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.
So I was assigned the prestigious and heady duties of procuring pulled pork for our daughter’s first birthday party. Even tho she can hardly manage a cheerio, I accepted the duties in full. I briefly scanned the weather charts and learned of the veritable monsoons that would impact our fair hamlet, naturally and precisely when I needed to smoke said pork shoulder. Now the reasonable minded cook would probably defer to his or her crock pot, I’m sure, or oven, but being I have a rep around here as a hardened pit jockey, I pretty much have to cook outside. No matter what.
The big day started fairly early, as most pork butts do, loading the fire bowl of the 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain with 20 pounds of charcoal. Yes, the entire bag. It’s a rather big cooker people, reminiscent of a Chevy Suburban and it’s awe inspiring 40 gallon gas tank. I suppose I could have dialed down the fuel costs on this smoke, but I didn’t feel like messing around. You know how it goes. It’s my baby’s birthday!
Anyways, the pork shoulder was seasoned the night before in the old stand-by, Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and dusted over yet again the next morning before plunking it on the smoker. The more time the pork has to marry with the spice rub, the better. The meat went on at 8 am, as I settled the giant porcelain enameled lid on to the smoker and surveyed the sky. It was gray over cast, with a minimal wind. Smoke curling straight up. I kept in mind the weather app on my phone is only wrong half the time. And the other half it just seems confused. We can do this!
By 9 am the first sprinkles dappled over the pond and the camouflage tarp I had strung up, just in case. It was lovely in it’s own way. A symphony of rain drops pattering like Beethoven in the key of nylon. I did the most proper thing I could think of, and simply sat in my BBQ chair and listened to the rain for a while, the sounds of pork sizzling in the pit, and watched the apple wood smoke pillar into the humid air.
By 10 am the rains fell considerably, like bed pans and hammer handles, pounding the pond side pit with gallons upon gallons of sky-born water. I dashed for the good cover of the house, and found sanctum on the couch with Netflix, and a lovely beverage there. Standard operating procedure for a hardened pit master.
By 11 am the rains came sideways as the fury of the tempest lashed like a thousand vipers outside my sliding patio door. To it’s credit, likewise to the engineers of Weber, the Smokey Mountain some how puffed contentedly away despite the Midwestern waterworks. Whilst the good critters of the world hunkered in their caves and holes, the rain continued to fiercely pound the land, and the wind bellowed from the north like Joshua’s trumpets. I could just make out my temperature gauge through the rain-cloaked window pane. The WSM was holding 250 degrees. Lo, this is how we BBQ!
By 1 pm the rain let up a trifle, good enough anyways that I could get the beans on the pit too, thus to lap up a bit of that good apple wood smoke there. They were your basic beans tightened up a bit with some ground beef, molasses, and some BBQ sauce. I was pleased also to see the butt, previously divided in half, had already developed a nice bark on it. A rough likeness suitable for a stand-in model of a good meteorite or something. But that’s how bark ought to be. It should raise the eyebrow of the uninitiated, and twist the grin of the seasoned pit maestro.
Around 2 pm the sun fairly exploded from behind curtains of gray, and the skies split into blue pastures, where song birds darted on the wing. Nice of it to wait until after I was done cooking, but that’s how it is sometimes at the pit. Mother nature gives us the finger. We adapt. And BBQ is accomplished never-the-less.
Around 3 pm all the guests arrived and sunk their chompers into this, a most succulent and well-deserved meat opus! Son-of-a-bacon-maker! Then they all celebrated one year of successful planetary living with our little girl: gathered around, watching her smile, opening gifts, crawling through multi-colored wrapping paper, and laughing like only one year old’s can for the benefit of our cameras, all the while unbeknownst of the previously mentioned rainy day smoking trials, patron to the pit. And after thinking about it for a bit, isn’t that precisely how it ought to be. Amen.
