Friday, August 3, 2012

Recipe: Smoked pork shoulder - "pulled pork" - No "sliced pork!"

Okay, I am re-classifying this post as "Rambling" because, well, I rambled a lot (while I was bored watching the smoker smoke!), and also because the final product - while tasty! - was not exactly what I was hoping for...

Onward to my original ramblings..............

So I never put the smoker away, after last weekend's Smoked Turkey Breast - which made simply delightful sammiches!  And was equally delicious as a breadless sandwich under melted, smoked gouda cheese and a generous dollop of sweet apple-corn relish!

I do make a Killer-Diller BBQ pulled pork in the crock-pot.  Tastes delicious, but it lacks that charred-smoky texture.  You really do need to "smoke it" to get that!

I must say, I am getting much more *brazen* with my smoker (Heh!).  My first few attempts, I had limited myself to small hunks of meat - mostly ribs (yum!), and I think maybe a smallish chicken...

Today it's a fairly large pork shoulder roast (well, large for the two of us!).  It's roughly 4-5 lbs, bone-in "shoulder roast" (possibly a "picnic roast" - I don't feel like dragging the package out of the trash to confirm!).  I Googled pretty-heavily and, evidently, a "Boston Butt" is easier to work with (which still comes from the shoulder IIRC).  It's more "squarish" in shape.  Mine is definitely more "shoulder-looking" (almost conical in shape).

Feel free to Google to your heart's content!  There is no shortage of recipes and "How-To" guides for smoking meat.  I skimmed through numerous pages - and everybody's got their own "Secret Recipe" for rubs and mops and sauces and whatnot.  And all kinds of different super-secret techniques, yada-yada.

Most do seem to advise doing some sort of prep-work the night before: Removing the fat, coating with mustard (Ewwww!!!!  Yeah, I know it's supposed to cook-off - but I freaking HATE mustard!) then some kinda seasoning-rub, wrapping in saran-wrap and refrigerating overnight, blah-blah-blah...

I skipped all the "night-before" prep-work, this time (and I'll let'cha know if that was a mistake!).  I'll basically just post "what I did" and maybe snap a few pictures after it's done, and let ya'all know if it was tasty or gross!  How's that?!!

First, I took the roast out of the fridge and let it set on the countertop for a couple of hours to get it "closer to room temperature."  Honestly?  Hubs cranked down the fridge the other night and the roast was borderline-frozen on one side - so I wanted it to thaw!

While the roast was resting/thawing, I grabbed an 8" square aluminum cake pan and filled it with apple juice and water (appx 50/50).  Plopped a few (5-6 fist-sized) chunks of hickory wood into the juice/water and let 'em soak for the same couple-of-hours...  Hickory is fine.  Apple or Cherry-wood  might be better (Mesquite - too strong/too "hot").

Okay, once I was sure the roast *wasn't* partially frozen, I grabbed a big ol' sharp knife and attempted to score the fat-cap in a diamond-shaped pattern.  Let me tell you: Pig-skin is THICK and even my sharpest knife had a "challenge" cutting through!  I did manage to score it.  Not clear-down to "meat" - but just enough to break the surface of the skin/fat so that the fatty juices (and seasonings!) should be able to penetrate the meat...  The skin will be removed prior to shredding/serving - BTW.

Then I sprayed the roast with olive oil cooking spray (but I *suppose* - if you wanna be a purist - you could smear it with yellow mustard - ICK!!!).  Then I dumped a generous quantity of "rub" on it.  I used McCormick Grill Mates®  Applewood Rub and Pork Rub.  Yes, I am a total cheater! And no, I don't get nuthin' for posting those links.  I actually do like (and use - and BUY) these seasoning blends - period!

Unfortunately, I can't tell you exactly how much I used - but it was several tablespoons of each! (If I had to guess, I'd say maybe 1/3 cup of each???)  I sprinkled it - quite heavily - and made sure it stayed-stuck by spraying more olive oil on it.  Coated the roast, fairly thickly (maybe close to 1/4" thick?), on all sides.  Then I let it "set" for another 15-20 minutes while I went out and pre-heated the smoker...

Okay, again, the smoker I use is the (notoriously under-powered P-O-S) Brinkmann Electric Gourmet Water Smoker - and this time I'm posting a link to Home Depot - since that's where I bought the last one (again, I get NOTHING for the link!) (Jeez, maybe I should?!!).

So preheat takes appx 15 minutes.  Just before I plugged it in, I wrapped my soaked wood chunks in heavy-duty aluminum foil, poked holes in the foil-wood pouches, then placed 'em in the bottom of the smoker in a smoker box, and in-between the electric cooking element....

Put the center section on the smoker, install the water pan.  Fill the water pan appx 1/2 full with a mix of water and apple-juice (I just used the water/juice I'd soaked the wood in - then added a bit more).  Optional: Toss in a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Add the cooking grates.  Helps to spray them with olive oil (so nothing sticks/easier clean-up!).  Add the lid, plug it in and let it heat-up.  I didn't bother checking it this time, but it takes appx 15 mins - after complete assembly - for the temp at the top grate to reach appx 250-260*.  The wood probably won't be smoking at this stage of the game...

Time to put the roast in!!!  I put mine in, meat-side-down and fat/skin-side up.  Pop the lid on that bad-boy and let 'er cook for a couple of hours!

