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Pulled Pork (aka Barbecue, aka BBQ) Step 3 of 3: The Smoking and Eating

Pulled pork sandwich: pulled pork, red pepper vinegar sauce, buttermilk cole slaw, and a dill pickle slice on a plain hamburger bun

This is my dream pulled pork sandwich. Take a simple grocery store hamburger bun and drop on the bottom half a pile of pulled pork. Douse the meat with spicy red pepper vinegar sauce, and then smother it with cole slaw (I've recently become enamored with a buttermilk cole slaw from cooks illustrated, but my all-time favorite is simply shredded cabbage mixed with Hellman's and a dab of mustard). Finish with a dill pickle chip and the top of the bun and press down on the sandwich so that the juices and sauces co-mingle. Put this in your mouth and you will understand why God created the pig.

Yesterday was Jack and Mary's party and today my whole body aches from standing in front of the smoker from 9 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening. My right arm is in particular pain due to a combination of pulling apart the smoked pork shoulder, thinly slicing smoked brisket and repeatedly lifting a bottle of beer. Was it worth it? Oh, yes, it was all worth it...

It's the Fire, Stupid

hickory wood burning in the firebox of the smoker

If you have a hankerin' to get into making barbecue, I strongly recommend reading the BBQ FAQ, which contains anything and everything you ever wanted to know about hot smoking meat. Another great Internet resource for the barbecue aficionado is The Smoke Ring, a web ring with links to just about every barbecue related site in existence. If you want to make some great barbecue at home without a fancy smoker and only an afternoon of time, once again Cooks Illustrated proves itself as the best darn cooking magazine out there with the best home barbecue recipe.

The one (and perhaps only) point that all barbecue resources agree on is that, even more than the rub and the sauce, the most important part of barbecue is fire and the resulting smoke. The only way to have smoke is to use wood. For this barbecue I used the traditional hickory. However, almost any wood from fruit or nut bearing trees will deliver excellent barbecue. Around here in New England Maple is also very popular. Never use pine or any other type of soft wood. Soft woods tend to burn quickly and generate an acrid smoke. An easy rule of thumb to keep in mind is that whatever the smoke smells like will end up as the dominant flavor of whatever you're smoking. Also, be sure you do know what type of wood you are using — some woods contain substances toxic to humans, and these toxins can be transferred to your food in the smoke.

Low and Slow

In the smoker: pork shoulder and brisket covered with rub surrounded by hickory smoke

Barbecue must also be cooked low and slow, — at about 200°–225° (low) for several hours (slow — from four hours in the case of ribs up to 20 to get really great beef brisket). Another trick to keep in mind, especially when you're first starting out, is to get your meat to room temperature before putting it on the grill. Putting cold meat on the grill can lead to the condensation of creosote on the surface of the meat if you don't have a clean-burning fire. And creosote tastes bad.

Previously, making sauce...

in the smoker: finished barbecued pork shoulder ready to be pulled and brisket ready to be sliced

After eight hours the meat came off the smoker, and I let it rest, covered, for about half an hour. The pork could have used an extra hour to become more amenable to pulling and the brisket needed another five hours or more to become truly tender. But the pork was succulent and oh–so–tasty and the meet was rich and flavorful and tender enough when thinly sliced and chopped up a little bit.

The Smoke Ring

brisket, sliced to reveal the pink smoke ring or 'barbecue halo' running along the outside edge of the meat

You can tell good real wood smoked barbecue by the presence of a pink or reddish ring along the outside of the meat. This smoke ring (I like to call it a “barbecue halo”, but I'm apparently the only one) is a chemical reaction that occurs when smoke meets meat. Wood smoke contains potassium and sodium nitrates, which react with oxymethyglobin in meat to form nitrosaminoglobulins, which are red. Cool smoked foods in which the smoke penetrates the entire piece of meat, such as hot dogs or ham, are pink throughout. When hot smoking as in barbecue, the smoke only penetrates the meat part way, resulting in the distinct smoke ring.

