BBQ Weather: Clear night and bright, hot day
In preparation for the upcoming BBQ competition I thought I’d go for an overnight shoulder smoke to be ready for lunchtime, just like we’ll be doing for the first time at the end of May in Tongham. Not a massive difference to the normal pulled pork recipe wise (well, none) but there are a number of important psychological differences;
- You have too much, rather than too little time to get things ready. It still takes 13 hours, its just that you get to sleep for most of them.
- You don’t have to cut the rind off a lump of pork, apply mustard slather, and dust with garlicky paprika before breakfast, but just before dinner. This makes a massive difference to the care and attention one pays.
- You don’t have to light a fire in your pyjamas, but you do have to tend\save a fire in your pyjamas
- You have time to allow the rub to form a bark before putting it in the smoker
- You can allow time for the smoker to reach equilibrium before cooking (I didn’t do this this time, will do next time)
- You can let it rest for 2 hours before pulling the pork
- You can pull the pork sober
- You can eat at lunch, rather than at 11:30pm
- You don’t get to stand round a smoker in the baking sunshine drinking beer and talking about smokers and meat. I’m sure at the competition we’ll be sitting round the smokers shivering and drinking beer, in the dark, but its not the same.
Here’s my shoulder of pork, not a whole shoulder but most of one
The rind and all surface fat is removed. European roasting law dictates that the skin is key and the surface fat is important in basting the meat, but the whole point of using pork shoulder is that its well marbled and doesn’t need this top layer when slow smoked. The outer skin must be exposed so that through the rub it forms the smokey, tough bark of the pulled pork which is required to contrast with the gelatinous, tender, stringy inner meat. If the fat is still on the outside, it prevents this happening and that’s more than half of the point of the dish, so it all comes off.
Next is the mustard slather – I just use an american “baseball/hotdog” mustard (can’t remember the name). I’ve seen recipes for a slather (there are loads in Paul Kirk’s book “Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue: BBQ Your Way to Greatness with 575 Lip-Smackin' Recipes from the Baron of Barbecue”) but frankly, I can’t taste the difference in the end so I’ve stuck with just the mustard.
Then its dusted with BBQ rub. Here I am specific, and I’m sold on Mike Mills’ Magic Dust recipe (this is also in his fantastic book Peace Love and Barbeque).
I beefed up the cayenne pepper this time which was great but maybe a bit too hot in the end. I’ve also had very good results with Josh Bousel’s version here.
After a few hours “setting”on the mustard the rub sort of dissolves and forms a crust, which is a good state to go into the smoker in and forms a good basis for the crust at the end.
Next I fired the smoker – I’ve been running a WSM for a few years now and I’m very happy with it. Its the older model and I’ve no desire to upgrade to the newer version, its a great bit of kit. Like everyone else I was on an ECB and it rusted away on me, but we’ve all got to start somewhere! I still use the waterpan from the ECB in place of the bizarrely small and thin pan they provide with the WSM though.
I’ve got a log of cherry tree and a couple of chunks of oak in here which my father in law kindly donated. The cherry is particularly sweet smelling and both together give a great combination for long pork cooking.
This was then topped with a load of lumpwood charcoal and a couple more small branches of cherry ready for lighting with the minion method.
This was then covered in the left over lit lumpwood from the BBQ we had for dinner (just some sausages, vege kebabs, etc).
Then the WSM was assembled, the meat put in and more or less straight after I retired for the evening. I went to bed with the meat cold and the smoker showing about 160F, left the vents open slightly more than I usually would (expecting the smoker to need more oxygen to counteract the cold night) and set my smoker thermometer to alarm if the meat temperature hit 200F or the smoker went outside of 150-300F (that alarm never went off).
At 4:45am my son woke me up and I took the opportunity to check the temps – the smoker was up to 270F (I like to keep it at 250F) and the meat was at 173F. I closed the vents down to where I normally like them and went back to bed.
At 7:30am I got up properly and checked on the meat. The smoker was running out of fuel and the temperature had dropped to 210F or so, the meat was still at 173F (plateaued) and looked good.
I bunged in a load more fuel, topped up with water and went back into the house for some coffee and 4 or so episodes of Phineas and Ferb (massively underrated Disney cartoon) with young George while the weber continued to do its thing (its damn cold at 7:30am in the UK in April no matter how sunny it is).
By 9am the smoker was up to 250F and the temperature of the meat was rising and by 11am (as ever, 13 hours after insertion) the meat was at the desired temperature (190F).
I wrapped it in foil and let it sit for an extravagant 2 hours.
On opening the pork wasn’t appreciably cooler but smelt and looked amazing.
Verdict: Perfectly cooked. Rub a bit too spicy. Very pleased. Same again next weekend?