Start with a pork shoulder roast (a.k.a. pork butt) and smoke it to Pulled Pork perfection for a summer BBQ sandwich like no other.
By CINDA CHAVICH
It’s barbecue season, and I’m not talking about the slap-the-steak-on-the-grill kind of cooking that we know as barbecuing (a.k.a. grilling) here in Canada.
I mean the real barbecue - the kind of tender, smoky, slow-cooked beef brisket and pulled pork that they do in Texas, South Carolina, Memphis, Kansas City and all across the American barbecue belt. The kind of barbecue that calls for sitting back in a lawn chair on a hot, summer afternoon, stoking the smoker or charcoal grill and cooking low and slow.
This kind of barbecue is a style of cooking with a cult following, with official societies, trade organizations, annual conventions, newspapers and hundreds of sanctioned BBQ competitions, an elimination process for teams vying for a chance to cook in the American Royal in Kansas City, the World Series of BBQ.
But with the right equipment and a little time, even mere mortals can enjoy authentic BBQ pork, beef, ribs and chicken at home.
For best BBQ results, get a good home smoker or use a charcoal-fired Weber kettle barbecue. I have a ceramic "egg" smoker, which is perfect for slow smoking a variety of meats — it uses less charcoal and holds a steady 225-250 F temperature for 12+ hours for smoking beef brisket, pork butt, ribs and chicken to perfection. You can also use a a gas barbecue (one with at least two burners), although it's a little trickier to maintain a low enough temperature for the long, slow smoking needed for true southern BBQ.
Every barbecue pit master has secret sauces and rubs, but the technique is essentially the same — rub and season the meat, then cook it low and slow over hard wood charcoal, adding a few chunks of soaked apple wood or mesquite every hour or two, to impart just the right amount of smoke. Some people like to “mop” the ’que while it cooks – they baste or spray the meat with things like apple juice, wine, beer, and all kinds of secret sauces.
But it’s temperature control that’s the key to perfectly smoked chicken, ribs and brisket. The art comes in keeping the heat slow and steady – never higher than 250°F – by adding a few coals to the smoker every time you see the temperature wavering. There’s no formula because weather, wind conditions and the size of your smoker will determine when you need to feed the fire. It’s up to the cook to watch, wait and avoid big temperature fluctuations.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to BBQ. And once you taste the real thing, I guarantee you'll be hooked!
BBQ PULLED PORK WITH MUSTARD SAUCE
This recipe is from High Plains: The Joy of Alberta Cuisine by Cinda Chavich (Fifth House).
1 pork butt or shoulder, bone in, about 3 pounds/1.5 kg (leg is too lean for this process)
1/4 cup regular ballpark mustard such as French's (don't use fancy Dijon, it doesn't contain enough sugar) 50 ml
1 tablespoon salt 15 ml
1/4 cup white sugar 50 ml
2 tablespoons each: brown sugar, cumin, ground ginger, chili powder, black pepper and granulated garlic 25 ml
1/4 cup Hungarian paprika (or other good quality, sweet paprika) 50 ml
1 tablespoon dry mustard 15 ml
1 tablespoon mayonnaise 15 ml
1/4 cup mustard 50 ml
1 tablespoon ketchup 15 ml
2 tablespoons honey 25 ml
1 tablespoon cider vinegar 15 ml
1 teapsoon Tabasco sauce
1 clove garlic, pressed
1. Rub pork with mustard to coat. Combine dry rub ingredients and massage generously into pork. Leave the pork at room temperature for 10 minutes, for the rub to get tacky. The salt will draw some of the moisture out of the meat, forming a crust as it cooks that will seal in the juices.
2. Place the pork in a smoker, or barbecue indirectly, setting meat on the grill away from coals or over unlit gas burner. Keep heat constant and low (about 200°-225°F) and cook pork until meat can be easily pulled apart with two forks. This will take 6-8 hours.
3. Add a chunk of soaked mesquite or hickory to the fire once every hour or so to smoke the meat (don’t add too much wood – excessively smoked food can be bitter).
4. Cook the roast an internal temperature of 190° F (88°C). The pork should be tender and falling apart – easy enough to “pull” with two forks. If you find that after six hours the meat hasn't reached the internal temperature you need, you can wrap the roast in foil and leave it on the smoker (or in a 200°F oven) for an hour or two longer (this prevents the meat from drying out). Another trick to keep the meat moist while it's cooking you can use a "mop" — a mixture of beer, apple juice and molasses can be mopped over the meat occasionally (I like to use a spray bottle).
5. Combine sauce ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and and whisk until warm and well-combined.
6. To serve, pull the pork apart and pile it on crusty buns, then drizzle sandwiches with mustard sauce. Smoky baked beans make the perfect side dish (see recipe below). In the American south, they also add a spoonful of creamy coleslaw to each pulled pork sandwich before serving. Serves 6.
BBQ TIP: Pork is safe to eat at an internal temperature of 165° F (75°C). At this point the pork will be sliceable. But for pulled pork you must cook the meat to the "falling apart" stage, at least 185° F.
You can also try this rub on meaty pork ribs. Smoke baby back ribs for about 3 hours at 225°F.
Or try smoking a whole chicken or chicken pieces using the same rub and method. BBQ chicken is a treat!
BAKED BEANS ON THE SMOKER
When you're smoking pork, try this easy recipe for baked beans to serve on the side. Start with good quality canned beans with bacon (I like Bush's Best with bacon or Heinz baked beans with molasses). If there's room in the smoker, place the pan of beans on a rack under the roast, and you'll get the added flavour of smoky pork drippings.
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 14-oz. cans baked beans with bacon (add extra cooked bacon if you like)
3/4 cup barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon barbecue rub
1-2 teaspoons hot sauce or Asian chili paste (to taste)
Saute the onion in olive oil until tender. Mix with remaining ingredients and pour into in an ovenproof dish that you can place in the smoker (I use a shallow, enameled casserole that's easy to clean).
Smoke the beans, uncovered, on a rack in the smoker at 225 F (under or alongside the meat) for 3 hours, watching to make sure they don't burn. Serves 4-6.
copyright Cinda Chavich