It finally happened. The event we northerners have been waiting for all winter long. I tarried in my leather man chair with a hot cup of tea in hand and simply watched it for a while, swirl and dance outside the window pane. Snow. Lots of it. Riding a tempest. One might even go so far as to wager it was a blizzard, and by golly it hit the spot to see. It hit the spot because of all the many times the weather men cried wolf this winter, barking of the big one to come. And it never did. Believe it or not, there are some people who actually like snow, look forwards to it, and want to frolic accordingly amid it’s softened flakes. We be some of those people. So it was good to see a boisterous and proper, Minnesota snowstorm engulfing our fair hamlet again. This was how it should be. And after it settled a bit, I went outside to cook something there.
The Power of Halves
After examining my meat larder, something men of a certain age tend to do, I settled on one portly pork butt to do the job. I think it weighed in at 8 pounds, I don’t recall. But I knew if I wanted to have it done by supper time, (6 hours away) then I would have to deploy the old pit master trickery of slicing the butt in halves, thus to reduce the cooking time. It’s a technique I’ve used many times at the pit, and always with favorable results. Not only does it reduce cooking time by maybe a third, but it also increases the surface area. This is good because it basically unlocks new real-estate for more spice rub and smoke penetration. More bark people. Take that weather man!
The Science and Art of Bark
Here we are a few hours into the cook, and as you can see, we were already developing a flavorful and robust bark. The smoke, courtesy of two large hunks of apple wood, combined with the relatively low heat of the Weber performer, which ran at 275 degrees, and the spice rub, Kits KC BBQ Rub, courtesy of the good folk at Miners Mix, all came together in a magical union of yum! Bark is a scientific thing, but you don’t have to be an Einstein to eat it. The Flintstones will do! If you want to learn more about how it’s formed and what is going on, check out the master’s write up of it over at Amazing Ribs What is Bark.
So it was, as the Alberta clipper slid into town that we put the finishing touches on our pulled pork sandwich. A squirt or two of sweet baby rays, combined with some of the more succulent muscles of the pork shoulder, and as always, I like to mix lots of bark in there too, so you get some in every bite. Mercy! Can you smell that? That’s a proper pulled pork sammich people!
When The Bark is Worth the Bite
I plated it up with a side of beans and returned to my man chair. After settling in, feet propped up, and fueled by repetitive instinct, I reached for the TV remote like any red-blooded American man would, but then curiously caught myself looking out the window at the snow again. A soft smile formed from my lips, and I set the remote back down, and picked up my sandwich instead. I had been waiting a long time for this, and I didn’t want to dilute it with the flashing images of a TV. It would be just me, my pork, and the snow. And for a while at least, that was enough. Amen.
Nothing quite so fine as a plateful of bark and beans! Burp!
The standard, blue-tinted hickory smoke ascends into the first light of a new day, a new year at the pit. We fired up the coals rather early today, tho the sun was up already. It’s just that we had to get an early start of it if we wanted pulled pork for supper. The big meats roll like that, as you know. And we had a genuine hankering, as they call it, for some authentic, slow-smoked, pulled pork sandwiches. And save for a sortie to the nearest BBQ shack, there is only one way to get real pulled pork – you wait for it.
Waiting comes with the package of Do-It-Yourself BBQ. That’s just how it works. If you’re used to having your spoils swiftly in life, and don’t lend well to, say, loitering in your man chair with a lovely beverage for the better part of 5 hours for a taste of rib meat, then BBQ may not be the thing for you. BBQ only comes to those who wait, you see. So once you figure out how to do that, then you’re well on your way, mentally at least, to some succulent, home-spun BBQ.
On the pit we plunked a big, old, pork butt, with a few of it’s kindred spore tucked around it’s flanks for good company. The smaller the butt, the quicker they cook it’s true, but that’s not the point here. Pork butts as a crude rule run at about an hour and half per pound, and you want to get them up to anywhere between 195 to 205 internal. Or until they pull apart in a savory way that which matches your expectations. Pork butts are perhaps the most forgiving of the big meats in the BBQ arena, and if you’re just getting into the art of smoking meat, pulled pork is a fool-proof dish to start with. Just set your pit to 225 -250 degrees, toss a few chunks of your favorite smoke wood on to the coals, and let the meat take it’s course from there. If you have a good pit with even heating, you don’t need to flip the meat over. You don’t even need to wrap it in foil. Harbor no offence to this, but the less you touch it, the better.
