Being a northern girl I have not had the opportunity to try real southern slow smoked pork.
Lord knows I have seen enough of it watching Guy and Adam eat their way across America.
Now I am not talking that pork loin in the slow cooker with BBQ sauce stuff. Anyone can make that. I mean the slow smoked pull pork that they base food competitions around.
I have been practising my smoking skills for a while now and having fish down to a science, it feels like it is time to move on to something bigger. Pulled pork seems like a natural progression in my smoked meats journey.
We are very lucky to have a few very nice butcher shops in the area so finding top quality cuts of meat is very easy. The meat of choice for my weekend cook, pork butt. After doing a bit of research it is a good choice as it is a bit forgiving, though I was very confident walking into it.
The first step in the process was to get the meat into a brine. I went with a straight forward recipe of sugar and salt with a few add ins. And the great thing about being a northern girl in December is I have a built in cooler just outside of my patio doors. It was 1 degree out which is just a few less then what your refrigerator should be running at.
Place the pork into a large container. I used a stock pot as it had the depth I was looking for. Add the onions, garlic, chili pepper and bay leaves. Cover with the brine. To weight down the pork I used a small plate and a mason jar filled with water to hold the butt under the surface of the solution. Place in a fridge for up to 24 hours.
When ready, remove from brine and place on a wire rack. Using paper towel blot the surface of the meat.
Next we prepare the rub.
- 2 cups of brown sugar
- 2 cups of coarse salt
- 3 heads of garlic, sliced in half
- 2 large yellow onions, sliced in half
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 red chili pepper
- For the rub:
- In a bowl combine:
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons of onion powder
- 2 tablespoons of dry mustard
- 1 heaping tablespoon of black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of paprika
- 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon of dried dill
- 2 teaspoons of chili powder
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- mix all the rub ingredients together in a large bowl
- For the brine:
- In a large pot I combined half the water with the salt and sugar and stirred over medium heat until the sugar was dissolved.
- Do not bring to a boil unless you have ample time to allow it to cool.
- I added the rest of the water and stirred to mix fully.
- Place the pork into a large container.
- I used a stock pot as it had the depth I was looking for.
- Add the onions, garlic, chili pepper and bay leaves.
- Cover with the brine.
- To weight down the pork I used a small plate and a mason jar filled with water to hold the butt under the surface of the solution.
- Place in a fridge for up to 24 hours.
- When ready, remove from brine and place on a wire rack.
- Using paper towel blot the surface of the meat.
- Rub the entire surface of the butt with the BBQ rub we made earlier.
- Now you are ready to smoke!
First off, make sure you have enough propane on hand if you are using a gas smoker. Nothing would ruin the experience more then half way through the night you run out of gas and have to finish your meat in the oven.
Now you need to get the smoker nice and hot. You are looking at a temperature of around 225 degrees. I was fighting a (rare) northeast wind which made it a bit of a chore getting it to the right temperature so after a quick building of a cardboard box and deck chair wall I was ready to go.
Apple and cherry woods chips were used and water was the liquid of choice, though at the 2:30 am wood chip change I quickly poured a half bottle of white wine into the liquid tray just to cool down the cooker. Once the wind stopped the smoker was cooking a bit hot. If you use your smoker enough you will learn what works best for each weather situation.
All in all the pork spent 16 hours in the smoker. Back to the research I had done, 190 seems to be the magic number for super tender meat. It was pulled out of the smoker when it hit 190 degrees. In the picture the meat looks a bit dark, so I googled and it looks similar to a lot of pictures out there though next time I will start checking the temperature about 40 minutes sooner. I think mopping the pork would also take away some of the charred look. To touch it is was very tender, looks are very deceiving!
After a 30 minute rest it was pulled by hand.
The bark was sweet and spicy that added wonderful flavor to every bite.
The meat was juicy and tender with rich a deep smokiness I have never had before. It truely did melt in my mouth. You can decide to mix some sort of sauce into the meat, though, when I tried it I thought it took away from the flavor of the meat. And maybe coleslaw is good on those pork loin slow cookers sandwiches but it is NOT needed with this pork. It truely can stand alone with nothing else. It is indeed mouthwatering. And worth the time it takes to prepare.
With a few recipes and a plan you too can have a taste of the south!