Smoking meat on the 4th of July weekend is an annual event in the du Pont family. This year we nailed it with this Pulled Pork.
Seven pounds of pork butt was brined overnight, rubbed down with carefully constructed concoction of spices, and smoked to perfection for over 10 hours. It was devoured by a hungry clan after a long day of swimming and chasing after very active children.
Now before I get into what we did right this weekend, a few words about what has gone a little awry in the past. Some years the rub on various assorted meats has been over powering — too salty and intense. Other years, the meat has been dried out despite constant monitoring and wet mops applied throughout the day.
In the past, I have stood on the sidelines as the smoking event unfolded. My husband and brother in law intent on the grilling log, carefully documenting temperatures and mopping routines, slowly sipping beers in the midday sun, sweat pouring down their faces. True science is the smoking.
This year, my husband invited me to the smoking party. I graciously accepted when he requested my assistance with this pork butt. There were a great many discussions about whether we should do part of it in the oven first, whether we should brine, what the rub should involve and what temperature was the perfect time to take the meat off the grill.
I located two recipes I thought seemed reasonably reliable. One was by Alton Brown and involved brining and a simple rub and cooking the meat in a smoker for 10 plus hours. The second was a recipe for boneless pork shoulder by Melissa Clark. It was done in a low temp oven, but the rub looked right amazing and the bbq sauce even better. A mashup of these two recipes with some additional tweaking is set forth below.
Our adventure began post fireworks on the 4th. Geordie found himself alone at midnight brining a huge hunk of meat in a combination of salt, water and molasses while a slept (except for a brief wake-up to inquire where the kosher salt could be found).
By 8 am the next morning, I went to work on the rub. Toasting some coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and peppercorns and than adding a series of other spices. One thing I might tweak the next time around is cut the salt in half because I forgot about the salty brine. Mind you, there were no complaints about the meat being salty.
By 9 am, the pork was on the smoker and looking good (see above).
The pork and its temperature were periodically checked and logged with critical details. Importantly, there was no mop required and really we were just making sure that the fire didn’t stop and the temperature stayed consistent. There was a moment 6 hours in where we questioned whether the meat might be done, but after readjusting the digital probe thermometer, the meat temperature was more on track. Ultimately, it was on the grill for about 10 hours, 15 minutes. And we took it off when the temperature reached 185 (it sort of peaked there and started to drop so we took it off). Some recipes suggest you should keep it on until 195 degrees, but our smoker seemed to not want to go there. But again, there were no complaints of dryness.
We served it plain without buns with the bbq sauce on the side along with some white beans with kale and sausage and some red cabbage slaw. My mother in law, who proclaimed to hate bbq sauce, raved about this flavorful sauce by Melissa Clark below. I highly recommend it. I personally added just a dollop to a big bit of pork, mixing it in for some added flavor.
This was an all around marvelous success!
All photos in this blog post were taken by Geordie du Pont – co-chef on this group endeavor!
- 8 ounces or ¾ cup molasses
- 12 ounces pickling salt
- 2 quarts water
- 7 lb bone in pork shoulder ("pork butt")
- 1½ tsp whole coriander seed
- 1½ tsp whole cumin seed
- 1½ tsp black peppercorns
- 1½ tsp fennel seeds
- 2¼ tsp kosher sald
- 1½ tsp dry mustard powder
- 1½ tsp chili powder
- 1½ tsp onion powder
- 1½ tsp paprika
- 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1½ cups ketchup
- ¼ dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp dry mustard powder
- Pinch of cayenne
- Dash (or two or three) of hot sauce
- Combine molasses, pickling salt and water in a 6 quart container. Add pork shoulder, submerging it completely in the brine. Cover and let sit in refrigerator or cooler on ice overnight (8 to 12 hours).
- In a small skillet over medium low heat, toast coriander, cumin, fennel and peppercorns until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind into a fine powder. Transfer to a bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients.
- Prepare the bbq sauce by combining ingredients in a medium pot. Simmer over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until deepened in color. Season with hot sauce to taste.
- Preheat smoker to 210 degrees F. Place pork shoulder in the smoker and cook for 10 hours (or as many as 12), maintaining temperature. Meat should easily pull from the bone. Temperature should be between 185 and 195 F.
- Remove from smoker and let sit for one hour.
- Pull meat apart with 2 forks. Serve with bbq sauce, on buns (if desired), red cabbage slaw and beans.