I suppose we ought to elaborate how we seasoned the pork butt. Well, if you fancy a good bark on your BBQ, starting your seasoning process with a good mustard slather certainly can’t hurt. Paint the meat over with some mustard, and do so every where. No, you will not taste the mustard in the final product, but what it does do is serve as an adhesive agent. Such provides something nice for your rub to stick to. The more rub that sticks, combined with lots of time and lots of smoke, equals amazing bark on your BBQ. So we slathered the butt up in some cheap mustard, and then liberally dashed if over with Miners Mix Manards Memphis Rub. You can use of course what ever rub you like, we just happen to like this stuff lately.
Once your butt is slathered and seasoned, and placed henceforth on the pit at 225 – 250 degrees, and some smoke wood added to the coals, the hardest part of your day is done. All you have to do from here is wait for it. And this is where most pit jockeys are at their very best. Now is the hallowed time where you may go to the ice box and draw yourself a manly beverage. Now is the time where taking up roost in your favorite man chair, with an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie is also a good call. If the wife sees such acts of laziness but deplorable in her eyes, then, if you must, you can always flip out a proper chair by the pit itself, and declare you are working on supper there. Silently plying your innate, God-given craft for smoke and meat for the betterment of your family. They usually leave you alone at that point, and with any luck, you may be able to nod off a bit there, where the wood smoke tapers into a blue sky. Ah the rigors of BBQ!
Whence your plunder is pull-able, do so, and then stir in some of your favorite sauce. Game over. Inhale henceforth at your soonest convenience.
Do-It-Yourself Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwiches. You will not find more authentic BBQ than this. It’s the real thing, people. And any body can do it! Oh yeah, it tastes amazing too!
I paused stride in the meadow, and gazed appropriately. The sun burned on a fiery pendulum which swung across a deep-blue, California sky. Here the granite ramparts ascend high, and with utter impunity, inserting themselves into the ether, guarded only by the soaring hawks. And the mountain breezes of which I so adore, mingle with a musical air through the tall, and stately pines, and the dry ferns turned golden now, on the meadow floor from whence I stand. I’ve come to Yosemite Valley today, in part for vacation, but mostly hence to revel here. It’s what I do. Maybe what I do best even. To delight for a time simply in what is good. And it’s easy to pull off such antics in places like Yosemite. Places of such stunning creational-catalyst, for the memories of which dutifully impress themselves upon the catchy fabric of your soul. In other words, I love it here! I love it more than I can tell you.
Yosemite National Park is maybe the best thing in Mariposa County, California. But let me tell you the second best thing in Mariposa County, and yes, it has a great deal to do with supper tonight. Literally, on the door-step of Yosemite, just outside its craggy border, in the township of Mariposa, you will find the good people from Miners Mix. These folks emerged from our readership like one of them plastic thermometer things that pop out of your turkey when it’s done. They just have a way about them, I guess. A good way. And I can’t explain it any further than that. But we do like to occasionally loiter over on their blog, and see what they’re up to there. And apparently lately, they’ve just been winning competitions is all, with their various assorted spices and rubs. And after sampling a few they sent us recently, I can see why.
In our last post, we told you about their Wholly Chipotle Rub, which was plenty good enough to get out slobbers going. Today however, we want to tell you about another one, that being their Maynard’s Memphis BBQ Rub. Man on man was this stuff good, people. I could go about concocting my own home-made rub of this sort, but hark, they’ve plum figured out how to do it already, and how to do it as good as can be done.
If it didn’t exist in 1850, it ain’t in here. You gotta like such wordage on your spice bottle!. By the way, they did not ask us once to promote their products. It’s just that after tasting them, well, they’re too dang good not too! Our readership has surprised us numerous times with what they’ve done to better the BBQ world, and these chaps are an example why. Anyways, we liberally dusted this Memphis Rub over a fair-to-middling quantity of boneless pork butt and a rack of pork ribs to boot. Make sure you remove that membrane folks, so to get more seasoning and smoke penetration on the back side of them ribs. Mercy, this spice smelled fantastic right out of the shaker!
