Taking large sections of butchered meats otherwise tedious in breaking down and cooking is a true labor of love. The planning, handling, prepping, spicing, spit-firing, finishing, and resting – yes, your meat needs to always rest before portioning – none of it is happenstance. The end result and sharing with others that may not have the time or equipment to properly smoke meats is the reward. Today is one of the best days – it’s smoke day and this week is pulled BBQ pork for Tuesday delivery.
What goes into it all you ask? Well, coming short of listing the ingredients in our Pork Butt Rub, SS&E aims to please (and educate).
As with anything, if you want high quality results, you have to start with high quality products and ingredients. Several different pork cuts can be rendered into pulled pork but for us it’s the large, whole bone-in Boston Butt that does the job. You’ll find these at any market, readily available at an average of 8.5 to 9.5 pounds. On your smoke day, bring the butts out of the fridge for at least an hour before cook time.
Start the pre-cook seasoning step by drying off the butts with a paper towel. THEN generously add your favorite spice mix or butt rub to all sides except the fat cap side – you’ll know what I’m talking about when you notice the one thicker side. That’s the side that goes on the grill surface so don’t waste your rub!
Next is smoker prep. We use hardwood charcoal with authentic Texas mesquite (thanks to our supplier friend Andy in Waco) to penetrate the pork with tremendous smokey flavor. Make sure your coals are white hot and your smoker is cleaned of ash to optimize air flow, which is the only way to control temperatures during smoking.
Get your smoker to the sweet spot – 250°. You’ll know how your specific smoker works best. Kamado style (Green Egg) work best from regulating the top air vent with slight turns to open and increase air flow or close and decrease, the latter will lower the ambient temperature read on your external thermometer. Let’s get those butts, fat cap down, in the smoker!
There is nothing unconventional about ‘low and slow’ temps or hardwood smoking. Where our methods may differ is in the time on smoke and the finishing methods. We think a minimum of six hours will produce enough bark, that’s the yummy goodness of spice and fat / juices melting together during the smoking process. It’s the dark bits once the butt is pulled that is essential to the flavor! We’re not sure there is a noticeable difference between six, eight, or ten hours on smoke. But we do know that finishing the butts (cap side up) in hotel pans in a 230° for another six to eight hours will give the connective tissue and internal fat time to render. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 200°. The biggest advantage to finishing this way is the fat and spices that collect in the bottom of the pan when butts are removed. Pour this into a glass bowl and place in a fridge. In about an hour the fat will separate from the liquid spice mixture. We call this Liquid Gold because it is money!
After resting for a minimum of an hour, you’re ready to pull. You’ll get good at breaking down the cooked butts after a time or two. Size of pull is a personal preference but one thing we will all have in common is a pulled pork that is worthy to serve sauce-less – especially with a drizzle of that Liquid Gold mixed in.