low and slow, tho we turned down the bottom dampers to anemic slits, governing the amount of oxygen coming in, thus dropping its temperature some. It all works out tho, as you will see. Place the pork opposite the hot coals, as in-direct as you can, then plunk on the lid and let it smoke for a couple of hours. Assume your standard pit side posture, feet up, manly beverage in hand, and muse over the curling smoke, racing cloud shadows, and darting tweety birds. After two hours of this most agreeable pastime, foil the meat with a half cup or two of your favorite beverage or juice, and put it back over indirect heat. This step is where the magic happens.
For the next hour, your meat will be in the likes of an expensive health spa, pampered, and loved in an all-inclusive steam bath. This step is often used on ribs or briskets, and works wonders here too. This is where the collagen breaks down and good things happen. Where elegance ingratiates meat. And it is a glorious thing. Check in on it after a spell, after about an hour or so. It is done when the meat pulls easily with but a twist of the aluminum tong.
Take the meat out of the foil for the final step, and put it back on the grill. Now is the time to varnish it up with your very favorite BBQ sauce. The final brush strokes, if you will, to your Picasso in Pork. Man! Can you smell it yet?
As a matter of course, we toasted up some lightly buttered kaiser rolls over the remaining coals, and assembled a proper, man-sized sandwich shortly there after. You will never regret toasting your buns people. It’s just the right thing to do. Especially on frigid evenings around the pit, where the wood smoke gently rises. Amen.
Three Hour, Apple Smoked, Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Tasty bark, deep smoke ring. Oh buddy. You getting hungry now! So next time you are in the mood for some savory pulled pork, but don’t have all day to smoke a big butt, try this little number. It’s good! A sandwich sure to please the ravaging stomach and the clock alike.
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