Here’s a trick you can do to decrease the time needed on your boneless pork butts. It’s simple, if not down right obvious. Simply slice it up into smaller chunks. We sliced our 11 pound butt roughly into thirds, which took maybe 4 hours off the total cook time. You want to bring your butts up to somewhere around 195 internal, or until they become pull-able to your liking. Decreasing the size of the butt into several smaller ones will not only get you there faster, but even better than that, will promote more bark for your end game, because of the increased surface area. More meaty real-estate to season, you see, makes a pit jockey most happy.
After a few hours head start in a shroud of hickory smoke, the shoulder meat was coming along, so we placed the rack of ribs tenderly on the grate as well, and let the spoils all cook together for a time. Lid on, smokey tendrils in curl, I leaned back in the patio chair, hat tipped up just so, with a manly beverage in hand. Alright, it was a diet coke, but some days that’s plenty manly enough for me. Anyway, I shifted in the chair a touch, assuming a more leisurely, pit-keeper posture – left leg crossed over right, and gazed at the curling wood smoke whilst listening to the mallards and drakes cavorting in the pond. I mused internally, rummaging about my recent vacation memories of Yosemite. Thinking lucky is the bloke who gets to call that environment their home. I admire your backyard, good folks at Miners Mix. And I admire your spice rubs likewise.
The Miners Mix Memphis Rub was delicious in kind, we don’t mind telling you. Sinking your teeth into a perfectly executed pork rib, seasoned in this rub, is a truly treat to behold. Leastwise, we thought so. There was just something different about it. Something abiding to the palate. I scanned the back of the bottle, eyes darting through the easy-to-pronounce ingredients, and there it was – cocoa. The common man wouldn’t think to put cocoa in his BBQ, but common men do not win BBQ competitions either. It works people, and does so exceedingly well. No sauce needed for these ribs! My but the spices marry well with smokey pork! And once again I was reminded of life’s most basic hard-wire, and that it is it is easy to revel in what is good. Be it the granite massifs of Yosemite, or the mahogany-colored flanks of delicious BBQ. Good is good, after all, and our sincere compliments to the chef. Amen.
If so inclined, do stop by and see our friends at http://www.minersmix.com/
Or their blog at https://minersmix.wordpress.com/
Or check them out on Amazon!
They did not ask us to do toot their horn, Nay, it was our pleasure!
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Every once in a while, a pit jockey develops a hankering to cook something big. Something epic. A festering itch not particularly, nor suitably scratched via anything you’ll find in the simple realm of hamburgers or hot dogs. Nay, it is a bit more involved than that. It usually requires big, obscene chunks of pig, and it usually takes protracted quantities of precious time. And such was the case today, under gorgeous, blue, Minnesota skies, and darting tweety birds, that we would mark off an entire day from the calendar for the simple pleasure of slow smoking some meat, and then of course, ingesting it at day’s end. It would be a long and taxing day, and would test my wares of loitermanship, beverage reservoirs, and patience with the pork. I was motivated, tho, you see. I had the itch to go big. We’re talking slow-smoked pulled pork here, and BBQ pork ribs. Its everything we get into BBQ for in the first place. The real thing. And it’s what we’re called to do! Let’s get after it shall we.
So it was, I arose on my day off at the most ghastly hour of 5:30 in the blessed morning in which to ply my craft afield. Still in my man pajamas, and whilst the morning sun caught the dew off the freshly hewn lawn, I stoically gathered my coals in one accord, taking flame to the political section that which made residence up the rusty arse of the old, charcoal chimney. Smoke signals soon spiraled aloft, declaring the day’s journey in meat thus embarked. And speaking of bark, lets head inside and rub the butt down again.
First on the pit is the eight pound bone-in pork shoulder, often called the “butt“. I know. What can you do. Anyways, the evening previous, the shoulder/butt was slathered in a cheap mustard, and hit with a commendable mass of Grill Mates, Sweet and Smokey Rub. Then we wrapped it in plastic, and left it alone in the fridge to marry over night with its new flavors. And here this morning, it’s time to hit it up with additional rub yet again. The rub is one of the most significant contributions you can make to the flavor profile of the pork, so do it up good. Ye need not hold back here. For the more liberal the rub, the better your bark tends to be later on down the road. And most pit keepers worth their tongs, always aspire for a robust bark.
