Hey, baking pizza is great and we love it. But lets be real here – BBQ is really all about pulled pork. Sure, my friends in Texas want to talk Brisket but that’s actually smoked beef. In the South when you say “BBQ” you really mean “pulled pork”! Sure, there are those greatly misguided, misinformed and messed-up folks who want to get out the bbq and cook a burger or hot dog – just over-look them or you are going to get very angry. Odds are they will never know any better and they grill chicken and start putting sauce on at the get-go and think all that burned sauce gives it authenticity! Anyway, no need for all the foolishness, I wanted to share again a little about cooking Real BBQ: Pulled Pork.
For the southern pit-master it’s essential that your have two staples well under your control: pulled pork and ribs. It took me too long to get pulled pork down right – way too long. But back then there wasn’t so much help as there is not – heck that was back in the 1900’s. Let’s get rolling on how I’m smoking Boston Butt for pulled pork. Really, this is easy if you just won’t try to overthink it and let your smoker do the work. This butt I’m smoking on the BGE – guides are the same for other cookers just make certain you are cooking indirect.
It’s early morning – see, there’s my Duck Donuts coffee mug creeping into the picture. I like different mugs and have boxes of them! Anyway, I’ve opened the butt package (about 10 lbs) and have it resting on my cooking sheet to work with it. I usually start any large meat on a cooking sheet or in a catering pan – it’s a good place to work and avoids mess. There’s plenty of fat in the butt so I’ve trimmed away most of the big fat cap – trust me, it won’t go dry.
Earlier I posted my rub recipe and that’s what’s going on this pup. I like to give my meat a good olive oil massage before I sprinkle on the rub. Yep, there are those that swear the oil will seal the meat and keep smoke out but that’s just not my experience. I don’t eat bright yellow mustard on my sandwiches so I’m surely not going to put it on my Q. (Who dreamed up that using mustard as a base for rubs?? It must have been the bright yellow mustard manufacturing association) Plenty of good olive oil and then a liberal shaking of rub all over – top, bottom and sides! Let it rest a bit and rub will start melting in and the aroma will be fantastic. I’m liberal but not trying to build a ½ inch cake of spice on the butt. I build the rub to compliment the natural flavor of the meat and that’s all I want. A good liberal sprinkling is plenty – really!
You’ll notice I’ve got some of the Hickory wood chunks I’m using for this cook. For me there just isn’t a better flavor for pork than Hickory smoke. I’ve started my fire in the BGE and have some of these chunks mixed in among the lump. I am neither “low & slow” nor “turbo” when it comes to smoking butts. I aim for about 300° in my cookers for butts. The BGE and the Traeger work well at these temps. I’ve even worked this temp in a Weber kettle with the coals on one side. It’s a choice thing – do what works for you. I don’t like to cook overnight and don’t want to rush things during the day. I get plenty of smoke flavor at 300°. So while I’ve been massaging and rubbing the butt the BGE has been settling in at 300°. Let the cooker even out on temp before you toss in meat – that will keep you from getting really angry early in the morning.
Folks will argue on both sides about protecting the BGE PlateSetter (conveggtor) with foil. I like easy clean and not having a buildup of gump in my cookers so I wrap with heavy aluminum foil. I do that with the drip tray in my Traeger as well. I agree with those that say this prevents any old, burned fat flavoring from creeping into a cook. Since I also bake breads & pizzas I don’t want strange flavors lingering. I put a small catering pan on the PlateSetter as a drip/water pan. Hard to see in the pic but it’s about ½ full with water. Yep, water.
I use ThermoWorks ChefAlarm thermometers to watch my cooks. I’ve tried others and these are all I use now. Those wireless gizmos seem great up until the signal drops. ThermoWorks products are reliable and have become real workhorses for me. (this is not a paid endorsement) I use one on the meat with a meat probe and then one with a grill sensor to monitor grate temps. Earlier posts show that I use green for the BGE temp and red for the internal temp of the meat. Doesn’t matter what type of cooker you use you should have good thermometers for meat and cooker temp. All of the wood type, charcoal brand, meat cut, spice mix arguments are fluff next to the importance of the thermometer. If you can only have one then get an instant read meat thermometer – like the Thermapen by ThermoWorks. Check them at www.thermoworks.com.
This is what your cooker should look like while you are cooking: CLOSED! The old saying “if you’re looking you’re not cooking” is true. I’m not a spritzer nor a mopper so it’s not a big issue for me. The water pan gives moisture and I don’t add apple juice or other nonsense to my pork so I just leave the cooker closed. That little wire leading to the ChefAlarm does just fine. I trust the thermometer.
I go for 203° internal temperature for pulled pork from Boston Butts. When I hit this I remove the butt from the cooker and put it in a catering pan (I love these things) and cover with foil. I’ll let it rest for about an hour before I pull the meat. Notice the great color here. I’m just not a fan of black BBQ. There’s plenty of “bark” for me and the natural smoke color is visually appealing and appetizing. Cooking at 300° this 10 lb. butt took just over 12 hours to reach 203°.
Now – PULLED MEANS PULLED. If you need a knife to break down the butt then it probably needed a little more time in the cooker. I’m not cooking for mush – I want texture and want the meat to hold together but it ought to just plain pull apart. The bone will pull out with a nice tug and be totally clean if the butt is done. I pull to break down into small hunks that will make great sandwiches or be a pleasant chunk on a fork for a more formal serving. This meat is ready to serve or freeze.
Did you notice something – there is no sauce! I don’t use sauce in the cooking of pulled pork. It goes on after the meat is done – usually as a side. Again, like rubs the sauce should be something to compliment the natural flavor of the meat rather than becoming the flavor that the texture of the meat delivers.
We served what we needed and then froze the leftovers. Pulled pork freezes very well. I put enough for about 3 good sandwiches in a zipper plastic bag and squeeze out most air before sealing. We enjoy having an easy go-to for a lunch and these are perfection. I try to plan ahead and allow the meat to defrost in the fridge for a few hours. Then we toss it in a covered pyrex style dish and give it a light squirt of our sauce. The microzap is perfection for reheating meat – just go slow. A couple of minutes on 60-80% power between light stirs works great. Once it’s serving temp quit heating!
Enjoy! I hope this helps those trying to figure out how to smoke a butt for some great pulled pork and keeps you from getting too angry along the way.