After ~2 hours, I decided to check on things.  I inserted our "instant-read/remote/blah-blah fancy thermometer" into a thick part of the meat and NOT touching a bone (or "open space").  I plan to leave the sensor in the meat for the duration of cooking...  You'll want to cook it to an internal temperature of at least 180* (or even 190* - the idea being to overcook it to the point where the meat is shreddable).  Now I noticed that the outside of the meat was looking kinda dry ("Ohhhh nnnnnoooooo!!!!"), so I quickly consulted Google and determined that this is where I needed to apply a "mop!"

QT's Cheater Quickie-Mop "On the Fly!"(closest thing to a "recipe" that you'll find today!)
  • 1/4 cup of some kinda sweetish/generic/smoky/whatever pre-packageded BBQ sauce (I think I used some K.C. Masterpiece something-or-other)
  • 1/4 cup of Sweet Baby Rays "Sweet 'n Spicy" BBQ sauce (this stuff is my absolute FAVE!)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup (+/-) Apple Juice or Cider
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1-2 TBS of Applewood Smoke Rub seasoning
Now the KC Masterpiece was a nearly-empty bottle.  I smushed as much as I could into a 16 oz. red plastic party cup (b/c I hate clean-up!).  Then I poured some apple juice into the BBQ sauce bottle so I could shake-it-up and pour out the last of the sauce.  I basically filled the Party-Cup appx 3/4 full with a mixture of the above ingredients.  Then I brought the cup outside and, using a silicone BBQ brush, I slathered the "mop" onto the top of the roast.  Popped the lid back on and let it cook for another 30 minutes...

Then I came back half-an-hour later, flipped the roast over (so now the fat is resting on the cooking grate and the meat-side is "up"), and brushed/mopped the hell out of it again...

Hint:  Stand UP-wind of the smoker before you open it to gloop on the meat!  That is, unless you enjoy harking-up a lung!!!

I plan to continue the "slather goop" ritual - every 30 minutes - until the roast reaches an internal temperature of 180*.  Not sure if I'll turn it again (maybe once more?), we'll see how it looks!

And it if seems to be drying TOO much, I may take it out and wrap it in foil..........  Hopefully the "mop" will keep it moist enough!

I shall update this post later - including pictures! - once it's all done.  I think I put the roast into the smoker around 2:30 (maybe 3:00?) this afternoon.  It's 5:45pm now and it's only up to ~150*.  We'll see how this goes!!!

Anyhooooo...  The yard smells like an AWESOME BBQ joint right now.  I hope this comes out tasty!!!

About 5 hours into cooking with a fresh slathering
of "mop" sauce and a new rosemary sprig 
(it's up to ~170* now)
Smells AMAZING!!!

Aack!  It's 8:30pm, getting dark (AND chilly!) out here, and the roast still isn't done (~173*)!  So, umm, bear that in mind!  I'm going to leave it in the smoker 'til it hits 180* - but I might have to "finish" it in the crock-pot tomorrow (it's definitely not shreddable yet).


Okay: Note to self: "Start this sh*t earlier!!!"  It's, like, 10:00pm (and downright COLD outside!), and the meat is only up to 182*.  Yeah, I think I'll be finishing this in the crock-pot tomorrow.....

:::BIG SIGH:::

Post-Script:  I ended up putting the roast into my crock-pot at appx 9:00am, along with maybe 1/2 cup of apple-juice (to keep it moist)...  

3 hours later, the skin/fat-cap did peel off fairly easily (with a little help from a sharp knife). 

But the meat still wasn't "shreddable" and it was still pretty-well attached to the bone.  Hmmm...  Added a little more apple-juice and glopped some BBQ sauce on the roast.

Another hour passed and hubs was getting hungry.  I pulled the roast out of the crock-pot and "shreddable status" had not yet been achieved.  I decided, at that point, that he could have a *sliced* pork sandwich!.  I also sliced-off a hunk for myself and decided that it was on-the-verge of becoming "dry" (and that would just be WRONG!!!)

Hubs had a sandwich and potato salad.  I had a good-sized hunk of pork roast with Sweet Corn Apple Relish (have you figured out that I freaking LOVE this relish?!!  Gonna need to make another batch or two!).

Flavor: Fantastic!  Love-Love-Love the smoky-spiciness! I would definitely stick with the same "mop" and seasoning mixes.

Texture:  Not quite "dry" - but not quite the "fall-off-the-bone" "shred-easily-with-a-fork" texture that I was hoping for.  As far as sliced, smoked pork goes - it was great!  But I really was hoping for "Pulled-Pork" so more experimentation is needed before I call this recipe a Success!

What I'll do differently, next time:  

  • Hmmmm...  I *might* consider removing the fat-cap and skin the night before (although I'd be worried about losing some juiciness if too much fat was removed).  I definitely like the "crusty outside" of the meat - and I lost a lot of that when I removed the fat+skin after cooking.
  • I would definitely do the night-before prep-work (and I *might* even do the mustard-coating...  Mmmmmaybe!!!).  Definitely spice it up, wrap-it in Saran Wrap and refrigerate overnight. Heck, I might even add a step before that and soak the roast in apple juice for 24-hours, THEN do the spice-coating, saran-wrapping bit, overnight... 
  • I'd still take it out the next day and let it sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours (like I did this time).  
  • Annnnd...  I think, next time, I'll start applying the "mop" earlier on in the smoking process.  Maybe start at the 1-hour mark and re-apply every 30 minutes.
Anyway, it was a good experiment.  Definitely tasty - no doubt about it - but it requires more experimentation before I'll post this as a bona-fide, successful recipe!

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