skalls

How to turn a pork butt into delicious pulled pork

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skalls   

I love BBQ.  This past February I spent my tax return on a Kamado Joe Classic ceramic grill, which can very easily double as a smoker.  Thanks to that purchase I get to eat lots of tasty BBQ.

Anyways, what is a pork butt?  In a bit of irony the pork butt (boston butt) is not from the hindquarters of a pig, it's actually the front shoulders.  It's basically a big chunk of meat with plenty of fat and ideal to smoke for a long time.

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So I swung by my grocery store looking for something to cook yesterday.  7.8 pounds, so I'm looking at a cook time between 8 and 12 hours.  There isn't much prep work necessary for smoking this either.  I decided to try cherry wood for this, primarily because I had some unburned and partially burnt cherry wood in the fire pit already (made a pair of chickens for a potluck at work on Thursday).  Normally I'd stick with apple wood for smoking a butt.

Anyways, I cut open the package and pat try the chunk of meat with some paper towels.  Wash my hands, put on a disposable glove on my left hand, then i lather the meat with some olive oil.  I do this to help made the rub stick to the meat better.  I didn't do a good job of picking  up a good butt to smoke though.  The fat cap on the top isn't covering the full part of the meat, and the other muscles below seem to be loosely held together.  My grumbling aside, it's too late to do anything about that.  My rib is a mixture made up mostly of salt and pepper with a little paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.  I coat the meat with a liberal dose of the rub.

My next steps are to put in the heat deflectors on the grill and fill a foil pan in the grill with water.  The deflectors allow for indirect heat and make it easier to keep the grill at low temps and allow for you to cook via smoke.  The pan of water is in there to collect drippings from the meat, to make less of a mess, and to ensure a moist environment inside the grill.  

I have a wireless thermometer with 2 probes that I use to monitor the temp of the meat and the temp at the grates.  I have my grate one already in place and put the pork butt on the grill when I see 225 degrees.  Now this is below my ideal temp of 275 but patience isn't one of my virtues.  I've got a long time before the meat is going to get to 195 degrees.  It needs to go very far beyond well done because the collagen in the muscles need to break down.  This is what lets us make pulled pork.

And this takes us to the part of a smoke that my brother doesn't understand.  What do you do when the meat is smoking away.  Well it was 9:30 a.m. and I figured it was too early to start drinking so I didn't do that.  It was also 20 degrees outside so it was too cold to enjoy a cigar.  But the 12 hours of Sebring was on, so I grabbed my remote unit for the thermometer and went downstairs to watch the race.

So the TL;DR so far is this:

  • Buy big chunk of meat.
  • Added lump charcoal and cherry wood chunks to fire pit
  • Get fire going
  • Prep Meat
  • Put Meat on grill.
  • Want grill temp to be 275 and meat temp to be 195
  • Looking for 8 to 12 hours cook time (assuming all goes well)

2 Hours in:

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It's coming along well.  Every hour I open the grill and spritz the meat with a mixture of 1/3 apple cider vinegar and 2/3 apple juice.  I am told dr pepper also works great, so I need to experiment with that sometime in the near future.  You can also see that I selected to put my meat probe in the middle of the butt.  I did this because that specific area seems to be the last place to get too 195 degrees. 

The grill has been dead on at 265 degrees and doesn't seem to want to move away.  Not worried, close enough to the desired temp.  Meat is just cresting 100 degrees.

Slightly off topic but these Ford GTs in the Leman class are amazing cars.  Corvettes are doing a good job too.

4 hours in:

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The bark is beginning to take shape.  The grill has maintained 265 degrees for about 3 hours straight.  Not where I want it to be but close enough.  You can also see how much moisture is coming out of the butt bc the shoulder pone is now sticking out of the meat.  Internal meat temp at this point was around 125-130 degrees.  At this point I noticed the drip pan was getting low so I filled up a popcorn bowl with warm water and dumped it carefully in there.

I don't think you need sauce with most BBQ.  But in this case the sour flavors from a eastern NC vinegar based sauce will cut through some of the sweetness imparted by the cherry wood.  Here's my ultra simple BBQ recipe:

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of brown sugar

I mix together in a measure cup and then poor the mixture into a spray bottle.  Every hour when I go to spritz the meat I'm going to shake this up to make sure the sugar and salt have dissolved.

