I had some friends over for an NFL Fantasy Football draft party recently.
No draft party would be complete without some “good eats,” so I served classic pulled pork sandwiches topped with a vinegar based cole slaw, homemade mac and cheese, country style green beans with ham hock and for dessert, kicked up chocolate brownies.
The next morning I woke up and out of curiosity searched past BBQ My Way, and realized that while I had written in detail about various styles of pork ribs, pork kabobs, pork loins and pork chops, I had never focused solely on pulled pork barbecue, and for that, I apologize. Let's remedy that error today.
Whenever I try out a new barbecue restaurant, my go-to dish is the pulled pork. In my opinion, pulled pork will immediately tell you if the eatery knows how to make real, authentic barbecue. Pulled pork takes time, up to 12 hours if done properly, and needs constant monitoring.
If the fire is too hot you end up with strands of leathery meat that are then typically soaked in chicken broth in hopes of making it moist again. This is a lost cause.
You also want to see a nice “bark,” which is the rub that has blackened while being suspended over hickory coals for hours upon hours. A pink smoke ring
is important as well, revealing a nice, smoky flavor.
Too many people view the preparation of pulled pork as culinary mystery, when in fact it is very easy to make -- assuming you have the time and the patience.
This is an all-day event, so don't try to fire up the barbecue pit when you get home late in the day after work. This is a dish best prepared when you have an entire day to devote to it. Trust me, it's worth it.
My cut of choice is the Boston Butt. While the name may lead you to believe otherwise, this cut comes from the shoulder area. On a side note, at one time this cut wasn't considered very desirable. The meat can be tough, as the shoulder area does a lot of work.
The term “living high off the hog” refers to the more tender cuts such as the loin and the ham. The shoulder was cut in a method developed by butchers in Boston, and stored in containers called “butts.” Hence the name, “Boston Butts.”
One suggestion. Think of investing in a smoker. I have a Weber charcoal smoker. Smokers typically have a water pan as part of the setup. Most think this is to maintain moistness, when in fact it creates a more stable temperature environment. If you don't have a smoker, you can use a kettle grill set up for indirect heat. The kettle grill will be a bit more temperamental and will take more monitoring than the smoker.
If you purchase a smoker, you will be pleasantly surprised by how many times you will use it, especially around the holidays. (Turkey, salmon, etc.)
Once you have your charcoal fired up and 75 percent ashen, sprinkle with hickory wood chips or place a hickory wood chunk in the coals. You are now ready to cook.
Take your butt, rub it down heartily with your favorite pork rub and cook at 225 to 240 degrees for 8 to 10 hours. If the fire is too hot, shut down some of the vents until you get it back to the desired temperature. Every 30 to 45 minutes, add a few chunks of charcoal and a little more hickory. Again, low and slow is the key to tenderizing this meat while keeping it moist.
When you are done simply shred it with a couple of forks, removing large pieces of fat before serving.
The traditional method of serving is on a simple white bun and topped with a vinegar-based cole slaw. Add your favorite sauce if you feel the need to.
You can freeze pulled pork for future use if you have leftovers. If you want to fix an outstanding sandwich with the leftover pork, pile it on bread with sauce and your favorite cheese, and then toast it in a skillet just like a grilled cheese.
Once you master the simple art of making pulled pork, you will have seen the light.
If you need instructional videos on all of this, go to http://www.YouTube.com/BBQMyWay.
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQMyWay.com.