Monday, February 8, 2010

Smoked Pulled Pork, an ode to an ex

I got this recipe from my ex.
We dated 2 years and in the end, all I got was a semi-broken heart, 20 extra pounds , a cat I didn't want and some recipes. As I sit here, I am happy to tell you that my heart is healed, I have lost the 20 pounds plus 10, I love my cat as though I had been the one to choose him, and I am becoming quite the smoker (as in BBQing)! I come to you today to say, “This cooking thing, is way easier than you think!” What IS difficult is being fearless and ready to fail. Unless, you don’t like to cook, then it will always be a thorn in your side. But, I am here to help you through any cooking dilemma!
Like anything else, everybody has his way of doing things. If you go online you will find a plethera of information on smoking. You will be told the equipment you must have, the method you must do, etc. etc. Well, come into my corner and I will tell you my method. (What real BBQers will probably call “half-assed”.) But, I don’t care. They are the true Masters while I am merely a novice. Novice yes, but I know my pulled pork will be devoured!
I have made pulled pork a dozen times on a gas grill and it never got as smokey tasting as I thought it should be. This time I brought out the old, rusted Weber and it put the gas grill to shame. The process of smoking this time was much easier.
I like to get started on my pork a few days in advance because I do things differently each time therefore am never sure when it will be done. First you need to go and buy a nice pork butt, or shoulder. Next, it’s time to season it. If you want to make it easy on yourself, you could buy a pre-made spice mix, no judgment here. I have made the following recipe (from Cook's Illustrated, but I have tweaked it a bit) a few times and it is by far my favorite. Depending on the size of your pork you may need to double or even triple this recipe:

4 Tablespoon paprika, 2 Tablespoons cumin, 2 Tablespoons chili powder, 2 Tablespoons black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne, 2 Tablespoons salt, 3 Tablespoons brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon oregano, 1/2 Tablespoon garlic powder, 1/2 Tablespoon onion powder

Place seasoned pork on a plate and store in the fridge over night, uncovered. Take pork out on hour before you start smoking. At this time soak your wood chunks. This is my first time using the chunks instead of chips. The chunks last much longer and don’t need constant replenishing. There are a variety of wood types and I like using apple wood. It is well paired with pork and chicken, and it smells delicious! After forty five minutes, it’s time to start heating your charcoal. I used briquettes, they worked pretty well so far. Using a chimney starter, fill it 3/4 of the way up with the charcoal and place a wad of newspaper in the bottom. Light the newspaper and set in grill. Let the coals heat for about 15 minutes. You should be able to feel the heat when you put your hand over the top of the chimney. Pour out the coals and separate into two piles on either side of the grill. Drain 2-3 wood chunks per pile and place on hot spots (you will need to add more coals and wood as you smoke). If necessary, fan the coals to get the chunks smoking. The wood should never be on fire. If this happens pour a bit of the soaking water on the flames until they go out, but the coals should still be aglow. Put your pork on the rack in the center of the BBQ and cover. The vents should be about half open on the top and bottom. And let it do it’s thing, smoke.
Now here is where an expert would come in handy. I kept my smoker going for 2 1/2 hours- any more and my pork would have been too smokey. I believe with anything, you must practice, practice and learn by doing. This time, I got lucky.
Next I put my pork on a bed of sliced onions, 4 garlic cloves, two cups of broth (water would do too), wrap well with foil and into a 300 degree oven. Again, depending on the size of your pork, the cooking time will vary. This time I cooked my pork for 4 1/2 hours, until super tender and beginning to fall apart. Once done, I separate the meat from the liquid (strain through a sieve) and cool meat until cool enough to shred. Add some of the cooking liquid so your pork is moist, but not too soupy. Other recipes will have you make an additional BBQ sauce or a vinegar sauce, but I think that the pork is so flavorful, it doesn't really need anything. Serve on a burger bun and top with some coleslaw and chow down!
If you are lucky, you will have leftovers. One of my favorite ways to eat pulled pork, is at breakfast with a fried egg on top! Also you could make some pulled pork tacos, or quesadillas would be terrific! In the end you will have that dark broth that is infused with the pork, spices and smokiness. I always save it with great intentions of coming up with some delicious recipe, but have never. But, I do have some ideas: think it would be really good in chili or maybe tortilla soup or pozole (Mexican pork and hominy soup)?

Smoking doesn't end with pork: smoked salmon, chicken, sausages, the list is endless! If you are a fan of pulled pork, need a hobby or want to expand your culinary abilities I would recommend getting in to smoking. Or, if you want another excuse, to drink beer!

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