The fire bowl of the Weber Smokey Mountain was set up accordingly. A chimney full of fiery coals dumped right smack in the middle of a ring of unlit coals. For you newbies, and budding pit masters alike, this is what we call the Minion Method. And it is an extremely effective technique for long, sustained smokes. To learn more about this method, and you really should if you plan on delving far into the BBQ arts, do read our write-up, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion, to get the low down on this classic technique.
Anyways, the butt was gently placed on the lower grate of the WSM, fat side up. Tossed some hickory and apple wood chunks on to the coals, put the lid on, and then did the only sensible thing I could think of at the moment – I went back to sleep!
About five hours later, two of which were spent belly-up counting little pigs jumping over white picket fences, I gradually came to, stretching like a lazy house cat in my soft, easy chair. Ah the rigors of BBQ. I scratched my belly and glanced out to the patio, gazed momentarily, and smiled. Nothing is quite so fine as waking up in your man chair to see your pit stoically puffing away in the afternoon sun. It calms a man, and settles well in his soul. It really does. Morale is always at a high, when wood smoke gently curls for the sky. Anyways, time to get up again. For there are pork ribs to prep. And here is how we did it.
The first order of business, naturally, is to remove that ornery membrane. That thing is on there tighter than a tick on a hound dog, but you can do it. The reasoning to remove it is two-fold. One, because chewing on it is rather like gnawing on the important end of an old, plastic fly swatter, and two, removing the membrane will promote better penetration by your rub and wood smoke. Say what you will, but this thing should be pulled off. The trick most folk do is slip a butter knife in on top of a bone, but underneath the membrane, wiggle it on in there, and pry it upwards. Then, and with a paper towel to assist in grip, thus peel the membrane down the length of the ribs. Mission accomplished. You might not get it at first, but after a few times, and a smattering of patience, you will wax of an old pit maestro, adept in your craft.
Once the membranes were peeled, we dusted over the racks accordingly. One in a fair amount of Famous Daves Rib Rub, and the other rack we made a bit more of a production of. Firstly, sprinkling on a light layer of brown sugar, then a layer of Grill Mates Sweet and Smokey rub, then yet another layer of brown sugar, to seal it all in. Mercy! At around five hours into the pork shoulder, we put these ribs gently on the top rack of the Weber smokey Mountain, and added a couple more chunks of hickory wood. Things were chugging along nicely now, and precisely as they should. Time for a lovely beverage and yet another pit-side repair.
Here is where most smoke wizards are at their very best. Down time. Frankly, it’s half the reason we BBQ in the first place. That hallowed slot of clock in which our feet thus prop like a gentleman of leisure, and all the world seems to spin fairly about thee. It is a time where a man proper can spend exorbitant and considerable amounts of it, doing seemingly nothing at all. It’s a case-in-point example, where as my elder brother would say, “doing nothing sure feels like something“. And it does. Just watching the smoke curl from the pit, with a cold beverage in hand, we are at once and assuredly at ease. Head master of our own protein-rich kingdom. For a while at least, and maybe more than that, we want for nothing else. Say what ever you will, but that is no small thing. And the cloud shadows quietly parade over the house tops and the thick green grasses below.
After fashion, about two and one-half hours I should wager, we wrapped the beautiful, mahogany-colored ribs in foil, along with a hearty splash of apple juice for a steaming agent. This simple trick will take your unruly pork by the hand, and escort it unto the savory realms every time. Reminiscent of taking them to the spa, if you will, and pampering every last muscle there. And an hour and half of this treatment is about all you need. Use your pit master instincts. Remove from foil, and place them back on the pit to tighten up a bit. Only during the final half hour did we lather on the Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory and Brown Sugar sauce. Man! And yes, that’s chicken thighs you see there on the pit. Hey, we like meat!
Oh buddy! You must excuse us here whilst we make the acquaintanceship of this smokey pork rib. It’s for quality control reasons you see, and a pit master’s privilege.
