If you are one of those people who thinks that anything cooked over an outdoor grill is considered BBQ, I’m not sure if I should tell you to get the hell off of my website or insist that you stick around for some educatin’. I will let it slide if the more yankee inclined amongst you say that you “barbequed some hamburgers and hotdogs with friends for the 4th of July.” Down south, we call that grilling.
But it is downright blasphemy to refer to that style of food as actual BBQ. For the sake of this post, I’ll be discussing BBQ in the traditional pork/ribs/chicken/brisket sense of the word. If it originated further west than Texas or further north than Kansas City, it ain’t true BBQ.
To date, I’ve only posted on one BBQ restaurant in Atlanta, and that was mostly because I was annoyed with them and felt like lashing out. It’s not because I don’t have other BBQ joints that I love, and it sure as hell isn’t because I’m not eating it. In fact, I’m not really sure why I’ve avoided writing about BBQ restaurants.
Perhaps I’ve been intimidated by the passion of the ‘Que loving community, and the scrutiny that would follow my reviews….maybe I didn’t feel like I knew BBQ well enough to present an intelligent opinion. Or maybe I thought that my blind love of BBQ would prevent me from being as objective and critical as I should be. I don’t know the reason, and honestly hadn’t really thought about it until I started this paragraph. Both are pretty silly excuses, and I think the lack of BBQ related reviews on here is going to change.
Regardless, in the last year or two I have discovered something about my love for BBQ: I love eating it, but I REALLY love making it.
I get excited about making my own BBQ, probably more so than any other type of food that I cook. And it is not just getting to eat it that gets me so pumped…if that was it, I’d save myself 12 hours of work and let the pros do it. I can’t put my finger on it, but I love getting up early to fire up my smoker (or what I try to pass off as a smoker…more on that below) and I love watching the temperature and stoking the coals for an entire day. I love the process. I love making my entire condo complex smell like hickory and I love smelling that smoke in my clothes for the next 2 days. There is something about the time and care involved with making good BBQ that makes the experience much more gratifying than most dishes that I cook.
So, while shopping at the butcher for meat to grill out this past Saturday, I was brainstorming on what to cook for this week’s Sunday night feast. I contemplated some sous vide duck, veal, lamb….but I kept coming back to my all time favorite meat to smoke: The bone-in Boston butt.
Before I move on, I think I should discuss something that often prevents people from trying slow smoked BBQ at home: the hardware.
I’d bet that for most of you that have never tried doing real BBQ at home, feeling like you didn’t have the proper equipment was 80% of the reason that you chickened out. If you are one of those people that have been waiting until you can afford a Big Green Egg to try your own Boston Butt, listen up: If you have a gas or charcoal grill, you can make awesome BBQ. Yes, I said gas. I’ve made BBQ in a smoker, gas, and charcoal grill, and they all turned out great. You just have to handle each a little differently.
The majority of the BBQ that I’ve done has been on my old school, basic Weber grill. Though it is more labor intensive than a high end smoker, it works just as well. To use your basic charcoal grill as a smoker, all you have to do it set it up for indirect heat. If you’ve never done it before, this diagram helped me immensely. It is more high maintenance than a smoker. Temperature control can be much more of an issue and you have to check on the coals more often, but it is still totally worth it and can crank out fantastic BBQ.
This is going to be a pretty loose recipe. One of my favorite things about BBQ is that there are so many ways to do it well that I rarely do it the same way twice. This is just how I did it on this particular day. This vinegar mustard sauce has become a staple, but I usually tweak the rub and the marinade.
So, not only do I not expect you to follow the ingredients in this recipe to the letter, I encourage you not to. Play around with it. Do you want to brine instead of injecting? Go nuts! Feel like a lot more brown sugar in your rub or using mesquite wood chips instead of hickory? Knock yourself out.
Let’s get down to the ‘Que, shall we?
Recipe: BBQ Pulled Pork w/ Vinegar Mustard BBQ Sauce
6-10lbs bone-in Boston Butt. (I used 10lbs)
1.5-2 cups of dry rub (I use 1 1/4 cup of John Henry’s Texas pig rub with about 1/4 cup of brown sugar added)
Hickory wood chips
1 cup apple juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
For Mustard Sauce:
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups mustard
3/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Before I get into the steps involved with smoking a Boston butt, you need to make sure you have set aside enough time to do this right. You can’t rush this. Well, you CAN rush it by wrapping the butt in foil to expedite the cooking, but that completely ruins the bark. It turns mushy and you lose the texture contrast. If you start running out of time, you can go the foil route to make sure you don’t disappoint your guests, but I’d advise planning ahead enough to do it right.
You need at least 12 hours before this goes into the smoker, and you need to plan for at least 10-12 hours in the smoker after that. If you have the time, you can do this for 16-24 hours at the low end of the temperature spectrum, and it should come out wonderfully.
As soon as I brought this 10lbs beast home, I was immediately giddy about getting underway. First order of business? Rub and inject.
Spread your dry rub all over pork, covering every nook and cranny. I’m pretty liberal with my rub, so you can probably get away with less than this recipe calls for, but I like to get as much rub on as possible to maximize the bark.
Mix the apple juice, Worcestershire, salt, sugar, and pepper in a bowl. Fill the syringe with the marinade and inject it into the meat.
Make sure to hit all of the major areas of the pork, pushing the plunger as you withdraw the syringe. You don’t want to just shove the syringe in, shoot it all in there, and create a single pocket of liquid that will quickly seep back out of the meat. The idea is to spread it around evenly.
Refrigerate overnight, at least 12 hours.
30 minutes before putting into the smoker, remove from the fridge and set on the counter.
Prep your grill/smoker. You want the temperature to be between 200-225 degrees, depending on how much time you have. I hovered closer to the 225 end of things and this took 10.5 hours. I don’t want to get into an argument about which EXACT temperature is best, but the general rule of thumb is the lower and slower you can go, the better. What is most important is the internal temperature of the meat (at least 195 degrees). If you don’t already have a remote meat thermometer, you will want one when you do this. It makes life much, much easier and it minimizes the number of times that you have to take off the lid and cool the inside of the smoker.
If you have a Weber setup like mine, and the heat is not evenly distributed, you will want to rotate the meat after a couple of hours. Otherwise, one side will be a little dry.
Smoke the butt until the internal temperature reaches at least 195 degrees. I pulled mine off at 198, which took 10.5 hours. My advice? Make a day of it. Get up early and then hang out, drink beer, and listen to your friends talk about how good it smells.
If the meat is ready early just throw it in a foil lined cooler. Notice I didn’t say wrap it in foil, I said a foil lined cooler. Please see previous comment about mushifying the precious bark.
This might look burned to the untrained eye, but I assure you that there was no “burned” taste to this. It was smokey, delicious, and if I could have shaved off just the bark and eaten it all myself, I would have.
While the meat cools, mix together the ingredients for the mustard vinegar sauce and simmer in a saucepan over medium heat for 5 minutes. set aside to cool. I also highly recommend buttering and toasting your buns.
After resting for at least 20 minutes, you can start pulling your meat. If you got this to the right temp, you should be able to pull the bone right out. Use whichever technique you prefer, but I just use two forks to pull the meat apart.
Serve and dig it. Then eat it for lunch for the next 3 days.
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