Monday, February 1, 2010

Pulling your leg, err, butt.

Some friends of ours recently made the purchase of their first home. Unfortunately it came with an electric range/oven. So Rebecca came up with the idea that since it won't be installed for two weeks that we make them some food as a house warming gift. They have a lot of work ahead of them, unpacking, putting together 2 trips worth of Ikea furniture, etc. And since they both have full-time gigs, they will be plenty busy. One of the many things we have decided to make was some pulled pork. Henning, the husband, is a German born, French (Alsatian) raised meat lover, so this was my gift for him in a way!

I started with a 7# shoulder piece and split it in half, kinda following the split that was started from removing the bone. I brined it overnight with salt, maple syrup, mixed peppercorns, yellow and black mustard seeds. The next day I made a dry rub of hot italian powdered peppers, sweet paprika, garlic powder, salt, fresh black pepper, ground clove, ground guajillo pepper and onion powder. After patting the shoulder dry I liberally rubbed the spices in and let it hang out for 30 minutes.

Since it is below freezing here in Chicago, and also because I can, I smoked this in my kitchen in my Cameron's Stove-top smoker. I used oak and cherry flakes for this shoulder. One has the option of putting a liquid in a tray in the bottom of this smoker to add moisture, and some flavor. But since I like a nice bark I left this tray dry. Since the Cameron's only has about 3" clearance, I ended up tenting the top of the smoker with foil instead of sliding the cover back on. Being that it is still a tight quarter, the meat doesn't get a super dry bark since it almost steams from the moisture coming out of the meat onto the hot tray, but that is added flavor. Also be sure to put the fatty side up whenever smoking. This allows it to baste itself as the fat slowly renders out, and down.

Since slow and low is the key to moist, falling apart butt, I started this over med-high heat to get the smoke going then dropped down medium-low once the smoke started. And after that I didn't touch it for 3 hours. You could hear the sizzle as the moisture started to hit the empty tray, but it soon disappeared as the tray filled up with the pork juices and they started to evaporate to fill the chamber with porkiness. It is a good sign when the pork almost falls apart as you remove it from the smoker. I let it rest for about 10 minutes before I started to pull it. It was still quite hot, even through 2 pairs of latex gloves, but it was so tender that it didn't take long to pull it all. I removed anything that wouldn't feel pleasant in the mouth like some of the inter-muscular tissues. I also removed any fat that I couldn't squeeze through my fingers.

In the end there was almost 3 quarts of pulled meat. Once a sauce is added it would easily be 3 quarts. Now I just need to decide on a sauce. Where is that Jamison book?


  1. This looks really good - I don't have a stove top smoker - usually make this sort of thing in my slow-cooker but would love to try and get a smoky taste to it - is this something that can be done on the grill when it gets warm (I'm slightly clueless about smoking meat...but love to eat it)

  2. You could do this in a grill if you can control a couple things. First you would need a grill that you can cook "indirectly" in, meaning the meat is in the grill, but not directly over the flames/coals/etc.

    The long cooking time with the meat directly above would leave you with a scorched meat. This can be done for example in a round grill by building the fire only in the right side but placing the meat on the left side.

    Also, you need to be able to maintain a low heat (175-225˚ for about three hours), which might mean being able to add charcoal midway through. This can be a challenge. My Big Green Egg burns high and fast, and it's tricky to add coals once going.

    You also need to be able to add wet wood chips for the smoke. With a charcoal fire it can be simply thrown onto the fire. With a gas grill, you'll need to put the chips into aluminum with holes poked into it for the smoke to escape, and place this directly onto/above the flames.

    I know this might sound tricky to those who are unexperienced, but once you try it and see it isn't you'll never go out for BBQ again!

  3. As the proud recipient of this fine piece of pork...let me tell you, it was to DIE for! We started off putting it on sandwich buns, but by the end of the meal, we were both just eating it out of the container. The sauce was great, but you didn't even need it...the meat had so much flavor by itself! (And the tangy, crunchy slaw that they made to accompany it was a perfect compliment!)

  4. That pepper powder makes for a great dry rub. I combine it with fennel seeds and sea salt. That's my go to dry rub.

  5. Looks and sounds delicious! Yum! It is a keeper, thanks!