Now this is what you call a most suitable bark on your butt. Mercy! To the uninitiated eye, it will parlay thoughts of great remorse in your behalf. Onlookers may even want to buy you supper, they feel so sorry for your mass of blackened rubble there before them. But this is how it should be. Ten hours of low and slow therapy, people, gently curling wood smoke, two naps, tweety birds, slanting sunbeams, and a good share of manly beverage, equals sublime smokey pork satisfaction. Or something like that. You know what I mean. The shoulder/butt was brought to 197 internal, until the bone came out clean. Mission accomplished. And amen.
*Let the meat rest a while before you pull it, to redistribute its delicious juices.
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 McCormick Sweet & Smoky Rub, 4.76-Ounce Units (Pack of 6) 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 Venerable Weber Smokey Mountain
Off hand, as some have inquired, our pit we’re using today is the 22.5 Weber Smokey Mountain. These cookers run about $400, and to put it bluntly, they just work. A true, set-it-and-forget-it, type of smoker. Easily the best smoker we know of in this price range. If you don’t have yourself a smoker yet, and you wish to get started, this is a fine direction to point your wallet. You can get them at most good hardware stores, or online.
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.
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A long time ago on a backyard patio not too far away….
It was a time of year when the heat was beating on our Pits with such strength. For one Patron was going about his summer enjoying the freedoms of his yard and his pit, when completely unexpected, he was taken back by a phone call that would change his life forever. He and his wife were asked to adopt a baby girl who hadn’t been born yet. Fast forward 4 days later, little Isabella Mae was born at 8 lbs 11 oz – about the same size as a prized brisket. Being he and his wife only had 3 days to prepare for their new blessing, their world was turn upside down.
Three months later this Patron was starting to feel very comfortable with the lifestyle of a new Daddy, as he noticed he hadn’t touched his pit once in those three months. Sharing his revelation with his wife she dared to ask a very conniving question,
“Are you sure you still know how to smoke anything?”
Insulted, yet with a cocky posture he looked at her and said,
“Honey, I am a Patron of the Pit! Smoking is in my blood. I sweat hickory! I enjoy the burn in my eyes as the hood of my pit opens and the sweet aromas of fire, wood, spice rubs and barbecue sauces bellow towards my face. There are not many of us who stand out at their pit during a Minnesota blizzard while the rest of the world curls up on their couch waiting for a microwaved dinner. I will not let three months of not lighting my pit filter this Patron’s good name!”
So with his chest out and his head high, he accepted her challenge unveiled.
With eagerness he took his challenge fervently. He stalked the aisle of the meat market looking for the cut of meat that he was going to shock the family with. And there it was, a 4 pound pork butt! He went in for the kill…even though the choice meat was dead, he paid for it and took it home like any backwoods hunter would, returning to his family with trophy in hand.
That Saturday night he mixed his marinade:
- 1 beer
- 4 tablespoons of hand crushed peppercorns,
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
He let the pork marinate for 12 hours in the refrigerator and the next morning the coals were lit at 10 am.
It was a nice day out at his pit. A south wind was blowing at a medium pace and the sun was hitting the cooker just right. Though it was only 15 degree’s out, he enjoyed the cold air mixed with his choice of wood for the perfect smoke. He decided to hit the pork butt with the sweet flavor of cherry wood, offering up a light smoke to taunt his neighbors with. The smoker was a steady 250 degrees as he monitored the temperature and stoked his fire-box as needed. A good 5 hour smoke went by and around 4 pm he took the pork butt off the cooker, wrapped it tightly in tin foil and let it rest for 45 minutes. Once it was done, he slowly peeled back the foil. The pork immediately fell into pieces, thus started the pulling process. With two forks he did just that. He added his favorite smokehouse maple spice rub and mixed it all back in with the juices that collected from the initial smoke.
Later that evening with a full belly, his wife turned to him and at last recognized his craft. She reassured him that he hadn’t lost his skill and stated that she wished for him to continue plying his art of the smoker. And so he sat, knowing that a successful pork butt wasn’t the real prize here. The real prize was sipping from a bottle in his arms. He smiled contentedly…
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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