Summer is coming, and for some it means beaches and bikinis, but for me it means and grilling and smoking delicious meats. This summer I’m working with a brand new offset smoker. Admittedly this is no $3,000 piece of mechanized smoking precision. It leaks smoke, it’s got a thermometer that doesn’t even have numbers on it, and just two vents. In short, this machine is far from scientific, but it’s also a big step up from smoking salmon in a cardboard box (something which I’ve done at least five times in my life). In any case, this is what I’m working with, and if these results in anyway prefigure the rest of the summer, then I’d say I’m in for a lot of choice smoked meats.
The whole process starts with brining the pork. I’ve deboned a 6.16lb pork shoulder leaving us with 4.71lbs of meat (plus skin and fat). Speaking of which, there’s a whole lot of debate about how to handle the skin and fat. I personally simply like to score the skin with a bread knife. That way you there’s more surface area when comes time for the rub.
The brine consists of molasses, pickling salt, and water. Leave it in the refrigerator overnight. Ours is brined a full 12 hours. And when it comes out it looks like this (it’s taken on a lot of color from the molasses).
I did mention the rub right? This one’s from ol’ Johnny T (The Big Tubbs, my father) who has given me the go ahead to reproduce it here:
Big Tubbs Rub: (makes 2 cups)
• 1/2 cup smoked paprika
• 1/4 cup fine sea salt
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons mustard powder
• 1/4 cup chile powder
• 1/4 cup ground cumin
• 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup granulated garlic
Trust me it tastes great (and it looks pretty goddamn sexy on that meat too).
To the smoker! I’ve already done a dry run just to season the smoker. (You’re ABSOLUTELY going to want to do this. The purpose is to coat the inside with smoke so that there’s a nice barrier between your food and the assembly line this thing came off of. The smoke during the seasoning process smelt decidedly of metal). That being done, we’re ready to smoke. I’ve outfitted the smoker with a probe thermometer to check the air temp.
Next comes the pork, just put it in right about in the middle. Temperature (particularly in a smoker like this) has a tendency to vary quite a bit from one side to the other. Since we’ve only got one piece of meat today (sigh…) it’s going right in the center with the thicker part towards the heat source. We’ll check the temperature of the pork halfway through the smoking process, and turn it if we need to.
Now just get your chimney going with your favorite charcoal (I like all natural chuck charcoal, I find that the Cowboy brand usually has several very large chunks in the bag that are ideal for smoking) and ready yourself some wood chips of your choosing (this is largely a matter of preference, today I’ve chosen pecan because I’ve never used it before, and ’cause fuck it that’s why). Dump those coals right into the offset coal box, wait for them to calm down for about 10 minutes and then dump your wood chips right on the coals. Replace the grate and put a pan of water on the grate. This will help regulate temperature (believe me it really does, at one point during this process when the water was low the temperature to rise nearly 20F in two minutes). Now sit back and watch that sexy smoke roll out of your smoker.
Three hours later we come back and check the meat. It’s gotten a lovely crust and the internal temperature is remarkably even (123F-125F). I’ve been keeping the smoker somewhere between 190 and 225 and took temperature readings from four different spots just to make sure.
I recharged our supply of charcoal, wood chips, and water and smoked it for another 3 hours. (I hope you’re seeing what I’m seeing, because it’s fucking beautiful)
After that, take the meat and wrap it in aluminum foil, and braise it in the oven (along with your favorite porter) at 325F for another 3 hours. (If you know anything about me by now, then you know I’m all about that #LowAndSlow). Then, take it out and shred the hell out of it. (Look at that fucking pink! No shit that isn’t raw, it’s that sexy pink smoke ring you get when you’ve done it right. And by god have we done it right!)
The time has come to think about service. Now I make best Kansas City BBQ sauce that I’ve ever tasted, complete with bacon, chipotles, porter and golden raisins, but today I decided to try a North Carolina style sauce. Unfortunately, now is not the time to go into all of the specific regional differences in the style of BBQ but, suffice it to say that you either make an intensely vinegary sauce (NC style) or a very tomatoey and sweeter sauce (KC style, ever heard of KC masterpiece? Yeah it actually means something, it stands for Kansas City). I’ve loosely followed the recipe for NC style from the Professional Chef textbook (if you are in anyway serious about food, this book is a must. It’s the textbook to the culinary arts program at The Culinary Institute of America and it’s pretty goddamn badass). The recipe is simple, just equal parts white and cider vinegar, sugar, some hot sauce, and red pepper flake.
Once the sauce is done, just serve the shredded pork on your favorite bun (I like to make my own, though admittedly I have not done so here. Stay tuned for that post!) squirt some of the NC sauce on the pork, top with a touch of coleslaw, and enjoy that delicious smoky goodness. (Hope you saved some porter for this, I know I did)
Cheers friends! And always remember: hell is other people in the kitchen.