6 hours in:

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Omg that bark.  Looking so good.  Meat is still shrinking as you can see the bone stick out even more now.  Add a bit more water to the water pan.  I am at meat stall stage though.  A meat stall happens when the moisture in the meat is evaporating at a rate greater than the heat can move into the meat, this effective halts or stalls the cooking process.  There isn't much you can do here.  You can grin and bear it (as I did) or you can wrap your meat in foil.  I tried that with the first butt I did and it didn't turn out quite as well as I had wanted.  Buddy of mine that loves to BBQ as well told me he doesn't bother wrapping a pork butt unless the fat cap is pretty small or thin.  

Grin and beat it is.  Grill is being a bit of a pill at this point and wants to hover between 235 and 245 degrees.  I grabbed a shrimp skewer and tried to move some carcoal around the side of the fire pit through the gap on the side of the fire bowl and deflector plates.  Doesn't seem to do much good though.

8 hours in:

No picture but the temp in the grill is maintaining 270 degrees again, and has for the last 1 and a half.  I feel like this grill wants to troll me bc it knows I can't do anything to it...  Added a bit of water to the drip pan.  Meat temp is 175 and climbing about a degree every 10 minutes or so.  We're past the stall but not to the promised land yet.

10 1/2 hours in:

193 degrees.  It's 8:45pm and I'm hungry as hell.  I probed the meat and it's between 195 and 198 degrees in every place except where the probe is in the meat.  Should have carry over when I let it rest and get to 195 so it's time to pull it.

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I don't want to wreck the bark that I spent 10 hours building, so I grab some paper towels to pull the probe off and then place the butt into a foil pan.  Now it's time to let it rest.  Pulling it apart now will result in about 5 pounds of dried out pulled pork.  That's not good eats.  So the foil pan is covered with some aluminum foil and then left alone for 40 minutes (the goal was 45 minutes, but patience isn't one of my virtues).

After a slightly abbreviated rest period:

In my defense, a difference of 40 minutes of rest and 45 minutes of rest, for pulled pork anyways, won't make much of a difference.  And the bone pulled out cleanly with just a hint of resistance, a good sign.

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So next up is grab a tongs and pull apart this bad boy.  You can see the sauce I made here as well.  I do not sauce the meat in the pan, only sauce the portions I want to eat.

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Without the sauce the meat is juicy and sweet tasting, but not overly sweet.  The bark is nice and crusty.  The money muscle I pulled out separately and turned that into stringed pork.  Tastes great.  The sauce just enhances the flavors you get.  Not necessary but it's a nice accompaniment to the meat.  All told, it's a success.

So I'll be eating pulled pork for lunch every day this week.

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luv2fly   

Great post and pics Skalls!  I would love to get into smoking.  As of now, I do pork tenderloin in the crockpot and then pull it.  Works a dream but nothing beats a real smoked pork!:perfect10:

Edit:  Is that a Big Green Egg or other type?

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SloppyJ   

Great post. There are so many things that you can do with pulled pork leftovers. I always vacuum pack them and freeze them. To warm, you can boil them straight from the freezer in the bag. I normally do this then throw them into a frying pan with some butter and taco seasoning to make carnitas enchiladas or tacos. They are delicious.

 

Instead of oil, try regular yellow mustard to get your rub to stick. It works really well, it's cheap, and doesn't flavor the meat at all.

 

 

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skalls   
5 hours ago, luv2fly said:

Great post and pics Skalls!  I would love to get into smoking.  As of now, I do pork tenderloin in the crockpot and then pull it.  Works a dream but nothing beats a real smoked pork!:perfect10:

Edit:  Is that a Big Green Egg or other type?

Kamado Joe classic.   it's an egg and basically half the price of a bge.  I'm loving it.

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My missus bought me a gas smoker for Christmas.

Really enjoyed trying to figure out the best ways to smoke brisket and pork butts here

I'm liking the look of Kamado Joe grills but I've never smoked (or really cooked for that matter) with charcoal
How do you go controlling the heat once you've got your coals going?

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Auspaul   

Great work looks delicious

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SloppyJ   
8 hours ago, polarbear said:

My missus bought me a gas smoker for Christmas.

Really enjoyed trying to figure out the best ways to smoke brisket and pork butts here

I'm liking the look of Kamado Joe grills but I've never smoked (or really cooked for that matter) with charcoal
How do you go controlling the heat once you've got your coals going?

I have both a weber "bullet" type smoker and an electric smoker. To be honest, I never pull out the weber anymore. It's too easy with the electric smoker. The purist in me wants to use the weber but the "set it and forget it" type of cook with the electric smoker always works better with my busy schedule and the results are consistently great. Often I want to do a pork butt but I need to put it on the night before so I can time it around a meal. The electric smoker is perfect for that. 

 

If I have about 6hrs to kill and I want to watch football, smoke a cigar, and smoke some ribs, I'll probably head for the weber. 

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