Sunday, August 17, 2008

Smoking Pork Butts

Duke's bbq is my favorite restaurant back home and one of the few things I actually crave. Last time I tried making pulled pork, I used a crock pot, and it came out well, but was super moist. Now that we've moved and have a grill, I decided it was time to try doing it a more old-fashioned way, smoking the pork shoulder. To celebrate the occassion and to help eat the massive amount of pork, I started inviting people over and just kept mentioning it to other. Somehow, we ended up with an unexpected party of about 18 people.

I went to the local butcher and got a nice 8.5 lb Boston Butt. The night before, I made a pretty typical spice rub and slathered it all over.

I sealed this puppy in some plastic wrap and let it sit overnight.

I'm lucky to have a job that let's me work remotely, and since Wednesday is the unofficial day to work from home, I decided to do just that because I'd rather hog the communal grill all day on Wednesday rather than Sunday. So I woke up quite early and got the grill ready.

So I'll go ahead and complain about our grill now, but I don't really plan on using it much. The main reason is I swear it catches on fire too much because it hasn't been cleaned in god knows how long. There's just too much gunk at the bottom and cleaning off the grates is not enough. This meant I had to keep a close eye on it, so nothing would catch on fire for too long. I say too long because there were a few fires.

Once the meat caught on fire; however, I'll take responsibility for this one as I was just starting out and forgot to turn the burner directly under the meat off. That one halted pretty quickly once I turned the burner off. However, the main problem was with the wood chips. I don't know if anyone else has tried to smoke, especially on a gunky gas grill, but every once in a while the woodchips would stop just smoking and start burning.

The basic setup: keep the burners on the right on, put the woodchips that I had soaked in water on top of those burners in a throwaway aluminum pan, and put the meat over to the left so there was no direct heat under it.

Sometimes the smoking did work really well. To make sure it made it all the way over to the meat, I tried to cover a lot of the extra vents in the grill with tinfoil. I was also a little paranoid about it drying out, so I made a "mop." Basically I took some cider vinegar and apple juice and slathered it on the meat generously every once in a while.

I debated just letting the woodchips burn, as I figured it wasn't that big of a deal, but being my first time and trying not to get in trouble with the home-owners association, I decided to stay out there and watch it closely. Anytime the wood caught on fire, I'd throw some water on it so it didn't get out of hand.

Overall it worked pretty well, and I tried to keep the temperature around 250 degrees while making sure to keep the fires under control. After about 5 hours of smoking, around 1 PM, the fire went out for no reason, and I gave up lighting it, so I wrapped it in tinfoil and moved the cooking in the oven. Coking in the oven's a lot easier as I can just set it (at 275 degrees) and let it cook without worrying about fires.

I read so many different tutorials on how to smoke a pork shoulder, and I watched about 5 different videos on it. Everyone had a different opinion on when to take out the pork. Numbers ranged from 160 to 210. I decided to go for around 190-195, which seemed to be somewhere in the middle. After I took it out, I let it rest for about 2 hours while I waited for dinner time to arrive and to make the other dishes (macaroni and cheese, and cornbread).

When I took it out, it was falling apart, and I couldn't even move it to another tray in one piece.

Apparently smoking it causes the outside to be black. I wanted it to be a little smokier and crunchier on the outside, but it still turned out really well--perfectly moist. The crockpot one was too juicy; this one was much better.

For the sauce, I obviously used the Duke's bbq sauce, which is my idea of heaven in a bottle, but also I decided to make a Mojo sauce (basically citrus + garlic).

For the sides, I made some cornbread, following Alton Brown's recipe. It turned out decent. Personally I like the corn bread a little more moist and with some more flavor (maybe sweeter or with some jalapenos).

I also made some Mac and Cheese. I looked around for some recipes and settled on a Martha Stewart one that seemed to get great reviews.

Because more people were showing up than I originally planned, I multiplied the recipe by 50%. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough sharp cheddar, so I used some extra gruyere (recipe called for gruyere and sharp cheddar). Personally, I didn't like the gruyere and adding more was a mistake. I should've just made sure to keep the ratios between the cheeses proportional. Other, more hardcore mac-n-cheese fans, seemed to like the dish, though. Rather than make my own breadcrumbs, I decided to use panko breadcrumbs. This turned out well, but I think I'll add some butter next time to make sure they get nice and brown on top.

Overall the party turned out really well. Because I only made 3 dishes it was a relatively easy dinner even though we were serving 18. It's a lot easier just making 3 big dishes.

Also, I was shocked at how close I was to estimating everyone's appetite. There was just a really small amount of food left. However, I decided to make some pulled pork because I was just really in the mood for some. Pulled pork always seems to freeze really well, and I was looking forward to leftovers. Sadly , I didn't get any of those, but everyone had a good time and enjoyed the food, so I can't complain too much.

The make-shift party ended up being a success. I guess it was kinda an unoffical housewarming party, just with less people and a dirtier house :-) I'm still waiting to throw a real housewarming party, as I didn't invite everyone, but I need to cleanup some more and hopefully get a pot rack to clear up some kitchen space. I'm also not really sure what to do for the party (just h'oure d'oeuvres perhaps or perhaps a Beaufort boil). If anyone has suggestions, let me know. Also, if anyone's smoked a pork butt before and has some pointers for some of my problems, throw a comment at me.


Kyle J said...

Ryan - you beat me to the punch on the smoked pulled pork. I'm actually going to try it on my Weber charcoal grill next Saturday to celebrate labor day / clemson's first football game.

I plan on doing 6-8 hours wood/charcoal. I think you hit it right with pulling it out at 190 ish on the internal temp. Everything looks delicious!

Did it taste as good as Dukes?

When I venture back to South Carolina for Christmas, I'll probably eat Dukes 3 or 4 times...I had some the day before Shana's wedding 3 weeks ago, and it's still amazing.

much love.
The Hungry Kyle

Clowner McClown said...

wow. you are sweeeeet