In the kingdom of comfort food, barbecue reigns supreme. Not only does this backyard cuisine satisfy the taste buds with its smoky savoriness, but just the aroma of barbecue alone triggers for almost everyone childhood memories of summer, fireworks, and family gatherings.
In addition to its nostalgic quality, the other characteristic that makes barbecue truly American is its diversity. From brisket in Texas to pulled pork in South Carolina, and many iterations between (and this doesn’t even begin to describe the permutations of rubs and sauces), barbecue lovers have many flavors and textures from which to choose.
Here in the shoe box, we just love pulled pork. We start with a bone-in boston butt (cut from the shoulder of the pig), typically in the 8-12 lb. range, and coat it with yellow mustard and then a coarse dry rub.
For the rub on this particular pig, we mixed up some kosher salt, turbinado sugar, and lemon pepper. But we are also HUGE fans of Dizzy Pig rubs, and frequently use their “Dizzy Dust” or “Shakin’ the Tree” on cuts of pork. Along with the mustard, which serves primarily as a sticky canvas for the rub, these coarsely ground spices are going to make up the deliciously smoky “bark” of the barbecued pork.
While painting the pork, our Big Green Egg has been idling around 250 degrees with an indirect heat setup. Just before putting the pork on the Egg, we toss a few hickory and cherry wood chunks on the coals – in addition to creating that signature smoked flavor, the aroma drives the neighbors crazy! (Note: we don’t soak our wood chunks. A fire burning this low isn’t going to catch wood chunks on fire – they will smoke beautifully. Chunks soaked in water just expel water vapor until they are dried out.)
In a 250 degree atmosphere, pork shoulder cuts take, on average, 1.5 hours per pound to reach an internal temperature of 195 degrees. However, there are many variables which can affect this time (fat content, initial meat temperature, grill setup, etc.), so we always insert a wireless thermometer into the thickest portion of the roast and let temperature, not time, indicate the finish line.
This 8 lb. roast took just over 10 hours to reach 195 degrees. As you can see, when you open your smoker, the finished product looks more like a meteor than something you’d like to put on a sandwich. But have no fear, a little slice of heaven is very near!
But first, we wrap the roast in several layers of aluminum foil followed by a couple of towels, and put that swaddled meteor in a cooler or warm oven where we let it sit for 2-5 hours. Don’t worry, the meat will still be steaming hot (even after 5 hours!), and during this rest period all of the juices will redistribute themselves throughout the roast, making for a very moist barbecue sandwich.
While that baby is resting, it’s time to create the sauce. We like to create a vinegar-based (East Carolina style) sauce that almost disappears when you put it on the meat. In other words, it compliments, rather than dominates, the rich flavor in the pork that 10 hours of low temperature and a little smoke (and a lot of patience) created. This recipe should make plenty for one boston butt (recipe follows at end – oh, about the name of the sauce – well, it’s a long story . . . ).
After the rest period, it’s time to unwrap the roast and “pull” it. We use two large serving forks and just shred the roast apart until the pieces are generally uniform. We save unused pork in heavy duty plastic bags, which can be placed directly in hot water later to reheat the meat by steaming, without drying it out.
We serve a handful of pork on an oven-warmed slider bun, with or without simple coleslaw (recipe follows).
If you want to make your neighbors happy or leave the folks watching fireworks in the park dumbfounded, individually wrap the sliders in light-weight aluminum foil, throw them in a basket, and walk around handing them out.
People just don’t know what to do with free food these days; if you make something good, share with the neighbors – it’s fun!
Dead Guy BBQ Sauce (currently a finalist on Food52!!)
- 3 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 2/3 cup ketchup
- 1 tsp Tabasco
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for about half hour, whisking periodically, until the sauce just begins to thicken. Serve immediately, or reserve in the refrigerator and reheat.
Big Al’s Simple Coleslaw
- 1 bag of precut and rinsed coleslaw
- 4 tbs mayonaisse
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tsp kosher salt
Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir well. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.