Friday, August 31, 2018

Slow Smoked Pulled Pork

Tis the season! For BBQ that is! We might be getting a little closer to the cold weather months, but we've still got one last Summer holiday left and it's a big one! Labor day! A holiday that has now become quite bittersweet for me.

Sure... it harkens the coming of those slightly chilly, crisp but still sunny days of Autumn and the exciting new school year. (when/if you still have young'uns at home!) And of course, it's also that time of the year for holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, with their pails full of sweet treats and "turkey day" feasts, as well as the lovely warm earthy hued rustic reds, deep oranges and rich browns of both Mother Nature's and our own decorations.

For most of my life, Fall was my favorite season. It just so happens that I was a September baby, so of course, that was always something to look forward to. I remember almost wishing away my Summers back then, because I couldn't wait to get into my cozy old jeans and sweaters, my perfectly worn out leather boots and well... just about everything plaid!

But as we all know, Labor Day weekend is also the "official" END to what has now, in these middle-stage years of my life, become my new favorite of all of Mother Nature's four seasons... Summer. What I used to look forward to, I dread these days. It's not that I don't still love Autumn itself, but Fall leads to Winter and frankly, this broken old body of mine simply can't handle the cold and snow anymore. Plus, it seems like the Winters up here in the Adirondacks have grown colder and lasted longer as each year has passed.

Argh! Now, that's more than enough of the doom and gloom, isn't it? It's time to get on with the real reason for this post, right?

It's time to talk about delicious, rich, succulent slow smoked pork shoulder! Or, what's most commonly referred to as "pulled pork". It's the perfect main attraction for that final Summer backyard bash and although it takes patience and time, it's easier than you might think! Keep in mind that this process is a labor of love and requires the "pit master" to be on sight all day long. Starting this "smoke" early in the morning is not only recommended, it's mandatory!

Slow Smoked Pork Shoulder (Pulled Pork)
  • A 5 to 6 Lb Pork Shoulder/Butt - the butcher might call it a "Boston Butt"
  • Pork Rub (store-bought or homemade - link to recipe below)
  • Lg Bag of Charcoal Briquettes - no lighter fluid/quick-light charcoal, please
  • A Smoker, Kettle Style Grill or Gas Grill w/compartment for wood chips
  • Wood chips of your choice, soaked well (we use/prefer Hickory)
  • A digital or an instant-read meat thermometer
  • Time - This will take 8 to 10 hours to reach the required doneness

1. Take the roast out of the refrigerator about an hour to an hour and a half before you're ready to put it on the smoker/grill. We buy both bone-in and boneless roasts, depending on what the butcher has or what might be on sale at the time. Smoking the roast is going to yield the same results either way.

Tip: You want any meat that you're cooking (indoors or out) to come as close to room temperature as possible before cooking. Why? Because if you take any cold piece of meat and immediately put it in a hot oven or pan (or on a hot grill) it will seize up/tighten up and will remain that way, which gives you a much less tender end result. Bringing meat to room temperature will relax it right from the start and everyone will be much happier when it's time to eat!

The hubby usually makes a homemade rub (recipe HERE) but on this particular day, he wanted to try the store-bought McCormick brand that happened to catch his eye in the spice aisle, when he went to pick up the meat. If you already have a particular favorite recipe or store-bought rub, by all means, use it!

2. While the meat is coming up to temperature, prepare the smoker/grill. If you have a smoker (or a gas grill that came with a wood chip compartment), just follow the instructions that came with it.

For a kettle style grill like ours, please see the section of my Slow Smoked Pork Ribs recipe post, titled: Kettle Style Grill Set-Up HERE

3. Once the coals are ready (225°F - or as close to that as you can possibly keep it) take one good-sized handful of the wood chips at a time and squeeze out as much of the water as possible. Spread a handful out over the prepared coals on each side of the grill in a relatively shallow layer and you're ready to replace the upper grill rack.

4. The Hubbs tends to put the cover back on the grill for a few minutes to get the smoke flowing before he continues.

5. Place the pork shoulder right in the center of the grill rack, directly over the drip pan. If you have a digital thermometer, place the probe in the thickest part of the roast and set your temperature for 190°F before putting the cover on.

6. Cover the grill and, well... wait. LOL  Pop open a cold one, grab a comfy lawn or patio chair and enjoy the lovely weather OR you can do some work (or play) around the house while the roast is cooking.

You really can't wander too far away from home because smoking is a method of cooking meat that requires regular attention throughout the cooking process. The coals and the wood chips need to be replenished several times over the 8+ hour period of time that it will take to get that pork to the point where it's falling apart with just a small amount of pressure from a fork or a pair of tongs.

7. Once the meat is finally done, remove it carefully to a large platter or baking dish, tent it quite loosely with foil and allow it to sit and rest for about 10 - 15 minutes before starting to "pull" it.

8. Using 2 large forks (or a pair of tongs and a large fork), begin pulling the meat apart into shreds. How thick or thin your shreds are, is really a matter of personal preference. Some people like large chunks and others would rather have it thinly shredded. We do a bit of both so that all of our guests get the type/texture that they prefer.

9. Serve the pork with split rolls and a few different types of BBQ sauce - we usually make sure to have a selection of sweet, smoky and spicy sauces available and we always put out several bottles from Hubby's hot sauce collection.

The coleslaw in this post is made with the bagged chopped cabbage and carrot mix that you find in the refrigerated produce section of most major grocery chains. I make my own dressing, but there are quite a few decent bottled versions available these days in that same section of the produce department.

My Coleslaw Dressing:
(for 2 bags of the cabbage/carrot mix)

  • 1 Cup Real Mayonnaise (I use Hellmann's/Best Foods)
  • 2 Tbls Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 2 Tsp Superfine Sugar
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 of a Small Yellow Onion, grated & with juices (optional)
  • 1 Tsp Poppy Seeds (optional)

Mix all ingredients well with a whisk to remove any lumps and completely dissolve the sugar. Refrigerate in a tightly covered container until about 15 to 20 minutes before you plan to serve the slaw.

Place the 2 bags of coleslaw veggies into a large mixing bowl.
Add the dressing and stir well, making sure to coat all of the cabbage/carrots.
Cover and refrigerate in the mixing bowl for 10 to 15 minutes. The slaw will "shrink" down by roughly about 1/4 while it's in the fridge because the dressing wilts the cabbage a bit as it sits - but that process also marries the flavors of the dressing and the vegetables together, so this is a good thing.
When you're ready to eat, you can pour your slaw into a smaller "prettier" bowl if you like but you certainly don't have to. I'm just a tad quirky when it comes to those types of things. LOL

Many people like to pile their pulled pork sandwich with creamy crunchy slaw, so that's always on the menu around here, but you can add any and all kinds of sides and condiments that you want to, like:

  • pickles
  • potato salad 
  • baked beans
  • pasta/macaroni salad
  • cornbread
  • collard greens
  • tossed green salad
  • three-bean salad 
  • broccoli salad
  • or any other side dish/dishes that scream "Summer Barbecue!!!" to you.

You'll find a post with several of my salad and salad dressing recipes by clicking HERE!



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