Grub's On

the barbecue serving table with the barbecue, sides and condiments hamburger buns pulled pork beef brisket dill pickle slices western style barbecue sauce mustard and vinegar sauce red pepper vinegar sauce buttermilk cole slaw with cilantro and chives buttermilk cole slaw potato salad Brazilian chicken pie
|hamburger buns |pulled pork |beef brisket |dill pickle slices |western style barbecue sauce |mustard and vinegar sauce |red pepper vinegar sauce |buttermilk cole slaw with cilantro and chives |buttermilk cole slaw |potato salad |Brazilian chicken pie |

Service involves nothing more than setting everything out on a table, providing strong paper plates, and letting your guests have at it. Mmmmmmmm. Barbecue...

Previously, making sauce...


Posted on Jul 21, 2002 @ 05:54 PM

Comments:


Nyx:

No, no, no, the ultimate kind of slaw topping for pulled pork is hot slaw. A type of mustard cole slaw that is generally known only in Florence and the surrounding areas of North Alabama.

Posted on Jul 26, 2002 @ 04:24 AM

CARLOS GREGORY:

PORK SHOULDER IS PORK "BUTT" RIGHT? ANYWAY....I SMOKED MINE FOR ABOUT 6 HOURS AND IT WAS SOO DAMN TOUGH!WHAT HAPPENED? I KEPT THE TEMP AT ABOUT 250 OR SO.

Posted on Sep 07, 2002 @ 11:15 AM

Dick:

Yep, on a pig the shoulder is the the butt (but not the other way around). An eight to ten pound shoulder should smoke for eight to nine hours. 6 hours just isn't enough time, unless you include some higher temperature oven cooking in there. The Cooks Illustrated pulled pork recipe I mentioned above produces some pretty decent pulled pork with a little less than 6 hours of cooking time.

Posted on Sep 07, 2002 @ 01:21 PM

John Fedak:

great site

but you have no link between page 2 - 3

Posted on Oct 06, 2002 @ 09:15 PM

Dick:

Thanks! I'm always paranoid about forgetting details like that and really appreciate it when people point it out.

Posted on Oct 06, 2002 @ 10:13 PM

Richard:

Enjoyed the read...you might consider using a vinegar-based cole slaw to top your sandwiches. My favorite BBQ shack down in N. Carolina turned me on to it and it mixes quite well with the vinegar-based hot sauce for the 'cue. One recipe for this on the web is below, but I haven't tested it out yet:
http://www.recipesource.com/fgv/salads/four-vinegar-cole-slaw1.html

Posted on Jun 25, 2003 @ 03:49 PM

Dick:

Thanks! And interesting timing on your comment. I just heard of vinegar based cole slaw for the first the other night on TV (I think it was on the barbecue episode of Tony Bourdain's A Cooks Tour). My first thought was "Hmmm, that sounds interesting." After your comment, I've got to try it. That recipe you linked to does look interesting, especially the inclusion of a tad of nuoc mam. It probably adds one of those "can't tell that it's there but could if it wasn't" things. We're planning our next big 'cue for the middle of July, and a slaw like this is definitely going to make an appearance.

Posted on Jun 25, 2003 @ 08:26 PM

maggie:

rule number 1 when bbqing cooking....the cheaper the meat the longer you have to bbq it to get it tender.although the quality of meat you choose makes a world of difference

Posted on Jul 04, 2003 @ 11:08 PM

Dave Skender:

enter your comment here
Dick,
Everything I have read sounds wonderful. My question is, is there a specific type of equipment that you have that pulls the pork or do you buy it that way. Any information would be helpful.
Thank you,
Dave Skender

Posted on Dec 07, 2003 @ 10:07 PM

Dave Skender:

enter your comment here
Dick,
Everything I have read sounds wonderful. My question is, is there a specific type of equipment that you have that pulls the pork or do you buy it that way. Any information would be helpful.
Thank you,
Dave Skender

Posted on Dec 07, 2003 @ 10:07 PM


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